Winnipeg, Manitoba

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The Esplanade Riel near the historic Forks Market Winnipeg, capital of the province of Manitoba, is a city in central Canada. Often referred to in the past as the Chicago of the north, Winnipeg is a place of extreme climate. While during the winter it is often one of the coldest large cities in the world, summers can bring scorching temperatures at the other end of the dial. Winnipeggers show a healthy disdain for those in warmer climates when they arrive shivering or sweating in the city.

Home to a diverse population of immigrants since its earliest days, the city boasts one of the highest restaurant to population ratios in the world. Many of these are small ethnic eateries that can absolutely knock your socks off with cheap fantastic food. In early years these immigrants were mostly ukranian and german, but that flow has slowly changed over the years with many asian (Indian, Vietnamese/Thai, Hong Kong Chinese) and more recently African newcomers arriving. The city also has the largest French Canadian population in western Canada and one area of the city (Saint-Boniface) is full of restaurants that reflect both classic French as well as French Canadian cuisine.

As a result of this abundance of great local cuisine, many large food chains have either abandoned or never expanded their initial forays into the city. Fast food being the exception.


Contributors residing here:

General

  • 7 1/4:
    • Located just north of Jubilee on Osborne (near Montichio and Lux Solé). Fairly small, reserve ahead, especially if you want to sit at the counter to watch them cook.
    • Seasonal Menu Changes, fairly wide variety and always seems to contain some game.
    • Of Note:
      • Considered by many to have the best mussels in the city, served as a giant bowl with a variety of sauce pairing choices. (Among friends who enjoy mussels it's about a 70/30 split between them and Fude)
      • Generally has a wonderful selection of cheeses with a pick 3,5 or 7 (if memory serves) cheese plate that is excellently paired with one of the great wines as an appetizer or pre/post show nibble.


Australian

  • Billabong:
    • Heavily seafood menu, shrimp dishes in particular are fantastic.
    • Great food is supplemented by a fantastic wine list. If you like australian wine (like yours truly) you'll be in heaven.
    • Very tiny pub/restaurant in Osborne village, reservations recommended for dinner.

Burgers and Fries

  • George's
    • Winnipeg's version of Original famous rays etc... these are a series of (generally) Greek owned burger and sub joints. Grease is the main ingredient here, but there are also a few greek delicacies on the menu.
  • Kelekis
    • A Winnipeg institution since the early 1900's this tiny eatery is justifiably famous for their shoestring fries as well as the photos of the many celebs that eat there on Winnipeg trips.
  • Mrs. Mike's
    • Summertime only snackbar style eatery that serves old fashioned dripping hamburgers, crisp fries and great shakes
  • Ham & Eggs Grill
    • Only open from 10am - 3pm, M-F, this place has the best burgers in the city. Approved by the fire department as good eats. Fries are ok, coleslaw is good, and the burgers are amazing. Of note is the Terminator burger, with 5 quarter pound patties, 5 slices of cheese, and 5 slices of bacon. Located on Princess near Logan.

Carribean

  • Carribean Spice
    • Located on Sargeant between Maryland and Stafford across from Safeway.
    • Small, easy to miss eatery with great curry and jerk and excellent Roti.
    • In the past they've had live music once a month or so, I'm not sure if that's still the case.
  • Deen's
    • St. Boniface (Marion near Des Meurons)
    • Small restaurant but a MASSIVE patio in the summer months with live music on occasion.
    • Tasty Carribean flavours. Seems to have changed hands a few times in recent years and has a tendency to go in cycles of quality. At the moment things are good and except for odd service at times (not bad, just... odd) I've enjoyed my last few visits.
    • Of Note: Doubles (chickpea curry patties) and Roti


Chinese

  • The New Hong Kong Snackhouse
    • A tiny almost invisible little place open only for lunch, the NHKS is packed every day of the week with hungry office workers. Cheap, shareable dishes make up for the complete lack of atmosphere. (My coworker and I share a large lunch here every two weeks, usually under 15 dollars for both of us) They also recently received a federal grant for development of their chinese/ukranian fusion food "the peking perogi".
  • North Garden
    • Excellent northern chinese cuisine. Has gone slightly downhill during their recent expansion, much like its nearby neighbour the Oceana. Dishes of note, Crispy Ginger Beef, Shanghai Fat Noodle in Satay Sauce.
  • Oceana
    • Once a fantastic hole in the wall mall eatery this restaurant has expanded into a massive pastel green cave. Along with their mounting space came mounting prices and a minor decline in the quality of food. However, Oceana Chicken (I prefer the boneless and skinless version) is well worth the trip, and is well worth it if you're only taking out one dish.


