Review by Mabel Luong
Being a Calgarian, I was quite fascinated by the hype surrounding Remedy Café as a chain in Edmonton. The first one I’d ever seen was by the University of Alberta (U of A). I thought there was another one on Whyte, and then it disappeared, and then it came back to occupy a larger space. Then, of course, there’s the one on Jasper Ave. And that’s only covering about half of the locations in Edmonton.
I had to ask: Why do Edmontonians love Remedy so much? Hence my two-day adventure to the locations I have mentioned.
What I found cool was the fact that Remedy was started by Sohail “Zee” Zaidi, a well-traveled man from Pakistan who learned to cook from his mother and started a café here in Edmonton in 2000. An article from the Edmonton Journal by Rick McConnell—now also on Remedy’s website—states that it took Mr. Zaidi six years to master the recipe for the much-beloved chai sold at his cafes. Along with chai, Remedy serves delicious curries, dishes, and wraps that are inspired by the traditional dishes.
Since I was in the U of A area, I decided to stop there first (8631 – 109 St NW). It was 3 pm on a Monday, and given the fact that it was final exams season, I wasn’t surprised by how many people there were. Most of them were students that were either working alone at the long, high tables, or people studying in groups at the other regular tables that are only ideal for groups of four with a drink each.
All those tables had seats that looked hard and uncomfortable, but the only tables that had comfy armchairs were also very low—not the best place to work at. The seating area on the second level had more of the long tables and hard chairs, but that place was full, too.
I took note of the fact that the front of the café was more brightly lit, with regular florescent lights and pear-shaped ceiling lamps placed at regular intervals. There weren’t many decorations aside from a few flowers and a bicycle sculpture above the water station, and a potted plant by the door. One side of the café was basically composed of just large windows.
The menu spanned three boards above the ordering station, and consisted of breakfast, lunch, wraps, and many different drinks. The breakfast menu has fairly standard options: bagel with cream cheese (or butter, or peanut butter and jelly), egg and swiss sandwich (with the option of ham on top of that), an aloo keema wrap, or the vegan version of the ham, egg, and swiss sandwich. The options range from $3.50 for the buttered bagel to $11.40 for the wrap, which I think is a decent price.
The lunch/dinner menu has seven types of wraps containing meat (like butter or tandoori chicken, chicken and cheese, and more), and five vegetarian wrap options, such as aloo gobi, chana masala, etc., ranging from $9.50 to $13. They also have four meat dishes (like the lamb curry and butter chicken), and seven vegetarian dishes (like the butter paneer and the rajma masala) ranging from $10-$15.95.
Their drink menu is vast, with six kinds of chai, sixteen types of coffee or espresso drinks, including boozy coffee, four types of fogs (the coconut fog, the peppermint fog, and the vanilla shortbread fog were new to me), and tea that can be made for you once you select a type. They also have cider, hot chocolate, and steamers. And that’s just the hot drink menu.
The cold drinks menu had seven types of chai, four kinds of iced coffee—Vietnamese coffee was one of them, which surprised me—eight types of iced fogs, eight flavours of milkshakes, lassis, Italian soda, and iced chocolate milk. Drinks can also be made with 1%, 3%, soy, or almond milk, and the sweetness is also customisable. They also serve alcohol, though it’s not listed on the website. The drinks also range from $3.45 to $7.50. With so many options, it was a little difficult to choose.
By the order counter, there’s a drink fridge full of snacks and other drinks, such as a variety of juices, kombucha, coconut water, aloe drinks, San Pellegrino, and bottled smoothies. They also had chocolate-covered almonds, dessert bars, muffins, loafs, and brownies. Directly across is an entire wall of tea – the variety was staggering. So was their selection of cakes – from the red velvet to the Turtles cheesecake, all looked amazing, and there were even vegan options. There’s a little something for everyone.
