Katie Hooge

Downtown Edmonton is known for having a vibrant patio season. Sadly, living in Edmonton means this patio weather doesn’t last long enough. Summer comes to a quick end and patios pack in their outdoor seating.

However, one restaurant has come up with an idea that allows you to eat outside — even in the cold. You dine in an igloo underneath the stars.

What could be better suited for our snowy Alberta?

The Courtyard by Marriot’s downtown location operates the igloos out of their Riverside Bistro restaurant. The igloos opened October 16th for their winter season and are selling out quickly. Riverside Bistro posted on their Instagram notifying followers that they have already sold out of certain evening time slots until December 11th.

I decided to check out the igloo dining to see if the experience is as unique and fun as it sounds. Here’s what I found.

A rainy Friday night in an Edmonton igloo. (Katie Hooge)

Overview:

Dining in an igloo is not overly friendly for your wallet, so Edmontonians might have to save up a bit for this date-night. The igloos cost 150 dollars to book for 90 minutes with a maximum of six people. This includes a 100 dollar food voucher, but does not include tax or tip. Essentially, you pay 50 dollars for the igloo and 100 dollars to put towards your food bill.

I quickly realized why the igloos are selling out so fast — there’s only three squeezed onto the patio overlooking the River Valley.

The igloos are located at the Courtyard by Marriot downtown. One Thornton Court 99 Street and Jasper Ave. (Katie Hooge)

Atmosphere:

The igloo was much more spacious than I expected, possibly because there were only two of us and they seat six. (Fewer people = more of the food voucher for us.)

Our waitress led us out and zipped us up into the plastic dome lined with lights.

A pleasant surprise? There was a small heater on one side. I had hoped for this but wasn’t sure it would have one — a huge relief. We sat in the two seats closest to the little space heater that was on max power.

I went to the 5:00 p.m. time slot, with the temperature just above zero. By the end of our 90 minutes, I had my jacket on and the heater pulled as close as I could get it.

A look inside the igloo. (Katie Hooge)

Our server told us the igloos don’t operate in anything below -10 degrees. This is partly because it becomes too cold for servers and guests and partly because the plastic igloo can’t handle another space heater without risking damage.

The igloos are supposed to offer river valley views. Sadly for us, we picked a very grey and rainy day. The skyline was clouded and you couldn’t see much off the patio. However, when the rain turned to snow, it made the whole “igloo” experience a little more authentic.

If you want to stay a bit warmer and have more of the River Valley views, I suggest trying the 3:00 p.m. booking.

Food:

I’m typically not a big spender when I go out to eat, but because money for food was included, we had an appetizer, two delicious entrees and a dessert. Ordering a halibut with some French words in the description made me feel pretty fancy.

The food did not disappoint. We ordered the following:

  • Warm Wild Mushroom Bruschetta
  • New York Style Steak
  • Miso Glazed Halibut
  • Cheesecake

The cheesecake was below average — but after learning that the restaurant is only open certain hours and serves a limited amount of people, I realized I couldn’t expect a freshly made cheesecake.

The appetizers and entrees, though? Delicious. Flavourful and cooked to perfection.

A list of questions I had before the visit:

Are they heated?

Yes, but not a lot. I had my jacket on for a majority of the time. I suggest dressing warm and maybe even bringing a blanket!

How will I notify my server if I need something?

You won’t, but there are only three igloos and your server checks in a fair amount.

Will there be music?

There was some music playing quietly outside the igloo.

How will my server stay warm?

The distance from the igloo to inside the restaurant is not far. The servers dress in casual attire (no heels or dresses to worry about), and the igloos close when it’s below -10.

Is it claustrophobic?

Not at all. It’s much larger and more spacious than I had expected. Having your own igloo makes it nice and private.

Would I go again?

Yes, but not in the same season. If Riverside Bistro continues the igloos, I would consider going every year or every other. It was unique and had fantastic food, but it’s an experience you don’t feel the need to do over again right away.

Overall, I’d say dining in an igloo is worth the money and definitely something to consider checking out for a rendezvous downtown. Plus, it’s undoubtedly one of best suited dates for a winter in Edmonton.

To book your reservation call 780-423-9999 extension 4747.

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