Inaugural Chinatown Dining Tour encourages people to 'eat through the neighbourhood'
The week-long event was created after a historical tour of the area saw huge success
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For the first time, five Chinatown restaurants are joining forces to invite Edmontonians to try out the tastes the neighbourhood has to offer.
It’s part of the inaugural Chinatown Dining Week, taking place from Jan. 20 until Jan. 28.
Usually restaurateurs put on these types of events, but this one is different in that it's organized by four locals who simply love the area and want to get more people to check it out.
Sharon Yeo is one of them.
“None of us are restaurant owners or operators. I’ve been going to the (Chinatown) neighbourhood since I was a kid. I have the stores that I visit, the bakeries that I visit and restaurants that I eat at, but I know not everybody has that,” she said.
So Yeo and a group of volunteers, including Freya Fu, Sunny Bong and Sandra Karabani, decided to change that.
Based on the model of Edmonton Dining Week, which has been running in the city for more than a decade, they’re planning the event to offer customers two-course dinners for $15 at five local restaurants.
The participating eateries are Asian Express Hot Pot, Cua Hua Gui Lin Noodle House, King Noodle House Pho Hoang, Taipan Cafe Restaurant, and Viphalay Laos and Thai Restaurant.
Yeo hopes the nine-day event will motivate people to go to a neighbourhood that she feels is underappreciated.
“There a lot of positive things to be found but the reputation of Chinatown sometimes, for some people, it may be intimidating. Or people are just unfamiliar," she said.
Ratan Lawrence, the Executive Director of the Chinatown and Area Business Association, acknowledged that a concentration of social services for low-income and homeless people in and around Chinatown has affected the neighbourhood’s image.
“It’s not the Chinatown itself … What we have in Chinatown gives it a bit of a reputation," Lawrence said.
But Lawrence isn’t daunted. Instead, she wants more people to discover Chinatown and all that it offers.
“This is something we can’t avoid … so we have to keep working to make people comfortable to come to Chinatown," she said.
And Chinatown Dining Week is one more step towards that goal.
It’s the latest initiative taken on by Yeo and her fellow volunteers. This past summer, they piloted a series of free walking tours in the area.
The tours covered the history of the neighbourhood, complete with visits inside cultural institutions and shops. The response was positive, with more than 40 participants on each tour.
Yeo and her collaborators knew they were onto something and felt a dining week was the next logical step.
“It’s an extension and a way to continue the momentum that we started in the summer,” said Yeo. “We thought why don’t we do something inside that encourages people to come to Chinatown and eat through the neighbourhood?”
Yeo hopes this won’t be a flash in the pan.
If Chinatown Dining Week is a success, the plan is to expand it in coming years to include more establishments and ultimately “give other people those reasons to stop, those reasons to take in what I think is a really great neighbourhood, almost like a hidden gem.”