If you want a chill place to eat with local art and a comfy atmosphere, Cafe Mosaics is a great place to go
Review and photos by Vivian Poon
After six months of socially isolating, I missed the experience of sitting down and actually dining in at a restaurant. Finally fed up with Skip the Dishes and wanting to go out for dinner for once, I asked my partner, Aaron, if he wanted to go out for a date night.
Looking for a fun activity was pretty easy. We decided to go to Hexagon, a board game café on Whyte Ave. But looking for a restaurant was a little bit more complicated. As a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, I knew this would be a headache-inducing challenge.
“Is there a restaurant that has options for me, that’s near Hexagon, and we don’t have to do take out?” I wondered out loud, scrolling through Google on my phone. I knew my options were severely limited, as many restaurants were either closed or didn’t have the option to dine-in.
Aaron answered relatively quickly. “What about Café Mosaics?”
A grin spread across my face, and I excitedly agreed to go. We’d gone a couple of times before, and we’ve always had a pretty good experience there.
If you’ve never been to Café Mosaics before, it may be challenging to find. Unlike its sister restaurant, Moth Café, there is no signage out front (it’s actually inside the restaurant). Mosaics’ website calls it a “hole in the wall”, and I’m inclined to agree. To enter, there’s a large opening on the left between Lillo’s Antique Instruments and the restaurant itself. Once you walk in, there’s a door to your right. There are no stairs to the restaurant entrance, so it’s wheelchair accessible.
The first thing that always catches my attention is the bright white walls in the restaurant. There’s a large window to my right that brings in a lot of natural light. From across where I stood, I saw a few cups hanging from the ceiling. They were probably handmade or sculpted by a local artist. Café Mosaics likes to feature a different local artist every three months.
I looked towards the counter to hopefully catch someone’s eye and be seated sooner. But my eyes slid involuntarily to the dessert display right beside it first. The top of the display had a few stands that feature scones and (my personal favourite) chocolate chip cookies. The case itself held a selection of cupcakes and cakes. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of the creamy and sweet buttercream frosting the chocolate raspberry cupcakes have. The very thought of it always makes me salivate a little. Today was no exception.
It didn’t take long for a friendly-looking waitress to notice us. She asked us where we wanted to sit after pointing out a few open spots. I walked over to an area near the back with a long wooden bench with a few tables and chairs. Two tables at each end sat around four people, and one table in the middle sat two people only. I went for the seats in the middle.
The tables were a light wood-grain and mid-range in price. The one we sat at was clean but bare until the waitress set two menus in front of us. The chairs don’t have any cushioning, but it’s not like my butt and back hurt after sitting there for a long while.
After sitting down, I looked up at the abstract art behind Aaron and focused on a particularly strange painting. It was a pool of water that drained out into a lake (or some kind of body of water). A pulley system transported the water from the lake back to the pool of water. It was like a weird, never-ending cycle of water being traded back and forth.
I peeled my eyes away from the painting to the menu in front of me. Before the pandemic, Cafe Mosaics had already downsized their menu to make the kitchen more efficient. Since re-opening, they’ve trimmed it down even further. You can count the dishes in each category with one hand.
I decided to get the GF Nacho Everday Nachos ($13) and the Laughing Monkey Hot Pot ($17). Aaron is neither vegetarian nor health-conscious, and he loves ordering things like beef dips and burgers. Vegetables are a rarity on his plate. But for once in his life, he chose the healthy option and went with the Summer Poke Bowl ($18). Although I suspect that he didn’t realize that it would be as healthy as it was.
We chose not to have any drinks, but Café Mosaics offers quite a variety of them. They’ve got a selection of lattes, chai, tea, and even wine and beer. If you’re feeling particularly healthy, you can add “elixirs” or superfoods to your drink as well for added benefits.
Thirty minutes later, our waitress brought our food over. I was a bit shocked to see my appetizer brought in with the rest of my food, as Nachos don’t need a lot of time to make. I was also a little bit disappointed; I was starving and could’ve snacked on Nachos until my Hot Pot arrived. But I digress.
I didn’t want my chips to be soggy, so I ordered all of the sauces on the side for my nachos. I don’t recommend doing this at all. Dipping a chip in each sauce turned out to be a tedious task; however, it allowed me to taste each sauce independently. The cheese sauce was unpleasant. It was bland and cold, but I think it could’ve been better if somebody had heated it up. The salsa was made with vibrantly coloured and fresh-tasting vegetables like onions, zucchini, corn, and tomatoes. It tasted sweet and a little bit sour. The avocado aioli was my favourite: it was creamy with a hint of avocado flavour. The cashew sour cream was okay. It tasted like cashews and lemons.
I thought the beans on top were simple and delicious. They were flavourful without being too salty. The jalapeno gave everything a nice spicy (and addictive) kick.
The corn chips stayed deliciously crispy the whole time, but I would order the nachos with all of the sauces on top. Even if the chips do get a little it soggy, it’s so much tastier that way.
For the Laughing Monkey Hot Pot, the broth was a bright golden yellow. It tasted sweet, but the coconut milk and the roasted nut and seed mix gave it a savoury flavour. These two flavours complimented each other rather than clashed. The vegetables, much like in the salsa, were fresh and vibrantly coloured. The broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower were crunchy and added a pleasantly sweet taste to the broth. Additionally, the rice noodles bulked up the meal and complimented the creamy soup. I loved it, and I will definitely order it again when winter comes around.
Aaron enjoyed his Summer Poke Bowl quite a bit. He said it was very fresh, and it tasted just like a real poke bowl. Additionally, the fresh avocado and crunchy rice noodles took the dish from good to great.
I spent about $34.76 for my entire meal (including tips). It’s a mid-range priced date spot; it’s not cheap but not crazy expensive either.
Since re-opening on June 15th, Café Mosaics has implemented quite a few policies to keep its customers Covid safe. All of the servers wear masks at all times. They took away a lot of tables and chairs so that everyone can be safely distanced from one another inside a rather small establishment. To order food, Aaron and I had to scan a QR code on the upper left-hand corner of the menu using the camera app on our phones. It took us to a website where we could order our food online. When we finished eating, we had to put our own dishes away.
Café Mosaics specializes in meatless healthy comfort food. I think the restaurant demonstrates that healthy meals with lots of vegetables don’t always have to be bland.
I’ve seen different kinds of customers at the restaurant, and the café accepts all of them with open arms. For example, Café Mosaics prides itself on offering vegetarian and vegan options as they see a rising trend in plant-based eating. On their Instagram, I remember them saying that they wanted to provide options for everyone, no matter where they are in their transition.
I also like that their bathrooms are unlabelled. Nothing bugs me more than identical bathrooms with a male or female sign slapped in front of it. If I have to pee, and one washroom is occupied, there shouldn’t be anything stopping me from going using the other one. According to its website, Café Mosaics was one of Edmonton’s first restaurants to reject gendered bathrooms.
If you want a chill place to eat with local art and a comfy atmosphere, Café Mosaics is a great place to go. They’re kid-friendly, they have great food, and I have never had a problem with the service there.
There is paid parking on Whyte Ave, but you can usually find free parking on the residential streets just south of Whyte if you don’t mind a bit of a walk.
Despite all of the changes since re-opening, I left as I always do after eating there: stuffed, happy, and ready to slip into a food coma.
10844 82 Avenue
Mon-Sat: 11 am – 9 pm
Sun: 10 am – 4 pm
Closed on statutory holidays