Eating Edmonton: Juniper Cafe & Bistro

Eating Edmonton: Juniper Cafe & Bistro

Ah, the old Strathearn Pub, we hardly knew thee. You definitely won’t be missed. An eyesore on the neighborhood, filled with some fairly questionable clientele, and being shut down for running drugs through the bar? Not the type of thing that the actually pretty nice Strathearn neighborhood needed.

Sure, there were some crazed nights of poor decisions there, but really, the area deserves something better than a poorly run, sketchy, cocaine-trafficking pub.

Enter the Juniper Cafe & Bistro, who have recently opened their doors after revamping the space formerly occupied by the bar (9514 87 st).

Walking in to the Juniper, it is hardly recognizable as the old Strathearn. Which is definitely a good thing. They have gone through great pains to completely revamp the space, and now instead of a dank pub where the bigger fear is getting stabbed over quality service, the Juniper is a bright and airy cafe, lined with small tables and a walk-up counter to place your order, filled with delicious-looking treats.

juniper2At first, the Juniper had some small growing pains, such as not taking debit when they opened, or only having photocopies of the small menu, or not having their liquor license in place, but those are hiccups that small businesses have to deal with. Upon return visits, they have definitely been ironing out the kinks.

For the menu, the Juniper offers a small selection of choices for each meal. I have frequented there most often for breakfast, so at this point I am unable to speak to the dinner options. But the brekkie is…good. Upon my first visit there, I was offered a free order of their signature breakfast sandwich, a pulled pork Eggs Bennie sandwich. (The price is $10, which is a little steep, so a was more than happy to take one for free!)

I was unsure at first, since the food was a combination of things I never really cared for. Then I absolutely devoured it. It was delicious. They wanted feedback on their food, and I provide it happily here. It was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I have ever had. So, it would definitely be worth the price.

juniper4As for the other things I’ve tried, the scones are delicious. Blueberry and rosemary? Good. Raspberry and white chocolate? Good. A simple cup of coffee? Good. The Juniper has been all hits for me so far, and I look forward to the short stroll from my place to them on the weekend, to pick up something to snack on.

I truly hope that the Juniper is able to succeed in their location. It is a quiet spot, tucked away from the main traffic of the city, but it serves as a great little local cafe. Each time I have been in there, it seems to be doing good business so far, which is great to see. With an incredibly friendly staff who truly care that you like their food and their place, and increasing efficiency each time I’ve gone in. It will be a place that I will visit, whether it is for a meal, or quick coffee.

The Juniper is a breath of fresh air for the Strathearn area. It is exactly what the place needs, and does wonders for the small, decrepit, mostly abandoned strip mall that it locates. Perhaps the success of the Juniper will draw other small businesses to open up in the area, and bring the place back to life. (As long as Ralph’s Handi-Mart is still around- best fried chicken in the city- not even kidding, it is something of legend in the area.)

If you’re in the area, stop by the Juniper. It is a nice little place for those who have never been around Strathearn before, and a shock to the system for those who remember the days of the Pub, or actually dared to step inside there.

Best of luck to the Juniper, and I hope that they are around for a long time, so that I get the chance to eat more of their delicious stuff!

Eating Edmonton: Tzin Wine and Tapas

Eating Edmonton: Tzin Wine and Tapas

Any time there is an item on a menu simply called “Bacon”, I am sold.

Tzin Wine and Tapas in Edmonton (10115- 104th street, right by the Blue Plate Diner) is a tiny hole-in-the-wall wine bar that can hold about 30 people at a time in a warm setting in the downtown area. What is provided here is a nice atmosphere, a very friendly staff, a cozy setting, and some good wine selections.

For food, Tzin doesn’t have an extensive menu, which is nice, and should be expected. It is tapas style, serving small portions so that you are able to try a few different things. And from my experience, those different things are quite tasty, and perfect for sharing.

We ate the Bacon and the Shrimp (I just love the simple names!), and both were very delicious, providing some tasty snacks in between sips of the main star of Tzin, which is the wine selection. A very good selection of both reds and whites should do the trick for wine lovers of all sorts. There isn’t much in the way of description of the wines, which would have been kind of nice, but it is more a place for someone who knows what kind of wine they like, and would like to try something that you can’t always get at the local Liquor Depot.

