Saturday, October 31, 2015

Simply Yours Cafe

Happy Halloween! It looks like we're having perfect fall weather today too (and let's hope it stays that way in the evening). Whatever your plans may be, I hope your Halloween is safe and fun! Now onto this new blog post. 

After a particularly stressful week of school, I was in much need of some food therapy. In this week alone, I learned about many new food businesses that recently opened so I decided to visit one of these places as a reward for getting through the week. 

Simply Yours Cafe.

Simply Yours Cafe (3811 99 Street) is a new cafe and bubble tea place that held their grand opening last Saturday October 24. They are located in south Edmonton along the busy 99 Street in the same business area where you'll find Izakaya Tomo. 

The interior.
View of the ground floor.
Second floor.

One of the first things you might notice stepping inside is how big and spacious this cafe is. A high ceiling, stylish light fixtures, and minimal decor add on to the modern feel of the space. There is also seating on the second floor as well as a pool table. I would have wanted to sit on the second floor, but it was too dimly lit for me (and that wouldn't be good for my food photos lol). 

Drink Menus.
Specials + Food Menu.

So what does Simply Yours Cafe offer? In addition to bubble tea, they have coffee, tea, sandwiches, salads, subs, and a variety of sweet treats. There are also chips and boxes of Pocky available. The pricing of their food and drink items are on the lower end which is great if you're looking for a more affordable eatery in town. 

I spy macarons!
Even more treats next to the till.

The display case features their packaged and ready to eat sandwiches and salads along with cheesecake, swiss rolls, macarons, and homemade cake pops. A tray sitting next to the front till also has an assortment of individually wrapped treats. Lots of selection for snacks or a light lunch. 

Avocado Dream.

CJ and I ordered bubble teas to start off our lunch. He chose the Avocado Dream ($5.50) for himself, but found it to be really lacking in avocado flavour. I gave it a try and while I do agree about the barely there avocado, I preferred the consistency of his drink over mine. A lot of people leaving reviews on their Facebook page seem to be enjoying this particular drink though. 

Berry Berry.

I went with their Berry Berry ($4.75) bubble tea and asked for lychee pieces instead of tapioca. I usually love mixed berry drinks, but this one wasn't a favourite. The consistency of the drink was too thin for my liking and reminded me of the Tripleberry Julius from Orange Julius. I think I would have enjoyed this drink more if the consistency was a bit thicker and also if I had requested for more lychee. 

Vietnamese Meatball Sub.

The food item that caught CJ's eye was the Vietnamese Meatball Sub ($5.50). Unfortunately, he was really disappointed with this and ended up eating only half of it (which says a lot, because he almost always finishes his food). What was supposed to be meatballs ended up being sliced sausage which I thought had a weird taste to it. The toasted bun was also a bit hard and sliced in an odd way. In my opinion, this was a little unappetizing so I wouldn't recommend getting it. 

Green Onion Cake.

The Green Onion Cake ($2.50) I got was probably the best food item we ordered (take a look at that very low price! Happy Stephanie indeed), but it was still just okay compared to other green onion cakes we've tried in the past. This version was more compact and crispy which was fine for me, but if you prefer your green onion cakes to be fluffy and soft then you might not find this one enjoyable. I thought it could've used some more of that green onion taste as well. 

Coffee Swiss Roll.

To finish off, I went for a slice of their Coffee Swiss Roll ($2). Sadly, I didn't enjoy this treat either: the slice was stale, dry, and lacked a lot of coffee flavour and sweetness. Certainly not the soft, moist, and delicate dessert I had hoped for. You all know how much I enjoy sweets, but I really couldn't get myself to finish this one. 

Our spread of food and bubble tea.

I'm sad to say that my first experience at Simply Yours Cafe was disappointing overall. The food was mediocre at best, and the bubble tea drinks I tried were not made as well as it could've been. However, since they are a brand new establishment, it is understandable that there are still some kinks to work out with their food and drink items. It would be nice to see more hot food added to their menu, instead of only spring rolls or green onion cake. 

