Downtown Edmonton: Small Restaurants, Big Flavours
By Kendra Stager
Edmonton’s downtown core is known for being a business hub, but that definition typically doesn’t expand to include the sheer volume of tiny, unique restaurants wedged into the area in between all of the office buildings. No matter what someone’s taste preferences are, they will find what they’re looking for all within a fairly tight radius—it’s meer walking distance from one restaurant to the next. Here’s a quick guide to some of the diverse and creative flavours that are available right down the street from work.
Corso32 (10345 Jasper Ave)
Corso32 may be one of Edmonton’s smallest restaurants, but what it lacks in square-footage, it more than makes up for in ambiance, creativity, and most importantly, flavour. Described as a “chic, modern eatery,” the Italian restaurant sits on Jasper Avenue, wedged in between Crunch Gym and its own sister restaurant, Bar Bricco. Corso’s chefs hand makes all of their pastas, as well as using local and seasonal ingredients in their dishes. This, along with the candlelight coming from every table and only 34 seats using up all of the available space makes for a cozy, intimate setting for anyone lucky enough to snag a reservation.
Must-try treat: the chocolate torta is an incredibly dense, rich, sweet chocolate cake topped with salty hazelnuts that will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Black Pearl Seafood Bar (10132 104 St NW)
Located right in the heart of downtown on vibrant 104th Street, Black Pearl has everything a seafood lover could want packed into its tight quarters. The decor is over-the-top immersive, with fishnets hanging from the ceiling, a back-lit fish tank adorning the wall leading to the kitchen, and porthole-style mirrors to give the feel of being in an actual ship at sea. The real standout feature, however, is the menu. There’s everything from fresh prawns to baked lobster. Wanting to have a taste of everything? Try the Pearl seafood tower—consisting of lobster, dungeness crab, king crab, oysters, snow crab, and prawns. In a landlocked city like Edmonton, Black Pearl can make you feel as though you’re right by the ocean.
Must-try treat: the Pearl Pescatore is made with king crab, dungeness crab, prawns, mussels, and baby clams, all tossed in a cheesy linguine pasta? Carbs and seafood: it’s the best of both worlds.
Tres Carnales Taqueria (10119 100a St NW)
According to its website, Tres Carnales Taqueria gives Edmontonians “the real Mexican food experience,” and is owned by three friends who fell in love with the food down in Mexico after spending time there. The place isn’t huge, and it gets busy fast, so Tres Carnales uses a slightly different method with its customers than other restaurants: order from the board at the front, be seated, eat your food, and pay on the way out. They focus more on “street eats”— quick bites of tacos, quesadillas, and tortas—and do they ever get it right. With slow-roasted and braised meats, fresh toppings, and Mexican-style drinks, it doesn’t take the in-your-face decor of painted murals and colourful papel picado banners to give a sense of what they’re going for here: a fun, easygoing, laidback, and delicious authentic Mexican experience.
Must-try treat: Taco Al Pastor; fresh, warm, soft taco shells topped with marinated, slow-roasted pork and fresh cilantro. Who knew Mexican food could be so good this far North?
Rostizado (10359 104 St #102)
Owned and founded by the same trio as Tres Carnales—Dani Braun, Chris Sills, and Edgar Gutierrez—Rostizado brings more of a modern, family-style to the Mexican cuisine of Edmonton. The atmosphere is cozy, due to its ambient lighting and the fact that it’s a little hidden away from the street noise and lights—walk into the building and up a short flight of stairs heading away from the entrance. It’s very clear how much pride Rostizado takes in its food from the presentation alone—everything comes in a sizzling skillet or a heavy stone bowl, with food draped over the sides as decoration and steam rising from the bottom until the meal is finished. The food is hot, immensely flavourful, and picture-ready. Show up early, because this place fills up fast.
Must-try treat: the Chile Relleno de Puerco is pork shoulder carnitas stuffed inside a roasted poblano chile, served in serrano chile emulsion. There’s no lack of flavour—or creativity—with this dish.
Louisiana Purchase (10320 111 St NW) or (13503 St. Albert Trail)
Downtown’s Louisiana Purchase proved to be so popular, it now has a second location on the north side of the city. Serving up Cajun and Creole dishes, the rustic restaurant doesn’t shy away from using heat in the form of a plethora of spices. They specialize in gumbos and fried fish, but they also have some great options that you won’t find elsewhere in the city—such as their “swampstick,” a fried Louisiana alligator kabob, or their cherry-cola barbeque ribs. If you can handle heat, and are ready to branch out from the more common food found in the city, Louisiana Purchase is the place for you.
Must-try treat: the aforementioned swampstick is a marinated, fried alligator kabob with a sweet and spicy sauce. It tastes a bit like chicken, but with a certain kick.