The prices aren’t bad, although Tzin isn’t exactly the kind of place one would go to if they were on some kind of budget. For two appetizers, and two glasses of wine each, the bill came to $100. Not insane, but not somewhere that could be frequented on a weekly basis on my income. But for the time there, it was well worth it.

tzin4The wines we tried were both delicious, and we both really liked the food that we had. The cozy atmosphere was quite nice, and despite the proximity of the tables to one another, it does feel like there is some sort of privacy. Even though they may be a couple of feet away from you, it is not like you have to hear every word that your neighbors are saying, and there is no need to up the volume on your conversation because the other people are too loud. It is quite nice.

Tzin’s decor definitely looks like a wine bar. The cramped quarters, the heavy velvet curtain upon entering the main door, the friendly server, all adds to the atmosphere of Tzin, and helps make it a pleasant evening there.

This is not a restaurant where I would recommend going for a full meal, but it is a good place for an after-work drink, or a quick bite and glass of wine with friends. It can also serve as a good date location. There is nothing but positive things to say about this place, and I would definitely recommend it, as well as frequent it again myself.

Eating Edmonton: Izakaya Tomo

Eating Edmonton: Izakaya Tomo

I’ll be the first to admit that I am extremely picky about Japanese restaurants. Having lived in Japan, I want it to be as authentic as possible, without having to absolutely break the bank in order to get some good sushi, and other delicious Japanese cuisine.

In Edmonton, there are some very solid sushi restaurants. Many of them will annihilate your wallet before leaving, and others will leave you with a reasonable sushi experience, but nothing great.

tomoPrior to going, I had heard nothing but positive things about Izakaya Tomo, located on 99th Street, near 34th Avenue. It is pretty innocuous in a small strip mall next to a hot yoga joint.

Walking in, Izakaya Tomo provides a genuine izakaya feel. It’s not hidden booths and crammed with tables like many Western restaurants, but open, and filled with picnic-style tables, similar to the styles that would be more commonly found in Japan. The decor has it down, and if anything, that is a really good start.

There is an excellent selection of alcohol, including a good variety of beer and sake, and although the menu is not massive, there is a nice selection of Japanese fare to be had. Sushi, rolls, some rices, along with some traditional hot dishes make up for a good opportunity to do some sampling.

IMG_2811The best part about izakayas in Japan (izakaya simply means “pub style”) is that there is always a variety of food, and it is cheap, so that you can order a bunch and share. It is not typical to order yourself a meal. The idea is to order a ton of things, get to sample a little bit of everything, and pay a small price for each dish. Izakaya Tomo does most of this right. Some of the prices are a bit high here, and it is definitely easy to rack up a pretty impressive bill. Such is a problem with getting “foreign” cuisine at Western prices. People are willing to pay it, so there is no reason that it needs to be cheaper (for example, an order of maki rolls will set you back about $4.50, whereas this is generally filler food in Japan, usually to be had for little more than a dollar per order).

But, the food is worth it.

tomo3Everything that we tried as a group, was good. The negitoro was beyond delicious (to the point where we went through five orders of it), and the rolls were excellent (except for the California rolls, which used imitation crab, similar to what you would find at Safeway, making it the only disappointing thing about the restaurant). The fried rice was good (especially the one with the pickles in it- seems weird, but trust me). The okonimiyaki-style dish got rave reviews. The gyoza was solid. The beef tataki was fresh and full of flavour. The fish was fresh and tasty, making it a very good meal.

The atmosphere inside is nice, to along with the good food. It is a fun, laid back place, with a good hubbub from the customers, and a nice buzz to the place.

tomo5In the end, there were five of us, and we racked up a bill of over $170, including drinks (can’t say no to the massive beers!). At about $40/person, we ate until we were full and had enough drinks to keep us happy. Not the best deal in the world, but still, it is nothing out of the ordinary for dining out in Edmonton, especially on Japanese food. And again, the food is absolutely worth it.

Izakaya Tomo is now my favorite Japanese restaurant in Edmonton. It comes the closest to recreating the pub experience in Japan, the food is good, it’s a fun place to go, and despite the perceived high prices, it is really no more expensive than any other sushi joint in town.

