A Sneak Peek of El Cortez, Edmonton

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red brick wall with piranha like painting figure
Today I popped in to see the newest establishment – opening August 15th, we hope! –  that has everyone abuzz in the food community in Edmonton, El Cortez Tequila Bar & Kitchen. While they aren’t cooking yet, I dropped by for a chat and to see the space, which is just off Whyte Ave, south of the Farmer’s Market on Gateway Blvd.

One would assume that I am a pain in the rear ( I am) and just dropped in to visit Chef Alex Sneazwell because I’m a total snoop (I didn’t) however the invite has been on my plate (actually in my Twitter inbox) to pop in and see what’s he’s up to for a few weeks now.

Chef Alex Sneazwell  has been a staple in the Edmonton food community for a long while and has participated in my Culinary Arts Cook Off the last two years as well, winning THREE awards in two years from us at the cook off. Yes, the math seems off, but it’s true.

I was already excited to see what is going to be on the menu at El Cortez, simply because Alex is a damn fine cook. Then today when I stopped in, there was a cute little blonde surprise waiting for me!

Don’t let those sunshiney good looks fool you; if you mess with her kitchen, Chef Keshia Blake will cut you with her knife. This one.  She also might just cut me for calling her cute. Never call a woman with knives cute.

Just kidding. However, Keshia is one damn talented chef as well, having worked with some of the most amazing culinary talent in Edmonton and I was so excited to see her join the team at El Cortez!

To sum up, I seriously cannot WAIT to see what this duo cooks up!

man in stripe polo shirt and lady in plain white shirt both standing in kitchen for photo

The moment Alex told me of El Cortez a while back, I was hooked.

Latin food.

tequila bar.

Sold. You had me at tequila. In truth, this was a niche that hasn’t been filled yet in Edmonton, not to this extent. Not even close.

I was literally gobsmacked when I walked into the restaurant.

I felt like I had walked onto a movie set, no word of a lie.

This feeling was later completely validated as I found out that Alex’a partner is award-winning video director Micheal Maxxias, who has worked with clients such as City and Color, Alexisonfire and Billy Talent.

wall art inside El Cortez

Each step that took me further into the new restaurant had me pausing to see what art I could check out, what graffiti was on the wall. Artists have come up from the States to work on the wall art, such as the one shown in my first picture. One artist wanted to be a part of the El Cortez restaurant badly enough that he sent his art to be installed on the wall since he couldn’t make it up to Canada to do so.

The entire artistic scope of El Cortez was designed and executed by local talent Karen Jones. From the gorgeous fish artwork at the beginning to the walls.. the floor… the bathrooms, all of this was her well executed vision.  She’s a talent that has worked on many music videos, from Billy Talent to Alexisonfire and her amazing creativity shone though on this project.

I wanted to take a million pictures of the upstairs, but you only get one peek. For more, check out El Cortez on their Facebook Page.

A winding Latin inspired stone staircase takes you down into the basement and you are transported to yet another movie set.

an altar like corner inside El Cortez

I am in love with the basement.

I want to sit down here and drink tequila, listen to live music and take in the atmosphere.

Downstairs will be a drinks and small snacks available area, whether it’s all you are looking for or if you are waiting for a table upstairs. Brilliant. If you build it, they will come, and sit, relax, drink and not be stressed out that you can’t get a table, unlike a lot of places in Edmonton.

Again, this picture.

Movie. Set.

the basement with a large mirror between two lampshades

We also took a peek at the amazing Women’s washroom. Over the top, crazy gorgeous -and that’s just me in the mirror. The room’s not bad either.

Women's washroom inside El Cortez with large mirror and vintage photo frames of different sizes

For now, I am going to have to wait with everyone else, chomping at the bit to taste test the menu! Alex did give me a sneak peek at the menu and it looks amazing, with a decent price point as well.

You’ll have to stay tuned for the 411 on the food, because you know I’ll be eating there as soon as I can! Once this place is up and running, I’ll be giving you guys the low down!

I think a girls night out is in order! I can’t WAIT to eat here, I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to try somewhere out!

Love you more than tequila, (most days)



**While I do get paid for some posts, this isn’t one of them. I wrote it because I’m snoopy and you all are snoops too 😉 **

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Karlynn Johnston

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  1. CENNtwrk says

    Cultural Incompetence is not acceptable Michael Maxxis:

    El Cortez Tequila Bar and Kitchen, Michael Maxis, 

    Please Do the right things and remove the last of the images of the gangs and the sculptors of Mary from your bar/internet. Mary has no place in your bar; it’s disrespectful to our Latino culture and to our faith. We’ve been asking you since July 16 to do the right thing.

    Respect that Latinos in Edmonton want to make sure our culture is not promoted in a negative way especially by non-Latinos. It would be in poor taste if one of us decided to to reverse the role and it was your culture that we were disrespecting.

    Be culturally competent and do the right thing.

    We will continue to post and continue to give you bad reviews all over the internet as a protest to your lack of Cultural Competence. We are sure your chef is awesome, and the fact that you want your establishment to be the ‘best’ tequila bar selling not just the best but certified tequila, means that you have set a certain standard for yourself so it does not make sense to us why you would use the Mexican Cartel, SUR13, MARAs [Salvatrucha/18], Latino gangs to promote your bar [because you watched the movie Domino & lived in LA for a time], why you would use a song from Cypress Hill in Spanish with such vulgar words that if the words were sung in English, do you not think your customers, especially your female customers would say nothing about your choice of music? I am sure it would cause some to choke on their churros had the song been playing in the background as dinner music. I think women now a day have more respect for themselves and that given your choice of music, i think they would speak out but it’s a Spanish song and they would never have understood the words and you count on that to sell your version of what it means to be Latino.

    Your ethical and moral meter is off and that is really sad because we asked you nicely in the beginning and you chose to drag it out. So we ask you again, please remove the last of the remaining images, and the sculptors of Mary from your bar/internet. They have no place in your bar and not represented in this way in Edmonton..

    No one in Canada would open a restaurant selling good food and use the Hells Angels to promote itself, so what made you think that we would allow you to use the MARAs and misuse Mary as a prop?

    You are disrespectful Michael Maxxis and culturally insensitive.

    Do the right thing.

    Thank you Michael Maxxis

  2. Sharon Thomas says

    Top of your list to check out in Victoria is this place Hanks On Douglas..untraditional bbq! Everything on the menu is delicious and I’m not just saying that because my daughter works there! lol

  3. The Kitchen Magpie says

    I’m thinking of coming to the Island this fall! You’ll have to let me know where to eat! However Edmonton is a gem food wise, I travel a lot and we have some seriously amazing talent. We’re just quiet about it compared to oh, Calgary. LOL!

  4. Sharon Thomas says

    You know, if Edmonton didn’t have winter 10 months of the year…I might make the move there just for the food. But then again over here in Paradise known as Vancouver Island, we have an awful lot of foodtabulous eateries 🙂

  5. The Kitchen Magpie says

    It’s gorgeous! I can’t wait to try the food! And the tequila! Mmm! A great girls night out place.

  6. Charlynn Cox says

    Looks amazing! It will be on my to-dine list next time I visit yeg!!

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