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Jollibee!

On a warm summer day in Edmonton, a line of people has formed, neatly herded by a rope under the cover of several tents, in front of an unassuming building in a southside shopping centre. A man stands guard at the front of the line, asking individuals how many people per party and ushering in just a few at a time.

No, this isn’t the scene outside some hot, new Edmonton nightclub. It’s dinnertime and the crowd is waiting to eat at Edmonton’s first Jollibee – suddenly, it’s the place to be.
The first time I heard about Jollibee was after Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Manila in Parts Unknown, where he called it “the wackiest, jolliest place on earth.” Founded in the Philippines, the fast-food chain has become an absolute sensation across the globe.

Store openings attract crowds days in advance – the first person in line for the Edmonton opening waited three days to be exact. So what is all the hype about?

Lui-Chi’s Coffee

One of my top-five favorite TV shows is Boardwalk Empire. Boardwalk Empire tells the story of a twenties gang called the Big Seven Group and their rise to gangster fame. The Big Seven came together to bring people booze during Prohibition by smuggling barrels of Canadian Club whisky across the border. Gangsters like Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, Nucky Johnson, Meyer Lansky and, my personal favorite, Lucky Luciano.

Why is this relevant? It’s relevant because right now in my top-five favorite Edmonton coffee shops is Lui-Chi’s. A shop that sells wood roasted, whisky barrel aged coffee (see what I did there? Luciano-Lui-Chis, whisky barrels… you get it).

The Rec Room: Lunch is Served

What are you doing for lunch? According to recent studies, two-thirds of Canadians do not leave their desk at lunchtime, and choose to dine “al desko”, a phrase that somehow makes this statistic all the more depressing. This isn’t a new phenomenon. If you Google #SadDeskLunch  you will find picture upon picture of people eating in front of computer screens, and a laundry list of how-to tips on avoiding the practice.

Here’s the thing – just as 5 p.m. is to cocktails, noon is to lunch. It is the earliest socially acceptable time to grab a slice of pizza or burger. With so many great lunch specials out there, who needs to wait for happy hour?

One such example are the newly launched lunch specials from The Rec Room’s Three10 restaurant. Named in honor of Canada’s 3 territories and 10 provinces, Three10’s menu offers Canadian-inspired cuisine (which is difficult to define, but I digress).

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar: Lobster Summer

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Would you believe that there was a time in Canadian history when lobster was so inexpensive and undesirable that it was fed to servants and prisoners? It’s true. Unfortunately, this is not ‘back in the day’. So, to anyone younger than 100 years old and not living on the Atlantic coast, fresh lobster is a luxury.  

With that said, there are very few things that I look forward to more than Lobster Summer at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar.

Cacao 70

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Tim Burton’s remake of the 1971 classic novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is amazing for many reasons. Starring Johnny Depp as the incredible Willy Wonka, Burton’s film utilized the latest state-of-the-art special effects, to help in realizing author Roald Dahl’s surreal vision. One aspect that is particularly noteworthy was the use of one actor, Deep Roy, to portray all 165 Oompa Loompas. Roy’s actions were not duplicated – rather, each Oompa Loompa is an individual performance that was later digitally compiled. It is spectacular to watch. Oompa Loompas were apparently paid in their favorite food, cocoa beans (not the worst form of payment, if you ask me- cocoa beans make chocolate, and chocolate makes the world taste good).

One place spreading their love of chocolate across this part of the world is Cacao 70. This Montreal-based chain started as a chocolate drinking bar (yes, you read that correctly), and now serves everything from sweet and savoury brunches to ice cream with all the fixings.