“The service was excellent, the drinks and food were pleasantly enjoyable, and the look of the pub is something that strikes a sweet chord for a vintage fan.”
Guest review by Shelby Marler, student writer in the University of Alberta WRITE 297 program.
The Craft and Cork was undoubtedly a place that caught my eye, which was eagerly hungry to discover a unique pub ambience! Located across the street from Hudson’s on Whyte Ave, this new pub opened the beginning of October 2019 in the location that used to be the Elephant and Castle, and was a place that my boyfriend Braden and I discovered by accident while exploring Whyte Ave together.
The outside reminded me of one of those rustic, early 20th century-inspired pubs (similar to the vibe of Whyte Ave in its earliest days), so naturally, as vintage enthusiasts, both of us knew we had to check it out for a date night. Being early in our relationship, we wanted to get to know each other instead of shoving our faces with food.
However, parking was challenging on the Saturday night that we chose to visit The Craft and Cork. If you’re lucky enough to park on either side of the street (and we weren’t on a Saturday night), expect to pay about $1/hour, which in itself isn’t bad. We ended up having to park in a parking lot just off Whyte, paying an $8 evening weekend fee and walking for three minutes in the freezing cold.
But the relief was instant when we got inside. Though the crowd looked disconcertingly sparse at first, my little vintage heart swelled when I was met with thickly cemented bricks decorating the walls, old books caked in cobwebs, and rusted candle holders placed about the pub. The Craft and Cork gave off an overall pleasantly spooky vibe, as the bar, and many tables and chairs, were coated in pure black, bathed in soft dim lights. Kind of like the feel of a spooky Victorian mansion!
Although it’s a little hard to get your way around, the waitress led us towards the back of the restaurant through a narrow passageway with many more places available to sit. There were three television screens: one was playing old movies such as “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945), and the other two sports, accompanied by soft classic rock canned music.
Coming into this pub and seeing the spooky Victorian decorations and the horrific movies, I was under the impression that this pub was well in the spirit of Halloween, and it did make sense considering that Halloween was less than a week away. That’s what I thought until we received the menu. The majority of the dishes were named after classic horror writers and movies/books, such as “Baudelaire’s French Onion Soup,” or the “Nightmare on Slider Street,” which made the horror lover in me scream! So the place is not doing all this spooky stuff just for Halloween, but is horrific overall.
After completing some concluding research in the aftermath of Halloween, I discovered that their spooky menu is indeed a full-time worker. Therefore, I have a few concerns. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the uncanny vibe of the pub. But, I would be a little worried about the cobwebs and some of the eerie dish names beyond October – you don’t want to seem like the kind of place that’s desperately counting 364 days ‘till Halloween literally the day after Halloween.
However, I couldn’t help but wonder why in the corner beside the stairs leading to the unfinished second floor, there was a little table strewn with vignette photos – portraits and historical pieces of Whyte ave. Kind of felt like my grandma’s coffee table, but okay.
Now I will say something. Being engrossed in the early-mid 20th-century vintage subculture, I know that there’s a right and wrong way to do vintage, especially when you’re situated on a diverse, cultural hotspot such as Whyte. You never want to be too imposing if you’re trying to attract customers other than people like Braden and I. I can tell though that they are trying to do that with the sports and classic rock. However, a little softer approach to some of the decor (particularly the table with creepy photos – portraits of random people long gone more so) might prevent alienating for a more general audience.
The service was absolutely incredible! The waitress, bless her heart, had a very amiable, welcoming personality, almost making you feel like you had known her forever. She would regularly check and see how we were doing, and was very knowledgeable of their different craft beers, informing us of their notes, and suggesting a good one for a lightweight like myself to try out. Before we knew it, we were getting a taste of what we came for.
The Craft and Cork proudly announce their specialty on the website: “Edmonton craft beer and feature distilled products from greater Edmonton area distilleries.” In fact, that’s all the beer they serve. Quite a nice little resume-padder for them, in my opinion. So the main focus of our visit was, of course, to try out the beer.
I ended up ordering two Strawberry Rhubarb Sours, one at a time, Braden ordered two Irish Red Ales, one at a time, and we both shared the House of a Thousand Nachos. Personally, I’m much more of a wine connoisseur. Still, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the rich tanginess that shone through – the kind that has a satisfying, refreshing aftertaste to it. I certainly recommend it if you’re not a fan of an IPA.
The nachos themselves were full of flavour, loaded right up with creamy, salty cheese, just how I like them. Having great nachos just like these ones at the Room at the Top almost every Thursday with my friends, I’d say they are close matches. The tomatoes and onions added just the right amount of acidity without seeming too overbearing, but also counteracted the richness nicely with their freshness, and the juiciness for the tomatoes.
The bill, including a generous tip, came to a reasonable $57. Overall, the Craft and Cork is a place that I would recommend to other people and that I would go back to again to indulge in the unique ambience with the pub experience. The service was excellent, the drinks and food were pleasantly enjoyable, and the look of the pub is something that strikes a sweet chord for a vintage fan.
However, it might be just right if they had more creative variety in naming dishes to not seem too Halloween-themed. Also, I’d suggest picking up a duster for the books and getting rid of that weird table to be careful in making sure the place will not attract just vintage-lovers who wouldn’t mind sitting in a pub that seems one-hundred years old, as opposed to a month old.
Craft and Cork
10314 82 Ave NW, Edmonton