Zula Kitchen and Wine Bar: The “Secret Stash” of Stony Plain Road!

One of the first impressions upon entering Zula Kitchen and Wine Bar is the warmth exuded from the natural wood surfaces and patterns that criss-cross the space. This natural and warm theme is replicated again with hanging lights in woven baskets, while a cascade of greenery tumbles from the ceiling from the pothos plants that border nearly every wall.

With a rough slang translation in Turkish meaning "secret stash", Zula is a fusion-celebration of Mediterranean cuisine and the culinary expertise owner Yuksel Gultekins acquired while working on cruise ships in an area that included Spain, Italy, Russia, Cyprus, and more. His first restraunt, Sofra Turkish Restaurant & Wine Cellar located downtown, has been open for almost two decades. After 40 years of experience in the restaurant business, Yuksel values creating dishes that reflect the traditional flavours he has encountered and researched over time, introducing others to them in innovative new ways that are both familiar and exotic. 


Stony Plain Road Beckoned

Even before opening Sofra , Yuksel was aware of the potential along Stony Plain Road, noting the disposable income of individuals in the Glenora neighbourhood. “60% of my Sofra clientele live here [Stony Plain Road],” he says, “what might have happened if I opened up here instead?”.

The area also proved attractive during COVID-19 as Yuksel opened Zula. Downtown had experienced a degradation due to an increase of houseless individuals, open drug use, and a perspective of lack of safety. Surviving the pandemic was “easy”, according to Gultekin, with delicious food being the primary mechanism that ensured orders kept coming in. He avoids using delivery apps at Zula, stating that the 30% margin such food delivery services cost is nullifies his profits.  He shares a humorous perspective within the chaos during the pandemic, where app drivers began to appear at Zula’s doors with orders destined for the United States, having never signed up for the service in the first place.

Adapting to LRT Construction

Despite success throughout the pandemic, urban construction has proven to be the true thorn in Zula’s side today. With the Valley Line West LRT’s Glenora stop being built directly next to the West Block Glenora development, a mural fence erected to hide the construction site and help shield tenants against debris and dust has become a larger problem than solution. Unfortunately, the mural runs quite close to Zula’s outdoor patio, blocking any views while contributing to a sense of claustrophobia. ARPA, Zula’s companion butchery, is also closed due to this lack of visibility and corresponding foot traffic.

One solution attempt has been a 50% off happy hour promotion, but such a discount reduces profitability, and Yuksel has had to let go the majority of his afternoon staff despite this great offer. Still, he is hopeful for a change in the tide, as part of Zula’s charm is the physicality of their experience in its curated space, which adds to the considerable value already reflected in both the food and prices.

Yuksel recognizes that the City of Edmonton holds mechanisms to help local businesses navigate this path; emphasizing that some sort of taxation relief would be a valuable mechanism for numerous business owners. It is hard sell to expect a business to be successful when customers choose locations that do not feature pounding, scraping, and vibrations from a construction site next door. He is eager to see what might be presented in the near future, such as a relief formula posited by Councillor Andrew Knack that is due at Council in the summer.


The Future

Zula Kitchen and Wine Bar represents years of experience, quality, and unique healthy food. Yuksel bases his menu on demand, each dish a response to what he believes his customers would like or are asking directly for. Flavours are carefully balanced as not to overpower each other, or ruin a dish by overwhelming it within a single sauce or garnish - The art in cooking not seen in today's modern, pre-packaged food options and presentation.

With a highly-visible location (that is, once the mural wall is removed), Yuksel built Zula with optimism. However the back-to-back impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic inflation, and the West Valley Line LRT construction has muddled that path for a significant number of Stony Plain Road businesses.

Show local businesses like Zula some love - Consider booking your next staff meeting, celebration, or casual dining experience there!  Confirm and reserve a table in minutes using their OpenTable app on their website, zulakitchenandwinebar.com. And most importantly, come by for a taste of authentic Mediterranean cuisine and flavours, made fresh from scratch!

Zula Kitchen and Wine Bar
120-14055 West Block Dr NW
(780) 929-3112