By Graham Hicks
MKT Fresh Food + Beer Market
8101 Gateway Boulevard, corner of Gateway and Whyte Avenue
780-439-BEER (2337)
Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $30; fully loaded, $70
Food: 4 of 5 stars
(Pub) Ambience: 4 of 5 stars
Service: 4 of 5 stars
As far as pub grub and atmosphere goes, the new MRT Fresh Food & Beer Market raises the bar to Olympian standards.
Century Hospitality is just over a decade old, with Century Grill, Lux Steakhouse, the DeLux Burger Bars and One Hundred – all thriving – under its belt.
In his latest move, Century’s Chris LaChance took on the defunct Iron Horse Pub space in the original, historical CP Rail train station building in Old Strathcona. The building, with its vast open floor, glows with historical character and has one of the best locations in Edmonton with plenty of parking within walking distance.
Century Hospitality’s expertise shines through.
The décor is old-time casual, with an enormous oval up the middle, enclosing a modern central bar. There’s nooks and bar stools down one side, stand-up tables and tall stools up the other with picnic tables in the cavernous north end leading out to one of the city’s nicer patios.
It’s comfortable as all get out.
Then there’s the beer – 55 brands on tap, 60 by the bottle, plus “rotational taps” featuring limited time-offer beers.
The staff do know their beer. Surprise me, I said, and, after being politely quizzed about my summer beer preferences, I was introduced to Shock Top, which I proceeded to quaff for the balance of the evening.
Beer is still a commodity. You tap a keg, flip a cap and out she flows.
Food’s a different game, and this is where MKT is heads and shoulders above the competition.
Century Hospitality’s executive chef Paul Shufelt, my co-columnist in The Sun’s Wednesday food section, has outdone himself.
Not in exclusive gourmet food, but in great pub grub, along with extras like an excellent oyster bar.
Outstanding pub grub: Hell’s Fire chips, mussels, the MKT BRGR, Bucket of Bones, shepherd’s pie and MKT’s signature dish – its slow-roasted rotisserie “beer can” whole chicken, with parmesan mashed potatoes and a (naturally) beer-based gravy.
Pub grub that, as the pub’s full name proclaims, is as fresh as fresh can be, with almost as much choice as those 115 beers.
The chicken, marinated in a beer brine, is slow-roasted on a showcase rotisserie off the entrance.
It is spectacular. The skin is crisped to perfection, the meat is melt-in-your-mouth moist, bursting with its marinate and rub flavours. The diner faces a difficult decision: To pour the gravy over the excellent mashed, or save it as a dip for each forkful of that marvellous chicken.
Every dish our party ordered had quality written all over it. The fish ‘n’ chips were excellent in a (beer) batter. The MKT BRGR, like those of its sister DeLux Burger Bars, was a uniquely garnished mega-meal between two buns.
The dessert donut centres were seconds between their hot oil bath and the table, crispy on the outside, steaming warm inside, with delicious caramel and Bailey’s sauces for the dipping.
Some will gripe about MKT’s prices, those who believe all pub prices should be based on wholesale bags of frozen French fries and six-month-old dump ‘n’ fry chicken drumlets.
MKT is about excellent, fresh, made-from-scratch food and superior service in a casual, quality surrounding.
Yes, you’ll pay more than you would at Bubba’s Burger Joint. It’s worth every penny.
And have I mentioned the beer selection?
If you’re on a tight budget, MKT’s Happy Hour 3-6 p.m. prices are competitive. There’s family-friendly brunches on the weekends.
MKT is casual, group gathering and bread-breaking at its very best. You’ll not be disappointed.
* * *
Sabor Divino is in a league by itself when it comes to seafood, but partners Christian Mena and chef Lino Oliviera aren’t content to rest on their laurels. The downtown restaurant is offering a Classic Seafood Festival menu, August 10 to September 8, featuring classics like Coquille St. Jacques, Lobster Thermidor and Paella Valencia-style. Based on Sabor Divino’s reputation alone, it’ll be worth an evening out.