— Feature —

The 2015 Best in the Core Awards

Our inaugural celebration of the shops, spaces and faces that make our neighbourhoods great

The Yards turns one this season, but instead of throwing a birthday bash we want to celebrate you—the shops, services, spaces and faces that make the core Edmonton’s best place to live. There are 15 categories in our inaugural awards. Within each, a long list of nominees was brainstormed and then painstakingly whittled down until consensus on the top three was reached by more than a dozen of the magazine’s staff, governance board and freelance writers.

We don’t expect you to agree on them all—so please email, tweet or Facebook us about who you’d want to honour in these categories or in new ones. But we hope that our honourees will surprise you and give you more to discover in Oliver and Downtown, while reaffirming the reasons you love living here.



transitional mural

Giant Transition mural: This meeting of two giants—one rundown and one sweating, the other calm and reassuring—was painstakingly applied to the east side of the John Howard Society Building by artists Josh Holinaty and Luke Ramsey in 2010. Like the society itself, the mural’s message is one of resilience. Think of it like those Keep Calm and Carry On posters: A reminder to breathe, relax, and remember that today can be a little better than yesterday. (10010 105 St.)

En Masse Collective tunnel: The permanent (and City-sanctioned) piece of spray-painted chaos on a multi-use trail features magpies, skeletal Oilers logos and goopy letters declaring “Pure filth!” (99 Ave., between 109 and 110 St.)
Chez Pierre Cabaret mural: Little kids are delighted by the bubbly and friendly portrait of the building’s former owner, Pierre Cochard, while their parents try avoid explaining what, exactly, happens inside. (10040 105 St.) —MH


Victoria Park Heritage Trail: This path skirting the north edge of Victoria Golf Course is a quick and easy escape from the urban jungle for you and your fur-babies. Benches lining the heritage trail are perfect to pause and give your pet a treat. Give yourself one too, with a flawless view of Edmonton’s Green Jewel. It’s well maintained all year long, so regardless of the season the stretch of greenery is a common gathering place for cyclists, fitness junkies and other fur-parents. Trail runs from approx. 100 Ave. and 116 to 121 streets.

RJW Mather Memorial Park: There’s an official downtown dog park in progress (Alex Decoteau), but until then the historical McKay Avenue School’s fenced-in yard remains the core’s unofficial off-leash park. 10425 99 Ave.
Railtown Park: Following the path of an old railroad, this multi-use trail was envisioned as a quiet commuter path. That is, until the pooches took control. Between 109 and 110 Streets, south of 104 Ave. —BN


Balfour Manor: Sandwiched between towering beige high-rises, this piece of history was built in 1912 as Edmonton’s fourth firehall. The Balfour housed horses and horse-drawn equipment that were then used for firefighting, before it was converted to a walk-up apartment and given its distinct Moderne aesthetic, in 1939. But passersby will still make out pieces of the firehall’s brick pavement under the front lawn. (10139 116 St.)

Holowach Tree: Planted by a Ukrainian shop-owner on his property in 1920, the chestnut tree hasn’t budged and remains in downtown’s heart as a snapshot of the changing seasons. 106 St. and Jasper Ave.
El Mirador: Since 1936, this Spanish- inspired 45-unit apartment and calming courtyard has offered respite from  monotonous parking lots and offices along Capital Boulevard.  (10133-10147 108 St.—JP

bubble houses
“Bubble Houses”: This set of unmissable brick row-homes along 102 Ave. is rooted in the 1920s, when they were built for the families of workers employed at the nearby railway and hospitals. But their most notable feature—spherical windows—weren’t added until a 1980s renovation by the Lord and Wolff architects, in an attempt to modernize the humble exteriors. Aside from the telltale bubbles beloved by sunbathing cats, newer residents have added beautiful landscaping, lush vegetable gardens and flowerpots that envelope the front stoops. (112th and 119th streets on 102 Ave.)

Mel Hurtig Cabin: The two-story log cabin that looms over the valley of the North Saskatchewan River is one of the last remaining homes of its type within city limits. (9905 115 St.)
Manasc Penthouse: The rainbow hues of architect Vivian Manasc’s glass box atop the New Cambridge Lofts Penthouse gives anyone with a view an unexpected flash of colour and style. (10024 Jasper Ave.—JP


Oliver Outdoor Pool:
What’s more refreshing on a hot summer day than dipping in an outdoor pool? The City-run facility with full change rooms is housed in Oliver Park, enveloped by nature and smack-dab in the busy neighbourhood. If you’re more inclined to soak in the sun than swim in the 30-metres-long pool, there are deck chairs (if you’re lucky enough to score one) and grassy seating by the concession. Entry is $7 for adults, $4.50 for kids, but you’ll have to wait until it reopens next summer. (10315 119 St., edmonton.ca)

