Narrowing Edmonton’s best brunch contenders from a list of more than 50 reader suggestions wasn’t easy. Winnowing that list down to three from 14 was even trickier.
Brunch isn’t a set menu, after all. Can you really compare the resplendent Hotel Macdonald to the home-brewed charm of the Sugarbowl? To preserve our sanity, we settled on three categories honouring simple homestyle diners, middle-range innovators and elegant destinations.
More like Mom’s
Many of Edmonton’s best-loved brunch establishments are specialists in simplicity, with scrumptious cinnamon buns or cheese-filled hashes the stars of the show.
Copious amounts of coffee and conversation accompany the starches and bacon at these cosy destinations. While we were delighted by several spots — including Hathaway’s Diner, that friendly gem in the north-side neighbourhood of Wellington — we recommend tucking in at the Blue Plate Diner.
Located on happening 104th Street, the Blue Plate epitomizes comfort with a twist, with a buzzy-yet-casual ambience that sets it apart. This is a place you could take a first date, then return several years later with screaming kids in tow.
Every fall, chef Cean Holmes tries out new creations that will form next spring’s menu — specials that tweak and twist brunch themes — so there’s always the opportunity to sample new flavours. But he says his fantastically popular Eggs Beneduckt is a constant that won’t be going anywhere.
Holmes, who has no formal culinary training, is a fan of Hunter S. Thompson, who observed that breakfast should be eaten in a spirit of genuine excess, with copious amounts of meat and eggs, grapefruit and Bloody Marys and “preferably stone naked.” That leisurely excess is the inspiration for his Gonzo breakfast and his menu as a whole.
“As far as the eating-it-naked thing goes, I find there’s a bit of a restriction on that,” Holmes said. “But if I was at home, that’s probably what I’d do.”
Winner: Blue Plate Diner [icon name=”star” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]
Made for Mother’s Day
Some chefs want nothing more than to rinse off that greasy spoon and offer something a little more adventurous.
Many of Edmonton’s newest entries to the emerging brunch scene showcase epicurean trends and local ingredients. These are the spots that take time to serve a perfect cappuccino alongside that comforting crepe.
An extra bit of ambience from surroundings can be found at places such as the lovely Glasshouse Bistro, in the verdant Enjoy Centre in St. Albert. But we had to follow our stomach and go back to Under the High Wheel, where the eggs are truly sunny.
Located in the Roots on Whyte building near Old Strathcona, the Wheel has been spinning for four years, offering Béarnaise and buckwheat concoctions built on free range eggs and organic produce. Co-owner Jennifer Ogle sees brunch as a family’s chance to connect: a slow meal on a bustling weekend, reasonably priced and with something for every palate.
“A couple of weeks ago, we catered a wedding, and they had breakfast for dinner,” said Ogle. “They had a waffle bar, they had scrambled eggs, they had sausages and bacon. It’s comfort.”
As for increasing competition? Ogle doesn’t mind. She’s been to San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles, and it’s always the same: lineups out the door at all the best brunch hot spots.
Winner: Under the High Wheel
Marriage proposal, maybe?
If it’s pan-fried prawns or vol-au-vent pastry you desire, you might mark a special occasion with a brunch at one of Edmonton’s high-end restaurants.
A Sunday-morning feast at the iconic Hotel Mac will set you back $59 per adult, though at most spots in this category you won’t usually have to pay appreciably more for that mimosa.
We especially loved the attention to craft at Canteen, the hip 124th Street spot where brunch is a culinary adventure with a side of brown-sugar bacon. But when push comes to shove, we kept coming back to the elegant simplicity of the Manor Bistro, the homey mansion around the corner at 102nd Avenue.
Manor chef Cyrille Koppert likes to create elegant constructions, but he doesn’t “build towers.” Here, you’ll get breakfast essentials such as homemade banana bread, a house hollandaise, and gourmet touches such as a poppyseed vanilla wash on the french toast. And your plate will always arrive piping hot.
“It needs to be real and fresh,” Koppert said. “If it looks good and is not warm, it’s not good to me.”
Winner: The Manor Bistro
See all 14 of our brunch reviews at edmontonjournal.com/brunch
Our critics have made their choices. Now it’s time for readers to have their say. Which of our three best-of-brunch winners deserves the overall Readers Choice award for best brunch restaurant in Edmonton?
Vote for your favourite by Sunday, Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. We’ll tabulate the votes and announce the Readers Choice winner on Wednesday, Oct. 21. And watch for monthly brunch reviews in the Journal’s Food section starting in November.