Parkallen Restaurant
7018-109 St.
Parkallen.com
587-520-6401

Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight
Closed Sunday

Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $45; loaded, $90

FOOD: 4 OF 5 SUNS
AMBIENCE: 4 OF 5 SUNS
SERVICE: 4 OF 5 SUNS

All the successful “classic” restaurants of Edmonton – i.e. those 30 years or older still providing excellent dining experiences – share a common trait.

They evolve – adding new dishes here and there, quietly dropping the dated stuff  but ensuring customer favourites stay on the menu.

Above all, they’re willing to change … which is why they thrive.

The Parkallen Restaurant was a favourite pizza joint of the inner southwest when Habib and Nahia Rustom opened in 1982, all by itself at that time on 109 Street in the stretch between Whyte and 61 Avenues.

Son Joseph grew up in the business. As a young adult full of ideas, he set the Parkallen on a course that served it well for decades – a full service, casual but elegant restaurant offering Mediterranean (i.e. Middle Eastern) fare, a huge wine list and pizzas.

How many families made the trek to the Parkallen? While the kids had pizza and pop, mom ‘n’ dad could drink a good wine, feast on tabouli, the Parkallen’s silky hummus and/or rack of lamb marinated in Lebanese spices.

Habib and Nadia are now retired, cooking at the Parkallen when needed. Joseph, with his young sons finding their way around the restaurant, has once again re-tooled the 35-year-old Parkallen.

It is now simple, casual, comfortable and competitively priced. There are no longer pages and pages of Middle Eastern offerings, with a page full of pizzas at the end.

The Parkallen is now highlighting traditional Canadian cooking … with Mediterranean flair.

Judging from a media preview luncheon last week, the Parkallen’s new course should serve it well.

The menu is intriguing. Many of the smaller and main plates are what you’d expect from a Moxie’s or Montana’s – chicken wings, breaded calamari, ribs, salmon, steaks, pasta, and, of course, being the Parkallen, individual and family-style crusted pizzas.

But, here’s the big difference: The Parkallen is still all about momma’s home-cooking, being big, bountiful, hearty and flavourful. The lasagna ($22) is immense, enough for three people, hot, mozzarella/tomato gooey and chewy.

The baby back rib meat, all honey and garlic, falls off the bone. There’s a touch of something savoury that brands them Parkallen.

Interspersed among the Canadian recipes are classic Mediterranean/Lebanese dishes. Hummus, baba ghanouj, grape leaf rolls and pita are rolled into one $18 shared mezza plate. Momma’s charred chicken is essentially kabobs. Fried falafel is a main dish.

The salads stay in the Middle East. Other than a Caesar, there’s fatouche, tabouli and Greek-style Mediterranean. All are as fresh as fresh can be, tried and true Parkallen “fusion” dishes.

The pizzas dare not change, generations of South Siders having been raised on the same. My favourite, still on the menu thank goodness, is the Donair with donair meat, onions and fresh tomatoes.

The Parkallen has moved from an extensive wine list – literally hundreds of wines – to featuring four whites and four reds all at a reasonable $40 a bottle, or $10 by the six-ounce glass (close to a  quarter-bottle of wine goes into a six-ounce pour. as a 750 ml wine is equal to 25.4 US ounces). “For more options,” the menu reads, “please ask for the cellar list.”

Every second week, it seems, a new bistro is being opened in Edmonton by hipster super-chefs determined to be different and unique.

The Parkallen is going a different route – casual-but-classy home-style traditional Canadian cooking, with Mediterranean flair.

The new Parkallen menu has something for everybody, from restless ethnic-seeking foodies to granddad’s big T-Bone steak with  mashed potatoes. You must try the Parkallen’s lemon sponge cake dessert – sweet, moist, creamy and bursting with fresh lemon!

FOOD NOTES

A Weekly Dish column in October celebrated Edmonton’s enduring restaurants. In the aftermath,  readers sent in names of overlooked, 30-year-or-older restaurants. Among them: Louisiana Purchase, Bauernschmaus Austrian, Route 99, the Blue Willow and Double Greeting Wonton House.

The Creperie is not included. It has changed hands and comes nowhere close to its former quality.