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According to Sharon Yeo, there are a number of misconceptions about Chinatown.
“The diversity of food there is something I think a lot of people aren’t aware of,” says Yeo, local blogger and organizer of Chinatown Dining Week , which kicks off tomorrow. “Newcomers to the area might think it’s all Chinese regional cuisines, and that’s simply not the case.”
Now in its fifth year, Chinatown Dining Week seeks to not only promote the central Edmonton neighbourhood but also correct this assumption. As Yeo points out, a cursory glance of this year’s 18 participating businesses also shows Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, vegan, even a French patisserie, all offering special $10 and $18 menus for both take-out and dine-in. The 10-day event, which runs until Sunday, Jan. 23, has continued to grow through these difficult times, this year adding seven new businesses, including three that opened during the pandemic: Co Chin Saigon, China Marble, and Spirit Bistro.
“Strangely, last year was our most successful, which was surprising to us considering restaurants weren’t allowed to serve customers indoors,” says Yeo. “I think it was a combination of things, like the push to support local as people realized they needed to support their favourite restaurants or lose them to the pandemic. Also, and I don’t think it was exclusive to Chinatown restaurants, but I think the willingness of people to try different restaurants increased.”
Yeo is ardent about getting Edmontonians off the beaten path when it comes to food, whether through her blog, onlyhereforthefood.ca, or the various initiatives she and her partner Mack Male have spearheaded through the years. In particular she’s focused on smaller businesses that have suffered greatly through COVID-19 because they lack both the advertising budgets and the profiles of larger operations. For Yeo, it’s more often than not the mom-and-pop operations that offer some of the best dining experiences in the city. .
“One example is the Gui Lin Noodle House, which I’ve been going to for years,” she says. “It’s the only restaurant in Edmonton that serves that particular kind of regional cuisine, and hardly anyone knows about it. They were one of the early adopters of Chinatown Dining Week and they’re back again this year. The food is great, the service is great, but they’re often ignored. I think it’s just a passion of mine to make sure that businesses like that gain a larger following, so that they have the ability to survive through the years.”
Go to edmontonchinatown.ca for details.
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