— Feature —

Best in the Core

A funky compendium of big-city fun, flavour and frivolity that warms our winter core

Each year the Yards staff and board members sort through a myriad of great things to do, places to eat and sights to see in Edmonton’s downtown and beyond. We try to bring you experiences we love; food that brings joy, new experiences for readers to try, and great places to go. And if there’s something we missed, let us know! Tell us on social media, snail us a mail, or even collar us in person. We’d love to hear from you.

Best Place to Be Seen

JW Marriott Lobby Bar (Photo: William Frost)

WINNER: JW Marriott Lobby Bar
High ceilings, gleaming marble bar, and a variety of seating arrangements ranging from cozy to comfortable-group, make this the ultimate hangout when you’re in the mood to be noticed. Signature cocktails, charcuterie and cheese boards, and fresh seafood to please all of your senses. Hit up Happy Hour every day 3 – 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close. (10344 102 St, 780.784.8580, Braven – The Lobby Bar)

RUNNER UP: Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market (new location)
The Quarters on the east edge of downtown is the new home of the farmers’ market, and it’s still a hot destination every weekend. Pick up everything you need while staying warm regardless of the weather. (YEGDT Market)

RUNNER UP: Archetype
With four custom designed workout studios for yoga, HIIT, spin and boxing classes, plus specially trained coaches, this is more than a gym – it’s an Instagram-worthy lifestyle. (10344 102 St Suite 501, 780.784.8585, Archetype)

RUNNER UP: Alex Decoteau Park – Dog Off-Leash
You and Fido are sure to make new friends at this popular off-leash park–bring a ball and show off your pup’s fetching skills. (10230 105 St, Alex Decoteau Park)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Brunch

OEB Breakfast Co.

WINNER: OEB
This all-day breakfast spot has risen well above the classic eggs benny fare with its exquisite breakfast poutines featuring everything from philly-style beef short-rib and brown butter hollandaise to lobster and shrimp scrambled eggs. Sides include duck-fat fried potatoes and chicken blueberry sausages. It’s open every morning and serves breakfast all day so Tuesday morning can be the new Sunday brunch. (10174 100A St, 587.520.0936 or 110240 124 St, 780.250.0788, Eat OEB)

RUNNER UP: Blue Plate Diner
After faithfully patronizing this restaurant for 15 years in the warehouse district, fans were devastated when co-owners John Williams and Rima Devitt announced they were leaving 104 Street, but their new larger location near 124 Street does not disappoint. They’re also running brunch every day of the week. Try the Blue Plate Breakfast–it comes in a large and a small size for $14 and $9. The new space houses a bar and a spot for coffee drinkers. (12323 Stony Plain Rd, Blue Plate Diner)

RUNNER UP: Yellowhead – Drag Brunch
Once a month Yellowhead Brewery runs Drag Brunch. You purchase tickets for one of two seatings at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. and for $30 you get an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch. It’s an all-ages venue but patrons are warned there could be use of adult language and subject matter. (10229 105 Street NW, search Eventbrite for Yellowhead Drag Brunch)

– Jodine Chase

Best Below Ground

Prairie Noodle Shop

WINNER: Prairie Noodle
You cannot get more underground than the radical mix of Alberta flavours and ramen. The wizardry of Chef Eric Hanson and the crew of the locally owned shop is featured in seasonal menus, but they are constantly exploring their passion for original and inviting cuisine. This winter, experience their latest creation or savour a ramen bowl with one of the shop’s sensational umeboshi eggs. (10350 124 St, 780.705.1777, Prairie Noodle Shop)

RUNNER UP: Cavern
Descend to Cavern for a morning caffeine injection, a stimulating lunch meeting, or to snag some triple crème brie for your evening. Visit this charming space to get cultured. (10169 104 St NW, 780.455.1336, The Cavern)

RUNNER UP: The Shoe Shine Shack
Get your kicks collecting sneakers? Have them detailed at this subterranean secret. Shane and his team offer dazzling results while you wait–or drop your dressier shoes off for a polish and do curb-side pickup. (10359 104 St NW, 780.236.5428, The Shoe Shine Shack)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Reason to Download an App

WINNER: Ritual
A must for any downtown foodie this app helps you find walking-distance deals at restaurants and coffee shops. Skip the lines and pre-order meals, or be the office hero by mastering the group-ordering function. Collect points for all of your actions (bonus points if you choose from the Wellness Menu), and earn reward money to cash in at any of nearly 30 spots. ritual.co/

RUNNER UP: What’s the Deal?
Never again miss a Caesar Sunday or a Taco Tuesday with restaurant specials all in one place. Find local deals sorted by day of the week or location. What’s the Deal

RUNNER UP: Lime/Bird Scooters
E-scooters mean going out for lunch and making it back on time for the afternoon meeting. Cover a lot more ground downtown while revisiting your youth. Just try it. Lime | Bird