On the plus side, the service we received was quite friendly and I really liked the quiet and relaxing atmosphere. I think Simply Yours Cafe actually makes a good addition to the area since there aren't any other casual cafes/hang out spots nearby. They also open very early (7:00 AM on weekdays) and close at 1:00 AM on Fridays and Saturdays - great for early risers or night owls. Now that I've outlined a few positives about this place, the only thing that really needs improvement is the food! Simply Yours Cafe definitely has a lot of potential! 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 2015 #yegfood: New and Upcoming Businesses to Look Out For

One of my favourite things to do is peruse the "yegfood" hashtag on both Instagram and Twitter, keeping an eye out for any new and upcoming businesses. Sometimes I may even pass by a building with "Opening Soon" signs naming a restaurant I've never heard of before, which is also pretty exciting in itself. Discovering new businesses is quite fun for me, and lately it feels like my list of places to look out for just keeps getting longer and longer! Although I usually tweet to spread the word, I think an informative blog post with a round-up of new and upcoming food businesses would be helpful to both myself and anyone else who loves the Edmonton food scene.

Here's my October 2015 summary of new and upcoming #yegfood to visit and look out for. The first couple of businesses listed are ones that have recently opened. 

11010 51 Ave
At the start of September, I noticed a bright green sign reading "Kerala Restaurant" in the business area just north of Southgate Mall during my morning commute to school. Formerly known as Savoy's Health Cafe, Kerala Restaurant held the grand opening of their newly re-branded and renovated restaurant on August 23. They offer ethnic South Indian food.

11965 Jasper Ave
Coffee and beer. Two different brews, both found in one location! Located in the Pearl Tower in Downtown, BRU Coffee + Beer House held their grand opening on Sept 19. Check them out, the space is lovely! Blog post to come. 
>> Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Taiwan Bubble Tea
10903 23 Ave
Taiwan Bubble Tea opened in mid-September close to the Century Park bus and LRT stations. I'll be writing a more detailed blog post, so stay tuned.
>> Facebook (for their 104 Street location)

7603 109 Street
I love my city's growing coffee (or hot chocolate!) scene. The Woodrack Cafe opened to the public on Sept 28 so I made sure to visit since it's located so close to the University of Alberta. Don't forget to read my review of this new coffee shop.

9103 118 Ave
Although Pho King has been around since February 2010, they recently completed renovations and re-opened their doors earlier this month on October 5. Pho King serves both Vietnamese and Western food. I hope to check this place out sometime soon - isn't the name awesome? Haha! 

16518 100 Ave
Edmonton's newest ramen restaurant is now open for business in the west side! They held their grand opening just last Thursday October 15, but I haven't found time to visit yet. In the meantime, check out these reviews by Andrea and Cindy.

Purple Bubble Tea
10558 109 Street
I recently learned about this new bubble tea and food place that opened just last week in Downtown, close to Macewan University. They offer a variety of drinks, snacks, and SHAVED SNOW! I had tried shaved snow from Snowflake Shavery in Las Vegas, and since then I've been wishing for a place that served it in Edmonton. Now it's finally here!

14253 23 Ave
I'm excited to say that Confetti Sweets' first Edmonton location in the Terwillegar neighbourhood is now open! They opened for business last Tuesday Oct 20, sharing a space with Prairie Mill Bread Co.Can't wait to visit and pick up even more coconut cookies! 
>> Facebook | Instagram | Twitter 

Simply Yours Cafe [NEW TO LIST!]
3811 99 Street
There is a new food and bubble tea place now open for business in the southside! Simply Yours Cafe held their grand opening just last Saturday Oct 24 offering sandwiches, subs, sweet treats, and more. I was able to check it out yesterday, so expect a review to come soon. 
>> Facebook

9802 Jasper Ave 
Chef Spencer Thompson of Toast Fine Catering has moved into the former Tavern 1903 space in Alberta Hotel, located in Downtown. He's partnered with Brandon Baker (formerly of Three Boars) and opened to the public Thursday, Oct 29. I'm looking forward to lunch the most, which begins Nov 3. The restaurant will feature craft cocktails and food sourced from Alberta farms. 
>> Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Yumioca [NEW TO LIST!]
5940 104 Street
Yumioca is the newest addition to Edmonton's bubble tea places located in the southside, and they are having their grand opening this Monday Nov 2 (although they have soft opened). They also offer some desserts including my new favourite shaved snow! Can't wait to visit!
>> Facebook