I would definitely recommend Izakaya Tomo for anyone in Edmonton looking for a good evening, good drinks, good food, and a relaxed atmosphere.

Eating Tokyo: Genki Sushi

Eating Tokyo: Genki Sushi

It’s difficult to choose a restaurant in Tokyo to choose to review, since there are just so many of them. It has to be one that people will specifically make an attempt to visit, and Genki Sushi, in the Shibuya district, is just that.

genkiA take on kaiten sushi, where plates of sushi pass you by on a conveyor belt, and you simply pick the plates that you want to eat and are charged based on the number (and colour coded prices) of plates that you eat, Genki Sushi makes the kaiten experience even more…Japanese.

Might as well make the sushi eating experience a little more futuristic.

genki5At Genki Sushi, once you have found it, lined up with the other foreigners who want to try it out, and found a place at either the plentiful counters or few booths (for larger groups, there are about 3 booths that can seat 6 each), you start to scroll through the computer screen, where you can build up your own orders. You are able to order 3 items at a time, and once you have selected your food, you get to wait for the fun part.

It comes to you on a trolley on a conveyor belt. I have to admit, it is pretty fun to see your food making its way towards you, at a pretty quick speed, on a little table that is like a train that brings sushi. Taking your plates from the trolley, you push a button to send it back, and then dig in and enjoy. You are able to make as many orders as you like, but only 3 items at a time.

genki4The sushi menu itself is pretty expansive, and you will struggle to find a kind of fish that you want, and not see it on the menu. Many Westerners tend to enjoy the rolls quite a bit, as they are some of the most common elements on North American sushi restaurant menus, and there are a few choices here. But the main draw is the fish itself.

Typically, kaiten is your low end option for sushi. It is fast, and cheap, and gets the job done. Genki Sushi is simply better food, for the same price, along with fun put into the whole thing. The choices are strong, the sushi is good, and the entertainment value is second-to-none.

It is very possible to eat a large sushi meal here for under $15. Again, it all depends on how much you want to order. On my first visit, 4 friends and I created a pile of plates as tall as we were (seated), had some drinks, were full by the end of it, and it cost us each about $12. You can’t beat that.

There are some especially delicious choices on the menu that you won’t find at a regular kaiten restaurant: the trout is excellent, as is the mackarel. There are also some “grilled” salmon options (meaning they’ve spent a couple of seconds under a blow torch), that come with onions and mayo that are quite delicious.

genki3It makes sense why Genki Sushi has become such a popular place among Tokyoites and foreigners alike. It is good, cheap food, with a unique twist. This is something that we simply do not have back home (although apparently there will be a Genki Sushi opening in Seattle soon), therefore making it a destination place in the heart of Shibuya. Considering the hundreds of restaurants in the area, it is pretty easy to find, and well worth it in the end.

Genki Sushi was good enough that I took the time to make more than one stop there, and was satisfied with each trip. Delicious.

Casa Cowee: Roatan, Honduras (Vacation Rental Review)

Casa Cowee: Roatan, Honduras (Vacation Rental Review)

Choosing a great vacation rental is always touch and go. You are relying heavily on the pictures that you can find online, and the reviews of the people who have stayed there before. It is tough to choose, especially since most of them seem so great, and you end up weighing your priority list against other things, make up your mind, change it, and do it all over again. Until you make up your mind. Scanning through all the properties on VRBO can become an obsessive journey.

On my first journey to Honduras, we would be staying on the incredible Roatan island, the most popular spot for travelers to the Central American country. We had our list of things we wanted in our vacation rental, and spent a couple of weeks pouring over the options, eventually whittling it down to a few. From there, we finally decided on a place called Casa Cowee, located in the Sandy Bay area of Roatan, near to Anthony’s Key Resort and their dolphin enclosure.

Casa Cowee seemed to hit all the right boxes when we chose it. It looked to be quiet and private, it was far enough away from the town of West End that it wouldn’t be a busy place, and we could enjoy some relaxation, but it was also close enough that we could easily get to the restaurants and bars on the main drag. It looked modern and pretty luxurious, but with a bit of a rustic feel, not making it like a regular condo or house one would find in their home town, but something with a little bit of charm. It had A/C in every room (more on that), and was five steps from the ocean. Sounds perfect.

