compliments to the chef


I've been working from the home office almost exclusively for the past couple weeks, save for meetings in City Hall, and I've been really enjoying the perks of the cool apartment (no horrid inconsistent temperatures due to air conditioning and lack of fresh air in a stuffy building) and the ability to run out for an impromptu lunch at one of my neighbourhood's newest additions, elm café.

elm cafe

Most people know a bit about the backstory of elm, how it was supposed to set up shop in the old Hulbert's location in Belgravia, mere blocks away from the LRT station with spot for a lovely outdoor patio. However, plans to take over that location fell through and elm was left without a home. Luckily though, chef and proprietor Nate Box was able to find a new spot for elm, on the other side of the river in a little space the same size as a standard bedroom. The petite eatery, located just north of Jasper Avenue on 117th Street, is mere blocks from my apartment. Nate's tasty sandwiches draw in steady crowds throughout the day, but there are still a few quiet moments where you can avoid lineups (which even if there are lines, Nate's exhaustive prepwork keeps them moving quickly) and you're not in the way if you want to lallygag and shoot some photographs whilst also shooting the breeze with the chef and whomever else might be helping behind the counter (in our case Nate's lovely wife Claire).

Elize and Sarah were the ones with plans to meet at elm for lunch, and since I hadn't been yet (the gentleman had gone without me earlier in the week) I tagged along as the jolly third wheel (well, technically the fourth since baby D was also in attendance). I met Sarah by the LRT station and we wandered through my hood to reach the café. Elize was already outside waiting with a latte, sitting next to Sarah's neighbours who were enjoying their lunch. Inside was another friend, who had stopped by for some coffee. While I'm not a coffee connoisseur by any means, I usually only drink it if one of my friends prepare me a cup at their homes, I have to say that this coffee could easily change that. It wouldn't be a stretch to go for a quick walk in the morning to pick up a cup and maybe a spot of breakfast. The coffee beans are supplied by 49th parallel and when the gentleman returned from his illicit visit to elm, he was raving how the coffee was easily the best he's ever had. His adjective of choice, smooth... but said in a way where the vowel sound of the o' has been elongated so that the word takes on almost onomatopoeic qualities.

the one where nate makes the coffee
the one where elize drinks the coffee

It was a fantastic summer day outside, warm and breezy, so after we selected our sandwiches (Nate prepares a different selection every day... an early breakfast sammie, followed by a hot and cold selection for lunch and dinner) we took advantage of the wide bench outside the shop and conversed about all the things that three intelligent ladies are apt to discuss (in between bites of course).

the one where we take advantage of the bench outside to eat our BLTease
the one where we eat our BLTease

While I can't imagine the stress that Nate must have gone through in having to find a new location for elm, part of me is glad that he ended up where he did. The café is a great addition to the neighbourhood. They've done a fantastic job with the curb appeal, the minor details of the landscaping are exactly what we need to see more of in Edmonton, especially along Jasper Avenue. Outside the shop Nate has decorated with plants that soften the harshness of the building. The worn bench is wide enough that you could share it with a stranger and still feel some semblance of privacy, but also intimate enough that you feel some sort of connection with those sitting next to you. It's also deep enough that you can put your coffee, sandwich and newspaper down beside you. Nate could have so easily gone with more generic tables outside, but instead he's created something with character and distinction, ensuring that those who visit elm café will not only enjoy great food but also a positive experience.

elm cafe treats

In a city where there are lineups out the door for greasy spoon breakfast next to a freeway, I definitely appreciate the care and dedication Nate has taken to create what is already one of Edmonton's best eateries. My compliments to the chef.