Now here are some places that haven't opened yet (as of October 31, 2015), but expect them to sometime this year or early next year: 

Square One Coffee
Aspen Gardens community, exact address to come 
A month ago, while reading through a Fresh Sheet for Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market, I noticed a new vendor called Square One Coffee. I learned that Brandy (the owner of this business) planned on opening a coffee shop featuring locally roasted beans in the Aspen Gardens community in southwest Edmonton. Specifically, the coffee shop will be located just off 119 Street in front of Vernon Barford School. I was pretty excited knowing this, so I gave Square One Coffee a visit at the market.

2003 91 Street
Chef Paul Shufelt (formerly of Century Hospitality Group) will be opening his own restaurant in southeast Edmonton sometime this fall. The Workshop Eatery, located in the Mosaic Centre For Conscious Community and Commerce, will feature 12 to 15 staple items on its menu focusing on local and seasonally inspired cuisine. Check out this Edmonton Journal article to learn more. 

10350 124 Street
Ever since I attended two of Prairie Noodle Shop's ramen pop-ups earlier this year, I've been looking forward to the opening of their brick and mortar shop along 124 Street. They are hoping to open in late November, and you can bet I'll be there on opening day! Prairie Noodle Shop ramen is some of the best I've had. 

The Almanac [NEW TO LIST!]
10351 82 Ave
Whyte Ave's food scene continues to grow with the addition of The Almanac, a restaurant/bar featuring French pub fare. Check out their website: it gives you a countdown of their opening date right down to the microsecond! 
>> Twitter

11248 104 Ave
1ST RND will be opening a second location Downtown in late November. In the meantime, check out their West Edmonton Mall location on Bourbon Street - they offer a great selection of burgers, fries, wings, and more. 
>> Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Pizza City Donair & Broast 
5572 Windermere Blvd
Driving along 23 Ave in the Terwillegar neighbourhood, I noticed a sign for a new eatery opening soon in Windermere. The food offered at Pizza City Donair & Broast will be halal as well. I haven't found any of their social media pages, but check out their Google+ page for more information.

New Asian Village 
2331 66 Street
New Asian Village will be opening a new location in Mill Woods Town Centre, next to GoodLife Fitness. This will be their fifth Edmonton location offering East Indian cuisine. Please excuse the quality of the photo I took, I was in a moving vehicle haha. 
>> Facebook (for their 34 Ave location) | Twitter

Washoku Japanese Bistro [NEW TO LIST!]
124 Street and 107 Ave
I highly recommend checking out Sharon's blog Only Here for the Food - the weekly Food Notes are an excellent way to stay up to date with Edmonton's food scene! In her latest Food Notes, Sharon noticed opening soon signs for Washoku Japanese Bistro, located next to Relish Gourmet Burgers. Hopefully the social media pages appear soon! 

Love Pizza
Canterra Centre, 109 Street and Jasper Ave
A new pizza place will be coming to Downtown in January 2016! Love Pizza will feature signature pizzas and a build your own option. I would definitely want to check this place out for lunch - who doesn't Love Pizza? See what I did there. 

I gathered all this information from Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, news articles, blog posts, word of mouth, or just by simply spotting a new eatery. Are there any other new or upcoming food businesses that I missed? Please let me know in the comments! If you want more real time updates of new food businesses in the city, follow me on Twitter (@sk_gonzales).  

Last updated October 31, 2015. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Woodrack Cafe

It's been a long time since I've written a review of a new local business, so I'm excited to finally get back into the swing of things again. First of all, I can't believe it's already October! September flew by so quickly, and it won't be much longer before those beautiful fall colours on the trees disappear. October is also the month that I dread as a university student... why, you ask? Midterms!!! For me, October has always been a month with tons of midterms or assignments, which of course means a lot of studying to be done. Although I mostly study at home or at school, sometimes I enjoy venturing out to a locally-owned cafe for a change in scenery. That's where this post and future posts come in... I hope to share with you a couple cafes throughout Edmonton that would be perfect for studying in or for getting that caffeine fix to help you power through your lecture notes. And as usual, my posts will also be an overall review of the business I check out.

