The Edmonton Fringe Festival is the second biggest in the world. It’s such a huge part of the summer for Edmontonians, and travellers from all over the world come to experience the thriving arts scene here in this quiet corner of Canada. We’ve put together a dining guide for some of the best eats in the area, so you won’t go hungry watching all that theatre!

Café Linnea

New kids on the block, Café Linnea have only been open just over a week and already they’re making a name for themselves. This Scandinavian-inspired joint is a collaboration with the guys over at Duchess Bakehouse, and they’re all about respect for the produce. They make a point to acknowledge all of the farmers and purveyors that inspire them on their menu, and are focused on minimising waste. As they continue to develop, Mondays will become a leftover day, where perfectly good offcuts from the week will be recycled and given new life in the form of unique breakfast and brunch dishes. The Cornett de Gougères ($8) were like scrumptious, savoury profiteroles, and come with whipped pork fat to slather them in. Egg & Toast Soldiers ($6) definitely evokes some childhood nostalgia, and the addition of gruyère cheese and a sprinkle of thyme takes the dish to another level. For something sweet, the Roasted Nectarine Crêpe ($10) can’t be beaten. The fluffy pancake is topped with bourbon vanilla semifreddo, which is balanced by the bitterness of the peaches perfectly.

Café Linnea
10932 119 Street NW, Holland Plaza, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 (780) 758 1160
Web: cafelinnea.ca

Block 1912

One of the hippest venues on the trendy Whyte Avenue, Block 1912 do it all. They have a mouthwatering selection of cakes and desserts on display, as well as a range of gelatos, handmade sandwiches, wines, teas and coffee. It’s very much a family establishment, with menus often changing based on what’s been cooked that morning. Everything they sell is made on-site, and there’s even a bakery below the shop. They have a range of dairy-free and vegetarian options, as well as gluten-free bread. We tried their dairy free Lemon Lime Gelato (single scoop $5, double $8), which was deliciously tangy and very light, and also their Raspberry Gelato, which was lovely and creamy. If you just want a quick bite, you can’t go past their sandwiches. The Smoked Tofu ($9) wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it was absolutely delicious, and had some lovely satay flavours coming through. Finally, we had a Pistachio Cake that was incredibly light and totally moorish.

Block 1912
10361 Whyte Avenue NW, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 (780) 433 6575
Web: block1912.com

The Marc

Serving arguably the best steak in Alberta (so I’m told) this classic French fusion restaurant is the place to eat in Edmonton. The vibe is modern, sleek, casual and welcoming, and the bistro-style food is honest and fresh. The service was excellent, and although there wasn’t a huge amount of vegetarian options to satisfy our party, we were accommodated with ease. There was a Tagliatelle & Vegetables ($20) dish for the vegetarian special that was creamy and delicious, and came with lashings of cheese.  But I couldn’t go past the Entrecôte steak-frites ($39) — grilled 10oz. Spring Creek rib eye steak, foie gras butter, frites and truffle aioli. It was decadent and mouthwateringly succulent, and the fries were the best I’ve ever had! So far, definitely the best steak I’ve tried in Alberta! Let’s hope it’s not the only one. For dessert we had one of The Marc’s signature dishes: Beignets! They are little free form doughnuts, that come powdered with sugar, accompanied by a creme anglaise and a dark caramel for dipping. Divine!

The Marc
100 Sterling Place, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 (780) 429 2828
Web: themarc.ca

Duchess Bakeshop

This unassuming, quaint little bakery is a MUST when in Edmonton. Since 2009, Duchess has become a local favourite, and is always bustling with activity. On offer is a scrumptious selection of classic French pastries, like macarons, and also some Canadian favourites, like banana cream pie. All of their creations are made from scratch on-site using only the finest quality ingredients, and you can absolutely taste the goodness. We were lucky enough to nab a table and try some of the goodies. The macarons ($1.85ea) are definitely their most popular item, and they were absolutely flying out the door! They have a great selection of flavours, and we tried the Sangria, Milk Chocolate & Apricot and the Vanilla. Yum! Next was the Banana Cream Pie ($6.50), an Alberta favourite! We figured, “When in Canada!” The pastry was crispy and buttery, and the cream on top was unsweetened, which allowed the banana underneath the shine through. Stunning. Finally, we were given a little plate of some of the Duchess’ fan favourites: a chocolate Madeleine ($0.95), a coconut and pineapple Financier ($2) made with almond flour and a Butter Tart ($2.25). All were melt-in-your-mouth, and can even be pre-ordered online!

