A desire to draw attention to the food scene in Mill Woods has grown into a new dining week offering deals at nine restaurants in southeast Edmonton.
The inaugural Greater Mill Woods Dining Week will take place from March 3 to 12. Each participating business will feature an item priced at $15 or less.
Event lead Daniel Witte said the idea was sparked during a participatory budgeting session with Coun. Keren Tang of Ward Karhiio last summer. "Participatory budgeting empowers people to create small-scale projects that would make an impact on people in the ward," said Witte.
Volunteers were given a maximum of $2,000 to carry out projects. So far, they have included a wide range of activities, including painting a Pride walkway at Mill Woods Transit Centre (which Witte was also involved in), adding Google Street View for bike lanes, and creating welcome packages for new refugees.
Witte noticed that some of the restaurants he frequented in his neighbourhood were struggling. "I love these restaurants, but it would be great if more people knew about them," said Witte. "We wanted to have a dining week to spread the word about some of these places to help them."
Tang connected Witte with the Mill Woods Presidents' Council, a body comprised of representatives from all community leagues located in Mill Woods, The Meadows, and Ellerslie. The council offered volunteers with event experience. It also broadened the boundaries to include parts of Ward Sspomitapi. Coun. Jo-Anne Wright of Sspomitapi stepped up to match the $2,000 in funding to support the project.
As a result, the Greater Mill Woods Dining Week encompasses businesses in the heart of Mill Woods, such as the 2nd Floor Café inside the Mill Woods Seniors Association, as well as restaurants situated in newer communities further south, such as Woodshed Burgers and Tiffin India's Fresh Kitchen in Ellerslie.
Witte was adamant that a transparent process be adopted to ensure restaurants weren't invited based on volunteer preferences and that the focus remained on small businesses. A form was sent out through community leagues requesting restaurant nominations; volunteers then reached out to the 30 nominated restaurants, of which nine agreed to participate.
"The specials are a good introduction to the restaurants," said Witte. "I know I have no clue where to start with a new menu when I go to a restaurant for the first time. This is a bridge in."
During the event, diners are encouraged to share their experiences on social media with #MWDiningWeek. All posts will be entered into a draw to win $40 gift cards to participating restaurants.
As a lifelong resident of Mill Woods, Witte is hopeful the event encourages other Edmontonians to visit the area.
"Mill Woods feels like its own little city," said Witte. "It has such a diverse array of food from restaurants who have been in Edmonton for a long time. It has its own little version of everything."
This is the latest in a growing number of dining weeks to emerge in Edmonton. Chinatown Dining Week returned for a sixth year with a slate of 15 restaurants at the end of January. Feed the Soul Dining Week kicked off with 18 Black-owned businesses in mid-February. And Edmonton Downtown Dining Week is slated to start on March 15.