Dim Sum

  • Kum Koon Garden
    • Located downtown in Winnipeg's small chinatown area, Kum Koon Garden is quite possibly the largest eatery in the city with several massive dividable rooms and a very popular Dim Sum service. Served from large carts by Waitresses only about 50% likely to speak ANY english, you often have to gamble on what you're getting. Fortunately almost everything is tasty. Unless you go absolutely crazy on the dishes lunch for 3-6 will run you about 8-12 bucks per person. Personal favorites include the pan fried pork dumplings, spring rolls (either the chinese or the vietnamese style) and the elusive coconut shrimp ball. For those who enjoy it, their Sticky Rice is judged to be fantastic by several friends of mine.


Desserts/Bakeries

  • Baked Expectations
    • Located in trendy osborne village, B-E has been around forever, offering ubersweet confections in a diner/ice cream shoppe atmosphere. They make delicious tortes, cheese cakes and other ways to increase your waistline within walking distance of some of the city's trendier restaurants and pubs. Always pricey, their prices are now in the stratosphere and most people go in to share a slice of something.
  • Leo's Gelati
    • Located at the foot of the newly completed Esplanade Riel (Bridge) and at the historic gateway to the french quarter of the city, Leo's opened not long ago without much fanfare. Crowds have steadily increased and it's no surprise. Their Gelati (Gelato) is freshly made almost constantly using fresh fruit and other ingredients and even their smallest serving will give you two scoops of any mix and match flavour you like. For the lactose intolerant out there, 90% of their product is dairy free and they are quick to let you know which to avoid. Specialty coffees and sandwiches are also served, but that's not what you should be going for.


European

  • Restaurant Dubrovnik: Pricey Pricey but fantastic food in an old house on the river, one should eat there at least once. (Middle European cuisine)
  • Bobbie's:
    • Something a little different. Eastern european food (primarily romanian/balkan) heavy use of garlic in most dishes. Chicken Dracule (garlic and white wine creamy sauce) and little sausage appetizers that I forget the name of are personal favorites.
  • Chez Sophie (formerly Aladin's pizza)
    • Located at the corner of De la Cathedrale and Langevin in St. Boniface
    • Tiny hole in the wall former pizza place, now a tiny french bistro since being taken over by a couple from france. Literally has 6 tables (more in the summer when the patio is open) so reserve if you plan to go. Service is not always speedy but always smiling and Anglo-friendly.
    • Of note: Quiches and French Style pizza with white sauce and local artisan cheeses.


Greek

  • Homer's
    • Tasty greek cuisine, fairly pricey compared to some. Of particular note are the Avgolemono (egg-lemon soup) and Lemon roasted potatoes. Their Patio is open in the summer and offers a great way to get some sun and some good food, hardly scenic though.


Indian

  • Charisma
    • Primarily Vegetarian cuisine, this little place doesn't look like much on the outside, but if you like vegetarian samosas they offer good cheap greasy indian delights.
  • King's Head Pub
    • Anglo/Indian food is on the menu here with a good selection of Brit beers on tap. Fries with Curry sauce and a Scotch egg is a personal favorite, especially during the city's fringe festival
  • Ivory
    • Great neo-indian cuisine with a fantastic buffet. Very pricey however and one of the few indian restaurants that will charge you for nan bread (though it is made specially for each customer)


Italian/Pizza

  • The Old Spaghetti Factory
    • A minor canadian chain, nonetheless a good family restaurant. Cheap generous portions and their new location at the forks overlooking the historic site makes for a pleasant dining experience. Offers free birthday dishes. One endearing aspect of this restaurant is the likelihood of being hit by bread (servers throw free rolls to hungry customers). Dishes of note: Spaghetti with Browned Butter, Mizithra Cheese (Salty and delicious, but not for everyone. If you're a fan of feta, go for this), and Spaghetti Pie.
  • Pasquale's
    • Located at the edge of the french quarter on Marion
    • A friend once described this restaurant as Olive Garden with flavour. I certainly wouldn't lower it to Olive Garden's level, but it does have a similiar mix of pasta and meat dishes.
    • A few people I know swear by the pizza but I have yet to sample it.
  • Casa Grande
    • Located on Wall near the Sargent Park Arena
    • Excellent thick doughy pizza and old italian grandma style pastas.
    • Of Note: Pizza with spinach, spicy sausage and feta.
  • Diana's Gourmet Pizzaria (TAKEOUT ONLY)
    • Recently moved to a new location way south on St. Anne's near the new Extra Foods
    • A bewildering array of options in crust, sauce, cheese blend and toppings.
    • Very tasty, but over-priced

Mexican and Central/South American

Winnipeg's culinary achilles heel.

