Edmonton’s Elm Café Proves You Don’t Have to be Big to be Mighty

Last week I finally sat down at Elm Café — not inside where four stools are available for patrons, but outside on the patio where more tables allow customers some elbow room and a place to soak in the sunshine and savour the incredible flavours coming out of Edmonton’s tiniest café.
Inside Elm Cafe
Looking out to the patio
The man behind the Elm is Nate Box, former head chef at the Sugarbowl Café, and now creative genius and flavour guru at this 195 square foot eatery. Almost two years ago, Nate opened up Elm Café on 117 Street and set the bar very high for other like-minded individuals thinking of getting into the bistro business.
Craft sandwiches, healthy salads, exquisite soups, and muffins from famed Duchess Bake Shop are the offerings from the ever-changing menu. Nate believes in using seasonal fare from local producers and to find out what the Elm crew is serving, you must follow them on Twitter (@ElmCafe) or like them on Facebook.
On this first visit to Elm, “dill pickle soup” stared back at me from the menu board. This is something I’ve come across at other restaurants, but I’ve never been enticed by–let’s face it–liquid dill pickles. However, on this particular day, I was with good-food crusader, Jennifer Cockrall-King, who urged me to go for it.  Jennifer, who just published her first book, Food and the City, knows good food, and I’m happy to have caved to her prodding on this one.

The silky soup was heartier than I anticipated and a bonus round of potato chips added just the right amount of salt and texture to the pickly puree.

The lunch sandwich of the day was a roast chicken cacciatore: a hefty portion of juicy roasted chicken, topped with greens, snuggled in the bosom of a buxom bun. Together, soup and sandwich cost about $14 — a fair price to pay for a feed of locally grown products.
Twenty-four hours later I returned for more food, with more people in tow. Good things need to be shared.
The soup of the day was broccoli cheddar.  From the picture below, you can get an idea as to how velvety this soup was, and the flavour? Ridiculous — and that’s a compliment.

We shared two sandwiches: the grilled cheese (cheese with roasted onions, additional crispy fried onions, fresh basil and a subtle horseradish aioli)…

And the “Italian” (my moniker):  layers of genoa, soppressata and prosciutto gussied up with an herb chevre, and a pesto-y tapenade.

Combining ingredients that not only play nice together but also play off each other is what Nate Box does best. It’s hard to say what my favourite sandwich was, but I’m game to go back and taste again (in the name of research, of course).
 
Elm also cooks up an early sandwich for those people needing some good breakfast nosh. Here are some examples of past breakfast “sammies” (as they like to call them): 
1) fried egg, pork belly, banana pepper, provolone, spinach, dijon
2) fried egg, yam, ajvar, fruilano, spinach, fried onion
3) fried egg sandwiches with Irvings Farm Fresh Ltd pulled pork, tomato, havarti and spinach
4) fried Four Whistle Farm egg, smoked Irvings Farm Fresh Ltd ham, fontina, spinach, aioli.
 
And if you’re looking for salads, they’ve got some beauties with one on offer each day, like: 
1) orzo, olives, feta, fennel, basil, cucumber, artichokes and greens with ricotta mint dressing, or
2) white beans, kalamata olive, radish, basil and lemon zest with a basil balsamic dressing.

 

I could wax on and on about the incredible fare made at this shoebox of a café, but trust me I would just be repeating myself, and I’d be wearing out my thesaurus looking for synomyms for words like “tasty” and “good”.  What you should do is trust Nate and his staff and enjoy whatever they’re putting out. This happenin’ little joint is also a great spot to go and enjoy a wicked latte or a cool summer drink. 
 



Elm Cafe also caters, so folks, if you’re looking for creative dishes, wouldn’t it be nice to have something outside the box and made from locally-sourced ingredients? 

 
To listen to my CBC Edmonton AM review of Elm Cafe, click here…. and then head down to 117 Street. 

Elm Café on Urbanspoon