9 Best Hidden-Gem Restaurants in Central Alberta
These incredible rooms are just a hop, skip and a jump from Edmonton.
With so many growers, producers and makers of delicious things, Central Alberta is one of the tastiest areas to explore. If you’re hitting the road this summer, you’ll need to eat—but instead of hitting the drive thru, we suggest you point the wheel in the direction of these on-the-outskirts restaurants. We’d even go so far to say that some are destinations in themselves (in case you’re interested in exploring your own neighbourhood for a weekend—or just an afternoon).
Distance from Edmonton: 26 km
Estimated driving time: 30 minutes
It may not be much of a hidden gem anymore, but Chartier is worth discovering if you haven’t heard of it yet. The rustic Québécois-style eatery, adorned with reclaimed wood, serves interesting cocktails and local, seasonally-inspired food (in substantial portions!). The restaurant also has a bread window, from which you can pick up a loaf of sourdough, house-made naan or scones for just a few dollars each. They’re open for lunch and dinner, with brunch on the weekends—and a great kids’ menu, too.
Distance from Edmonton: 285 km
Estimated driving time: 2 hours, 50 minutes
On the highway between Edmonton and Jasper, Hinton is the home of Opa’s, an old-school bakery run by a friendly family of bakers who make pies, butter tart squares and peanut butter marshmallow confetti bars (which are enormous) using old family recipes. They have a rotating roster of sandwiches and good loaves, too.
Distance from Edmonton: 365 km
Estimated driving time: 4 hours
In the space that was previously the Edith Cavell dining room, Orso adds a local twist to Northern Italian dishes on the shore of Lac Beauvert. In the summer months, the terrace opens and you can pair some fresh mountain air with their handmade pasta, made with ingredients imported from Italy and sourced from farms up the road, an Italian-heavy wine selection and the only Peroni on tap in Jasper.
Distance from Edmonton: 140 km
Estimated driving time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Both a working farm and non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Mountain Bluebirds, Tree Swallows and other native cavity-nesting birds, the Ellis Bird Farm is free to visit—and is a gorgeous destination for a walk or picnic. The onsite café is situated in the old farmhouse where brother and sister Charlie and Winnie Ellis, conservationists who established the farm, once lived. Chef Matt Burton sources charcuterie, preserves and other ingredients from surrounding farms and producers to include on his menu; they’ll even pack it up in a wicker basket for you to wander the grounds with.
Location: Bon Accord
Distance from Edmonton: 40 km
Estimated driving time: 40 minutes
Known as a 35 acre adventure estate with farm activities, a corn maze, U-pick strawberries and an epic annual pumpkin patch, they also have a community supported agriculture (CSA) program that runs between May and September, with bonus Halloween pumpkins and a special Christmas CSA basket. The Farm Kitchen features their own veggies, and they host regular farm-to-fork dinners with chef Blair Lebsack of Rge Rd in Edmonton, as well as occasional classes and other long table dinners—pictured above, chef Christine Sanford of the new Biera in Ritchie Market cooks sourdough pizza and baby corn (which she served with magnolia aioli) in their onsite cobb oven.
Location: St. Albert
Distance from Edmonton: 14.5 km
Estimated driving time: 25 minutes
Depending on where you are in the city, it’s a short hop from Anthony Henday Drive to St. Albert, where in the heart of the historic Perron District you’ll find some of the best burgers anywhere, on squishy custom-baked buns with hand-ground patties made with beef delivered daily from D’arcy’s Meats. Try the “‘Shroom,” with garlic-sautéed mushrooms and creamy Boursin, or a “Quebecer” topped with fries, cheese curds and gravy. And there’s no better accompaniment than a thick shake—their flavours include cereal (think Cap’n Crunch), orange creamsicle, Malteaser and Nutella. Watch for their mobile unit in the Edmonton area and you may not even have to hit the road.
Location: Red Deer
Distance from Edmonton: 155 km
Estimated driving time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
The Troubled Monk pours a fantastic pint, and offers tours to anyone interested—for those visiting the tap room who don’t want to imbibe, they make an extra gingery ginger ale, a fantastically smooth and delicious root beer, and their own cream soda tinted pink with Alberta beets.
Location: Elk Island National Park
Distance from Edmonton: 50 km
Estimated driving time: 36 minutes
Chef Brad Smoliak of Kitchen Culinary Studio does pop-ups in interesting places, including Elk Island National Park, a refuge for bison, elk and more than 250 bird species. There are 24 spots available for each family-style dinner, which Brad transports and prepares on site; flavours of the area, including bison, are paired with local craft beers and wines.
Distance from Edmonton: 52 km
Estimated driving time: 40 minutes
If you’re out in the direction of Elk Island National Park and are craving perogies, you’ll want to stop by the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village where they serve an authentic platter of homemade cabbage rolls, perogies with caramelized onions, smoked sausage with house-made grainy mustard, sunflower slaw and pickled beet relish. And while you’re in there, it’s an interesting walk, too, with 35 relocated and restored structures from 1892-1930.