When one thinks of fine dining they imagine strict dress codes, weasel lipped francophone waiters, and prices so high they would make Alison Redford puke in terror. But that was the trend of old. Across the city, enterprising chefs are opening restaurants where you can enjoy artisanal fare at affordable prices. Diners no longer have to steal the tuxedo off a dead and buried millionaire and mortgage their double wide trailer just to eat a tablespoon of shredded duck butt.
I opted to go for brunch at a burgeoning franchise, the hiply named Seven Eleven. I was aware of its reputation as a go-to for thrifty foodies, and thought it would be a good place to start my exploration of Edmonton’s fine dining scene. Within moments I was already impressed. The location’s décor is minimalist, and head chef Pauline greeted me as soon as I entered. I get the distinct feeling that Seven Eleven is unconcerned with the oft frivolous pretentions that mar fine dining. I am, after all, there to eat. The food will speak for itself.
The menu is extensive: standbys such as pizza and chicken wings share space with twists on old classics like sandwiches vacuum sealed in plastic bags and carefully aged soft brown apples. After twenty minutes of deliberation I decided to try their generously displayed ethnic fare, the jalapeno cream cheese taquitos. The taquitos, appropriately priced at three for five dollars, are salty phalluses stuffed with hot cheese that’s nearly suitable for human consumption. To do the math, the 18 taquitos I ordered were $1.66 each. For a beverage I ordered a V8, which stands for the equally nonsensical “Vegetables 8”. The drink is a pleasing crimson mush of eight different kinds of genetically modified vegetables seasoned with enough sodium to kill a sexy horse.
I placed my order and it was delivered within minutes by Pauline. It takes confidence for a chef to personally bring out their creation, it shows they take pride in their craft. I took the order and sat myself in the bathroom sized VIP suite toward the back of the restaurant. A complex bouquet of feces and urine hung in the air as I locked the door and sat on a toilet that had been upcycled into a funky chair. The room had a single piece of artwork: a blood splattered mirror illuminated by a flickering light bulb. I breathed in the particulate brown ambience, pulled 18 taquitos from the pockets of my cargo pants, and dug in.
From the first bite I was taken with my meal. The interplay of Salty and Deep Fried danced a delicate waltz on my palette. The crunchy outer shell of the taquitos turned to bitter gravel that got caught in the goopy cheese like baby ducks trapped in freshly laid asphalt. After ten minutes, halfway through the meal, I fell to my knees in breathless reverence. Instead of crawling back to my seat I opted to stay on the floor and mash the remaining taquitos into my frothing maw with white-knuckled fists. I choked down my thirteenth and my heart murmured, fluttered, then stopped. The doctor informed me that I had been lying unconscious on a dirty floor for over six hours while half a dozen fire fighters tried to break through the door with the jaws of life.
As my sobbing mother wheeled me out of the hospital I had time to ruminate on the overall dining experience. I must say, even with high expectations I was impressed with Seven Eleven. The meal was more than satisfying, and at a modest price of less than $35 I have literally never been closer to God.