If you’ve lived, shopped, dined, or driven around Edmonton’s downtown core, you’re probably familiar with the Grand Hotel — that sketchy building on the corner of 103 street and 103 avenue, across from the Greyhound bus station.
Back in 1904, the Grand Hotel was called the Richelieu and was home to our city’s earliest denizens who congregated around the tables, thirsting for news of their burgeoning town and a shot of whiskey to go with it. The CNR café in the hotel fed and watered the men who worked a block away in the rail yards.
That was yesteryear. Today, keen entrepreneurs are capitalizing on future potential by snapping up real estate that falls within the shadow of the new arena being built where the old rail yards once stood. Urban Sparq Hospitality Group purchased the Grand Hotel last year, and a shave and a haircut later, the Grand is grand again — in a prairie-chic sort of way: rich wood paneling, velvet paintings, new naughahyde banquettes and taxidermied ungulate heads busting out of walls. De rigueur tattooed, bearded bartenders polish an impressive array of shot glasses while rock-solid rock music plays overhead, putting the boots to that gag-inducing techno-thump favoured by the Flavoured Vodka set.
And so, with locals congregating once again, the establishment’s new moniker, Denizen Hall, is entirely apropos for the property’s new life.
The beer list is surprisingly simple for this day and age and the cocktails are priced well below the familiar $14 price elsewhere in the city. The lack of pretension is a welcomed theme at the “Deni” making this spot a very comfortable place to set a spell and drink — and also to eat.
The food: Edmontonian’s will be familiar with Nate Box, as in Nate of micro-nosh pits Elm Café, Burrow and District Coffee. The Urban Sparq Group group shows more business savvy by bringing Box in to consult on the food aspect of Denizen Hall. Nate is strong on sourcing local and smart on cooking authentic. He brings Chef Chael McDonald on as executioner and the end result is golden. This is the place where you go to have good, grounded, grass-roots grub but grub topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, drizzled with smoky glazes, spanked with chili flakes. Nate and Chael make standard fare come to life.
But Denizen Hall is more than beer, food, and rock and roll. Denizen Hall is also about pac man, and pinball, billiards and bands; Denizen Hall is about the food, the booze, the music, the fun; it’s about locals getting together, reliving the past under that 104 year old roof and talking about the future. It’s familiar which makes it comfortable, and new which makes it exciting.
Enough with the platitudes. Want to hear the savoury details on the food at Denizen Hall? Click here.