Arcadia Bar is the kind of place you’d like to see more of in Edmonton, if only to make our town more closely resemble Canada’s other big cities in terms of those little hole-in-the-wall gems; those locales that proliferate like dandelions in the nooks and crannies of the urban concrete-scape and express a personal vision of a spot where someone might like to hang out and have a drink.
Arcadia has taken root on 124 Street, just slightly north of the new concentration of stylish eateries and drinkeries that stretch toward Jasper Avenue. Small but spacious, discerning in its booze offerings, idiosyncratically decorated, set to a hip and varied soundtrack: Arcadia checks all the boxes and ups the ante with a menu of completely vegan pub grub, affordably priced ($7 – 12) and tailored to pair well with your favourite adult libation.
The somewhat austere room has bench seating and is adorned with big graffiti murals. The area by the window is set aside for live musicians and DJs, the schedule for whom can be found at on Arcadia’s website. There’s also a TV above the bar showing sports, if that’s a draw for you.
Notwithstanding the “YOUR FOOD SHOULDN’T HAVE A FACE” sticker on the men’s room towel dispenser, the vegan menu is a point of pride rather than an occasion for sanctimony at Arcadia. And, as my co-diner pointed out, it’s nice to go for a drink and have something other than the usual assortment of fried/cheesed/salted things thrust at you by way of nutriment. Instead, here you’re presented with the vegan equivalents of burgers (with bacon!), chicken and waffles, tacos, donairs and even seitan ribs in a rainbow of flavours. There’s also popcorn, served with a Clash reference on the menu.
Our server, who was not vegan, settled things for me by unhesitatingly plugging the chicken and waffles. Co-diner insisted on something spicy and asked for the Cajun burger, though I questioned the wisdom of ordering the burger without bacon on it. Ravenous and craving something to go with the pints of Yellowhead lager that had been set in front of us—for Arcadia’s taps are dominated by local craft brews—we also asked for the YEG Unite Cakes (though I believe we actually call them green onion cakes).
Those three cakes were boastfully “not fried!” Unfortunately, they were probably the weak link of the meal as they weren’t particularly well-imbued with green onion; they’d been nicely crisped on the edges but were otherwise a little doughy in consistency and a touch monotonous, leading one to rely too heavily on the provided sriracha and, subsequently, not be able to taste anything but burning.
Co-diner was quite taken with her Cajun burger, an ample seasoned chickpea patty topped with red pepper strips, corn and spicy salsa. She would have liked the slaw a tad sweeter, but approved of the shreds of red and green cabbage and carrots that comprised it. The waffle component of my entrée was surprisingly savoury, flavoured with sundried tomato and basil, and invested with crispy chunks of coconut bacon made by the geniuses who run the Sailin’ On food truck. On their own terms, the waffles were tasty, if a bit spongy. The steakhouse-fry-sized strips of not-chicken, baked in spiced breading, were a pleasing balance of crunchy and supple. They also tasted better with the side of syrup (with something butter-flavoured stirred in) than the waffles did.
I’m going to guess that Arcadia is still a work in progress—in fact, a chalkboard near the bar promises the addition of a brunch menu in the near future—but I’m optimistic that the friendly nook will nail down its strengths forthwith. I was certainly pleased enough with my experience, not least because the tab was under $40 all in, to keep it on my list of worthy watering holes along 124th.
10988 – 124 Street