Overall, Casa Cowee was an awesome place to rent. After spending 10 days there, it felt like home, and it was somewhere that I truly loved being. The location, despite its issues, was kind of perfect.

In the end, I would go back to Casa Cowee. Now that I know everything about it. But there were several things that we didn’t really know about, or find out about, until we got there. Things that didn’t at all affect the overall enjoyment of our vacation, but would have been good to know about beforehand. I’ll go through some of the perks of the place, and the down sides, along with hints for people who may be renting this awesome property in the future. I want to be fair in my assessment, because there is so much for people who are interested in renting to pour through. I want to be comprehensive, and mention some of the things that we loved, and some of the things that we found to be a nuissance (regardless of how small or arbitrary it may seem), because I hope that this can help someone else choose their place for a vacation. It is tough to be picky on a place that I really loved staying, but it’s needed.


  1. The location. Casa Cowee is in Sandy Bay, within view of the dolphin enclosure belonging to Anthony’s Key Resort. It is awesome to be able to see the dolphin shows from your porch. Down the beach the other way are a couple of bar/restaurants, and the excellent Octopus Dive Center, which we used for our scuba excursions, and absolutely loved it. The location is off the beaten path a little bit, as you will notice on your drive in to the place. It would be kind of tough to find on your own, so it was nice that we were picked up at the airport to get there (it actually costs $50 extra to be picked up from, and driven back to, the airport). Being out of the way, you definitely get to avoid the tons of tourists that come to the island, and get to feel like you have your own little piece of it.
  2. The bad part about the location. You are at least 3 miles from West End. Which means you won’t be walking there, especially at night. The cab ride is not terribly expensive to get there (if you can find a cab, which isn’t terribly difficult, if you walk to Anthony’s Key or behind the dive shop), but is not something that you would want to be forking over for every day. If you are looking for more nightlife, I would recommend staying in town, instead of down here. There are bars that are close enough walks along the beach (like, a couple of minutes away only), but if you are looking for a big party scene, Sandy Bay is not where it is at. Also, for things like groceries, you are limited to a couple of hidden stores in the area, where you can wander through the flea-infested dogs to get into them, and take your chances with the food inside. We had good luck with them, as we ran out of basics like bread and beer a couple of times, and used these local joints to stock up once again. I liked these places, because they definitely feel like Honduras. Dilapidated houses, strange selection of products, random way of calculating prices. Felt like travel.

    The sun deck, next to the main porch area. The chairs now are plastic, not these wooden ones.
  3. The house has its own private dock, from which you can enjoy swimming in the ocean at any time of day. Except there is nothing private about the dock, aside from a sign that says “Privado” over it. The dock is used extensively by the locals, and is by far the most popular gathering space along the whole beach, probably because there is a significant amount of water that has a sandy bottom. The locals are mostly all friendly, and it is fine sharing with them. The dock is basically there as a place to soak up some sun and leave a couple of things while you swim in the bathwater warm ocean. But the noise gets annoying. Screaming children lasts most of the day. And some of the night. There were times when there were close to 40 people using the dock, making it less fun to be a part of, and definitely not making it private, as it is advertised. There are times when you can have it to yourself, usually in the day before 2PM, after which it is invaded by school-aged kids, and occasionally their parents as well. The owner told us that it was usually busy on Sundays, but really, it was busy every day we were there.
  4. If you are a beach person, there really isn’t a great option in from of Casa Cowee, as the beach serves as a road. We spent most of our time on the balcony, however, so I was fine with this.
  5. The snorkeling in front of Casa Cowee is exceptional. There are tons of dive and snorkel spots around the island, but you can save yourself lots of money by staying here. It is really easy to swim out to the reef, where you get great views of the sea life. It is always clear views in the water, and it is shallow enough that it is always safe. You don’t even need fins to enjoy it out there, or need to be a particularly strong swimmer, since you float easily in the salt water. We snorkeled nearly every day, to rave reviews every day.