  • Carlos and Murphy's
    • Tex-Mex bar/restaurant in Upper Osborne Village
    • While not horrible, C&M's is by no means good either with barely a trace of authentic mexican flavours. It is however one of the few places in town you can go for a mexican spice level (though you'll generally have to ask for it)
    • Of note: The curiously not entirely horrible Ham and Pineapple Nachos and a decent selection of imported beer past the usual Corona/Sol tandem.
  • La Fiesta
    • Cuisine from El Salvador
    • Locations downtown (on Ellice?) and a new location in the same south St. Anne's Road strip mall as Diana's pizza.
    • Strange hours and VERY slow service. Do not be in a hurry and call ahead for a reservation and to confirm hours. The south end location is also very small.
    • While a few mexican items make their way onto the menu the general feeling is Salvadorean. Most dishes are not at all spicy focusing more on the flavour combinations (hot sauce is provided on the table.) The Pupusa's and Burritos are very good. Tamales at the table next door also looked good.
    • Portions are very healthy for the entrees (the "large" nachos we ordered as an appetizer last time not so much)
    • Of Note: More or less everything, but the fresh blended fruit juices (flavours change with the seasons and availability) are perfect accompaniment for almost any meal here. Mexican/South American beers are also available.


Thai/Laotian

  • Thida's Thai
    • Located in a former "Salisbury House", this restaurant is rather easy to miss. Good thai curry and excellent stuffed chicken wings and dumplings make it worth the trip.
    • Word of warning to the occidental types, if you want spicy, make sure you insist on it, 8 for a caucasian is very different than an 8 for an asian person depending on your waitress. If you're a mee krab fan, you might want to ask for lots of sauce, they often make it very dry. Avoid the matsuman, they chronically undercook the potato.
    • Dishes of Note: Pad Phet, Stuffed Chicken Wings
  • Vientiane (Lao-Thai)
    • Marion near Des Meurons (Across from Deen's )
    • Another Strip-mall style restaurant, I have yet to have anything off their menu that wasn't fantastic. Spicy succulent dishes or the more subtle flavours all come through perfectly. They recently received a glowing recommendation from the local paper's food nazi and have become far busier as a result. Hopefully this causes them to hire more staff, because even before the upturn in business the only knock against them was chronically slow service.
    • Dishes of Note: Everything!
  • Magic Thailand
    • Located on Logan near Arlington, tiny restaurant in a former bungalow or storefront, it's hard to tell. Great well spiced food at cheap cheap prices. Dishes of Note: Stuffed Chicken Wings, Crab Rangoon, Pad Thai, Mee Krab
  • Lao Thai
    • Formerly located on Selkirk, this eatery has now moved to St. Anne's about halfway between fermor and the St.Mary's/St. Anne's intersection. A slightly different taste than some thai restaurants and a few dishes you won't see some places. Excellent Crab Rangoon on my visit though the Mee Krab was far too salty.

Vietnamese

  • Vietnam
    • Incongrous decor is a feature of this restaurant located in a former Dunkin' Donuts location. The original owner's wife worked at Boeing in some capacity and for the longest time most of the decor was stock photos of fighter jets. Some of this remains and the cooler by the door is still covered in Pratt and Whitney stickers. The food itself is great, flavours come through with a lot of intensity. It was sold to a new owner several years ago and prices have increased as a result.

Dishes of Note: Cheap flavour packed spring rolls bursting with pork (My favorites in town), Fried Shrimp (Massive plate for $8.95) and Chicken with Lemon Grass and Hot Pepper

  • Viva
    • Just down the street from the aforementioned Vietnam, Viva is a much classier looking place, with slightly higher prices to match. The food is tasty, moderate portions of dishes with powerful flavour combined with great service make this place a popular place for dinner for two. Dishes of Note: Chicken or Beef with lemon grass and hot pepper, Beef Satay soup and a lovely noodle soup with a crispy shrimp crepe whose name I can never remember.

Vegetarian

Eateries that pride themselves on being totally or at least mostly vegetarian focused go here. While many Indian places could fit as well they should stay in Indian.

  • The Underground Cafe
    • Located in the Exchange in (GASP!) an underground location.
    • Open breakfast through late afternoon (7-3:30 I believe)
    • Meat is served but the menu is very veggie focused including their famous sunburger, pita pizzas and other tasty snacks.