Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 at 11:37 pm

Epicureous in Edmonton: 2016 Year in Review

2016 was an interesting year for print-related food media. While several local publications celebrated milestones (The Tomato, Avenue Edmonton) or expanded their coverage (Culinaire), when the Edmonton Journal announced in January that they were laying off their full-time food reporter, it was clear that the food scene would be at a loss. Although the Journal reversed their decision a few weeks later (at least on a part-time basis), it was a sign that the end of an era is inevitable.

Edmonton Sun & Journal 

When that kind of high profile coverage for local chefs, restaurants, and producers end, will diners and consumers turn to other outlets for news? How will those changes impact small businesses that benefit from the exposure? Though we didn’t have to answer that question in full just yet, it’s likely that the time will come soon.

Here’s what else what notable to me in 2016:

  • I love when we can celebrate local success stories, and this year was full of them. Daniel Costa’s empire expanded to include Uccellino, Duchess added the Scandinavian-inspired Cafe Linnea to their businesses, Bodega looked to reverse the revolving door in Highlands, Have Mercy opened above sister restaurant El Cortez, and the Crudo family set-up Amore Pasta in the suburbs. As well, Sandwich and Sons, Careit, Iconoclast, Nomiya, Confetti Sweets and Jacek Chocolates added new locations.
  • As openings go, Old Strathcona had some of the buzziest additions this year, with scratch-ramen eatery Nudoru, southern-inspired Have Mercy, brew pub Situation Brewing, izakaya Dorinku, and Parisian-style bakery La Boule.
  • Brick and mortar iterations spawned from food trucks continued into this year, including Calle Mexico, Fat Franks, The Local Omnivore, and Two to Taco, a new sister for Filistix. Little Village and Casa Doce storefronts are coming in 2017.
  • Fried chicken frenzy finally hit Edmonton, with a second location for Coco Fried Chicken and the rise of both Seoul Fried Chicken and Northern Chicken. Chain restaurant Popeye’s also caused quite a stir in November with their first Edmonton branch, and it was announced that Ong (from the folks behind Jack’s Burger Shack), will be serving up Hanoi-style fried chicken.
  • Bubble tea chains had a banner year – Coco’s, Quickly, Cha Time and Gong Cha all expanded to Edmonton in 2016.
  • In spite of the growth, many notable businesses shut their doors. We bid adieu to Call the Kettle Black, Dovetail Deli, Sabzy, Rosebowl Pizza (at least in its Oliver location), Dauphine, and Culina.
  • The limited success of no tipping restaurants in larger municipalities like New York should be a cautionary tale for us, but Edmonton saw its first two such establishments open in 2016: the aforementioned Cafe Linnea and Asian upstart Grain of Rice.
  • The upswing of local food tour businesses such as Epicurean Adventure Tours and the expansion of Alberta Food Tours to include Edmonton point to the growth of walkable restaurant districts and an increased appetite to explore them.
  • Similarly, Edmonton Cooks helped share some of the stories behind the city’s favourite restaurants, bringing us in line with the six other cities already profiled.
  • We lost Dolce & Banana operator Ernesto Rizzi suddenly in July, and Gail Hall’s passing in November is still ripping through the food community.

You can check out previous year in reviews here.