A great cocktail is an elegant balance of disparate ingredients — at least, that’s what I gather from The Almanac’s bar manager, Joshua Meachem. [pullquote]He explains that the goal is to combine all five tastes — sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami — into a harmonious whole, igniting every region of the pallet.[/pullquote] Judging by the praise I’ve heard directed towards his whiskey sour, the man knows his drinks.
But, like the drinks he makes, Meachem is only one component of The Almanac, a new gastropup and music venue on Whyte Ave. The other vital ingredients are Dominique Moquin, who runs the front of house, and Alysha Couture, the executive chef. Moquin’s charming decor (think chandeliers, candlelight, and sleek wood) sets the scene for Alysha’s French-inspired pub food, creating an ambiance ideal for a quiet night out. And the music bookings, which vary from folk to jazz to noise rock, are done by Craig Martell, programmer for Bohemia and the now-closed Wunderbar. It’s no surprise that with such a young and vibrant crew, The Almanac has already been generating a buzz.
After three much-loved music venues — The Artery, Wunderbar, and the Pawn Shop — closed down, The Almanac has given Edmonton’s uprooted local music a new home. But Couture explains that the trio of owners had no idea their gastropub would become such a hub for local music; in fact, developing the back room into a stage happened by chance.
“When we opened up we were like, ‘Oh, we’ll develop it later.’ Then an opportunity came up where one of our friends suggested it, and with other venues closing, [we thought] we might as well try it,” Couture explains.
Their first show, featuring British Columbia’s The Lion The Bear The Fox, drew in a full house. Now their stage is booked up every weekend until April.
The other side of The Almanac is its cuisine. [pullquote]As a gastropub, it offers more sophisticated food than your average pub fare, but at prices that students can afford.[/pullquote] “A pub is more of your beer or your wings — you know, your fast food,” says Couture. “And gastropubs, you’re more into your craft beers, your cocktails. It’s casual, but it’s still good-quality food.”
Because Moquin and Couture both come from French backgrounds, the French inspiration came naturally. “We like French food,” says Couture. “It’s just comforting, and it’s got good ingredients: the cream, the butter, the wine.”
The kitchen also sources ingredients locally whenever possible, from their vegetables to their craft beer. Couture says that her love of local ingredients comes in large part from growing up in rural Saskatchewan, but it also showcases the gastropub’s dedication to the surrounding community.
“It’s nice to help another small company,” Couture says. “You become friends, like, ‘This week, we have this awesome thing — you want to try it?’ And you say sure and you showcase it. We just all grow together.”
From its rustic French cuisine to the fantastic variety of local musicians that grace its back stage, The Almanac has already put down roots on Whyte Ave — and it promises to flourish from here. As Couture says, “It’s just going to get better as it grows.”
Feature photo by Madison Kerr. Interior photos by Heather Magusin.