A guide to Edmonton’s 124 Street neighbourhood

by Gene Kosowan

Edmonton has plenty of interesting, bustling neighbourhoods well worth a visit, and perhaps near the top of the list is 124 Street. The area is so vibrant that a top 10 list doesn’t do it justice. Instead, spots for eating, shopping and playing each get a top five treatment. [Image credit: iStock.com/SolStock]

A guide to Edmonton’s 124 Street neighbourhood

Eat

Canteen
With only 50 seats, you can try to walk in for a meal, but good luck. The owners stress reservations as the prudent route to a table, and for good reason. Canteen packs them in with meticulously prepared dishes ranging from beef shortrib and Arctic char to lamb T-bone and milk-braised turkey leg.

Daravara
Named after a lake in Ireland, but modeled after the gastropubs in Austin, Texas, what keeps folks coming back to this spot is the Southern cuisine ranging from briskets and coleslaw to beer cheeseburgers. Also enjoy a game of darts on a stage sometimes reserved for local roots acts.

Numchok Wilai
One of 124 Street’s more established restaurants, Numchok Wilai still manages to hold its own among the wave of newcomers, mainly due to its home-cooked approach to Thai cuisine. The pad Thai is still a big favourite here as well as stir-fried noodles (with chicken or beef) and the cashew chicken.

Prairie Noodle Shop
Who says you can’t add a Canadian twist to Japanese cuisine? This shop that specializes in a couple dozen varieties of ramen noodle dishes even has traditional Asian customers admiring how local variations add more kick than what they used to eat in the old country. Also try the miso and sake.

Tiramisu Bistro
In this eatery designed for all ages, the blackboard menu presents a wide array of pizza (including a surprisingly sumptuous item with green apples and salmon), pastas and risotto, plus an arsenal of smoothie flavours. Friday nights are dedicated to light, live entertainment.

Shop

Ascendant Books
Here’s an aptly named bookstore that’s literally designed for personal elevation, from titles dealing with Eastern philosophies to tomes on tarot. Those curious about anything metaphysical will likely spend oodles of time checking out the crystals, aromatherapy products, CDs, DVDs and even colouring books.

Duchess
It’s a favourite stop for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he’s in town and it’s easy to know why. This bakeshop prides itself on avoiding mixes, preservatives and shortcuts, making all their cakes, scones, pies and other pastries from scratch. Best to order take-out, though; Duchess is so popular, empty seats are rare.

Fine-Line Jewellers and Engravers
This family-owned business may have kept with the times via its jewellery inventory, but where it really earns its keep is in customizing those wares for its clientele. No easy task, even though much of the work is done by laser and machinery, but given the family experience, the intricate work is absolutely first-rate.

Frog Kisser’s Den
For the more Bohemian-minded customer, Frog Kisser’s offers a line of clothing that goes way beyond the conventional. Choose from an original array of clothing from scarves and shirts to jewellery and purses, all of them homemade and many of them created from recycled fabrics.

Shades of Grey
A favourite for women going for an upscale, modern look, Shades of Grey offers clothing and apparel for work, rest and play, featuring lines from forward-thinking designers like Black Halo, Greylin and SeeVees. Besides dresses, footwear and sweaters, also check out a wide range of accessories for every occasion.

Play

Arcadia Bar
With an eclectic array of entertainment from live music to Seinfeld trivia nights, Arcadia is a small but comfy club that encourages old-fashioned neighbourliness. It’s also pretty social-minded, as evidenced by a strictly vegan pub grub menu and a stubborn dedication to serving local craft beer.

The Gamers’ Lodge
Folks get access to more than 500 board games via a $5 cover charge, but they can play as long as they like. What will also keep them there is an arcane menu of coffeehouse eats like the Hulk waffle (with sausage and bacon), millennium chicken sandwiches and tacos in a hard shell.

Listen Records
One of Edmonton’s most successful independent record stores still thrives, thanks to friendly, knowledgeable staff and a wide selection of new and used vinyl. It’s also a prime destination for fans of experimental, electronic and ambient music and an occasional venue for some unusual live music.

Lotus Art Gallery
A venue dedicated to amateur visual artists also doubles as a space that encourages literally anyone to come in and get creative. Painting, sculpture and music workshops regularly take place in this basement spot, as well as monthly exhibit openings that take place on the last Friday of the month.

Table Top Café
Most coffee shops don’t offer much more than a clean dining space and the trendiest music to play over the in-house system. Table Top takes it a few steps further with a huge assortment of board games that include standards like Monopoly (including The Simpsons version, Ninja Dice and Warcraft.

Although not as fast-paced as downtown or Old Strathcona, 124 Street has a wide array of shopping and recreational options that stretches for blocks. It’s one of the few areas in Edmonton where the vibrancy of the businesses is balanced by the tranquility of the neighbourhoods that border it.

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