Paddlewheel Restaurant: Nostalgia on the menu
Get your grilled cheese and roast turkey dinners inside The Paddlewheel restaurant, The Bay downtown's sixth floor cafeteria.
If you’re born and raised Winnipegger of a certain age, you probably have at least a few memories of The Paddlewheel Restaurant.
There is a whole generation of children who were dragged downtown to The Bay on shopping excursions with their moms and grandmothers. And the reward for your patience was a trip to the sixth floor. Just left of the elevators, another world awaited.
It felt like a world of Mississippi river cruising, southern cotillions and a simpler time where women carried parasols and curtsied and nattily dressed men were never without their chapeaus.
The star of the show -a faux paddlewheel and wheelhouse- remains a big draw for camera wielding diners at The Paddlewheel restaurant.
Oh ya, and you got to eat french fries too.
Honestly, there’s a lot of fantasy built into a trip to The Paddlewheel Restaurant.
Today, the clientele is a mixed bag of moms with young kids and senior citizens including that cohort of elderly ladies who still dress in their best and have their hair coiffed for shopping day at The Bay. Inside a vast dining room surrounded by faux historical homesteads and an enormous wall mural depicting a lush, meandering river, cafeteria ladies push an enormous cart around the room, clearing trays and wiping tables for the next visitor.
The actual paddlewheel is still in place at the back of the dining room near the service area. It still creaks and groans with every turn.
A visit to The Bay’s Paddlewheel Restaurant is purely about nostalgia. There will be no culinary epiphanies here.
You grab a tray, head to the right and into an enormous food service area. Hot and cold counters and up-right coolers are stocked with ready-to-serve meals. The kitchen serves soups of the day and customers can custom-build their own salad with spinach, romaine and iceberg lettuce. Toppings include shredded carrots, broccoli, sliced tomatoes, croutons, purple jello, beets and potato salad, among other classic salad bar items.
Sidle up to the hot and cold food counters to load your tray with classic cafeteria fare including roast beef and mashed potatoes, burgers and fries and soup of the day.
A hot table is loaded with roasts of the day and a dozen sides. On our visit roast beef and turkey breast were carved to order. Cabbage rolls, battered, deep-fried fish and meatballs were dolled out one woman manning the station. At the a la carte grill, hamburgers, chicken fingers, grilled cheese and reuben sandwiches, among other classics, are served with french fries and coleslaw.
It’s food-tray food.
And that’s about it. Just remember your camera for a family picture beside the paddlewheel.