    The living area. The couches that are there now are not the same, the current ones are slightly more battered.
  6. It is advertised as having air conditioning in every room. In the main house, there is AC in the bedroom. But not for the loft area. If you want to use it, you will be charged $75 extra. There are ceiling fans, but the one in the main room does nothing for the person sleeping in the loft. We went 10 days without AC, during the hottest part of the year. This lead to a couple of terrible sleeps, but we got pretty used to it. There is generally decent breezes that come through the house, which has windows literally everywhere, but you need to rely on these breezes to cool you off. If it is a windless night, prepare to sweat, and not sleep a lot. I think there is AC in the room in the nearby tree house, however. I was extremely disappointed upon first inspection of the rooms, as I would be sleeping in the loft, and was expecting some nice, cool nights, at a time of year when the temperature only drops to about 28 Celcius during the night. I am not a warm weather sleeper, but I was forced to get used to it. The breezes feel great, and there were nights that I slept incredibly well. But it would have been nice to have the AC that we thought we were getting from the ad on VRBO. It would also be great if the owner bought a couple of standing fans, as having a constant breeze would have gone a long way in helping with the heat and humidity. I can see this not being a problem during the colder months, but August is hot, plain and simple.
  7. The noise. I was hoping for a quiet getaway, where I could lounge and read books. But Casa Cowee has its share of noise, not all that can be controlled. During the day, there is a pretty constant noise from the dock, of kids swimming and screaming (why do kids always need to scream? I don’t get it). That’s fine, as it is kind of the sounds of summer, and it wasn’t obnoxious enough to ruin our lazy days that we would spend in lounge chairs and hammocks. At night, you can sometimes hear the soothing waves (they are never big, and the water is always calm as the waves are broken by the reef), which help to lull you into sleep. Or you can hear the incessant barking of dogs. At all hours of the night. For hours at a time. I don’t know where these specific dogs were, but they were loud, and they could easily wake you up from whatever slumber you were managing to get in the heat. At times you could ignore the barking, but other times it was close to driving us insane. There are also a decent amount of cars that drive in front of the house on the beach, at all hours, and noisy locals wandering around, sometimes with impressive volume. Casa Cowee, for as great as it is, is not really quiet.
  8. The guys who work on the property, Johnny and James, are great. They are willing to help out with whatever you need. They will drive you into town, or take you to an excursion, and all you need to do is call them. James was particularly helpful, even helping us procure some fresh fish (note: getting a massive barracuda was perhaps our best purchase. For $25, we got a beast of a fish, that fed us for many massive meals, and it was absolutely delicious. Plus, saying you are eating barracuda is pretty cool).
  9. The house itself. In the pictures, it looks like a semi-rustic, semi-modern place. It is more rustic than anything, and really, it is like a summer cabin. It sort of surprised us at first, but we definitely loved it. Nothing is really as new as it looks in the pictures, as the couches are worn down, there are some holes or missing planks on one of the decks, and it is not nearly as big as it looks in pictures. But we really liked this place, as we did not want a modern condo, but instead something that was at least a little bit Honduran. Casa Cowee gives an impressive look from the beach, as its strange pyramids stand out among the trees. It looks awesome. The decks here are fantastic. There is a sun deck along one side of the house, which gets sun for the majority of the day. The best part, and the place where most of our time was spend, was the covered main deck, overlooking the ocean and dolphins. It was perfect, with table and chairs, and a couple of comfy hammocks in which to nap and spend lazy days. Really, Casa Cowee is worth it for this deck. The bathroom here is pretty good, quite spacious, and with a decent shower that always had some warm water (not terribly hot, but we didn’t care for hot water). The kitchen is pretty well equipped with dishes, cutlery and cooking pots and pans. We didn’t find wanting for any appliances. The gas stove works well, and there is a microwave that gets the job done for most of your cooking needs.
    The stairs to the loft.
    The stairs to the loft.

