Whether you’re a YEG local or not; it happens each year–the time comes when you need to figure out a gift for your bestie’s birthday. More often than not, I am ashamed to say I ended up grabbing my best friend a gift card to a store I prayed they loved enough that a gift card would qualify as a good gift. Full disclosure, I LOVE gift cards and often request them for my own birthday. But thankfully, my bestie is truly next level and came up with the best birthday idea ever!
A few years ago she said she was tired of giving each other stuff and wanted to transition into gifting experiences to one another on our birthdays. Now that we both have kids and our family lives are busy, we sadly don’t get to spend the quality time together we once did. So as much as I love a gift card, this idea was even better! Creating memories together is the best gift you can give anyone.
Last year for my birthday, I asked her to take me on a Food Bike Tour around YEG. Edmonton has such an underrated food scene, and I looovvve good eats, so this was right up my alley. When you are busy with family life, the 5 hours is a big time commitment. But we found a Saturday that worked and made it happen.
Honestly, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up on the tour. I’m in pretty decent shape but definitely don’t qualify as someone who could typically traverse the river valley by bike. Thankfully e-bikes are an option on these tours, and that’s what we decided to go for. The e-bike was an added treat to the experience as neither of us had ever ridden one before, and they are so much fun! This would make it totally accessible to someone who doesn’t feel they are in the best shape, or who has issues with their knees or joints making the idea of a half-day bike tour daunting.
We lucked out and had the most gorgeous weather that day. We started the morning off at Constable Ezio Farone Park. It’s a great central location with lots of decent parking options around. The staff greeted us with treats from Choccorant Patisserie. I was pumped because their offerings are unreal! If you are a fan of bakeries, Choccorant is an absolute must visit.
Once we got acquainted with the bikes and the staff, we were on our way. Immediately the scenery was truly breathtaking. The sun was shining and the YEG river valley was in full bloom. The bike tour team did a remarkable job of keeping everyone together and safe. They had one rider in the front leading the way (pumping us up with some stellar tunes!), another person at the back to keep the group together, and a third managing traffic for the group. This added level of safety was a huge part of the experience. I would never have had the confidence to navigate the trails and the traffic solo, but the team kept everyone’s mind at ease.
One thing that really surprised me about this tour was the amount of food. I figured we would be receiving samples at each restaurant, but no skimping here! You’re going to get full sizes everywhere you go. So make sure you arrive hungry. Even if you think you’ll burn a lot of energy on the ride, you can still show up hungry and be full after stop number one.
Pablo’s Cheese Tart
The first stop on our tour was new to me. I had never heard of Pablo’s, or a cheese tart, before. I was skeptical that this would be something I would be into. But when we walked in and learned a little bit more about their story and what they make, I was intrigued. I ended up having a cheese tart smoothie with strawberry cream cheese soft serve ice cream.
Typically this kind of dessert would not appeal to me, but I can truly say it was delicious! Thinking about it now has me drooling. It was refreshing with great flavor and texture. Trying something new like this at a place I had never heard of, was a huge part of what I was looking for from this experience.
Pablo’s is located in the Old Strathcona district. If you’re walking around there this summer, make sure you stop in. They have a wonderful staff, and the atmosphere is modern but quaint. There’s also a small patio area, which makes it perfect for the upcoming weather.
Pink Gorilla Pizza
After leaving Pablo’s we were en route to Pink Gorilla Pizza in the Park Allen neighborhood. I had been to Pink Gorilla before, so I knew I was going to enjoy this stop! I am a pizza connoisseur and could eat pizza every day. Pink Gorilla was extremely generous with us, and we got to try five different pizzas! As I mentioned before, be prepared to really dig in and eat on this food tour. Even though this was only the second stop, our group couldn’t possibly finish it all.
My personal favorite was the Pineapple Jam & Ham. I know, call me basic–but there is something so special about this simple pizza. Instead of a red sauce base, it has a jam base, and the fresh mint on top gives it such a refreshing flavor. The Tandoori was also very memorable. This wasn’t included in the food tour, but my kids are obsessed with the garlic knots there! The ingredients are always fresh, and the atmosphere is very cool but still family friendly. The patio is great if you’re looking for a low key stop on any southside bike ride you might find yourself on during YEG’s warmer months.
Frida Urban Taqueira
Frida Urban Taqueira is a family owned restaurant that serves authentic Mexcian dishes. As soon as you arrive at Frida, you’ll notice the bright and breathtaking decor. All of the art was created by the owner’s son. The overall vibe is colorful and playful without being tacky or too thematic. It’s a very unique place if you’re wanting a fun night out with friends or family.
After learning a bit about the family and their journey to Canada, we got to try out some delicious tacos. The food was really delicious and it’s definitely a place I will visit again. Though it’s optional to add on drinks at each stop on the tour, I passed on alcohol here. However, when the time is right I will be back for an authentic spicy margarita or pina colada! If you’re in the mood for authentic Mexican food and drink, Frida is an excellent option for YEG locals.
Our last food stop on the tour was at 5th Street Food Hall to visit the guys at Backstairs Burger. Though we had already eaten an obscene amount of food, I couldn’t help but finish every last bite of the burgers at this stop. We got half of two different burgers, and both were unreal. One even had chips on it… OMG, it was unreal.
Unfortunately, it looks as though Backstairs Burgers has closed its doors. However, it appears as though they are searching for a new location. So if you’re a burger fan, follow them on Instagram to find out what’s coming next!
There were so many highlights during this experience. The first is the friendly nature and helpfulness of the team. They made sure everyone was confident and prepared before heading out. They did an excellent job of keeping us safe throughout the ride, without disrupting local traffic.
When we got to each restaurant, they did an awesome job of shining a light on each venue. They gave each owner or operator a lot of opportunities to share their passion with us. It’s clear that they really love this city and want to help their fellow local entrepreneurs thrive. The YEG Food Tour team also took a lot of content throughout the day. They airdrop you a ton of images at the end of the tour, so you can really be present during.
Overall, this was one of my favorite birthday experiences yet! Have you taken this food tour locally or in another city? Will you be adding it to your summer bucket list?! You can book your own YEG Food Bike Tour right here.