After more than 30 years in business, A Cappella Catering has added a restaurant to its operations: Prestons, the eatery and lounge inside downtown's Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel.
A Cappella's chief operating officer, Kim Mahoney, still sometimes catches herself with how surreal it feels to be running a restaurant. "I look over and my 10-year-old son is sitting at a table doing his math homework," she laughed. "It's like something I see in the movies. Is this real?"
Prestons reopened on March 1 after being closed since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Mahoney said the hotel approached the catering company a little more than a year ago about taking on all food services at the facility, including the first-floor restaurant.
"They third-party it because it's not something they want to do themselves," said Mahoney. "We catered a few events for them, and we have the experience."
A Cappella has been offering catering and room service at the nearby Matrix Hotel for nearly a decade, and in 2021, it took over food services at Fort Edmonton Park. But a restaurant wasn't really in the plan.
"Our founder Todd (Rutter) had run a little café before going into catering, and had no intentions of doing a restaurant again," said Mahoney. "So the restaurant is not anything A Cappella has done before, but it's exciting. I see so much potential."
Prestons is open seven days a week for breakfast and dinner. It was important to Mahoney to ensure the menu reflected the best of what A Cappella could offer. "It's hard to take a catering menu and turn it into a restaurant," said Mahoney. "We wanted that 'A Cappella' flair and that 'A Cappella' touch."
A popular beet salad on the catering menu inspired the Heritage Salad on the dinner menu, and the top catering seller, the Glory Bowl — made up of layers of rice noodles, protein, and vegetables — appears as the Buddha Bowl.
Items from A Cappella's food truck, Curbside, also feature prominently, including the mac and cheese and fried chicken. Mahoney found ways to incorporate Curbside's house-smoked meats onto the menus, too.
"We made use of the Austin brisket and Montreal smoked meat on our breakfast benny and skillet," said Mahoney. "We're making the brisket into an entrée as a dinner option. And the smoked meat sandwich is traditional like Schwartz's Deli in Montreal, that big ball of meat overflowing so that you can hardly wrap your mouth around it."
It helps to have access to built-in clientele from hotel guests, and Mahoney expects Prestons will be even busier when the Oilers playoff run begins later in April. But she hopes to raise awareness about the restaurant with those who live and work in the area, especially since Prestons had been closed for nearly three years.
"Downtown is saturated with a lot of restaurants," said Mahoney. "But we noticed that on Sunday and Monday nights not a lot of restaurants are open. We wanted to bring back comfort food and nostalgic dinners."
Mahoney and her team are in the process of planning their first special event, a Mother's Day brunch with chef-attended stations. They intend to begin hosting weekly prime rib dinners (complete with Yorkshire pudding and family-style sides) on Sunday nights in mid-May.
"We have high standards for our food and quality," said Mahoney. "Everything is scratch-made and done in-house. From the muffins to the sauces to the meats. And we pride ourselves on our service."
Disclosure: Sharon and her family were invited for a complimentary breakfast at Prestons, and were also given a take-and-bake meal.