  10. Things you need to buy on your trip in. Whoever picks you up at the airport will stop at a grocery store for you, where you can load up with supplies for your stay in Sandy Bay. I would recommend taking advantage of this, as there is not much selection from the mini places near the house, and eating out for every meal would prove to get incredibly expensive. There were several things we would have liked to know about, but we kind of lucked out in the end, and it all worked out. It would be great to have a list of basics that you need to pick up, to make your stay more enjoyable. Here are a few off the top of my head: matches to light the BBQ and the stove, briquettes for the BBQ (don’t expect there to be any leftovers when you get there), lighter fluid for the BBQ (a must-have, getting briquettes going without it is impossible, we lucked out and there was still some there), coffee filters if you want to make pots of coffee instead of using the French press, spices (there are some spices there, but they are pretty old and stuck together from the humid air, this includes the salt and pepper), cooking oilbug spray (the sand fleas, or noseeums, are pretty incessant, and the mosquitos will sneak attack you in your sleep!), dish soap, hand soap (there was some of both there, but not much, and I don’t know if the supply is updated that often…better safe than sorry to bring your own), dish scrubber, ice (if you are making your own drinks, it would be nice to have clean ice), any condiments you like. These things, plus your regular groceries, will help ensure that you have the things you need for your trip.
  11. Water. Clean water is provided, but we got 2 small jugs for our 10 days. We ran out. It costs $5 extra if you want more. It seems a tad ridiculous that you need to pay for fresh water in a place. Maybe that is being picky, but I think you should get all the fresh water you need, within reason.
  12. Money. Bring cash! US or Honduran money! Make sure you do your exchanging before entering Honduras, as there is no place (even in the airport) that will exchange Canadian money. This left us cash poor for the entire trip, which was a massive struggle. The only bank machines are in West End, so be prepared. Credit cards don’t work everywhere, and for the small stuff, cash is a must. Also, paying with credit cards often incurs a massive 19% fee.
  13. The ocean. Incredible. Steps from the house. Incredibly warm (30 degrees Celcius when we dove), and peaceful. There are no waves to speak of, and you can simply float around to your heart’s content.
  14. The amenities. There are two kayaks to use on the property, which is awesome. They are fun, and easy to use. There is also access to all the snorkel gear you may need, such as fins. We brought our own masks and snorkels, but the fins came in handy.
  15. The tree house. It is possible to rent the whole property, but we couldn’t afford that, so there were other people staying in the small tree house. It is very close to the main house, but is still private, as you don’t have to listen to their conversations all the time. It was quite nice, and there were very nice people staying there the whole time. The great and useful outdoor shower is in front of the tree house.

My first trip to Honduras was amazing, and it is absolutely a place I would go back to. Casa Cowee, despite having some issues, was also a great place to stay. I would recommend it to anybody, as long as they know what some of the problems are, and are able to be prepared for their trip. I loved the feeling of it being a summer cabin, and in the end, despite the noise, I loved the location. Sandy Bay was the perfect choice for us, and what we were looking for in our vacation. There is still some work to be done on this house to make it the perfect vacation house. For us, by the end of the trip, it had become home, and none of us wanted to leave.

I would recommend Casa Cowee for anyone who is looking for a more secluded place to stay on Roatan, away from it all, but still within proximity to certain amenities (like dolphin excursions and scuba diving) that make a trip to Honduras memorable.

Eating Edmonton: The Sugarbowl Bar & Cafe

Eating Edmonton: The Sugarbowl Bar & Cafe

For a long time, The Sugarbowl has been one of the most hyped up places in Edmonton. Located in the Garneau area near the University of Alberta, it has long been a place where students congregate for food and drinks to discuss whatever class they are taking this semester, or what class they are skipping in order to have food and drinks at The Sugarbowl.

It has been a long time since I have visited this Edmonton establishment, since I was one of those University students. We used to go there frequently for class during one of my summer courses. There were only five of us in the class, plus we had the best professor ever.

sugar3Going there again, it is nice to see that it is exactly the same as it used to be on the inside. For a sort of hole-in-the-wall type of place, it is actually quite nice inside, and has a pretty good patio out front, where they really cram in the tables. There is much more space inside, and you still get the outside feel with the large garage doors almost always open during the summer.

The Sugarbowl is like the grandfather of the hipster-style craft beer pub, simply because it has seemingly been around forever, while these new places (like Craft, Beer Revolution, Three Boars, The Next Act) are new to the scene that was basically created by the Sugarbowl.

This pub is known for its good food and extensive beer menu. Always has been. And still is. You can read the reviews on other sites, like Yelp, and see the generally positive recounts of time spent there.