The Duchess Bakeshop
10718-124 Street NW, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 (780) 488 4999 
Web: duchessbakeshop.com

Cavern

This Montréal-style wine & cheese bar is definitely a hidden gem. With hardly any signage and just a few chairs out front, you’d have to know what you were looking for. As you approach, a warmly lit staircase with fairy lights within beckons you inside. Going underground always adds that little bit of excitement. The space is small and intimate, with a sleek look and some lovely design elements. Cavern operates not only as a boutique spot for wine and cheese, but also as a cheese retailer. They have a huge amount on display from all over the world, and at any one stage can have up to 100 artisanal varieties in their portfolio. On offer throughout the day are plenty of options for any time of day. However, it’s Cavern’s Signature Boards that keep people coming back. There’s the Charcuterie Board, which comes with a selection of cured meats alongside the cheese. But what caught our eye was the Cheese Board for two ($25) with a choice of 3 cheeses, a selection of dried and fresh fruit, some chilli jam and an apple and ginger jelly. You’re able to choose your cheese from a list provided, and the categories include Bloomy Rind, Semi-Firm & Firm and Blue-Veined Cheese. And we’re set! For variety, we chose a cheese from 3 different categories: a Cendré des Prés brie from Quebec, which was creamy and ashy, an Époisse de Bourgogne that was meaty and packed a punch (our favourite) and a Perron Cheddar also from Quebec, which was a classic, nutty cheese. Cavern employs a fantastic system for their wines that’s called Enomatic, which is a revolutionary system of preservation through the use of gas. It also offers temperature control, precise pouring and elongation of life by preventing the wine from being altered by oxygen. Open late, it’s the perfect place for a post-theatre nibble and some wine.

Cavern
#2, 10169 104 Street NW, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 780 455 1336
Web: thecavern.ca

Chianti Café

Serving wholesome, delicious, generous Italian fare sine 1983, Chianti Café is an institution in Edmonton. All of their dishes are made to order from scratch, and the pasta is so fresh is basically falls apart. Chianti Café has been a long-term supporter of the arts here in Edmonton, and especially the Fringe Festival. Past posters adorn the walls throughout the restaurant, highlighting their commitment to supporting the creative endeavours of artists all over the world. They have a couple of locations in Edmonton, and a few more in surrounding areas like Calgary and Saskatoon. But their Old Strathcona restaurant is located in the heart of the historic theatre district, so it’s the place to be this Fringe Fest. They cater for most dietary requirements, so my vegan, gluten-free companion was accommodated without hesitation. We started with the recommended Insalata Mista ($8.50), a bunch of fresh garden greens topped with a moorish Homemade Italian dressing and freshly grated parmesan. Next, we each had half-size portions of the pasta, available for $9 each, and let me tell you they were generous enough! Typical Italian/Canadian generosity at play here. We had the Penne Alla Gigi (full size portion $16.95) that came with spicy Italian sausage, onion, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and spicy tomato sauce. As I mentioned, the pasta was fall-apart-fresh, the sauce was vibrant and full of flavour, and the sausage gave a lovely spice to the dish. The Linguine Primavera (full size portion $13.50) was authentically simple, overflowing with vegetables and fairly light on the garlic tomato sauce. The gluten free pasta was more like fusilli than linguine, and I couldn’t tell the different between that and mine. It was just as fresh and tasty. Finally, somehow we managed to fit in a dessert. Different stomachs, right? RIGHT?! We had a slice of a decadent Chocolate Ganache Raspberry Oreo-encrusted creation (didn’t catch the price!) that was creamy and tart, and not too sweet. The chocolate was dark with just the right amount of bitterness. The vibe here is casual and friendly, and the food is unparalleled. The perfect pre- or post-theatre spot.

Chianti Cafe
10501 82nd Avenue, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: 
+1 780 439 9829

Web: chianticafe.ca

Jācek Chocolate Couture

Jācek sprung from creator Jacqueline Jacek’s love of food, fashion and all things beautiful. Starting in 2009 as a home-based studio, the brand has now expanded into a commercial chocolate studio, to keep up with demand. Last year they also opened their flagship store on the trendy 104th Street, where all of their stunning creations are on display for sale. Each exquisite hand-made piece uses the finest French chocolate, and the team work tirelessly to continually perfect their art. We were lucky enough to be invited to attend an exclusive tasting event out at their Sherwood Park commercial kitchen. Designed to give patrons a better appreciation of fine chocolate, the event is definitely a thrill for the tastebuds. We worked our way up from light to dark, and were given tasting notes about what to pair each chocolate with. We also had a tour through the kitchen, to see where the magic happens! It was fantastic to be able to imagine all of the chocolatiers at work, see the machinery they use and learn all about the different techniques. Finally, we were encouraged to try our hand at making our own chocolate creations! A table laid out with dark and milk chocolate cups, fruit, cheese and seasonings was ours to play with. My personal favourite flavour I came up with was milk chocolate, mango, lavender and a pinch of salt. Who would have thought?! These tastings are such a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the intricate processes of chocolate making. If you’re a lover of fine chocolate, I wouldn’t miss out. However, if you don’t happen to be in town when one of the tastings in happening, definitely pop into their shop. All of their seasonal pieces are there for you to toggle at and salivate over.

