Edmonton has so much to offer in the way of restaurants, cafés, and interesting spaces that it can be hard to imagine getting stuck in a rut, but sometimes we do. Especially when it comes to going out. Recently my partner and I realized that we had fallen into the stereotypically millennial habit of only ever going out for brunch. Let’s face it, avocado toast is awesome and mimosas are sure to make you feel fancy, but if you and your boo want to get back into the groove of a more traditional evening date, complete with dinner and drinks, the new Drunken Ox at Night, Sober Cat in the Morning (otherwise known as DOSC) on the corner of 102 Ave. and 104 Street is the place to go.
My partner and I decided to visit DOSC for an evening date because, first and foremost, my partner is crazy for their Saturday market menu. Their tip-to-tail philosophy means that as many parts of the animal as possible are used in their meat dishes, and the café’s specific partnerships with Rogue Wave Coffee Company and The Tea Girl indicate a commitment to local business. The emphasis is clearly on quality, rather than quantity, and the plating of the breakfast meals is as visually satisfying as the food itself. Lighter fare, such as the Millet Porridge or Sober Cat 2.0 may not seem like very large portions, but for $9 and $15 respectively, they have consistently left us feeling full without that regrettably stuffed feeling that often comes with larger breakfast meals.
Our morning market excursions to DOSC have always been reasonably quiet, so we were surprised by how busy the restaurant was on Friday night when we went for our evening date. Staff informed us that Friday is always very busy, especially between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., so call ahead and make a reservation if this is when you like to go out. That said, the DOSC staff were amazing and determined to find us a spot as soon as possible, first seating us at the tasting area and then moving us to the Sober Cat café portion of the venue.
If you like getting a little done up so your date-night selfies are looking fine, DOSC is a worthy backdrop. Owners Isaac Choi, Jake Lee, and Shangeeta Prasad spent almost a million dollars on renovation according to the Edmonton Journal and it definitely shows. Esthetically a lot is going on in here, from old-school classy velvet chairs in the café, exposed brick walls, a brass tree inlaid into the tiled floor, to smatterings of neon sign artwork in unexpected corners. No matter where you end up sitting, there’s something to look at.
The women’s washroom (I can’t speak to the men’s) also has to be one of the most over-the-top washrooms in the whole city, with complimentary mouthwash, dry shampoo, and other hygiene amenities available in addition to some very fancy bidets. Seriously, get your significant other to take you out just so you can experience the majesty of adjusting the seat height, firmness, and temperature. It’s like sitting in the captain’s seat of the Starship Enterprise!
The evening menu at DOSC is very similar to the breakfast menu — a mix of larger and small portions all intended as shareable or à la carte style dishes. Paying attention to the price points is a bit more important for these dishes however, as my partner and I soon learned. The $5 garlic mashed potatoes were decidedly single-serving, whereas the $10 plate of beets should probably be shared by no less than three people. Personally I recommend the beets, they came topped with an unusual combination of whipped cream and roasted quinoa, sweet and crunchy and perfectly cooked.
That’s the beauty of DOSC’s menu and really the whole experience of DOSC itself: it’s a little experimental and almost guaranteed to surprise you and your date in the best of ways if you’re willing to try something different.
Because of the shareable menu style, DOSC can quickly get expensive if you want a huge amount of variety. My partner and I spent a solid two and half hours at the restaurant, with one cocktail each, followed by an after-meal coffee for him and a tea for me. In addition to the potatoes and beets, we had a side of bread, butternut gnocchi, broccolini, a 3 oz striploin for me and a ribeye steak for him. We also shared a slice of honeycake and a salted caramel brownie for dessert. All of which is a lot of food, and came to a grand total of $136.80. Not ideal for dates on a budget, but like I said, this was an exceptional outing for us. It is more than possible to have an equally extravagant feeling meal without an extravagant bill at DOSC. Those of you for whom money truly isn’t an issue, feel free to try the $175 bottle of chardonnay paired with the $105 9 oz Wagyu striploin and really impress your date and tell me how it is.
What’s really interesting to me about seeing such expensive items on the menu is that DOSC has never made me feel underdressed or like I don’t belong, a feeling I experience regularly in typical dinner date restaurants. If you or your date share that kind of social anxiety, then don’t let the fancy interior of DOSC fool you — it’s a welcoming and ultimately unpretentious place, and neither the staff nor the other patrons have ever left us feeling inferior, despite the fact we aren’t the wealthiest customers.
Where DOSC’s real wealth lays is in the quality of their food, and their capacity as a date venue in both the early hours, and the late ones.
Photography by Emily Campbell.