The menu itself is minimalist, which is nice. There are only a few items on there, and they cook all of them extremely well. This is not a place where you have to scroll though a thick menu and struggle to decide what you would like to eat. There is a list of perhaps a dozen meals, and all of them sound pretty enticing.

sugar2As for the beer menu, it is indeed pretty extensive. Prices have gone up since the last time I was there, and now they are a little more in line with the other craft beer houses in the city, although I would argue, are still a little cheaper. There is perhaps a dozen beers on tap, but the real gems come from the lists of bottled beers that they have. There are a lot, and you could get pretty indecisive when it comes to making a choice here. There are selections from local breweries, as well as small breweries from other places, such as Portland (of course). I did pretty well at selecting some good beers to try. And the prices weren’t totally crippling, like they are at Craft.

The vibe inside is unique. During the day, it remains a place that is popular with families, as it is not a total bar, like some other craft beer places have become. There are definitely the “artsy” people who frequent the place, and it is a hipster joint as well. It is a nice blending of people here.

The staff are generally quick and fairly attentive, no complaints there. I had the bison chili, which was pretty delicious. It had a good amount of heat to it, but nothing overwhelming, and it was definitely hearty. I was full all day off one bowl of it. I would definitely eat it again.

I like this place, and would definitely go there again. My bill was about $60 for two people, both with meals and several beers. Not the cheapest place you will find in Edmonton, but something different from the standard chain restaurants that we too often choose. The Sugarbowl feels like a cool place that you would find in a bigger, cooler city than Edmonton.

A great place to grab some food and drinks. I agree with the hype, and the Sugarbowl is still a cool place to go.

Eating Edmonton: Craft Beer Market

Eating Edmonton: Craft Beer Market

It’s hard not to love all of the places opening up in Edmonton that specialize in good food and good beer. Because, food and beer are some of my favorite things in the world.

It took me a lot longer to get out to Craft than I would have expected, especially with its convenient downtown location, right across the street from the Sherlock Holmes pub. Well, it is convenient if you actually manage to get parking downtown without having to pay and arm and a leg for it. But this is less of a problem in the evening, once the workday crowd has mostly dispersed. Still, don’t expect to get one of the very few spots right across from Craft. Plan to walk a few blocks.

craft2First off, the space that Craft has is incredible. It is very large, two floors, and has recently opened their rooftop patio for the summer months. The space is very open, spacious, and tastefully decorated. It has the feeling of a beer hall, but classier, not unlike other establishments of this ilk.

The staff are pretty quick, friendly, and attentive, and you are greeted warmly upon entering the building. There are various table sizes, which is a nice option depending on the size of your group, with tables and booths aplenty.

One of the most impressive things about the place is the kegs of beer everywhere. If you accidentally wander down the wrong staircase trying to find the washroom, as I did, you will get to the basement level that includes a room with hundreds upon hundreds of kegs of beer in it. Momentarily, I believed it to be heaven. You can also see the beer on the main and upper floor, as it is contained in glass rooms, similar to how it is in Beer Revolution in Oliver Square.

The food at Craft is good. As is expected now, they have a full and interesting menu of what I call Pub Grub+. Typical fare for this kind of place, but it is really tasty, and not simply sloppy chicken wings. It actually took our group a while to decide on what to eat, because there was definitely more than one enticing option. Pretty much every appetizer sounded delicious. But we had to restrain ourselves.

As for the beer selection, well, it is probably second-to-none in Edmonton. I believe there are over 100 beers on tap, and they are changed regularly. This is awesome. It can be difficult to navigate the beer menu, simply because there are just so many to choose from, and it can become quite overwhelming, if you don’t really know what you want. The servers are very knowledgeable about what they serve, so don’t hesitate to ask about a certain beer, or describe what you are looking for. They will be able to help you out with that, which is always nice.

Because of its food and drink, Craft would seem like a place that could become a home away from home for me. But for one thing: the prices.

I get it. Craft beer is all the rage. Pub Grub+ food is all the rage. And you can expect to pay for quality. I don’t mind paying for quality.

But Craft Beer Market has priced itself out for me. This cannot be a place where my friends and I hang out for an evening and sample different beers. I would go broke, especially when the majority of beers at Craft are over $9.


