16604-109 Av NW
Tue-Wed,Sun 11am-6pm; Thu-Sat 11am-9pm
In the west end of Edmonton there’s a strip mall. Next to the Mayfield Inn, long ago, there was a Mexican restaurant out here before Mexican restaurants existed. It was my first experience with Mexican food that wasn’t fast food, and it was delicious. A whole different world of flavours. I loved eating there. Unfortunately, the owner, tired of Edmonton winters, retired, and went back to Mexico.
Years later, word came out that there was a new Mexican restaurant open in the same strip mall. I was hoping some of the magic had rubbed off on the new establisment: Mexico Lindo.
Clean and a bit spartan, there’s a bit of an odd feel about it. However, the service is friendly and warm. I’ll take service over atmosphere any day.
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria
1417 99 St NW
O-toro previously wrote about this now five-location strong pizzeria based in Edmonton known as Famoso that is trumpeting some true ingredients that go into a classic Neapolitan pie. So on my recent visit to the Alberta capital, I knew I had to give it a try myself, as there is no sign of it coming to the west coast any time soon, and I don’t have immediate plans to visit Calgary (where they have one of their five locations).
As it was on the city’s south side and thus closest to the airport that still is way too far for my liking from the city’s downtown core, the South Edmonton Common location was visited for this lunchtime meal. [I did manage to see the location for the one downtown later during my stay]. It was quite busy for a mid-week day, although I’m sure the pending holidays had something to do with it, but the access to this shopping area wasn’t as bad as it ended up being days later (and of course for Boxing Day). First impressions were positive. Bright, clean, with a nice buzz about the place. The centralized glass display that housed many of the desserts and drinks anchored the room, with the pizza cooks working in the open towards the back where I could also spot the wood burning oven. Everything fit the “fast casual” claim they spout out in their marketing.
#650-3803 Calgary Trail
New concepts, especially in the do-it-yourself kind seem to be sprouting out all over the place these days. Perhaps its a way to cut labor costs, but having customers/diners do all the heavy lifting and giving them countless choices to suit their every need and desire, seems to be partly (in my opinion) due to the ever burgeoning something-unique-for-everyone ethos that has arisen from the Starbucks business model (“super venti mochachino with quarter-whole, quarter-skim, and make the rest half & half, decaf with a few shavings of nutmeg”” anyone?). No single item will do, you get as much leeway as you want. Kind of a steroid-driven upgrade on the old “have it your way” style of one of the major fast food burger chains.
I wouldn’t even try to come up with all the permutations of configurations you can get with your Twisted Yogurt dessert. Rather than try to come up with something both accurate and witty, I’ll let the marketing gurus of the operation themselves tell you how they would give their elevator pitch:
“Twisted Yogurt is all about exploring your creative side, because you get to create your own frozen masterpiece. You start by choosing one of our eight flavours of fresh, natural non fat frozen yogurt and then add on as many of our over 50 toppings as you can load into your bowl.”
Shogun Japanese Restaurant
10125 – 121 Street NW
With one of the oldest pedigrees when it comes to serving Japanese cuisine in Edmonton (in particular being home to the first real full-fledged sushi bar in the city) and still in the same location when it opened back in 1983, Shogun is one of the real classics that has survived the test of time. Despite this longevity, I have a sense its not really well known by local bloggers as I don’t really hear much about it through other sources. If you’ve been around as long as yours truly has and are as familiar with the Alberta capital, you might recall the current major longtime stalwart in the Japanese food genre in Edmonton, Mikado, did have a much smaller location on the north side (not the present flagship spot near Grant MacEwan), also in the Eighties. But it was Shogun who really brought to Edmonton a full scale Japanese restaurant complete with the culture-crossing phenomenon better known as teppanyaki.
Inside some of the display cases lining the restaurant floor, you’ll find some of the artifacts of yesteryear; Polaroids of some of the local celebrities that frequented the place back in the day. Personally, I still have some autographs direct from the hands of the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Kevin Lowe from the early- Eighties that I collected from them when they were spotted dining here numerous times during those Oiler glory days (including one from their night of dining on New Year’s Eve 1984!). The decor hadn’t really changed much from its early days – the dark wood beams, the noren, the general layout of the tables and tatami rooms. Though I did note that in the ten years since I last came here, the sushi bar is now at the front of the house, where the former bar/lounge used to be.
Leon’s Wonton & Noodle House
10634 97 Street
Edmonton’s Chinatown district while a long standing one, is not as large as the editions that thrive in other major Western Canada centres such as Calgary or Vancouver in my mind. At least it doesn’t seem that way in terms of the variety and choice when it comes to dining in the zones often flanked by the distinctive gates that signify you are “officially” inside Chinatown. My sense of the heart of the Alberta capital’s version is 97th street, stretching from the south end at Jasper Avenue and up to perhaps 108th~110th avenue to the north. The relatively smaller size thus gives a more cozy and neighborly atmosphere to the place, almost like if you live and work here, you would know everyone on each street corner. When I see some of the elderly ethnic Chinese seniors strolling the streets or sitting inside some of the businesses (no doubt run by their younger relatives), I must say some have probably lived their whole long life in this east Asian cultural bubble in Edmonton.
Leon’s Wonton & Noodle House is one such place that brings to mind this tradition. The proprietors (a couple, she in the front of house, he cooking in the back) have been in this city for over twenty-five years, after emigrating from Vietnam. Some supporting articles that can be viewed inside the restaurant under the glass covered table top’s which mentioned their history and business operations. A loyal following seems to exist as far as their customer base is concerned if you were to read and believe the narratives and quotes. My kind of place. Homey, simple, comfortable, lots of choice if you come here often and so you don’t get sick of the menu, and modestly priced.
3803 Calgary Trail NW
Thought it was open now didn’t you?
Well, as of 10pm MST last evening, this is what the front door looked like.
Still covered up with ‘opening soon’ paper noting just the information of a local contractor doing the work inside apparently, I’m not exactly sure when the doors will open to customers as it was difficult to see through the small bit of uncovered space at the entrance in the freezing Edmonton night I might add. With some flurries coming down, this was a quick drive by and shoot, as the trigger finger on the shutter felt like it might just fall off from the cold.
1056 91 Street SW
True to its name, Mini Mango is a tidy little space set up within a strip mall (of which there are many in Edmonton) on the city’s southside. But contrary to so many Vietnamese noodle joints that I’ve frequented, this establishment has applied some more modern touches, thus resulting in a chicer, compact environment that should appeal to those who are less inclined to visit more hole-in-the-wall type of restaurants. Four and two-top seating arrangements, a corner booth, and even a special section with high stools for solo diners completes the picture here, though I imagine they do get their fare share of take away customers. According to my local contact, the lunch hour here can get hectic, and seemingly a popular place for the stay-at-home moms who perhaps want to have a mid-day meal that is more on the “exotic” side. Such is the life of Alberta suburbia I suppose…
The system in place was very much like Famoso, that I’d visited a few days earlier. Step up to the front counter, place your order, pay there, and then go to your seat and your food would be brought out to you. I don’t think I saw any menu cards or booklets at the tables themselves and my only reference of what there was to eat was the sign board pinned to the wall in the employee-only area connected to the kitchen. Appetizers hitting on things like Vietnamese spring rolls and salads were interspersed with a few other Asian-themed dishes such as kimchi and “Thai” deep fried prawns in wonton wrappers.