This article by Wei Chong originally appeared in our Info Edmonton May/June issue.
I became well-known in my circle for visiting new places and exploring different types of food. Because I was often approached for recommendations about where to eat, I started an Instagram page. If you tell me what type of cuisine, I can give you several options to choose from—that’s how diverse Edmonton is. I particularly love to recommend local hole-in-the-wall gems, and we are truly lucky to have such a melting pot of cuisines right here.
Safron’s Caribbean Delight
Back in the 1990s, I used to love visiting Ms V’s Caribbean Restaurant off 66 St. and 127 Ave.—I know it dates me, but that’s how far back I’ve been exploring Edmonton for delicious eats. Safron’s Caribbean Delight is owned and operated by Ms V’s son, Safron, who learned to cook from his mother before he opened his own restaurant in 2006. While both restaurants were open simultaneously back in the early 2000s, Ms V retired in 2013 and Safron continues the legacy.
I knew they were related as soon as I tasted Safron’s food. I joked about how I used to take home an entire oxtail meal from his mom’s restaurant for the low, low price of $7. He laughed and said that I was there from the beginning. The oxtail is now priced at $20, but it’s still worth every penny! Their oxtail meal comes with a large portion of beans and rice, served with a side of coleslaw. Their jerk chicken is another favourite, but be ready for some heat! The side of ‘slaw helps with the spice. I love the flavours and authenticity, and you can taste the passion and effort that goes into making each dish.
PRO-TIP: Safron’s is open Tuesday–Saturday from 1 pm–7 pm. Oxtail isn’t an easy dish to find in the city and Safron’s does it exceedingly well, so if you want to try it you must go early. I recommend calling ahead!
Kobachi Japanese Cuisine
Kobachi is a cozy, roughly 15-seater (including the bar) sushi restaurant that opened their doors in August 2019. Though the space is small, the flavours are huge! Chef Ron Elmaleh worked in other notable Japanese restaurants before opening his own that he now runs with his lovely wife, Chika. They’ve partnered with Ocean Wise to focus on serving sustainable and locally sourced food.
Being a serious fan of sushi, one of my favourite sushi bites is ikura (salmon roe), and Kobachi’s is the best around. Though it can often be an acquired taste, the chef has a unique way of preparing it—to the point where, even if you weren’t an ikura lover, you should want to try it. They also offer specialty items like sable, side-striped shrimp, and engawa nigiri. I recently tried a weekly special of shishito peppers, and I highly recommend it! They were grilled and dressed in a ponzu sauce… I’m salivating just thinking about it. It’s always a fun time when we visit Kobachi. The food is delicious, the space is bright, and the staff are super friendly and fun.
PRO-TIP: Make a reservation for dine-in to guarantee seating, and call ahead to order takeout so you don’t miss out on your favourites!
Tony’s Pizza Palace
Tony’s Pizza Palace has been a part of Edmonton’s downtown community for almost 50 years, when the Mazzotta family expanded their business north from New York state. It often surprises me when people claim they’ve never heard of them, so I consider them a serious hidden gem.
Their New York-style pizza is one of my favourites: it’s fresh, thin, simple, made with quality ingredients, and exploding with flavour. When you walk into Tony’s, you’re met with a classic Italian vibe, complete with wooden bistro-style chairs and red-and-white checkered tablecloths. I love that you have a full view of the kitchen when you’re dining in, so you can literally watch your pizza being thrown into the air and tossed into the oven before it hits your table. If you have not yet tried Tony’s, drop everything and go now!
PRO-TIP: Ideally, you want to dine in because nothing beats a fresh pizza straight out of the oven. If you’re ordering takeout, eat it as soon as you can, or if possible, pop it back into the oven on a pizza stone or in an air fryer to help crisp up the crust.
Swati Sethi and her husband, Chef Lalit, run the storefront of Dilli 6, while their son Lavansh helps out with the social media. Swati’s brother, Sanchit, helped design their logo and assisted with the original branding of the company. It’s truly a family effort.
It was Swati herself who introduced me to my first Kathi Roll, a roti wrapped around scrambled egg and a choice of chicken, beef, or vegetables. While the flavours on their own are amazing, their house-made chili sauce seriously levels it up. Another must-try is the momo, an Indian-style dumpling similar to an East Asian-style dumpling but with delicious Indian spices. I’ve personally tried the chicken momo, which had hints of coriander, turmeric, and chili powder.
Chef Lalit places a lot of time and effort into creating all the dishes from scratch. You can taste it in the food he prepares. It shows how dedicated and passionate the family is about sharing authentic flavours with the community. If you want to try something new and delicious, you can find Dilli 6 inside the Bountiful Farmers’ Market (open Friday– Sunday). If you want it delivered you can find them on UberEats, Skip the Dishes, and DoorDash. I highly recommend you try their Kathi Roll—and don’t forget to ask for extra chili sauce!
PRO-TIP: Want to build up your spice tolerance? Begin by adding the chili sauce a little at a time. Their special blend is made from scratch and is one of the more tasty chili sauces I’ve ever tried.
852 Hong Kong Café
They do classic Cantonese dishes well at 852 Hong Kong Café, and I enjoy its classic Asian café vibe—a quick, fast-paced environment with food served quickly due to the high skill of the chef and the blazing wok, which you can hear roaring from the dining room.
My idea of comfort food comes in the form of either rice or noodles, and there’s plenty of both to enjoy. Their Braised Beef Brisket Lo Mein is one of my favourite noodle dishes, and their fried rice dishes are always delicious. They also serve clay pot rice dishes with Chinese-style pork sausage (lap cheong) and ribs, or Chinese-style pork sausage and chicken. The rice gets cooked over high heat and the meat is added partway through; it’s then served piping hot with a delicious, sweet soy sauce to drizzle over. The dish will hit all your senses: the sight of steam billowing out as they remove the lid, the smell of sizzling meat, the feeling of the heat resonating from the pot, the sound of the bubbling sauce, and finally the taste of soft rice, sweet and salty soy sauce, and tender meat. If you want to try authentic Cantonese food, go check them out!
PRO-TIP: The best way to enjoy any Cantonese dish is to wash it down with a glass of iced milk tea. At 852 Hong Kong Café, you can choose to enjoy it either iced or hot. If iced, it is pre-sweetened for you, but if you choose hot, they will provide you with sugar to sweeten it yourself. Either one is a great choice!
Find more Diverse Dining recommendations through this series.