The servers were very warm and welcoming, which I immediately liked. I ordered a chai ($5) and the lamb curry ($15.95), and was given a buzzer for the food, but the drink was ready in two minutes.
The chai smelled heavenly, fragrant with the cardamom, with a hint of fennel, and had a generous amount of cinnamon, without any of the spices being overpowering. The milk made it nice and creamy, and overall, it was a delicious drink that went down smoothly.
The food was ready in another ten minutes, and it smelled amazing. The portion was quite generous as well, with a bowl of aromatic saffron rice, topped with crumbled coriander and cumin seeds, a perfect balance between chewy and soft. The second dish on the tray contained curry, which had a nice amount of very tender lamb in it, chickpeas, and the spices were nicely balanced in a way which was so subtle that I was unable to pick out particular spices, but it was pleasant.
Admittedly, my spot next to the window was a little chilly, but overall, it was relaxing. The chair was extremely comfy, and the café was nice and quiet. There was some music playing softly, acoustic guitar and soothing singing, and while there were conversations going on, the space was large enough that the noise didn’t bother me at all, and I hardly noticed it. Near my seat was the water station, as well as a wide selection of sweeteners, and the stairs leading to the second level, but otherwise, the back of the café was rather peaceful.
The Remedy café was one of the few places I had ever been to that required people to put their own dishes away. I had never seen anything like that in Calgary, so it was new and interesting to me, but I find that I like it. All in all, that was a very satisfying experience, and that chai was the best I have tried thus far.
The next day, I visited the Whyte Ave and Jasper Ave locations to see how they compared. The Whyte Ave location (10455 – 82 Avenue) was a bit smaller, sectioned off with comfy seats at the back and long wooden tables on a raised platform by another wall of windows.
It was a little less brightly lit, with roughly the same number of cake options, as well as drink and snack options in the fridge that were essentially an exact replica of the ones found at the one near the U of A. That location had fewer options for teas but still managed to fill quite a few shelves, which I still found to be impressive. It also had more decorations – mostly landscape paintings.
I only stopped by briefly, but this location was a bit crowded as well, albeit less so than the University location. I got a vanilla rooibos chai to go, which smelled sweet and tasted heavenly—it was just as creamy as the one from the day before, though it tasted less of spices and was sweet enough to ruin my appetite for the rest of the day. Half-sweet would be better. But the service was excellent, and the drink was made in under two minutes.
Later that same day, I hit up the Jasper Ave location. It seemed to be the smallest of the three, but flaunted more decorations, mostly in the form of abstract paintings by Edmonton artists. As it was on the corner, two of the four walls were windows, while the other two were orange, and it mostly had high tables and chairs, with a long table or two by the doors. The cake selection was the same size as the other two, and so were the options in the fridge, but this one had even fewer teas to choose from. I settled for the “Be Cool” tea by Kusmi, an herbal tea that tasted like herbs and licorice, with a hint of apple and mint. Again, the service was good, and the tea was ready in a minute.
This one was the loudest of the three locations, despite having fewer people. The tables were a little closer together than the ones at the other locations, so conversations were easier to hear. Not to mention the fact that the music played there was also louder – mostly jazz, which was quite pleasant. They also had a library, which I didn’t notice at the other two, in which you can pick a book or drop off a book. It was quite small and didn’t have many options – the few that were there included J. K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy, Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and a book on Canadian geography. There were also board games available—not many, but included chess, Battle of the Sexes, and The Game of Things.
All the locations are mostly the same, though each one is a little different in a way that makes it nice to visit each one on different occasions, in terms of decorations and some menu options being limited to certain locations. Regardless, a sure bet is that they’ll be serving delicious drinks and food, and you can enjoy yourself in a relaxing environment. I can see why Remedy is a staple of Edmonton, and it is now my go-to place for some amazing chai.
There are six locations in Edmonton, open from 7:30 am until midnight from Mondays to Fridays, and 8 am until midnight on the weekends.