The Woodrack Cafe.

One cafe that has been on my list all summer is The Woodrack Cafe (7603 109 Street), which officially opened to the public just last Monday September 28th. While out kayaking, the owners - Melissa and Shammy - collected driftwood and placed it on the rack of their kayak's - that's how the name of this cafe was born! Located on 109 Street and 76 Avenue, it is only a few minutes away from the University of Alberta (and from Whyte Ave).

The interior.
The interior.

When I stepped inside the cafe, it was almost a full house (the above pictures were taken later on)! It was so nice to see a bustling space on their first day of operation... a good sign that The Woodrack Cafe is very much a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

Comfy seating at The Woodrack Cafe.

Now let's talk about what really caught my eye when I walked in: the lovely decor and the atmosphere! The About section on their website describes the cafe as having a "relaxed boho style atmosphere", and I couldn't agree more. The room itself is spacious and modern, but the furniture and decor were what really gave off that perfect, cozy vibe throughout the entire cafe. The dream catchers hanging on the walls, the driftwood art, and (my personal favourite!) antler art on the tables and shelves looked absolutely gorgeous. I'm happy that the owners (who are also very friendly!) took their time in making their vision for this cafe come true!

Baked goodies!
Menu for Hot Drinks.
Menu for Cold Drinks.

There is a huge glass display case showcasing all the different baked goods they offer, but when I arrived just past 1:00 PM the case was almost empty! Talk about a very busy day for The Woodrack Cafe. The drink menus, neatly written in chalk on two blackboards hanging above the till, are easy to read and categorized into hot and cold drinks. The Woodrack Cafe features 3 brands of coffee: Danesi, an Italian roast, Edmonton's own ACE Coffee Roasters, and Anchored from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Chocolate Whoopie Pie.

I managed to score the very last Chocolate Whoopie Pie ($4.50) available! I'll admit that my goal coming in was to try this exact treat, so I'm quite lucky to have picked up the last one. Whoopie pies are The Woodrack Cafe's specialty, and I would say the one I tried tasted really good. Soft and a little crumbly, with a rich chocolate flavour all held together by a delicious, fluffy frosting. As a fan of all things chocolate, it's no surprise that this treat immediately became a new favourite.

12 oz Hott Chocolate.

Even though the weather was warm when I visited, I still ended up going for their 12 oz Hott Chocolate ($3.50). The drink was served with whipped cream in a beautiful mug featuring antlers! The Woodrack Cafe has a bunch of these mugs for sale as well (for $28), so I'm planning on purchasing one for myself during my next visit. The hot chocolate was on the sweeter side, but it was smooth with no shortage of chocolate flavour, just how I like it.

Earl Grey Shortbread.

CJ got Earl Grey Shortbread for himself, which looked delectable. I didn't end up trying it, but it was instantly devoured! A sign that it was quite tasty for sure. 

12 oz Iced Mocha.

To cool down, CJ went with the 12 oz Iced Mocha ($5.25) for his drink. Yet another drink served in a really pretty cup featuring antlers! These upcycled cups hand crafted by the owners themselves are also available to purchase too.

Pretty antler art found throughout the cafe, view from the couch.

Although CJ and I sat down at a table at first, we were lucky enough to eventually relocate over to the comfy couch facing the fireplace and large windows. There is definitely room for more than 2 people on the couch, and I think it would be a perfect spot to sit and read a book with a hot drink in hand. 

Take a book, leave a book. That's my own stuffed animal to the right!

The Woodrack Cafe has a lot to offer: in front of the other entrance (the one not facing 109 Street), there is a shelf filled with books with a sign reading "Take a Book, Leave a Book". Really cool to see! I didn't have a book with me to leave, but some of the books on the shelf looked like ones I would find myself picking up. 

View of the bar and shelf containing merchandise.
More items for purchase near the front entrance.

The Woodrack Cafe combines delicious baked goods and drinks with hand crafted merchandise available for purchase. T-shirts, cups, mugs, and even earrings are for sale! Furthermore, those beautiful dream catchers hanging by the window? The driftwood art? You can buy those too! You can tell that a lot of love and care went into creating them. 


