OTTO Food and Drink
11405-95 St., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, No reservations
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Price: Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $20; loaded, $45
Beer drinkers, sausage eaters and conversationalists, rejoice.
You now have the perfect Edmonton eatery – OTTO Food and Drink.
OTTO is friendly, modern, clean, easy on the wallet and without pretense. It’s in a solid working-class neighbourhood a few blocks north of Little Italy on 95 Street.
OTTO is designed for conversation. There are no televisions, no loud music. What a concept!
Other than the usual sides (fries, mac & cheese, coleslaw, potato and house salads) and desserts, OTTO sells nothing but sausages. (Actually a “veggie of the day” is on the chalk board. The beets on horseradish-seasoned goat cheese were inspiring.)
You also go to OTTO to drink beer. Not to gulp down pints of Canadian or Coors Light, but to pick and choose and sip from 28 styles of all-regional craft beers, from Ribstone Creek Brewery in Edgerton, to Calgary’s Goat Locker, to Edmonton’s Bent Stick and a nod to godfather craft brews from Alley Kat and Big Rock.
If, god forbid, a non-beer drinker is in your party, ciders and a small selection of wines are available.
OTTO is all about small-is-beautiful, neighbourhood and community.
Proprietor Ed Donszelmann is a life-long Edmontonian, former co-owner of the late, great Culina Mill Creek. Within the industry, he is well-liked and respected. With his wife and kids, Donszelmann lives just a few blocks away.
Much thought and physical labour has gone into OTTO. “After Culina, I knew what I wanted to do,” Donszelmann says. “Steve Furgiuele at FUGE Fine Meats is making beautiful sausages. Craft beer breweries have been booming in Alberta (thanks to the Olds College brewmaster program). Without Steve’s sausages and the new craft breweries, this concept would have been impossible.”
Ed took his time, found a long-vacant location in his neighbourhood, spent a year designing and renovating the space and honing the concept.
Decisions, decisions, decisions — nine sausage types (each order consisting of two sausages for $7) and 28 different beers (355 ml cans or bottles for $7) are available to pick from.
All the beers except for two from B.C. come from 19 small, Alberta breweries with great names like Troubled Monk, Hell’s Basement and Goat Locker.
The staff is well-schooled in beer choices. Given general guidelines on individual beer preferences at our table (wheat ales, red ales, more sweet than bitter), Donszelmann produced, to my surprise, a fruity Belgian-style IPA beer from Calgary’s Tool Shed brewery that was perfect for our palates. We’d never have discovered the tasty brew without guidance.
Our party of three indulged – research of course – in the OTTO dog (gouda and garlic infused bratwurst), smoky, spicy chorizo, and a special of the day, Turkish sausage … Plus currywurst (bratwurst and fries, smothered in a spicy tomato sauce) … Plus a large mac & cheese side … Plus two sinfully rich slices of almond cake with whipped cream for dessert.
Everything was top-notch, the sweet curry sauce of the currywurst poured over a big coarse bratwurst sausage and fries, the surprising flair of the Turkish sausage with hints of licorice and the clean, savoury chorizo thankfully without large chunks of fat.
The OTTO dog wasn’t my favourite with its near baloney-like smoothness, but mine was a minority opinion.
The little things are so pleasing. Condiments are on offer, i.e. a hop-fortified mustard, but none was needed. Many sausage “skins” are either plastic-like or so chewy as to need removal (with much meat attached) before eating. I don’t know what sausage-maker Furgiuele is using for his casing, but it’s unobtrusive, neither gluey nor chewy.
OTTO appears to be a genuinely new dining idea. Donszelmann did not steal the idea from anywhere, be it Vegas, Barcelona, Berlin or his Dutch heritage. I’m sure a host of imitators will soon follow, both in Edmonton and abroad. It’s an easy concept, with quality suppliers and sufficient craft breweries, to execute.
Donszelmann hasn’t the least interest in rolling out more OTTOs. Small is beautiful.
The front of OTTO has one of those industrial roll-up doors, like Daravara on 124th Street, which will make the entire café feel patio-like once winter is gone. Summer in Edmonton suddenly has an upgrade!