In Edmonton, the Sugar Bowl is the furthest thing from a hidden gem. A longtime favourite among the university crowd, Garneau area residents and 20- to 30-something hipsters, the Sugar Bowl welcomes a stream of regular customers with open arms. For some, the Sugar Bowl is a daily routine.
So why write an article about it? It’s already booming with business: at times, it’s difficult to find a place to stand, let alone sit.
We entered the Sugar Bowl—a place I’ve been acquainted with before—to a warm welcome of eclectic vibes and an antique style of décor. It was a rare feeling in these days among the masses of chain restaurants.
Their seat-yourself policy reflected the laid-back atmosphere. We were greeted by the young and cheerful server who presented us with the dinner menus. With half of the menu dedicated to drinks, it was hard to make a selection from the vast amount red and white wines, imported bottles and draft beers.
After gazing over the drinks and inquiring about a few unknown foreign beers, I finally settled on a Stella Artois ($ 5.50), favoured among staff and patrons. My friend went with another Belgian draft. The Hoegaarden ($ 7.25) was a crowd favourite thanks to the massive bicep-builder glass in which it’s served.
Looking for something to go well with my beer, we ordered the citrus honey cashews with rhubarb accents ($5) as an appetizer. This fancy take on beer nuts impressed me with the price, as cashews aren’t cheap.
The menu also had quite the range, catering to everyone from vegans to carnivores. I fit more into the latter category, and I chose a meat I don’t usually explore: lamb. The lamb burger ($12) came with either Gouda or goat cheese and has been a staple for years. The delicious burger substituted typical fries with pan-fried potatoes and homemade ketchup.
My friend went with another Sugar Bowl favourite, the chicken curry stew ($9). The large and hearty helping was served on an equally large portion of white rice and accompanied with pita bread for dipping.
After all of that, we were stuffed; but after having heard only great things about the desserts, we felt the need to try one. We went with the espresso Tiramisu ($5), which is made on site and utterly failed to disappoint us.
Enjoying the ease and comfort that filled the room, I had a few more Stellas, my friend sampled a glass of the Australian Rosemount Jigsaw Shiraz ($7), and we caught up on each other’s lives for hours. The atmosphere and the menu as a whole proved why the Sugar Bowl is one of the sweetest places in town to kick back and relax. V
Sun – Thu to 12 am, Fri – Sat to 1 am
Sugar Bowl Coffee& Juice Bar
10922 – 88 Avenue
Chef! Can you dig it?
Both regulars and first timers are in for a treat within the next month. The place that many know and love—especially for its cinnamon buns—is set for a menu change. Only created in May, the spring and summer menu is still fresh in our minds; but come mid-October, Sugar Bowl staff hopes that the new winter menu is going to be as hot as their buns.
The kitchen’s new chef received rave reviews on his brunch, lunch and dinner menus. The new winter menu will only make a good thing better. Nate Box, 23, has been the head chef at the Sugar Bowl for six months now. He insists that the Sugar Bowl is more than a coffee shop.
“With this new menu, we really want to wow people,” says Box enthusiastically. “We want people to know that we’re a restaurant with a full menu and a wide range of foods. We aren’t just the place that you go to study.”
The popular bison chili, chicken curry stew and lamb burger have been on the menu for some time. They stayed on the spring and summer menu that dropped everything else from before and will remain. However, for Box’s second round of menu creation, he will send some recently added items to the guillotine, while others will be sticking around for a longer stay.
“With the fall menu, we hope to sift out some of the items that aren’t pulling their weight,” he comments. “We’re going to get rid of our shallot feta striploin sandwich. It’s hard to believe that a six-ounce piece of Alberta striploin would be hard to sell, but it just isn’t catching.”
“We’re looking into bison, lamb and boar as replacements,” Box says, “something hearty and warm to welcome the fall colours and winter comforts.”
Wanting people to share more than just a meal together, the Bowl will work on the “bites” portion of the menu. Tapas will be a new addition, but with a Sugar Bowl spin.
One item that Box is hoping will be well received is a twist on an American classic with his European hot-dog creation. With the BBQ season coming to a close, he feels that many will welcome someone else doing the grilling in the dead of winter.
“This may take some time to catch on, but this will be fun. We’ll have European sausage on a fresh bun with gourmet condiments: none of this squeeze bottle stuff,” Box grins. “So in the dead of winter, sit and have a pint with friends and we’ll barbeque a nice frank. We’ll show you how the Europeans are doing it.”
The Euro dog may be familiar to some, since it was run briefly as a special last winter, but it is now being revamped as a regular item.
The final major addition will be semi-regular specials. A collaborative kitchen-staff effort will result in new and exciting menu items that could run for as little as a night to as long as a month.
“I think this will attract people to try new things,” states Box. “But more importantly, it will pull the staff together to emphasize their significance in the success of this place.”
Many don’t realize the hours of preparation that goes into their dish. “There are always at least two people in the basement, preparing food. We spend more than half our time in the basement prepping,” Box stresses. “It really does take a lot to impress people. We do the work so people don’t have to at home.” V