Royal Lawn Bowling Club: Members have enjoyed competitive and recreational lawn bowling at this local institution by the Leg for nearly a century. (9515 107 St., royalbowls.ca)
Swing ‘n Skate: On January and February Sunday  afternoons, head to City Hall for free live swing music  and dance lessons—on ice too, if you’re feeling brave. (Sir Winston Churchill Square, 800-463-4667—JP

0cjqVrLBDNeGTEVK_XCOEcOdjxcxAkzKaC8j9nQeLmI,TqDgl1aib5vPp3b76zzXB67plv2Xft2DB1gdldc2HlgEdmonton Community League Day: We’re a bit biased, but we think the morning-to-night Community League Day festivities by the OCL and DECL—and across the city at its 150-plus community leagues—are pretty rad. The party starts every third Saturday of September, in Beaver Hills Park for free roasted corn and at the Oliver Community Hall for a relaxing afternoon of family-friendly games and neighbourly connections. Then, the DJ arrives and the beer garden opens, to keep the community spirit up all night. (efcl.org)

All is Bright: You’ll hardly notice the cold at 124 St.’s outdoor festival, while roasting marshmallows and chomping into food truck fixings in the glow of artsy light installations. (124street.ca/all-is-bright)
Canada Day: The whole city seemingly comes out to Oliver and Downtown for this dazzling show of light and music on the High Level Bridge and fireworks at the Leg grounds. (edmontoncelebratecanada.ca—AV


Photo via Facebook/Cody Wu

Latitude 53 Patio Party: The best way to start your weekend? A day early. That’s why Edmontonians clutter Latitude 53’s patio every Thursday evening from mid-June to mid-August. Hosted by a local business with food and DJs, its contemporary art gallery shows off its newest experimental exhibitions while the art crowd gets a little exhibitionist with their outfits. Sip and socialize with friends—or make new ones—until you notice the sunset reflected off the glass towers ahead. (10242 106 St., latitude53.org)

Movies on the Square: Pack up the family and camping chairs every Tuesday night in August when our civic plaza becomes a drive-in movie theatre—minus the cars, shoddy FM channel and admission fees. (Churchill Sq.)
Lighting Up the Leg: The holiday tradition of illuminating the entire government grounds at once can leave you breathless, but the best way to bask in the twinkling lights is on skates. (10800 97 Ave.—BN


SageSAGE: Kitty-corner to Churchill Square, the nonprofit’s mandate is giving seniors independence for as long as its safe. By offering programs and service registries, SAGE motivates them to maintain full lives and, in doing so, helps people feel like valued members of the community. One of its many programs, Life Enrichment, proves you’re never too old for new experiences like Zumba and ukulele lessons, not to mention meeting new people through its many social outings. (15 Churchill Sq., 780-423-5510, mysage.ca)

Oliver Primary Care Network: From dietitian consultation to mental health coordination, its programs help patients manage their mental and physical well-being and achieve healthy lifestyles. (11910 111 Ave., 780-453-3757,  edmontonoliverpcn.com)
STI Clinic: It’s never easy, but the STI clinic staff have a way putting one at ease, with free, confidential testing, counselling and treatment. Beat the waiting room by booking ahead.  (11111 Jasper Ave., 780-342 2300, albertahealthservices.ca—AV



Coffee Bureau

Mack Male/ Flickr

Coffee Bureau: It’s almost a dare: How do you convert minuscule square footage into a beloved business? Peter West and Cristiane Tassinari have risen to the occasion with their minimalist, 10-seat ode to all things mid-century modern. And using delicious locally roasted beans from Ace Coffee Roasters means that the retro cafe keeps one eye on the present craft coffee scene, too. (10505 Jasper Ave.,


Credo Coffee: The O.G. of downtown’s coffee renaissance sees bearded undergrads in line next to provincial cabinet ministers—and ordering the same thing. (10134 104 St. and 10350 124 St., credocoffee.ca)
District Coffee Co.: The second of Nate Box’s java empire is also its bakery HQ for inventive pastries (think: Polish bialy with gruyere), plus smooth cappuccinos and an extra shot of sunshine through its wide front windows. (101, 10011 109 St.,  districtcoffee.ca—MH

Remedy: After sundown, its bright yellow banners double as beacons to hungry pedestrians everywhere, directing them to that last chai, buttered chicken bowl or “punny” cake slice before bed. The chain’s two central locations means that they’ve got both ends of Downtown and Oliver covered till at least 11 pm, seven days a week. (10279 Jasper Ave. and 10310 124 St., remedycafe.ca)

North 53: This renowned cocktail bar keeps a special menu for late-night snackers—so next time you’re hankering for Filipino pork buns or cider-poached pear from 11 pm to 2 am, you know where to go. (10240 124 St., north53.com)
La Shish Toauk: Its authentic Lebanese menu delivers plenty of bang for your buck—and it may well be home to Edmonton’s best shawarma (spinning till midnight). (10106 118 St., lashish.ca—MH

