Where the chef eats: Date night restaurants in Edmonton

Chef Blair Lebsack, owner of Edmonton’s highly successful RGE RD, loves sampling the city’s wide variety of great dining spots with his business and life partner, Caitlin Fulton. “That’s the thing about Edmonton – it’s so diverse. It’s about having a bit of a different experience in each place,” he says. Here’s his list of their favourite date night restaurants, which ranges from tapas to Turkish.

Tzin Wine & Tapas Ltd

1
10115 104 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 0Z9

I love that this place is so small. It’s just 20 seats, so you’re sitting close to people and the vibe is great. Typically, the owners are hands-on – they’re working the room. The chef is right there in front of you. It feels a little crowded but it’s really fun; like you’ve become friends with who you’re sitting beside. It’s got great atmosphere, food and wine. I like their traditional Spanish paella – it’s a great dish with homemade sausage and seafood that feels comforting and has really nice, big flavours.

Bar Bricco

2
10347 Jasper Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 1Y5

Bar Bricco is a great hangout. There are no reservations, so you can feel comfortable just walking in at any time. And it doesn’t matter if you pull up a seat two centimetres from someone – it’s that Italian style where they want it to feel like you’re part of a whole scene, rather than just yourself dining intimately on the sidelines. They have really concise food and wine selections, and all of it is well thought out and delicious. My favourite dish is the fonduta agnolotti dal plin that you pick up with your fingers and dip in Parmesan.

Sofra Restaurant

3
108-10345 106 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 1H8

It’s Turkish cuisine here, so it’s things that I never cook with. It’s such a change from what I normally eat, and the flavours are delicious. Sofra is outstanding and it’s one of those places that it’s fun to sit and try all the different flavours – a real departure from the usual and in a great way. We've gone in large groups, which is a fun way to do it, but even with two of us, you can get a nice selection. They do a nice sampler platter with all their dips. The lamb is the best thing ever.

Three Boars Eatery

4
8424 109 St NW, Edmonton, AB T6G 1E2

This place makes me feel young again. It’s fun and it’s hip. They have lots of really good food here and it’s just a nice place to go. It’s noisy and fun, especially in the summertime, when they have that big window cranked open and the patio is open. The place is very lively and you can just go hang out for a couple of hours. The last time I was there, I had a delicious bacon and radish dish on a crostini that was really good.

Sabor Divino

5
109-10220 103 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 0Y8

I like the fact that this place is Portuguese – you don’t see that very often in Edmonton. It has similarities to some Spanish restaurants but there are some subtle differences. The room is just gorgeous – a beautiful, old heritage room that’s just fun to be in and always has me excited to go there. Their prawns are delicious and their octopus is always good. They have a wild boar and stuff like that but, if I’m going there, I always order seafood.

RGE RD

6
10643 123 Street NW, Edmonton, AB T5N 1P3

This is my place, so I don’t get to dine here very often, because I’m always too busy. But, every once in awhile, my partner, Caitlin, and I will stay late at the end of the night and actually sit in the dining room. My favourite dishes are the questionable bits, which showcase our whole animal cooking – we’ll do everything from bison hearts and pork trotters to duck liver mousse. Off cuts are definitely one of my favourites now because you can use the whole animal and it gives you pleasure knowing you’re using everything.

Culina Café at the Muttart Conservatory

7
9626 96A St NW, Edmonton, AB T6C 4L8

This is more of a brunch place. It’s fun to see that space at the Muttart Conservatory being turned into something really good. It’s a city space that now has a bit of a following behind it. It has beautiful views. If you have the time, you can walk through the gardens. I think it’s revolutionary. I think chef Brad Lazarenko is one of the best restaurateurs in the city because he thinks of things like this and he makes it flavourful, great. It’s a public space that you’re really proud of.

Izakaya Tomo

8
3739 99 St NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 6J7

I like everything about this place. The food is delicious. It’s in a strip mall, not too far off of a weird location – like we are at RGE RD. I really appreciate that when you walk in, you’re taken to another place. By the time you go in, you feel like you’re in a Japanese restaurant. They did an excellent job with the décor and there’s a great selection of sake. All of their food is great. We’ve had everything from sushi to chicken kara age – it’s fried chicken, basically, but it’s delicious.

Leva

9
11053 86th Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB T6G 0X1

We go there quite often. It’s great for everything. The coffee is good, and so is the atmosphere, and the patio. It’s also super family friendly. When we have Caitlin’s nieces and nephews, it’s a great place to go. If it’s a morning, I’ll definitely go for a cappuccino. If it’s an afternoon, I go for their version of an Americano – I think it’s better. It’s an espresso-based drink with hot water and a touch of milk. I really like their pizza; it’s delicious. My favourite is the quattro formaggi (four cheese) pizza.

Red Ox Inn

10
9420 91 St NW, Edmonton, AB T6C 3P4

The cuisine here is really innovative; Sean O’Connor is an outstanding chef. The Red Ox Inn knows what it is and it’s been around for a long time. The décor is sweet and quaint. It’s the place we go when we want to have multiple glasses of wine and several courses. The beef tartare is delicious. It’s not traditional – that’s the nice thing about it. It’s an individual portion that is refined. It has thin wafers that almost look like potato chips sprinkled over the top. The way you eat it isn’t traditional but all the flavours mix beautifully.

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