– Miranda Herchen

Best (reason to visit) Lobbies

WINNER: Hotel MacDonald
Stop into the lobby of downtown’s 100–year–old railway hotel at any time of the year and you’re in for a treat. There’s always something on display–sometimes it’s a Lego replica, other times you’re greeted by Smudge, the hotel’s canine ambassador. At Christmas time, the replica gingerbread hotel is not to be missed. (10065 100 St NW, Fairmont Hotel MacDonald)

Hotel MacDonald (Photo: Mack Male)

RUNNER UP: EPCOR Lobby
Epcor is using the spacious lobby of its building in the core to showcase artists with permanent installations, visiting shows, and musicians. The lobby is a welcoming public space with free wifi and collaborative seating which makes it a great gathering place. The rotating exhibit space features local artists, complementing the massive permanent sculpture of a Grizzly bear feeding on salmon, by Edmonton born artist Dean Drever. Over the lunch hour there are sometimes musicians. The lobby boasts the country’s only Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition Piano, one of twelve in the world. (10423 101 St NW, EPCOR Lobby)

– Christopher Sikkenga

Best Day Trip

WINNER: The University of Alberta Botanic Garden
Although closed for the season, from Dec. 6-8 the Garden hosts the Luminaria, lighting the paths with thousands of candles. And the events calendar of the former Devonian Garden highlights upcoming date nights, operas, tea ceremonies, festivals and more. Come spring, beauty and magic await. Explore the first Indigenous Garden in Canada and wander through the five-acre Alpine Garden. Find serenity in the Kurimoto Japanese Garden and meditate in the breathtaking new Aga Khan Garden. (51227 AB-60, 780.492.3050, University of Alberta Botanic Garden)

RUNNER UP: Bruce Hotel Steak Dinner
For more than 20 years the hamlet of Bruce has been the answer to the age old question “Where’s the beef?” Make a reservation for you and your arteries chop-chop! (104 Main St Bruce, AB, 780.688.3922, Bruce Hotel)

RUNNER UP: Blindman Brewing
With wheat and barley surrounding Lacombe, there’s no better place to have a local, craft beer. The taproom is all about savouring local flavours and sampling their award- winning ales. (3413 53 Ave, Lacombe, AB, 403.786.2337, Blindman Brewing)

– Christopher Sikkenga

Best Indoor Oasis

WINNER: The Citadel
When the weather outside is chilly and unwelcoming you can take refuge in the forest of the Citadel. Get closer to the sun seated near the second floor pond or sink into the cozy solitude of the flora below. The lush environment is a wonderful escape from the day’s task list. Grab a coffee in the cafe or contemplate the sculptures populating the space. (9828 101A Ave, 780.425.1820, The Citadel Theatre)

RUNNER UP: City Hall
The striking architecture and pale stonework provide a glowing space for quiet reflection. Plus, there are numerous displays on local history and pieces from the City of Edmonton Public Art Collection. (1 Sir Winston Churchill Square, 780.442.5311, City Hall)

RUNNER UP: EPCOR Tower
Food can be a comfort for many and is what makes this spot a sanctuary. Wind down in Epcor Building lobby that houses Buco Pizzeria and the enticing sandwiches of MilkCrate. (10423 101 St, Epcor Tower)

— Christopher Sikkenga

Best Date Night

Tzin Wine and Tapas

WINNER: Tzin Wine and Tapas
This wine bar keeps things intimate with room for only 24. With its renowned wine list, there’s a pairing for any of the delectable small plates. If you can’t decide on what to share, Executive chef Corey McGuire makes things easy with his carefully selected “feed me” option of multiple tapas, complete with dessert and wine pairings. Reservations recommended. (10115 104 St, 780.428.8946, Tzin)

RUNNER UP: Partake
This warm, French-inspired restaurant is known for its welcoming atmosphere where guests can take their time enjoying rustic small plates, a rotating wine and vermouth list, and specialty cocktails–one of which is purple. (12431 102 Ave, 780.760.8253, Partake)

RUNNER UP: The Lobby Bar
Inside the JW Marriot, the newly opened, living-room style bar has signature–and stiff– cocktails, a daily happy hour and daily drink specials to go with small-plate creations. (10344 102 St., 780.784.8580, Braven)

– Miranda Herchen

Best Grab-n-Go

Farrow, 10240 – 124 Street (Photo: Maxwell Poulter)

WINNER: Farrow 124 Street
Best known for their creative rotation of sandwich options, you’ll find lots to love here (including a vegan choice), like the Grick Middle, complete with a fried egg from Four Whistle Farms, bacon, smoked cheddar, rosemary aioli and greens. Factor in fresh baked goods such as cronuts, muffins, brownies, and puff tarts plus coffee made from premium beans and you have the perfect lunch to go. (10240 124 St Suite 6, 780.249.0085, Farrow Sandwiches)

