Edmonton’s 5 most beloved watering holes

by Athena Raypold

A great pub isn’t just about the beer, wine and spirit selections (though they definitely play a large part) –  it’s about the ambiance, food and service, plus a sense of comfort and community. Whether you’re meeting friends for a pint, looking for a bite and a beer solo at the bar or celebrating the end of your work week, Edmonton’s best pubs have it all. [Image credit: iStock.com/gpointstudio]

Edmonton’s 5 most beloved watering holes

Arcadia Bar

A cozy little hole-in-the-wall on 124 Street, Arcadia is infamous for its local beer offerings and its incredibly delicious (mostly) vegetarian cuisine. Unlike the traditional pub fare, Arcadia provides delectable munchies that hit the comfort food spot with both vegan and gluten free selections. From bottomless popcorn to homemade chips and dip to the cleverly named pizzas (e.g. Kevin McCallister cheese pizza and Donald Trump’s Greatest Best Beautiful Donair Pizza), Arcadia’s menu is small but fantastic. Pair their great food with their local draft brews, signature cocktails (e.g. The Southern Albertan and The Elk Island Iced Tea) and their beloved trivia nights, open mic nights, cask nights and live music and DJs, and you have a neighbourhood spot to suit any pub whim. Arcadia even snagged a runner up spot for the Golden Fork Awards’ 2016 Best Donair.

The Next Act Pub

With a slogan like “Come in good, leave better” you know Whyte Avenue’s most treasured watering hold has nailed the great pub game. The Next Act’s fresh and fun menu includes what The Salty Almond dubs the city’s best poutine, the PB&J burger (listed as one of the Baconhound’s top five burgers in the city) and a grilled cheese sandwich to write home about (bacon AND apples)! Between what the Baconhound describes as “a casual, energetic vibe,” the killer playlist and the unbelievably friendly staff, The Next Act doubles as many yeggers’ second home. Hosting an Alley Kat Cask Night on Tuesdays and celebrating local beer, The Next Act offers beer aficionados and general beer lovers a plentiful array of local and imported beers with an outstanding menu in a friendly, almost communal, environment. Plus, you know they’re a resident favourite when they continually score  so many food accolades from Vue Weekly’s Golden Forks Awards. An annual winner, The Next Act won in 2016 for Best Comfort Food, Best French Fries, Best Hamburgers, Best Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Best Nachos, Best Pub Food and scored runner up spots for Best Poutine and Best Salads.

Red Star Pub

Since 2000, Red Star Pub has been offering a wholly traditional pub environment with close seating and a relaxed ambiance that’s also celebrated for its succinct yet outstanding food menu. Red Start Pub runs a one-chef kitchen, so while the food may be slow to come out on busy nights, it’s always perfect. From ricotta pasta (tagliatelle, tomato, roasted pine nuts, pecorino) to mini burgers (ground tenderloin tip, bacon apple relish, applewood cheddar), Red Start Pub turns the traditional pub menu on its head, offering gourmet food alongside a vast and varied menu of more than 60 beers. And, we can’t forget that Red Star plays some killer tunes, with DJ Freshlan frequently spinning! Red Star also participates with Latitude 53 for summer patio parties and offers a monthly Caribbean night serving up jerk chicken, rice and peas, cornbread, curry chicken roti, vegetable curry roti and Red Stripe on special, complemented by Lady Vishus spinning reggae classics all night.

The Buckingham

Another Whyte Avenue hotspot, The Buckingham is “All Vegan All the Time” but just because they’re vegan doesn’t mean they compromise on taste. Rather, The Buckingham’s vegan pub fare menu is by Sailin’ On, the renowned vegan food truck, celebrated for their stellar coconut bac’n.  The Buckingham also landed a number one spot for Best Chicken Wings and runner up spots on several 2016 Golden Fork Award categories:  Best Pub Food 2016, Best French Fries, Best Fried Chicken and Best Nachos. And yeah, those chicken wings and fried chicken dishes are vegan! You know they’re doing something right when their meat free pub food beats the meat varieties other pubs are offering. Their classic pub fare includes deep fried pickles, corndogs, tacos, chicken and waffles, burgers and chili cheese fries. In addition to their amazing menu, The Buckinham’s old school English decor gives off some serious classic pub vibes with a flair for inclusivity and what they call “anti-pretension,” plus they’re heavily involved in the local music scene, hosting a lot of live music.

The Black Dog Freehouse

An Edmonton pub staple since 1992, The Black Dog Freehouse’s unique atmosphere offers three different environments: the Wooftop Patio (a relaxed garden patio overlooking Whyte Avenue), the main floor (packed with tables, a long bar and dart boards) and the Underdog (the relaxed, intimate lower level, available for private functions). What the Black Dog lacks in food, they make up for in ambiance, hosting DJs and live bands, as well as open mic and comedy nights. The Black Dog has become a legendary Edmonton pub, outlasting so many spots on Whyte Avenue, and forever appealing to the masses for its inclusivity and enjoyment.

To be a beloved Edmonton watering hole, pubs must, above all, provide atmosphere, great music and liberal libations. So often our home away from home, the place we go to for solace – to relax, to get away from the couch, to eat comfort food, and to connect – these pubs provide the best Edmonton has to offer.

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