A second location for a café at the Edmonton International Airport’s Premium Outlet Collection Mall disappoints

Review by Carelyn Kostyk

A year ago, my mom picked me up just outside of the Van Vliet Centre and told me that she had a surprise. It was cold outside, I’d just finished my last midterm, and I was feeling drained, so I reluctantly agreed. She took me to the Woodrack Café.

The restaurant had fairy lights strung up on the roof, workers chatting with patrons, and a great selection of food—all of which promised to fill you up with love. I’d arrived feeling tired, and after a warm meal I left feeling so much happier.

It was a café that promised coziness and community, and it delivered.

There have been two changes since then—the first being that the café has moved from 109th street to a location just beside Whyte Ave, and the second being that there’s another location at the Premium Outlet Collection Mall by the airport. Despite these two changes, the café is still owned by women and, according to their website, aims to foster a sense of community.

With all the pandemic stress, I wanted to chase that old feeling I got when visiting the original Woodrack Café and decided to go to the Premium Outlet Collection Mall.

At this new location, parking was easy to find, compared to the hassle at the old location (back then, you’d park outside of someone’s house and risk getting a parking ticket) and I parked right outside of Entrance 1 of the mall. Unlike at the original location, where you had to do a short walk to the café, I had to brave the cold for only a few seconds.

This new location still retained the cozy vibe of the original café, with felt seats and suspended lights, although I was disappointed to see that the tables were no longer wooden but were now glass.

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, I was happy to see that the tables were all set six feet apart, and everyone sat at least two tables away from each other. Social distancing measures were followed as the lady working wore her mask and was careful as she made everyone’s food and drinks.

I wasn’t entirely sure whether the tables were sanitized after each patron, as there was barely anyone eating, and the people who were there were settled in for study sessions—I left before any of them did. However, if you are taking out food, the worker did follow COVID-19 rules.

Unfortunately, as I walked up to the till to order my food, I was disappointed to see that there were no sandwiches set out—there weren’t even pictures placed in the fridge to let you know what you could order.

Because of this, I decided to order a cinnamon roll and a flourless peanut butter cookie. I was hungry—I’d been starving myself in preparation for this day with the expectation that I’d be able to get a lot of food—so I decided to also order a lemonade and a large London Fog (which was only seventy-five cents more than a small). In total, my entire meal cost me $16.61.

The lady working the counter was friendly, and when I commented on how pretty the plates were, she told me that the owner of the café thrifts for all of them!

After she warmed up my cinnamon roll, I scoped out a table tucked into the corner. As soon as I sat down with my food, I was disappointed to find that the sandwich menu was on this side of the till. If I had known that it was here sooner, I would have ordered a more filling meal.

As it was, my cinnamon roll was well-sized. When I bit into it, I was happy to find that the raisins inside blended well with the cinnamon, neither one too overpowering. However, while one side was soft, the other half of the roll was crunchy and hard to bite into. On a cold day, I’d been hoping for a soft, warm cinnamon roll. What I received instead was a pastry that gave me a jaw ache. That texture was off-putting, to say the least.

I took a sip of my lemonade. Made with real lemons, it was good, although I wished that there was more sugar in it. The drink was a bit too sour for my taste. I’ve made lemonade before, and from my experience, I could tell that it wasn’t lacking in neither lemons nor water, but in one simple ingredient: sugar.

I decided to try the flourless peanut butter cookie next. I love peanut butter cookies, even going so far as to bake them at least once a year, so I had high expectations.

None of my expectations were met. The cookie was thick and kept getting stuck to the roof of my mouth. I had to wash every bite down with a sip of my sour lemonade. I don’t know whether it was the lack of flour or not, but the cookie was extremely thick—the height of the cookie was about the size of a roll of cash—making it very hard to chew. Nearly three weeks later, I still wonder what made the cookie so difficult to eat. Even my worst baking attempts never resulted in thick, stick-to-your-mouth peanut butter cookies.

My expectations had dwindled by this point and I soon left. While I enjoyed the aesthetic of the place, there was no longer a sense of community. I was seated in the corner, and there wasn’t any calm music playing, no one was talking, and the whole thing felt much colder than the original location.

Unlike at the old Woodrack Café, which had at least three people working, there was only one worker, providing you with no chance to chat with anyone. Before, it was relaxing to go to the coffee shop and people-watch, listening to little bits of people’s conversations as the chatter ebbed and flowed. Now there wasn’t even music playing to cover up the silence in the café. I’d been looking for a warm place of comfort, but I left feeling sadder than when I’d arrived.

As I got into my car and took a sip of my London fog, I was finally glad to find something that wasn’t a letdown.

The drink tasted better than any other London fog I’ve had before, as it was much milkier and less bitter than most other London fogs—like the ones made by Starbucks. It was still warm, despite sitting for a while, and the tea had been steeped to the perfect amount.

I liked the drink, but after spending $16.61 on my entire meal, it wasn’t enough to make me feel any less disappointed. After eating a crunchy cinnamon roll, a too thick peanut butter cookie, and drinking a sour lemonade, even a perfect London Fog can’t perform miracles.

Although I would love to say that this new location compared to the original, I found myself saddened. With the prices as they were, I couldn’t believe that the only thing I’d liked in my meal was my London Fog.

I won’t be rushing to the Premium Outlet Mall location again. The food was a complete disappointment, and even worse, the café had lost all of the love it’d held the first time. We’ve all been living through a pandemic for more than six months now, and in a time when I needed the Woodrack Café love the most, I struggled to find even a scrap of it.

The Woodrack Café
First location: 10335 83 Ave NW, Edmonton
Second location (this review): 1 Outlet Collection Way, Edmonton (The café is located by Entrance 1) Phone: (780) 977-3787

Website: https://www.thewoodrackcafe.com