Meet Me at the Tavern [CLOSED]

September 14, 2013

Cheese. Mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella. Those are the words that made the arrival of Tavern 1903 so exciting to me. Managed by the same team as that running the Hardware Grill, Tavern 1903 is a resto-bar located within the restored Alberta Hotel - and it has lots to offer! 

Tavern 1903 - 9802 Jasper Avenue - Edmonton AB

Located right along Jasper Avenue across the street from the Shaw Conference Centre, Tavern 1903 is hard to miss. As I walked up to the restaurant, it gave off the image of a great location for a post-work drink, especially since it's located in the downtown core. A patio is located at the front of the restaurant, furnished with comfortable, cushioned seats to sit in, kick back, and enjoy the last of summer.

When you walk into the restaurant, the juxtaposition of vintage and modern immediately hits you. To the left is the modern restaurant, with wooden decor and wine-bottle inspired glasses. To the right? The contemporary lounge with a fully restored vintage bar. The inclusion of the bar has allowed the tavern to make cocktails a big deal - the menu celebrates classic martinis and manhattans, as well as others with a twist.

Like I said earlier, the Mozarella Bar is what made me anticipate the arrival of this restaurant. Fresh mozarella made on site and combined with fresh ingredients - what's not to love? On the menu were different combinations of fior di latte (fresh with cows milk), buffalo mozarella, and burrata (milk and cream), and my friend and I chose to go with the burrata ($15): confit tomato, basil pesto, lemon. For those of you that have never tried burrata before, I urge you to give it a try! It consists of a smooth, creamy interior similar in texture to mascarpone, and it's housed inside a firmer layer of cheese. With our burrata was the tangy tomatoes and balsamic, giving the cheese its flavour. Alternatively, salt was available at the table for use with the cheese, or it could be spread on the warm crostini. The crostini had the perfect toasted exterior, while the inner portions were soft and pillowy - seriously, nothing short of amazing.

A large section of Tavern 1903's menu is dedicated to smaller plates meant to be shared at the table. For us, we chose to try the Duck Sausage Sliders ($14): five spice aioli, shiitake mushroom relish. Three sliders showed up to the table, and looked so cute with the small mushrooms sticking out of the toasted bun. In the patty of this Asian-inspired slider was the prominent five spice flavour blended together with some sweet and sour notes. It had a great texture, was tender and juicy, but it was next to impossible to tell it was made with duck. Aside from that, the flavours worked well together and I would have them again.

From the larger plates, my dining companion tried out the Tortilla Soup ($16) with smoked duck, Padilla chilies, avocado, goat feta, cilantro, tortilla strips, tomato broth, crema & a fresh lime wedge. It arrived still bubbling to the table and the first sip of this soup was a flavour roller coaster. There was an incredible depth to the flavour, nice heat from the chilies, and the crispy chip pieces with creamy cheese and avocado was delicious. I was a tad jealous that this soup was not mine.

For myself, I felt the need to order something a little lighter considering I had the rich cheese to start with. That meant having the arugula salad ($10) with heirloom tomatoes, Alley Kat Ale vinaigrette, Fairwinds Farm goat cheese toast, toasted Corn Nuts and watermelon radish. The salad was presented beautifully in a heaping pile, and I just loved the touch of pink added by the radishes. I've actually decided I want to grow these next year! Anyway, the salad was light and refreshing, and the different textures kept each bite interesting. I like my salad dressings to be savoury, and this vinaigrette was sweet, but it wasn't a huge bother for me while I was eating it. This dish also had the same bread that came with the mozzarella, and was slathered in a thick layer of goat cheese. The cheese was creamy and not too pungent, but I actually would have preferred less of it.

Maybe I was out of my mind, but I had to have a cheesy ending to dinner with the Short Bread Cheesecake Parfait ($7) with buckwheat honey fruit compote. The dessert arrived to the table in a cup, liquid and jiggly like unbaked cheesecake batter. The cheesecake portion was smooth, sweet, tangy, and quite cheesy - almost too much for my palate to handle on its own. But when combined with the sweetened fruit in true parfait fashion, the flavours balanced each other out.

I have some pretty high hopes for Tavern 1903 to do well and stick around for a while. The food quality was on par, making the meal delicious, and the service is friendly and attentive as well. I wouldn't hesitate to return and am already looking forward to having some more fresh mozzarella. Some things to note before you dine:
  • Tavern 1903 uses the Q Water filtration system, so there is a mandatory $1 charge per person for water
  • On the patio they only offer the option of ordering snacks or cheeses from the mozzarella bar, and their full menu of cocktails
  • The menu may change from time to time, depending on the availability of seasonal ingredients
  • The restaurant is able to accommodate larger groups as well, making it perfect for business meals or celebrating with friends

Tavern 1903 on Urbanspoon

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  1. Nice blog. Amazing photos. Keep up a good work.

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    With love Vilma

  2. I love the decor and those are the best looking sliders I've seen. HAHAHA

  3. Looks so lovely and what a great looking place.

  4. I didn't know that this place had opened! I can't wait to try it. everything looks so delicious!

  5. This is typical food for Edmonton, fat, sugar and gluten, nothing inspirational here. I travel abroad several times a year and it always surprises me what people accept here in regards to dining out.

    1. True. We should remember that this is red-neck Alberda, eh?

    2. Keep in mind that this is Edmonton. The food scene is just starting to grow, so who knows what might be coming out next? :)

  6. Had a chance to try 1903 once for dinner and once for lunch.

    The lunch was excellent, service was pretty solid, food was tasty, pretty substantial for a lunch. Decent place for a business lunch if the other person isn't watching their figure.

    Dinner was decent but not as good as lunch. The room gets quite loud (likely owing to the ceiling). Mozzarella was to die for, we had the mixed platter which is pretty substantial. For dinner entree-wise, we had the pork belly & the pig-nic, both of which were VERY substantial. Lots of salt, lots of fat, essentially bar-inspired restaurant food. Cheesecake for dessert topped it off.

    If I were the owners of this restaurant I'd try to cut back a bit on the fat/salt (it literally overpowers most of the other flavors in the dish).

    1. Good to know about how loud the room can get - I was planning a birthday shindig there and may have to reconsider. Glad to hear you had pretty good experiences though. I can't wait to be back for more of their mozza.

      I think pretty much anytime you go out for dinner, you're going to be faced with quite a bit of salt and fat in the dishes.. I didn't necessarily feel the same way about my experience, but we ordered different dishes from one another. Time to hit the gym and drink lots of water, haha :)

  7. As an Edmontonian living in France for the past year, I actually feel like the food looks really quite good! I have to say, the soup does look really amazing.

  8. The food is amazing. Whoever wrote the anonymous review above claiming to travel a lot a lot and what Edmonton people will accept.....this person is obviously not a foodie who frequents good restaurants. Ive been to top restaurants all over the world, including several 3 star Michelin restaurants, and this restaurant is top notch. Very reasonable pricing. It is a bar-restaurant, not a 3 star Michelin restaurant, so lets not compare apples to oranges. Head chefs are outstanding, service is good, and the food and cocktails are outstanding. Edmonton does not have a lot of good restaurants to choose from, but this one is a pleasant surprise. Better than the Marc, Corso ,etc.


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