Down at the bottom of the Old Town hill, just inside the Arnica Inn, Dorothy and Joselito De Leon are quietly building a fan base that extends beyond the Filipino community. “Dennis Bevington was here,” Dorothy says. “A few of the MLAs were here. And the fire chief is always here. He loves our Epic Burger.”
Here’s a hot tip: if you haven’t tried it yet, you should eat there too. But though the Epic does offer mainstream Canadian diner fare, like burgers and Eggs Benedict and chicken fingers, it’s highly recommended that you begin your culinary journey on the Filipino side of the menu. Maybe start off with a weekend breakfast of Si-Log, as we did on our first visit. The Epic offers several versions of this rice, egg and meat dish; an EDGEYK.com favourite is the To-Si-Log, which stars cured slices of brightly -hued, sweet/savoury pork shoulder. If you’re feeling low on protein, combo it up and toss in some tapa (beef slices) and some longanisa (pork sausages) and it’ll cure whatever ails you.
Dorothy De Leon serves up home-style Filipino food to an ever-expanding fan base | Photo by Angela Gzowski
Then come back for lunch or dinner and investigate the rest of the dishes on offer. “It’s traditional, very, very traditional Filipino food,” Dorothy tells me, and it’s all prepared fresh. “We cook the dishes a la carte. They’re not sitting in a warmer or anything. As you order, we cook them.” There are the classics, like Adobo (chicken and pork in a vinegar and soy sauce), and Lumpia (Filipino spring rolls), and slightly more advanced dishes, such as (another EDGEYK.com favourite), Crispy Pork Belly Binagoongan, which comes with a powerful shrimp paste and perfectly cooked aubergines. Dorothy is also an accomplished cake-maker, with a display case full of ganache and taro root cakes, and flan leche (a creme caramel custard).
Both Dorothy and Joselito cook, and serve, and host, and charm, working the tiny room like a Filipino version of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. On one visit, Dorothy was multitasking, serving up packages of takeout to Filipino regulars, reluctantly posing for a photograph (“I would have gone to a salon!” she cries in dismay, but graciously agrees to be photographed anyway) and engaged in a culinary discussion with two inquisitive tourists from Vancouver up to see the Northern Lights. They’re informed Asian food enthusiasts, and they’re a bit surprised to be eating so well in a Yellowknife hotel cafe.