RUNNER UP: Culina 2 Go
Fresh food made from locally sourced ingredients, available in individual sizes for lunch and family style sizes for dinner. Don’t forget about breakfast to go on the weekends! (12019 A 102 Ave, Oliver Exchange Building, 780.250.7044, Culina Family)

RUNNER UP: La Mision Burritos
The food you love but faster: the popular restaurant Rostizado holds a burrito pop-up on their patio daily between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (10359 104 St, 780.761.0911, La Misión Burritos)

RUNNER UP: Tiffin
Build your own plate with one, two or three items, plus rice or noodles. Choose family style or a signature dish, and throw in some made-to-order samosas for good measure. (10404 Jasper Ave, 780.424.4829, Tiffin | India’s Fresh Kitchen)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Reason to Leave the Core

Italian Centre Shop

WINNER: Italian Centre Shop
For 60 years, the late Frank Spinelli’s business has been the city’s primary one-stop shop for specialty food items from Italy, Europe and around the world. It’s much more than pasta and gelato. The store features a deli with a selection of more than 200 cheeses and 100 meats for all your charcuterie needs. With three locations, including the landmark shop in Little Italy, a good cannoli is never far away. (10878 95 St, Italian Centre Shop)

RUNNER UP: IKEA
The wonderland of affordable furniture and household accessories is worth the visit, even if you don’t buy anything. Stock up on essentials under $10 and dig into a plate of Swedish meatballs. (1311 102 St, IKEA)

RUNNER UP: Jollibee
This is a must-try-at-least-once restaurant where sweet-style, loaded spaghetti meets crispy chicken and a Big Yum. The pineapple juice is an essential accompaniment for the Filipino fast-food chain’s favourite features. (3803 Calgary Trail, 587.405.1333, Jollibee Canada)

– Miranda Herchen

Best Ways to Volunteer

WINNER: Oliver and Downtown Edmonton Community Leagues make important contributions to the vitality of the core. Like to gather with your neighbours? Can play a role supporting your league to host events bringing neighbours to get together? Are you an urban planning wonk? Lend your skills to your league’s efforts to bring the voices of residents to the planning and development table. Start with a membership if you haven’t joined already and benefit from perks like free access to the downtown Y or the Rogers community rink once a week, membership in the community tool library, and discounts on admission to city community rec facilities. (Oliver Community League | Downtown Edmonton Community League)

RUNNER UP: NEXTGEN calls on those ages 18-40 to take the city’s future into our own hands by creating a city that attracts and gives voice to the next generation by connecting people, places, communities, and ideas. Volunteer for working groups or events like Pecha Kucha Night, bank hours, and get tickets to Sonic Field Day events. (Edmonton’s Next Gen)

Best Public Service

WINNER: 24-Hour Mental Health Service at Royal Alex
In June a new 24/7 mental health service launched out of the Royal Alex, The program offers support to those struggling to navigate the sometimes complicated variety of mental health and harm reduction services on their own. A team of healthcare professionals offers a centralized point of contact for service access. Seek out services by phone at 780.424.2424 or visit Anderson Hall at any time. (10240 Kingsway, 780.735.4723, Royal Alexandra: Addiction & Mental Health Access 24/7)

RUNNER UP: Business Link
Do you have a business idea? Business Link can help turn your business dreams into reality. This non-profit team supports entrepreneurs to start and run their small businesses. They have specialized units for Indigenous and newcomer entrepreneurs and can provide advice on everything from creating a business plan, to legal and accounting matters. (#500 10150-100 Street NW, 780.422.7722, Business Link)

– Jodine Chase

Best Event Spaces

WINNER: Foundry Room
Occupying much of the second floor of the Oliver Exchange, this space is perfect for a medium-sized get-together. Friendly staff help event organizers. There are no problems getting liquor licences. Odd Company local beer is on tap and if there’s anything missing for your gathering it could well be available from the retailers on the main floor. (12021 102 Ave, 780.905.9380, Foundry Room)

Foundry Room

RUNNER UP: AGA Lobby
The entry space of the Art Gallery of Alberta has become the go-to venue for all manner of events, from political announcements (Stephen Mandel announced his Alberta Party run here) to a myriad of weddings. The adjacent Zinc restaurant is ready to cater and has a tradition of hiring supérieure sommeliers ready to assist in drink selections. (2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Art Gallery of Alberta)

RUNNER UP: Yellowhead Brewery
This down home space fits the bill for all manner of gatherings with a casual feel that can be dressed up for a formal Saturday night. It can be a challenge finding one of those Saturdays due its popularity as a wedding venue. (10229 105 St NW, Yellowhead Brewery)

