Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Epicurious in Edmonton: 2011 in Review

January signals a time for reflection, and for me, this includes reviewing Edmonton’s year in food (you can take a look at my 2010, 2009 and 2008 reflections as well).

What the Truck?! 2

A picture from What the Truck 2?! in September

The food scene in Edmonton this past year was heavily dominated by excitement around the new food trucks that hit the streets in 2011 (among them Drift, Molly’s Eats, Nomad). I’m looking forward to seeing how this momentum continues into 2012, with at least two more trucks confirmed (Big City Sandwich, Battista’s). It’s also worth noting that several vendors, including Fat Franks, Eva Sweet and Filistix moved into brick and mortar operations this year too, on campus at the University of Alberta. It will only be a matter of time until established restaurants start getting into the food truck business as well. Of course, the mobile cuisine movement was just one of the trends this year:

  • A coffee district is brewing: in March, Transcend’s downtown location opened on Jasper Avenue, just off 104 Street, joining downtown gem Credo. Then word came that Roast Coffeehouse, a new cafe and roaster, is moving into the Mercer Warehouse, to open its doors in 2012. Bring on the caffeine!
  • I’m always happy to report on local businesses flourishing, not an easy accomplishment in a city that loves its chains. Both V Sandwiches and Viphalay opened up their second outposts in 2011, Famoso was working on their sixth, and Oodle Noodle just threw the doors open to their second downtown location!
  • Also resilient are cupcakes – no, they are not going away! Calgary favourite Crave Cupcakes launched their first Edmonton branch in February, while Delish opened up in Little Italy, and Flirt set up a downtown shop in July.
  • Burgers may have “jumped the shark” in other cities (with ever-pricier versions being served up in high-end restaurants), but in Edmonton, they are as popular as ever. American chain Five Guys expanded into Sherwood Park in February, with Smashburger to follow suit in 2012. As well, the Century Hospitality Group replicated Calgary’s popular alley burger.
  • It’s wonderful that farmers’ markets continue to gain a foothold in our city, spawning three new markets this year: in Southwest Edmonton, Castledowns and the Meadows. Unlike Calgary, which seems to prefer the multi-day model, we have neighbourhood-based markets, which is more congruent with the “living local” framework. The City Market also transitioned into a year-round market in October, moving directly from the street into City Hall.
  • That hunger for knowledge about local food and how best to prepare them has also encouraged a market for learning opportunities as provided by businesses such as Taste Tripping, Get Cooking, and Brad Smoliak’s upcoming venture in the space that housed The Butler Did It.

We’ll see what 2012 has in store for Edmonton!