9 Eateries with Great Vibes in Alberta’s Lakeland 

Posted on: January 18, 2023

Sometimes, you just need a place to grab a quick pizza or burger and carry on with your day, whatever that looks like. 

Other times, you seek an experience—a vibe—beyond the food; where the ambience is also phenomenal, the people running the place are creative, or the venue exudes a  great ‘we can’t believe this is here’ vibe. 

Each of these 9 special eateries in Alberta’s Lakeland, a few hours from Edmonton, oozes a vibe we can’t describe. But, we’ll try, and then tell you why.

Visit them all and fuel up with scrumptious fare in these 9 super ambient places.  

  • The Gathering Place Co-op, Waskatenau, Alberta 
  • The Old School Cheesery, Vermilion, Alberta 
  • Beantrees Café, Cold Lake, Alberta 
  • Jennie’s Diner & Bakery, Bonnyville, Alberta 
  • Emma’s Convenience Store, Cold Lake, Alberta 
  • Twisted Fork, St. Paul, Alberta 
  • Fat Unicorn Brewery Tap & Grill, Lac La Biche, Alberta 
  • CJ’s Café, Myrnam, Alberta 
  • Black Cat’s Cauldron Tea & Herb House, Vilna, Alberta 

The Gathering Place Co-op, Waskatenau, Alberta

@TheGatheringPlace

Why Go? Ukrainian Plate! Soupscriptions!

It’s a co-op, but not THE Co-op, if you know what we mean. Here, you can buy locally grown farm products, pre-made and frozen meals, from a cooperative of small farmers and neighbours with a vision to “gather and grow together.”

The newly renovated building, just south of Long Lake Provincial Park and north of Waskatenau, also has a cozy country restaurant serving a massive Ukrainian Plate. The plate comes with 10 perogies fried with butter, onions & bacon lardons, as well as garlic sausage, sour cabbage rolls, and a garnish of sour cream & green onions. Bring friends!  

The menu has all kinds of appetizers, and main dishes, such as Schnitzel and Cottage Pie.  When a bacon-topped cheese smokie with fries appears under lighter fare on this menu, you know the main entrees are going to be big. 

Unique idea: Soupscriptions for boxed soup for from one month (20 soups of 500 ml each of borscht, tomato, lentil, and ham, etc.) to a year delivered to your door.

Old School Cheesery, Vermilion

@OldSchoolCheesery

Why Go? Cheese, duh 

The Old School Cheesery in Vermilion is a small family run cheesery, whose products are used by chefs at Jennie’s Diner in Bonnyville and Twisted Fork in St. Paul, also included in this vibing list. It has an in house shop and restaurant in Vermilion, however, where you can buy or taste excellent cheese curds; dill, chipotle and other kinds of cheddar; and on Tuesdays, Brie Mac and Cheese. Eclipse—a creamy Canadian style brie covered in vegetable ash—has a smoky nutty flavor. 

Beantrees Café, Cold Lake, Alberta

@BeantreesCafé

Why Go? Excellent Coffee and Occasional Live Music 

If you like great coffee and an atmospheric venue, head here. View the work of local artists and artisans while you sip your FroCo (frozen hot chocolate, of course) and grilled panini. Save room for a sweet dessert. Coffees include caramel macchiato and Vietnamese coffee and tea lattes include Arctic and Bombay fogs. Check out the Facebook page as there is often live music going on here, such as a Lakeland Songwriters Night. 

Jennie’s Diner & Bakery, Bonnyville, Alberta

@Jennie’s Diner & Bakery

Why Go? Retro vibe with your milkshake 

Jukebox central. Give the kids a lark and show them how to work a jukebox, the way we used to listen to music. Jennie’s Diner & Bakery is nostalgia central, with retro red chairs and black and white tiles from the 1950s. Besides all-day breakfast, there are burgers and fries with gluten-free options. And nothing goes better with burgers and fries than a traditional milkshake—vanilla please—or a cherry coke. If you have room after that, cupcakes, pies, and other treats close the deal. 

Emma’s Convenience Store, Cold Lake, Alberta

Why Go? Dessert eye candy and real candy 

Need a six-pack to go? We’re talking six packs of gorgeous and gorgeously sweet double chocolate cupcakes. It sounds like a convenience store, yes, but Emma’s Convenience Store is a trove of delicious food and desserts you can pick up from the to go cooler. Stunning birthday cakes, the nuttiest of sticky buns, as well as unusual candy and treats—very convenient if you want a sugar buzz or need a cake that awes. But, that cooler also comes stocked with ready-to-heat meals such as meatloaf, chicken enchiladas, and chicken parmesan, as well as ready-to-eat Caesar salads and wraps. 

Twisted Fork, St. Paul, Alberta

Why Go? Chef creations with local products 

Red Seal chef Debra Poulin and her team at The Twisted Fork know how to take product from local farmers and make it shine in-house with everything from Cowboy Pulled Pork to Beef Ravioli. Besides seasonal, regular, and kids’ menus, Poulin comes up with a daily chef’s creation with even more local incredibleness. This family-friendly restaurant on St. Paul’s Main Street is filled with local art, too, and artisan condiments that make great gifts. 

Fat Unicorn Brewing Company, Lac La Biche, Alberta

@Fat Unicorn Brewing Company

Why Go? Pair your fare with local brews 

Lac La Biche’s Fat Unicorn Brewery Tap & Grill brews six branded beers and a couple of seasonals with great flavour and a clean crisp finish, using only natural ingredients with no added sugars or flavouring chemicals. And, yes, there’s food. Good food.  The grill is in a big, warm space filled with dark wooden chairs and tables anchored around a polished antique car that takes the stage. An expansive menu is divvied into beers (natch!), ribs and mains, burgers and sandwiches, casual favourites, and salads. You must try the smoked bacon bites and breaded pickle chips. Beers include blonde lagers, session IPAs, and wheat ales. 

CJ’s Café, Myrnam, Alberta 

@CJ’s Café

Why Go? Blast from the past and loaded perogies 

You can also pick up a six-pack here – a six-pack of cinnamon buns, that is, made fresh daily here. Driving through Myrnam is like driving through a movie set from the 1930s. Classic old gas station or what used to be. Quiet streets. Prices from the 30s too – where else can you get a meal for $9.95? Stop in for a truly rural vibe. Besides homemade sandwiches, burgers, and more, you’ll find some of the best Ukrainian cooking in the land here. Here, you can dine on platters of perogies and sausage with all, and we mean, all the fixings – sour cream, fried onions, bacon bits, and cole slaw.

Black Cat’s Cauldron Tea & Herb House, Vilna, Alberta

@Black Cat’s Cauldron Tea & Herb House

Why Go? Know Your Future 

Stop in the historic town of Vilna at this eclectic heritage shop built in 1935 for another dose of rural vibe. Enjoy a perfect brew of organic tea or coffee, browse books, peruse herbs, crystals, and other metaphysical supplies and choose between a three, six, and nine-card tarot or oracle card reading. Soup, scones, and buns are fresh. 

While in this tiny village, stop in for a game of pool in the Vilna Pool Hall, almost 100 years old. 

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