One of the hardest hit industries throughout the pandemic has been hospitality--restaurants and bars with sit-in service that's been virtually halted for a year. Those businesses that are surviving have done so by offering curbside pickup or meal delivery, but a new glimmer of hope has been the recent allowance of patio dining. With warm weather season upon us, and the spring edition of Downtown Dining Week now on, there's more reason than ever to support your favourite restaurant--or try a new one--for some al fresco fare.
Downtown Downing Week is on until April 25, with over 45 restaurants offering takeout and patio-friendly menus. In this incarnation, restaurants will feature special prix-fixe menus at $20, $35, $50 and $65 for lunch, brunch and dinner. Edmontonians can expect to see several downtown patios open ahead of the normal outdoor dining season, with 26 participating restaurants offering dining at existing patios, sidewalk tables and even makeshift parking-space patios.
“Downtown Dining Week is a much-needed boost for our hospitality businesses that have been hardest hit by the ongoing and costly back and forth of public health restrictions,” said Puneeta McBryan, Executive Director of the Downtown Business Association (DBA). "In the next few years, a thriving restaurant scene will be absolutely vital to our city’s economic recovery and success, so this is a critical time to support our restauranteurs."
With a campaign focused on keeping things local, this spring's dining week has unique menus from Edmonton favourites, including The Marc, Mercer Tavern, Tres Carnales Rostizado, DeDutch, The Creperie and Confederation Lounge (in the Mac). How does pan-seared duck breast or a steak-and-eggs brunch sound? Maybe a quick wrap or sandwich for a busy weekday lunch? You wouldn't go amiss with soup and prawn tacos either.
It speaks to the enthusiasm of the industry that a record number of restaurants are participating in this year's event. The 13-day celebration welcomes back notable restaurants and long-standing participants such as TZIN, Madison’s Grill and Old Spaghetti Factory, along with newcomers Farrow Sandwiches, Woodwork, Bianco and Let's Grill Sushi & Izakaya.
Fast-casual restaurants offering counter service make an appearance this year too. There are nine new spots in the lineup, including BUOK Fresh Korean Kitchen, Rosewood Foods and Tiffin India's Fresh Kitchen, all which will offer $20 all-day combos. The many local, independently-owned restaurants not only make up downtown's diverse and award-winning culinary scene, according to the DBA, they also reflect downtown's growing dining options and changing consumer preferences.
Do you see the vibrancy in the area when there's a game at the arena or a show on at the Citadel Theatre? Not all of the bustle happens inside those buildings. People mill about, sit on a bench with a wrap or sandwich, or grab a seat at a patio for a quick burger and a pint before or after an event. There's more than just formal, sit-in dining of a three-course meal in the downtown core, and more restaurants are offering diners those grab-and-go options.
In that spirit, the City and DBA have agreed to make a couple of blocks of 104 St. 'pedestrian only' for the next two weekends, (April 17-18 and April 24-25) during Downtown Dining Week. Cafes and restaurants along that stretch will spill out onto the sidewalks and road with patio seating while visitors enjoy the car-free, walkable atmosphere, similar to Calgary's Stephen Avenue pedestrian mall. If the April closures on 104 St. are popular and effective, as the DBA hopes, there's a chance this Edmonton corridor could see closures more regularly--even permanently. Stay tuned.
For another new take on this year's Downtown Dining Week, the DBA has partnered with five downtown hotels, including The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, JW Marriott Ice District and The Westin, to offer exclusive 'foodie-certified' staycation packages during the promotion period. These include one-night accommodation and a multi-course in-room dining experience at select hotels, starting at $239 a night.
Diners must book patio reservations and/or order takeout directly with participating restaurants. For a list of participating restaurants, hotels and multi-course menu offerings visit edmontondowntown.com.