Edens: Mediterranean food with a conscience
I was wondering exactly what kind of restaurant we were heading into as we parked in the plaza in front of Edens Cafe, located just past McMaster’s Westdale campus, heading West on Main (across from the Pioneer gas station).
One sign outside promoted their cold pressed, fresh squeezed juice — alongside another showing a mug of beer that simply read “Cheers!”
We strolled in and a server promptly met us and led us to a small booth (it seated two people per side but was a little snug). My dining companion and I were delighted by the sprawling menu.
The website claims there is something for everyone, and this is not an exaggeration: pasta, Mediterranean food, vegan food, gluten safe, and burgers are all on offer — and more.
The dining room is a long, clean space with a mix of booths, tables and banquettes, all with darker wood tabletops and funky patterned grey-green upholstery.
A frosted glass partition separates the tables from a walk-in juice bar where you can order healthconscious liquid refreshment, an extensive list that includes smoothies and fresh juice blends such as the Popeye Kicker (kale, double spinach, parsley and banana) along with build-your-own.
I felt healthier by simply reading through this list, which includes teas and coffees. There are also wine and beer selections, but they lacked the dedication to local sourcing that’s evident on the food menu.
A small standup sign on our table described Edens’ efforts to work with local farms and suppliers, and listed some of the natural/organic products used (free range eggs, and organic wheat grass grown on premises). Even the water is triplefiltered.
With that context, I was eager to taste some of the healthy drinks. My companion ordered a fresh juice mix called “Hydrate” and I got the “Transform” from the liquid nutrition list, while our son predictably opted for the “Funky Monkey” (a chocolate protein smoothie with banana).
The Hydrate (coconut water and cucumber juice) was not a complete hit with my tastebuds, but satisfying nonetheless — and hydrating, of course.
My “Transform,” on the other hand (hemp oil, almond milks, blueberries, banana, peaches and orange juice) did shift my opinion of whey in drinks. The whey grounded the fruit with a subtle bran flake taste that I found myself liking much more than I imagined. The whey was also present in the chocolate smoothie, adding dimension to what is often a sugar bomb. These drinks all tasted truly healthy and were quite enjoyable.
Our appetizer arrived as we sipped away. A trio of dips was $10, so from the six on offer we chose babaganoush, tzatziki and hummus.
A long white dish split into three held the dips; triangles of pita were piled on either side. Christina Mouskos, one of the owners (along her husband, Sam Choukri, and her mother, Eleni Christophorou), informed me that the pitas are one of the few things not made in-house, but are sourced carefully and baked fresh, never frozen. Indeed, they tasted handmade, with a soft texture and baked lightly for mild flavour.
Thick, creamy and tart, the tzatziki was a tasty treat. The hummus, not as thick, was light on the tahini and could have used more garlic and lemon. The babaganoush, also fairly light on the tahini, had a splash of vinegar and a hint of garlic, and made a nice pairing with those soft pitas.
A random plonking on the wooden piano near the entrance grabbed my attention; a toddler was exploring the instrument but the dining room was full enough to absorb some of the excess sound. Edens does bill itself as child-friendly on its website and I’d say that’s accurate.
They also host special events, though none currently feature the piano — a couple of paint nights are listed on the website.
Our mains came out with reasonable timeliness. We’d decided to explore the non-Mediterranean side: a “cowboy” burger, Edens Salad, and chicken tenders for our son.
The burger had a finer grind than I prefer and was a touch lean, which made me wish it had been cooked less, but caramelized onions, bacon and cheese added richness. A kale salad on the side was covered in sesame seeds and dressed with a slightly sweet vinaigrette.
The Edens Salad was served in a large-rimmed white bowl with a skewer of marinated, grilled chicken. The quinoa was spiked up with white wine vinegar and lots of green pepper, along with onion and tomato. It was a little too tangy for me, but the chicken was tender and delicious.
Surprise delight of the night: the chicken tenders. Rather than being an afterthought, these tenders demonstrated care and quality. The fine bread-crumb coating was clearly homemade and the meat was juicy. The plum sauce on the side was goopy and could have used an acidic kick, but ketchup did the job for me.
Throughout the meal, our server checked in on us regularly and promptly took our dessert order. I had wanted to try the galaktoboureko — baklava with custard, but they were out, so we opted for the baklava instead, along with their triple chocolate truffle cake, and chocolate mousse.
The cake and mousse tasted like healthy versions of both classic desserts. The cake was moist, and had a crumb that made me think some cornmeal had been cut into the flour. The mousse was vegan, with a healthy dose of orange flavour to make up for the lack of richness that usually comes from cream.
In the baklava, a lovely honey went well with the many pistachios and walnuts. Totally satisfying.
As we left, I found myself looking forward to stopping by for smoothies in the near future. Sipping my way to health, one whey or another.
The dips complemented the handmade pitas, which were soft and delicious.
A small standup sign on our table described Edens’ efforts to work with local farms and suppliers. Even the water is triple-filtered.
The Edens Salad was full of tangy quinoa and green pepper, with a tender skewer of chicken.