Chinatown Dining Week set to return with more restaurants than ever

· The Pulse
By Nathan Fung
in the Food Roundup
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Chinatown Dining Week is back Jan. 13 to 23 to introduce Edmontonians to a diverse array of family-owned restaurants and give the area a much-needed boost during the slower winter months.

There are 18 restaurants participating, the largest number of participants in the event's five-year history and almost double last year's contingent of 10. Each one has put together specials for $10, $18, or both.

Sandra Karabani, one of the event's volunteer organizers, said she hopes the event will address some of the negative perceptions attached to Edmonton's Chinatown.

"I feel that (Chinatown) has a lot to offer," she told Taproot. "As an international student, it was definitely a place for me to get different grocery items at an affordable cost. There is always really cool food… and I just feel that a lot of people are missing out on that."

The new participants this year are 97 Hot Pot, China Marble Restaurant, Co Chin Saigon, Emperor's Palace, Lee House Korean Restaurant, Spirit Bistro, and The Moth Cafe.

The event "does an amazing job to bring attention to the diverse local restaurants around the area that people may otherwise not know about," said Khu Wales, a director with The Moth Cafe, which is offering purple yam risotto with jackfruit crab cake and chocolate mousse for $18.

"Most if not all of the restaurants in this area are owned by local families, so the community support goes a long way."

A look down 97th Street, the heart of Edmonton's Chinatown

Organizers are hoping this year's bigger-than-ever Chinatown Dining Week will attract customers to the area at a time when restaurants need a boost. (Nathan Fung)

Foot traffic in the area usually slows down in the winter, Karabani said.

"I feel like Chinatown definitely suffers the most because once it gets dark, like after four, there's literally no one over there," she said.

"Even talking to different business owners, it's just that they're really trying their best basically to just make the bare minimum to keep their businesses open."

While last year's event was forced to go takeout-only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Karabani said they're planning to have dine-in options available this year. However, that may change as the situation around the Omicron variant continues to unfold.

"We really just want to make sure that as much as we want to bring people into these restaurants, we want to do it in the safest way possible," she said.