While the food prices are only slightly above average in comparable pubs, it is the drinks that will absolutely destroy your bank account. This makes Craft a perfect place to come after work for a meal and a beer, but little more than that. Sadly, I am not a one beer type of person, and the price just adds up far too quickly for me. It would be great to be able to spend some time there, and sample a lot of the different beers that they have to offer, since it is such an amazing selection, but I don’t feel like selling my car just yet. I feel that the high prices are actually a detriment to the sampling of new beers, simply because I am nervous about spending $9.25 on something I have never tried before. If it isn’t very good, then that is a large waste of money, when I could have just been smarter, and gone for the $8.25 Sapporo that I know is good.

Me complaining about it won’t change the prices, and from what I’ve heard, Craft has been very successful since its opening in Edmonton, which is great. It continues to be nice to see downtown being revitalized with new places all the time, creating a place that is good for the older crowd that has mostly tired of Whyte Ave.

Craft is great, if you have the money.

Eating Edmonton: The Common

Eating Edmonton: The Common

Downtown, on 109th street, one of the many newest places to eat and drink in Edmonton is The Common. Not the hugest restaurant/bar around, The Common does very well to use all of its space properly, to get as many people in there, while still maintaining a level of comfort and not getting terribly overcrowded.

The best things about The Common, and one that sets it apart from other new, hipster-ish places downtown, are the prices. They are actually reasonable. If you manage to hit happy hour (prior to 6PM during the week), you will get $2 off pints of beer, which is a pretty solid deal. And to begin, their beers aren’t nearly as expensive as an alternative, such as Craft Beer Market. There is a decent selection of drinks available, including a personal, and hipster, favorite, of having Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. It’s just so good!

common2The food is also quite good there. It is a tad expensive, but it is similar to other places of this ilk. Pub grub plus. The usual stuff, but it is far better, and more high-end. Something like the short rib poutine will definitely hit the spot, and for a price that won’t destroy your wallet.

The Common has a cool vibe to it, good design (the two sides of the bar seem to be different places, and tend to have a different feel), friendly wait staff, and usually quick service, regardless of how busy it gets.

The patio is small, and on the 109th side of the street, which makes it pretty noisy, but it is still nice, allowing us to get outside in our incredibly short summer season. There aren’t many tables out there, only one row of picnic tables, that can accommodate four people each. There doesn’t seem to get more people in there if you have a larger group, unless you really want to squish into those tables.

Overall, The Common is a top choice among downtown establishments that are focused on grabbing the attention and business of those who like beer, a variety of beer, and decent food at prices that won’t slaughter them for the month.

Eating Edmonton: Blue Plate Diner

Eating Edmonton: Blue Plate Diner

The Blue Plate Diner is one of those places in Downtown Edmonton that seems like it has been around forever. Located on 101 Ave and 104 Street, it is just off Jasper Ave, in the heart of downtown. This leads it to being a consistently busy place for the lunch crowd, and you can always expect the small restaurant to be quite busy.

And the reason for that is that it is consistently good.

blue-plate-dinerWith a small menu, they really have perfected their dishes, and whichever one you try, you can expect something tasty. In my visits there, me or my group has tried and loved a good number of the dishes there, from the veggie burger, the elk/bison burger, the meat loaf, tuna melt, or good old macaroni and cheese. Everything gets positive reviews, and there has never been a complaint about the food any of the times I have been there.

The prices are pretty good, for a sandwich or entree, you are looking at spending between $12-$18, which is pretty much the constant price for food in Edmonton.

Seating is limited, as it is a small place, so be prepared to get there a little bit before the big lunch crowds, or be ready to wait. The good thing is that they have designed their meals around the brief lunch break, so it is usually very quick service, and you won’t need to be there for hours waiting for your food. They know that their clientele is business people who need to eat and get out of there.

The restaurant itself has a good personality, with simple tables, rickety old chairs, and eclectic art adorning the brick walls. Despite the small area, the design is nice in that you aren’t crammed up against other tables, allowing you to converse with the people you are with, instead of being forced to overhear everything that the other patrons are saying. They probably could have thrown in more tables just to make more money, but the comfort of the patrons is important here, which is great.

The staff is always very friendly, and there is some vegetarian, vegan, or Gluten-free options (like asking for Gluten free bread with your burger) to keep the variety of eaters happy.

The Blue Plate Diner is definitely a worthwhile place to eat if you are spending some time downtown, or if you work in the area. And due to the quality of the food, you can pretty much try anything and walk away satisfied.