Courtesy of Ceasol/Flickr

Courtesy of Ceasol/Flickr

Starlite Room: When the Salvation Army first built the brick building in 1925, chances are it didn’t envision a future where a murderer’s row of rappers, metal bands and indie-rock outfits would pass through it (and its sister venue, The Brixx) on a near-nightly basis. Every city needs a mid-sized venue to anchor the local music scene, and we should be proud to call the Starlite ours. (10030 102 St., starliteroom.com)

OTR (On the Rocks):
Even if you drink it straight,  everything comes with rock (and roll) at this bar from Fri.  to Sun., courtesy of a revolving cast of excellent cover bands. (11740 Jasper Ave., ontherocksedmonton.com)
Cask & Barrel: With slick wood paneling, cozy booths and low lighting, everything emanating from the stage is mood music. The kid-friendly restaurant hosts concerts every Saturday. (10041 104 St., thecaskandbarrel.ca—MH

dawns bra-tique
Dawn’s Bra-Tique: Dawn Bell knows all there is to know about bras, much of it learned  under the tutelage of her grandmother, a Regina bra boutique-owner. Since 2000, the junior Bell has helped women from Edmonton and afar find that elusive perfect fit, whether it be high-end imports from around the world, cup sizes ranging from AA to N, or a specialty bra for brides-to-be. There’s also one-on-one shopping for women who’ve undergone breast augmentations or mastectomies. (10130 118 St., dawnsbratique.ca)

Workhall: See how entrepreneur and head designer Nicole Campre dresses women and men in her signature modern and minimalist style, inside the local label’s head boutique and studio. (10137 104 St., workhallstudio.com)
The High Street: The strip of independent clothing, cosmetic, gift and cookware boutiques dazzles discerning consumers with products hard to find elsewhere—plus plenty of brunch options for good measure.  (12420 102 Ave.—JP

HabitatEtcHabitat etc: Handcrafted and locally made goods are expertly curated by owner Annie Parent, so the stock along these antique shelves will please even the fussiest person on your holiday shopping list—and tempt you into buying a deliciously scented soy-wax candle for yourself. “It’s a place that you come when you want to find something unique and different, but still good quality,” says Parent. In addition to stocking quirky greeting cards and small-batch grooming products, Habitat hosts crafting workshops to make your loved ones something truly unique. (10187 104 St., habitatetc.com)

Stylus Fine Pens: A must-stop for stationary-lovers, the niche store offers  a dizzying selection of high-end pens from across the globe. (10538 102 Ave,  stylusfinepens.com)
Rowles & Company: For 30-plus years this LeMarchand Mansion gallery has offered everything from traditional Aboriginal sculptures to bright hand-blown glass works by Western Canadian artists. (108, 11523 100 Ave, rowles.ca—JP

iconoclastIconoclast Koffeehuis: Lodged between Oliver Square and St. Joachim Cemetery, a mere sandwich board signals that you’ve come to the right place—that, and the smell of roasting coffee beans wafting out the open garage doors in spring and summer. No need to lock your bike outside; owner Ryan Arcand insists you roll it in (the cafe doubles as a bike store). Arcand is committed to making Iconoclast a social hub, hence the communal working table, table-tennis, board games and nightly event bookings. (11807 105 Ave., iconoclastcoffee.com)

Marg’s Upholstery: Well-loved furniture gets a second life in this basement business that’s been family-owned and operated for 35-plus years. So you know your sofa’s in good hands. (11639 Jasper Ave, 780-488-0486)
The Sequel Cafe: The embodiment of a feel-good mom-and-pop bistro: fresh salads, sandwiches, daily homemade soups and, of course, cash only! (10011 102 Ave,  780-425-9210—AV

ikki 1

Ikki Izakaya: It’s technically the Ishikawas’ third location, though you’ll have to fly to Thailand to find the other two. That’s where the Ishikawa family refined their version of Japanese pubs, specializing in sharing plates and Asian sprits. It’s also the third generation of proprietor—some recipes date back to grandma Takako’s cookbooks. Warm up all winter with a bowl of motsuni stew, a pork intestine that’s slow-cooked in a mixed miso until its perfectly tender. Or really heat it up with an ounce of Hakkaisan Junmai, a premium sake served “overflow,” meaning it literally flows over the brim into a little box—yet another tradition the Ishikawa’s have brought to west Oliver. (11931 Jasper Ave., ikki.ca)

Kunitz Shoes:
The Kunitz kids inherited mother Darlene’s 35 years of footwear knowledge to make this ever-expanding store a destination for medium and high-end footwear. (10846 Jasper Ave., kunitzshoes.ca)
Co Co Di: Not even a 2009 blaze in the Kelly Ramsey couldn’t stop the Ghazals from doing what they do best: cook up authentic Lebanese with a side of belly dancing, live Arabic singers and hookah. (11454 Jasper Ave.—BN

This entry was posted in 2015 Winter, Feature.