“We can’t wait to go back…”

Review by Kiona Ligtvoet, student writer in the University of Alberta WRITE 297 program.

I went to Wishbone on a Tuesday night with my partner, Brendan. We’re both students and came  from the University of Alberta around 6:30 pm, after a quick google search looking for restaurants along the LRT line. We were tired, and searching for somewhere to go that would help us relax and treat ourselves after a long day. Having been to other restaurants under the same ownership as Wishbone, Brendan and I had high expectations.

Wishbone, on Jasper Avenue (10542 Jasper Ave) is part of the Farrow and Three Boars family, an excellent Edmonton company that has gained prominence over the past ten years. Farrow in the Garneau area is a small hallway style coffee and sandwich shop. It shares a building with the Three Boars Eatery right next door, offering artisan cocktails and small plates late into the night.

Going into Wishbone, we were already confident that the food, service, and drink would be a reflection of our amazing experiences at their sister restaurants, and we weren’t disappointed. Wishbone focuses on house cocktails and affordable eats, with some upscale meal selections. Open 5:00-late Monday through Saturday, with additional brunch hours 10:00-3:00 on the weekends, Wishbone caters to a late-night crowd looking for craft beer or artisanal cocktails. The restaurant lies in the centre of the city, across from Corona station, and neighbours the old CKUA building.

As soon as we stepped inside, we were greeted warmly by a server. Having been a server for a few years, I love eating in places where serving staff seem relaxed and happy. How I am welcomed when I enter a space contributes a lot to how I feel about the night. From the entryway, the whole restaurant is visible. Like its sister restaurants, Wishbone is small and the aesthetic helps create a calm mood. It’s a narrow dining room, with wood-panelled walls and an arched ceiling. The decor is minimalistic with a bit of a vintage feel.

On either side of the room there are two and four seater tables, but bar seating is also available. Preferring booth seating, we happily slid into one of the two seaters. The server proceeded to ask us how our days were as she poured us water and placed small, well-designed, single leaflet menus in front of us. She seemed genuinely excited to explain their nightly special, and afterwards gave us our space to settle in. Letting my back rest against the booth, I already felt the warmth of the small restaurant taking my university stresses away.

There were five tables seated, each group looking well attended to and relaxed in their seats. The lighting was atmospheric: tea lights and dimmed ceiling lamps. There were small flower centerpieces on each table. Everything in Wishbone seems to be placed there with care. Music by offbeat, indie singer songwriters played over the speakers, the volume quiet enough that my partner and I could hear each other clearly across the table, but loud enough that we weren’t struggling to make out the music.

The list of cocktails was eight drinks long, featuring a myriad of liquors and mixes. Drinks ranged from 2.5 oz to 3 oz cocktails, with alcohol-free options. My choice was “From the Wild”($13.00) a mix of rye, fernet, vermouth, peated whisky, and charred rosemary. Brendan chose from the small beer list of primarily Albertan breweries. He ended up choosing the Oyster Stout by Dandy Brewing ($6.00). The cocktail and beer were both part of Wishbones Happy Hour pricing from 5:00-7:00.

It took a bit longer than I thought it would for the drinks to come out, but upon glancing over at the open bar, I was impressed to see that the bartender was treating each step of mixing with attention and care. Once delivered to the table, the cocktail was well worth the wait and price. The charred rosemary was the perfect garnish, and the drink itself was smooth and sharp from the vermouth and whisky. My partners stout was chocolatey and rich. The drinks, the music, and the lighting made me feel warm and relaxed from the cold outside.

The food menu is small and carefully curated. There are a number of  vegetarian and gluten free options available, signified by a small graphic next to the relevant dishes. The night’s special was an off-menu fish and chips. Our server remarked that she had tried it before and seemed proud to be introducing it to us. The dish was a fried cod battered in Sea Change Blonde, an ale from a local brewery. My partner, a fan of Seachange Brewing and a pescetarian, decided to order the fish ($23.00).

I ordered the burger and fries ($18.00) at the recommendation of some friends for whom it’s a favourite. Although we came prepared to spend a bit more money on food and drink, judging by the tables around us, the starters were big enough that Wishbone can be enjoyed on a budget.

Our food came out in a timely manner, and looked delicious. Brendan’s dish featured two large pieces of golden brown battered cod, and a side of fries. The size of the dish alone impressed us. My 6oz beef patty was stacked neatly with tomato, lettuce, pickles, aged cheddar, between a house-made Hokkaido bun. The fries were paired with a chili prawn aioli. My partner remarked that the fish was well-battered, and the cod was tender and well prepared. The Seachange batter was very rich and had some sweetness to it that became overwhelming as he worked his way through the meal.

My burger was juicy and flavourful and well-garnished.  It was completely manageable to eat as a two-hander. The Hokkaido bun was soft and fluffy, contrasting the heaviness of the burger. I also found that the meal became a bit too rich and I was unable to finish the whole serving. The fries were thin, crispy, and perfectly done. The chill prawn aioli was amazing.

After our meal, the server kindly packed the rest of my food in a box for me and we asked for the bill. I was tempted to order another cocktail, but had to remind myself that I was on a student budget and had already treated myself more than usual. As we paid, she made polite and friendly conversation. I tipped 20% on top of our $63.00 bill.

The service, atmosphere, and drinks were definitely a huge part of what made our experience at Wishbone so great. The food was good, but the richness paired with the size of the plates was a bit overwhelming. We can’t wait to go back and try a few of their starters for some smaller portion sizes. As we walked away from Wishbone, I felt like I wanted to run back in for another cocktail. Basking in the restaurants warm, calm atmosphere really was a treat.

Total cost of two dinner plates one house cocktail, and one craft beer: $63.00 + tip

10542 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton