Wine bars have sprung forth as a funky, modern and devastatingly stylish alternative to pubs. Edmonton possesses several clusters of wine bars, most notably in the Jasper-104 Street nexus, the territory of 124 Street and, to a lesser extent, Mill Creek and Oliver Square. Here are a few of my favourites (both bars and vintages).
Tzin (10115 104 St.)
It’s like stepping through a secret doorway. Tzin is cleverly tucked into a narrow space just off Jasper. One enters, walks past the open kitchen, and sits at one of a few low tables. A staggering collection of wines lines the back wall, and by the end of the night, the room is a veritable sea of humanity, packed shoulder to shoulder. The vibe is a bit like a tiny annex in a warm-hued mansion. Try the baked brie with cranberries and pears. It’s melty and gooey like all good bries should be, and is served with several slices of marbled rye bread and crisp-crusted baguettes. A bottle of Layer Cake Zinfandel from Puglia is as decadent and satisfying as its name implies.
Bibo (9919 89 St.)
This, I imagine, is what Victorian England would look like as imagined by Tim Burton. The room is both hauntingly beautiful (think weathered mirrors and candles) and macabre (think doll arms as coat hooks), and makes for an absolutely unique wine-quaffing venue. Food comes from Culina Mill Creek next door, and the
duck hot dogs (which I wish were called “hot ducks”) are a fun take on a childhood standby. They are rich, slightly chewy, and topping with tangy pickled veggies. The Sandhill Chardonnay, which hails from British Columbia, is a clean and dry wine with which to start an evening at Bibo.
Lit (10132 104 St.)
Lit is decidedly more open, in terms of floor plan, than Bibo or Tzin, but the ample natural light is welcome. It’s an ideal spot for people watching. Start the evening in good Italian fashion with a Sartori Pinot Grigio. It’s light and fresh, just like its surroundings. Lit’s menu is explained in great detail and it’s a bit like reading
a term paper on Italian food. This isn’t a bad thing – not by any stretch. Start with the calamari, which are unlike any calamari in town. They aren’t greasy, deep-fried rings, but instead are cross-hatched slices of buttery seafood. Finish with the homemade chocolate cake and ice cream.