Jācek
10140-104th St, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 780 705 9927
Web: jacekchocolate.com

The Sugarbowl

The sweetest place in Edmonton, or so I’m told! The Sugarbowl is undoubtedly a local favourite, and more than one person told me I had to go just for their Mac ‘n Cheese. Situated in the middle of the buzzing, leafy University community, it’s been open since 1943 and has cemented itself as a local institution. It’s had a colourful history, as a burger joint in the 50’s and a coffee house in the 60’s, and today it’s known as a vibrant bistro pub. And The Sugarbowl has a beer list to beat! They offer an almost overwhelming selection, boasting over 180 bottles options, and a rotating draft selection. They were also one of the first places to bring the delectable Belgian beer to Edmonton! We ordered a Beer Flight ($18 for the Feature) as a great way to try a bunch. The staff are really knowledgeable, approachable and helpful in this area, advising and recommending different beers for all tastes. Of course, we had to try the Mac ’n Cheese ($12) that came loaded with applewood smoked cheddar. It was like being in cheese heaven! It was stringy and rich and completely sinful. It definitely lived up to the hype. We also tried the Portobello Mushroom Burger ($14) with sweet potato fries, chèvre, rosemary aioli and caramelised onion. The mushroom was such a generous size, and incredibly juicy, and the fries were stop on. Our final dish was pretty much the only vegan option on the menu. It was the Red Coconut Curry Laksa ($16), with all the meat substituted for a whole lot of vegetables, and served with rice. The complexity of authentic flavours was very impressive, making for a truly delicious dish. The overall feel of the place was warm and inviting, and inherently calm and cool. A really great place for families, too, as there seems to be something for everyone here.

Sugarbowl
10922 88th Avenue, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 780 433 8369
Web: thesugarbowl.org

El Cortez Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar

As the name may suggest, El Cortez specialises in contemporary Mexican food and top quality tequila. Only one of 9 establishments in the world certified by Consejo Regulador del Tequila (The Tequila Regulatory Council), it is legit. The venue is an exciting fusion of colour and texture that bombards the senses even before you enter. With outdoor seating out the front and back, it’s the perfect place to people watch, or just bask in the sunlight. Inside, it’s wonderfully evocative and dramatic, and big booths make it the perfect place for big group gatherings. Their Coconut Margaritas ($12) are simply to die for, and on Taco Tuesdays the place is absolutely rammed. They have plenty of vegetarian options, and even a sneak vegan taco that isn’t even on the menu. The El Cortez Guacamole ($12) is smooth and creamy, and chocked full of garlic, just the way I like it. I tried the Cinnamon Braised Pork Tacos ($12 per order of 2) expecting not to be able to taste the cinnamon, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was a delightful spicy undertone to the delicate meat, and paired with that sweet pineapple salsa made the whole dish sing. Sublime! The Griddle Baked Vegetable Quesadilla ($14) was smokey, cheesy Mexican heaven. The staff are all super friendly, smiley and chilled, and make for a really lovely experience. I think it would be easy to pass off El Cortez as just another Mexican cantina, but you’d be sorely underestimating them. Located on the corner of the main Fringe Festival promenade, El Cortez is impossible to pass by without being the tiniest bit intrigued as to what treasures await you inside.

El Cortez
8230 Gateway Blvd., Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 780 760 0200
Web: elcortezcantina.com

Have Mercy Southern Table & Bar

Rivalling Café Linnea for the ‘newest kids on the block’ title, Have Mercy have only been open just over one month, and they’re already thriving. Situated literally on top of El Cortez, you might miss the entrance if you didn’t know where it was. You head through an unassuming door and up the stairs, and are accosted with some fantastic sights and sounds. Emanating those famous bars in the Deep South, these guys have made some serious effort with their decorating. It’s all authentic paraphernalia from the South, sourced from flea markets and antique stores and brought back to Edmonton. It’s a classic example of an All-American bar, and I loved it. Big, loud and proud. They have a huge selection of whiskies (mostly American, with a few Irish & Canadian thrown in there) and a list of curiously names cocktails. We tried the Wild Goose Flying In The Night Sky ($8 for 1oz.) which was fresh and tangy, and the Peach Cobbler ($12 for 3oz.) that certainly packed a sweet punch. We didn’t eat anything here unfortunately, as we’d just come from gorging ourselves at El Cortez. I was pretty upset by this, because they were serving things like Fried Chicken & Donuts (Oh my DAYS), Shrimp’N’Grits and Memphis Dry Rub Pork Ribs. Yeah ‘Murica! I might have to make a trip back to Edmonton just to visit these guys. Pop in and check them out, just above El Cortez. 

Have Mercy
8232 Gateway Blvd, Edmonton, Canada
Phone: +1 (780) 760 0203
Web: havemercy.ca

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Alana is an avid writer, traveller and eater. She’s Sydney born and raised, but spent 5 years living and studying in London, which gave her great opportunities to see the world. Alana is an actor by trade, so creativity is in her blood. In her spare time, she’s a theatre critic here in Sydney, and is always on the lookout for new and exciting pre-theatre dining options. Alana is often seen camera in hand, munching on the latest sweet treat and endeavouring to get that perfect shot. If puppies happen to be involved, it wouldn’t be a total disaster.