Baba Finklestein’s Café and Deli (take-out)

100A St. and Jasper Avenue

780-424-2121, babafinkelsteins.com

7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays

Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns

The Burrow (take-out)

Central LRT Station, west concourse

780-425-9991, burrowcentralstation.ca

7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays

Food: 4 of 5 Suns

The Greenhouse (Downtown)

10119-101 St.

587-524-9226, thegreenhousesalad.com

11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends

Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns

This is so good.

Downtown condos are pre-sold and being built in droves. The LRT is full of downtown commuters and students. The downtown streets (actually the pedways in winter) are crowded with people not asking for spare change.

Cute little eateries with great food are springing up in the most creative of places: Like inside, and around, the Central LRT station in the city’s very heart.

The new Burrow take-out coffee and sandwich shop (by Nate Box of the Elm Café) is actually in the Central LRT station itself – at the west end of the concourse level.

Come up the Central LRT’s 100A Street exit. You walk through a small stand-alone LRT building guarding the Jasper Avenue entrance into Rice-Howard Way. In which in now housed Baba Finklestein’s Café & Deli take-out, with the best smoked meat sandwiches in town.

Steps away from Central Station’s 101 Street exit, right beside Bistro Praha, is The Greenhouse with superb Caribbean and nutrition-influenced salads and soups.

All three establishments represent the new, transformed Edmonton, where quality counts.

But first I must rave about Baba Finklestein’s smoked meat. Owner Glen Carriere, the former boxing promoter, said he would import nothing but the best smoked meat from Montreal, and he has delivered. Juicy, thick, tender slices of smoked brisket, with a dab of Dijon on top of fresh, soft, warmed light rye. And made even more perfect by an accompanying mother of all kosher pickles, a whopper so tangy it will grow hair on your chest. Not a huge sandwich, but truly the best smoked meat I’ve ever had in Edmonton, at $8.95 worth every penny.

The Burrow gave me delicious smoked chicken on a fresh, warm ciabatta bun. The chicken chunks were well-smoked, piled with sweet marinated red pepper slices, arugula greens, thin strips of aged cheese (Gruyere?) that added to, but did not dominate the mix. All was topped with dusky, sauteed mushrooms. There was a tiny bit of sauce, maybe a quarter-teaspoon, which was perfect because the ingredients did the bragging. Again, the quality completely justified the $7.62 price tag.

The Greenhouse has actually been around, just off the U of A campus, for some five years, then expanded downtown (with a small sit-down eating area) about a year ago. Born of an interest in nutrition, trained chefs and the owners’ Granada roots, The Greenhouse does the best salads in town - $14 for entrée sized, $9 for a side.

My “You Jerk” salad was enormous, with a good six ounces of cubed, warm jerk-chicken and an intriguing mix of veggies and fruit – fresh spinach for the greens, mango, carrot, cranberries, shredded fresh coconut and, would you believe, feta cheese? All moistened with a coconut-lime vinaigrette. This was a true taste sensation. Healthy too!

The tortellini and sausage soup at Baba Finklestein’s and the borscht at The Burrow were not particularly interesting. But The Greenhouse’s roasted red pepper soup with caramelized onion sweetness was bright and bold. I’d go back for the Greenhouse soup specials any day.

Three terrific lunch/light supper spots around one LRT station, two take-out, one sit-down and take-out: Living proof - downtown Edmonton has truly arrived.

Food Notes

*Fans of The Duchess Bake Shop, and they are legion, would love a copy of co-owner and head baker Giselle Courteau’s just-published Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook for Christmas.

*Remedy Café owner Zee Zaid is in an expansion frenzy. The character-laden licensed chai shop started in 109th Street’s Bridge District, added its downtown digs at Jasper and 103 and within the past year has sprung up in Old Strathcona, on 124th Street and soon in Terwilligar Towne.

*The owners of Calgary’s famous Peter’s Drive-In on 16th Avenue, where, pre-Stoney Trail bypass, every Banff/Canmore-bound Edmonton family stopped for burgers and fries, have long muttered about opening in Edmonton. But Red Deer is getting the second Peter’s on Gasoline Alley, opening by the end of next summer.

Graham Hicks

780-707-6379

graham.hicks@hicksbiz.com

www.hicksbiz.com

@hicksonsix