RUNNER UP: CKUA
The restored Alberta Hotel building has a fabulous roof-top terrace with sweeping views of the river valley. The building also includes the versatile main floor two-storey performance event space complete with a green room and catering kitchen that can handle 140 seated and 180 standing. (9804 Jasper Ave, CKUA Radio)

– Rob McLauchlin

Best Instagramable

WINNER: Oliver Exchange Building
Formerly the West End Telephone Exchange, the Oliver Exchange Building houses a variety of cool businesses, including Brio Bakery, Culina To Go, Iconoclast Coffee Roasters, and The White Gallery. Snap black and white shots of your cronut and café au lait, or take advantage of the exposed brick walls for an artistic selfie worthy of being reposted. Bonus: the outside of the building is just as beautiful and photo worthy as the inside. (12021 102 Ave)

Oliver Exchange

RUNNER UP: Victoria Promenade
Lined with benches and trees, this stunning promenade promises a picturesque view of the river valley. With wide paths for biking, jogging, or strolling, it’s ideal for taking workout selfies. (11701 100 Ave)

RUNNER UP: Warehouse Area brick walls (behind Birks Building/ Armstrong Block)
Love a solid brick wall background for your Instagram videos and photos? You’re in luck – this historic area has plenty of heritage buildings with red brick facades. (10125 104 St)

RUNNER UP: Legislature Ground #ableg
A favourite spot for summer selfies in front of the fountain, or fall selfies with changing leaves twirling around from the many trees on the grounds. (9820 107 St 780.427.7362, Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best place to E-Scoot

WINNER: Railtown Multi-Use Trail
This north-south route features an urban ride adjacent to 109 Avenue that morphs from a pleasant parky feel with shops and groceries, trees and strollers–down a gentle slope past The Ledge and on to the caged confines of the High Level Bridge. Lots of variety!

RUNNER UP: Oliver Exchange
Located on the east-west “Oliverbahn” bicycle thoroughfare this former telephone exchange building makes a great stopover and destination. Its businesses are sweet and savoury and its leafy location makes you forget you’re on the prairie.

RUNNER UP: Legislature
Although Edmonton’s rental scooters are put away for winter, The Alberta Legislature Grounds feature acres of concrete highlighted by fountains in summer. “The Ledge” is ideal for your Bird scooter, or custom ride. (A caveat: some scooters are slowed down on the grounds)

– Rob McLauchlin

Best Child-Friendly

Love Pizza

WINNER: Love Pizza
Sunday dinner out with the kids is sure to be a hit when you tell them where they’re going, because who doesn’t Love Pizza? Kids eat free when the adults buy a regular pizza, and they can choose their own toppings. They’ll also love the Wilki Stix that come with the meal.

RUNNER UP: McKay Avenue Playground
This school playing field has always been a fun place to poke around with its gazebo and old schoolhouse, but the new playground works for kids of all ages with its slides, spongy soft play surface, rope-climbing structure and mesh-bottomed saucer swing.

RUNNER UP: Playgroups!
You don’t need to leave the core to find places for you and your little one to play indoors this winter. Urban Kids Playgroup runs Fridays from 9:30-11 a.m. at 10042 103 Street. Robertson Wesley Church runs a Moms and Dads group for parents with babies and toddlers every second Thursday from 10-11 a.m. The downtown public library has three different drop-in classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers as well as family film screenings.

– Jodine Chase

Best Sports for less than $100

WINNER: Edmonton Oil Kings
Just like the grown-up Oilers except these young guys have a recent winning history. Last year the Oil Kings went 42-18-4-4, and finished first in the Central Division. The cheapest tickets are around 20 bucks–$23.50 with fees and taxes. Beware if you’re on a budget though, Rogers Place still charges NHL prices for food and drink. Fill up the fam before and afterward. There’s fast food nearby at City Centre Mall, but be careful, the hours are shorter than other malls–closing at 6 p.m. most days, 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, and 5 p.m. on Sunday.

RUNNER UP: FC Edmonton
This professional soccer squad plays out of the rather antiseptic Clarke Stadium but the fans warm up the atmosphere as Commonwealth Stadium looms to the north. The Canadian Premier League team finished last season out of the playoffs but with a much better record and attitude at season’s end. This is a micro-local team that saw as many as seven Edmonton-area players on the pitch. You might recognize some of them from community soccer!

RUNNER UP: Edmonton Prospects
These boys of summer would be on top, if it was summer. Unfortunately, the Best of the Core is frozen to the core at this time of year, so the Prospects hibernate at the bottom of this list. Come summer though, picturesque ReMax Field in Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley will reverberate to the crack of the bat and adult snouts will be immersed in cool foam. It might not be the Prospects, though. The lease is still up in the air. Pro tip: Don’t park next to the ballpark–stay a block away. That “rock star parking” you snagged could earn you a cracked windshield or a major dent, courtesy of a foul ball.

– Rob McLauchlin