I think The Woodrack Cafe is a great place for studying or getting work done because of the super cozy space and relaxed atmosphere. It's easy to get to from the University of Alberta which is bonus for me too (take bus 9 on 109 Street going to Southgate and get off at the stop just past 76 Avenue. Or walk, bike, or drive! They have a parking space). I have a feeling that I'll be making a lot of visits to The Woodrack Cafe this school year. And why wouldn't I want to hang out in a place that has tons of antler decor! Caribou/reindeer are one of my favourite animals after all. 

At the moment, The Woodrack Cafe is open from Monday to Friday from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM. They are currently working on extending their hours and eventually opening on weekends. I'm looking forward to that. Be sure to follow The Woodrack Cafe on Twitter (@TheWoodrackCafe), Instagram (@thewoodrackcafe), and like their Facebook page.

Woodrack Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What the Truck?! Sept 11, 2015

Cooler fall weather has finally arrived in Edmonton, which sadly means the end of food truck season. Luckily, I was able to attend a total of four What the Truck?! food truck events this year to satisfy my love for trying new food truck food. The most recent event I attended was the Finale in Churchill Square a few weeks ago. This time however, I attended the event as a Golden Ticket winner!

What the Truck?! Finale in Churchill Square.

The Finale event featured 35 food trucks nicely spaced out on Churchill Square and on 99 Street. I loved that there was much more room between each truck which helped to ease line ups and avoid crowding. The weather was warm and sunny as well - perfect for hanging out in a festive, outdoor environment trying new food and supporting local businesses. 

Golden Ticket.

As a Golder Ticket holder, I was asked to come half an hour before the start of the event. Essentially, the Golden Ticket allowed me and a friend pre-entry between 3:40 PM to 4:00 PM - we got a 20 minute head start with access to all the food trucks without having to wait in line. Planning what you want beforehand is recommended, especially if you want to try food from multiple trucks in a short amount of time! 

Strawberry Shortcake Mini Donuts.

Our first stop with the Golden Ticket: Jackie O's for Strawberry Shortcake Mini Donuts ($8). Don't worry - it looked a lot prettier when we first received it! I guess one small downside about having a Golden Ticket is that I didn't really have time to stop and photograph my food (#thestruggle, right? #foodieproblems). I was definitely more focused on trying to order as much food as I could. When we finally sat down to eat, my friend Yusra (who ordered these donuts) felt that the strawberry topping had really soaked into the donuts making it a lot sweeter than she had hoped. This is best eaten right away.

Chocolate Waffles on a Stick.

The next stop was The Wafflery, a food truck new to What the Truck?!. The Wafflery was serving both sweet and savoury waffles, but as someone with a sweet tooth, I knew I needed to try their Chocolate Waffles on a Stick ($5). And I'm glad I did... these waffles were amazing! So soft and fluffy, and the caramel sauce drizzled on top rounded out each bite. The sprinkles were a fun, colourful touch and added some texture as well. I'm kind of sad that I offered one stick to Yusra before I tried it myself... if I had known how good it was, I definitely would've devoured both on my own! 

Chicken, Preserved Apple, and Bacon Skewers.

It's no surprise that I would start out with dessert. So to actually fill me up, I headed over to Bully Food Truck to try their Chicken, Preserved Apple, and Bacon Skewers ($8). Three small skewers consist of fresh Hutterite chicken, preserved apples, ground pepper, and smoky bacon served with brie cheese cream. A really delicious combination, and I easily finished off all three. But the best part of this dish? The salad it came with!!! I don't usually rave about salads, but this one was so good! Very refreshing and something that I would love to eat again. Bully was also able to make my order quickly - much appreciated since I wanted to move fast from truck to truck within my 20 minute pre-entry time. 

Curry Puff.

The next food truck on my list was Molly's Eats to try their Curry Puff ($3), a puff pastry filled with curry beef and potatoes. This doesn't look like much, but of course I'm not one to judge a book based on its cover. My first bite into this was impressive: the perfect flakiness of the pastry, the flavourful beef, a little bit of spice. This definitely packed a lot of punch for something so small. I only wish I went back for more! 

