Sunday, January 5th, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Epicureous in Edmonton: 2013 in Review

Although we had some high profile restaurant losses this year (notably Jack’s Grill), 2013 seemed to be a good year overall for local independents. Openings definitely tipped the scale, with some, such as RGE RD and Tavern 1903 immediately embraced by the community. I can only hope this trend continues – that Edmontonians will shift their habits in order to dine at creative, quality-driven small businesses.

Panna cotta at RGE RD

Here are some other notable food happenings in 2013:

  • The number of food trucks exploded in Edmonton, with more than a dozen new vendors, offering mobile options ranging from Vietnamese to British to Mexican cuisines.
  • The burger reigned supreme this year, with the US chain Smashburger landing in Sherwood Park, and local counterparts The Burg, Jack’s Burger Shack in St. Albert, Bannock Burger and a burger-focused food truck The Patty Wagon competing for your business.
  • It also seemed that Century Hospitality Group’s Alley Burger paved the way for others, such as Creole Envie’s back alley po’boy and Wild Tangerine’s O’my Bao.
  • Something to keep an eye on in the coming year will be the price of pop-up and one-off dinners. They seem to have been increasing over the last few years, but it’s not clear if there is a ceiling to the cost diners are willing to pay.
  • Hot pot hits the spot: Urban Shabu and 97 Hot Pot are heating up the dining scene in Chinatown – we’ll see if this leads to more Edmontonians embracing this method of eating.
  • Those with certain dietary restrictions also expanded their selection in the city, with the completely gluten-free GF Diner, and VegPalette catering to busy vegans.
  • I wrote in my 2011 Year in Review that a “coffee district” was brewing Downtown. Unfortunately, that has reversed itself this year, with the loss of both Transcend’s Downtown storefront and Roast. That said, 124 Street is perking up, with news of Credo’s second location and Remedy joining the mix.
  • We did lose some long-standing food businesses in 2013, including Java Jive and Bee Bell Bakery.
  • The success of Ten Mile Meal, Gail Hall’s Alberta farm tours, the Taste of Edmonton’s Sip ‘n Savour initiative and the launching of Localize all spoke to the increasing appetite of diners to connect with those that grow their food.
  • In the same vein, farmers’ markets continue to pop-up in all over the city.  Four joined the fray in 2013: Eden’s Market, Century Park, French Quarter and the Edmonton Petroleum Club.
  • It was also great to see social enterprise Mealshare debut in Edmonton, providing diners with a seamless way to feed someone in need, simply by eating out.

Looking forward to what 2014 brings!

You can check out previous year in reviews here.

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  • Brittney Le Blanc

    I’m definitely on the hot pot train. I’ve been noticing more and more people trying it in the last six months. I look forward to the trend continuing! (At least I hope it does… now that I’ve been converted to hot pot, I don’t want to live in a world without it.)

  • Kim

    If I were to summarize most of the list above with a sarcastic tone, I could do so in two words: “me, too!”.

    Rather than trying to come up with something “new”, restaurateurs simply try to take what somebody else did (and seemed to have “worked” – notice the quotes) and repeat the same formula. In a way, that’s fine; sometimes, you shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. The problem is that we end up with more of the same rather than new things.

  • Hot pot is definitely something we should play up more, being a winter city and all!

  • I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing – it’s great to have options. And with people having different tastes, it’s a fact that in spite of multiple BBQ restaurants, for instance, three different diners will have three different favourites.

    It’s also still true that unfortunately, Edmonton is still a fairly conservative town, food-wise. We’re getting better, and yes, it would be fantastic to see more diverse concepts here, but something too far out of the norm could end up an expensive failure if the restaurant isn’t able to entice some mainstream diners.