Pork and Apple Pie.

Another new food truck I checked out was The Pie Eatery. I wanted to try their Pork and Apple Pie ($7) after reading that CBC's food columnist Twyla Campbell had chosen this as the best food item at Taste of Edmonton 2015. So how did it taste? The first bite was unexpectedly surprising in a good way! I thought the filling was a perfect balance between the savouriness of the pork and the sweetness of the apple. The pastry itself was also great. Not to mention how good it smelled when I cut into it! I think the beauty of puff pastries is that it can hide such amazing flavours inside it, making for a delicious and welcome surprise. 

Rearview Mirror.

At this point, Yusra and I were both out of hands!!! But I was well prepared for that to happen - I brought a large reusable shopping bag to carry the rest of our food! The things you do for food am I right? But hey, I thought bringing a large bag was quite clever of me (hahaha). And now for the last but certainly not least stop using my Golden Ticket: Chedda' Heads! I loved their Hellbent grilled cheese sandwich that I tried back in August for What the Truck?! in Telus Field, so it was very nice to see them again at the Finale. I wanted to try something new so I went for their Rearview Mirror ($9) grilled cheese sandwich which consists of cheddar, granny smith apples, bacon, and maple syrup. Apparently my theme for this event was apples and bacon, seeing as this was my third dish containing both! I loved how the crispy and slightly tart apple slices paired well the bacon. Another impressive grilled cheese sandwich by Chedda' Heads, as expected. 

My spread!

So here was my spread of food after my 20 minute head start! Although I went a bit past 4:00 PM, I managed to get most of what I wanted in a short period of time. It was really nice to order food early, and at each food truck I went to I was greeted with warm and friendly hellos. 

There were only a few downsides about my experience with the Golden Ticket. Some food trucks I wanted to check out showed no sign that they were ready for the Golden Ticket winners (for example, a closed food truck or no one standing outside the truck to greet us), especially at the start of my pre-entry at 3:40 PM (pretty much all the food trucks appeared ready closer to 4:00 PM, towards the end of the pre-entry period). I also found that I had to wait longer than expected for some of the food items I ordered, usually because it was still being baked or cooked. Consequently I spent more time waiting at certain trucks, even though I had initially expected to receive my food within a fairly reasonable time in order to move quickly from truck to truck within the 20 minute time frame. I was optimistic that I would be able to check out more than 6 food trucks using the Golden Ticket after all. Lastly, I felt there was some miscommunication about what the Golden Ticket really entailed... some thought that the ticket would extend past 4:00 PM thereby letting me actually skip real line ups (but that wasn't the case). 

Proud of myself for scoring an impressive spread of food.

I do understand that it wouldn't make much sense to prepare a big batch of food to be hot and ready for only 2-4 people with guaranteed pre-entry. By the time such food is requested by more people when the event actually begins, it probably wouldn't have been as freshly made as it could've been, which is likely a situation most food businesses would want to avoid. Considering that, I think it would have been really nice if skipping the lines with the Golden Ticket could have been extended (even by 15 minutes or so) to be past the actual event start time. That way, there wouldn't be a pressing need for me to move as quickly, but food trucks would still be able to guarantee that the food they serve is freshly made not only for the Golden Ticket holders but for the other What the Truck?! attendees as well. 

Overall, my experience at the What the Truck?! Finale in Churchill Square was excellent! I feel really lucky to have won pre-entry to one of my favourite events, not to mention the perfect weather that came with it that day. I'm happy that I was able to check out new food trucks but also revisit some favourites. An aside: this is the first What the Truck?! event I've attended without CJ (who happily eats what I can't finish). Can you believe I managed to eat all that food alone (with just a wee bit of help from Yusra lol)? 

Congratulations to everyone on the What the Truck?! team for a successful finale event to wrap up the season! Thank you again for the Golden Ticket! September 11, 2015 (the day of the event) was also proclaimed to be "What the Truck Day" by City Councillor Andrew Knack. Awesome news! I'm looking forward to the next season of What the Truck?! events. Click here to read the recap of the finale event by What the Truck?!. Follow What the Truck?! on Twitter (@whatthetruckyeg) and like their Facebook page