What's the best place for...
Part one of our year-end guide to eating the best things in Winnipeg
While end-of-year lists are all the rage, we’ve decided to switch it up this year and present a comprehensive, categorical Winnipeg dining guide instead.
The idea behind is the result of a ridiculous amount of email and verbal requests, where people are asking, “What’s the best place for ______________?”
So on that note, our gift to you this holiday season has been to assemble what we (and by we I mean me and our Tourism Winnipeg crew) consider to be the best when you are feeling like something special.
Below is part one, with parts two & three coming next week.
What’s the best place for…
Making friends at the next table
Close Company (256 Stafford Street) - An angry robot is the only sort of creature that would not fall in love with this place. Holding just 10 people (more in summer on the little patio), it’s the perfect spot to start up a conversation with those next to you (or in fact the entire room), while everyone drinks really great craft cocktails and small plates. The best compliment I can pay to this place is it is exactly the kind of restaurant we wish we owned – it just has that hard-to-define feeling while everything is expertly executed.
Truly gorgeous food
Anywhere Scott Bagshaw is cooking, which means Enoteca (1670 Corydon Avenue) and Máquè (909 Dorchester Avenue). Simply put, Bagshaw is easily one of the best chefs in Canada, and the dishes at his two restaurants are so pretty that you’ll want to Instagram them (before realizing that taking pics of your food really isn’t that cool – but seriously, look at that lede image, it’s enough to bring a tear to one’s eye). But above that, it’s the flavour of his dishes, almost always striking that balance between sour, sweet, acidity and umami, while providing plenty of texture. I’m also of the opinion he makes the best vegetable dishes in the city and could easily do an all-vegetarian restaurant that would be a gift to Winnipeg’s herbivores.
No, this is not the gorgeous food photo, this is the VJ's Special. It does not care what you make of its appearance, it will simply win you over with flavour while most likely staining your jacket with chili sauce and mayonnaise (PCG)
A sloppy burger (and crispy fries!)
I can now confidently say, after trying all the fat-boy style burgers from Winnipeg burger shacks in the past two years that V.J.’s Drive-In (170 Main Street) is, in the words Shania Twain, “Still the One.” Heck, it is even better than many of the fancier, ground-to-order restaurant burgers out there that are twice the price. I was just there two days ago, and hammering down a VJ’s Special in a cold car while it was -20 outside was seriously still one of the best meals I’ve had in Winnipeg all year. The chili is the most flavourful, the patty always has a perfect crust while remaining juicy, and that ungodly amount of mayo that holds in the shredded lettuce, tomato slices and pickle is so wrong it’s right. Plus, when they dump the fries in the box our heart squeals with joy.
The most unique setting (aka, best place to trip someone out who does not know what they are getting themselves into)
Dwarf no Cachette (157 Provencher Boulevard) – This place works on so many levels. If you’ve been to Tokyo, you’ll instantly get it, and it will become that place that takes you from Winnipeg back to Shibuya’s Harajuku neighbourhood. The handmade menus are works of art, the food is really quite good – particularly the Osaka style okonomiyaki – and easily the most authentic Japanese food (in the yōshoku style) in the city. And, we haven't even mentioned maid café nights!
A really good hot chocolate
This category is made special (and chosen) by our director of business development (Economic Development Winnipeg), Virginie De Visscher. Virginie is from Belgium, is therefore a hot chocolate connoisseur, and has lived and worked in Africa for over 20 years, so her opinion goes without question. Anyway, her pick is hot chocolate at Forth (171 McDermot Avenue), “because it is not too sweet and you can actually taste the chocolate!” Fair enough Virginie.
Surprisingly a tough call, as Winnipeg does have some pretty great sushi restaurants considering we live in the landlocked prairies. But, we are sticking with our guns on Yujiro (1822 Grant Avenue) for this one.
You can get all of this for $5 at BMC Market (PCG)
Crazy cheap eats/authentic Mexican
Hands down, BMC Market – Taqueria (722 Osborne). Three tacos for $5! We tell you, sometimes it seems like Betty and Rigoberto are giving it away, especially when you consider that Betty makes every tortilla by hand. As every family in the Riverview neighbourhood will tell you, you can feed four people here for around 25 bucks, while they also have Mexican beer and hot sauce for sale too.
A date (both the fruit, and the form of courtship)
Well, it only makes sense to go to one of the best – if not the best – restaurant in Winnipeg for this one, and that would be Segovia (484 Stradbrook Avenue). Yes, you can’t make resos, but if you have to wait then you can start that date by going for a drink (#icebreaker) at a nearby bar in the Village while waiting of your table to be called. When you do sit down (preferably on the lounge side), you are in for a gastronomic treat. Segovia’s tapas dishes are ideal date food because a) sharing is romantic b) you can instantly know how the date is going to go by what your date wants to order (ex. “You mean you don’t want lamb sweetbreads? I’m sorry but this just might not work”). Plus, the service is always so great – knowledgeable yet casual – while gin and tonics with lime sorbet is how every date should start, while feeding one another stuffed dates with mascarpone, pistachios, and maple syrup ($2 per piece) is a pretty good way to end.
An edible Winnipeg souvenir
Constance Popp (180 Provencher Boulevard) – There are food souvenirs, then there are giant chocolate sculptures of Winnipeg icons like the Golden Boy and Canadian Museum for Human Rights, all made from meticulously sourced fair trade coco beans that have been transformed into edible art of the grandest scale.
Now that is how you cook a piece of fish. Pan seared salmon at Capital Grill (Cody Chomiak)
A perfectly cooked piece of fish
Capital Grill (3116 Roblin Boulevard) I suppose it is to be expected after years of running two excellent west coast restaurants (Crave in Vancouver, and Fraiche in West Van) that chef Wayne Martin would have cooking fish down to a science. But, that being said, there is still nothing better than when that halibut or salmon arrives, and it has that ideal crust from a hard sear on the presentation side, before that ever-so-gentle flip to bring the centre just up to medium. It should also be mentioned that if there was a best service category, Capital Grill would be right up there too. What a great addition to Charleswood, and Winnipeg as a whole.
Shawarma (aka place to worship at the altar of garlic sauce)
Well, there are three standout places really – Baraka (1783 Main Street), Shawarma Khan (225 McDermot Avenue) and Best Pizza and Donair (1469 Pembina Highway) – that you can read about in our “Wrap up of Winnipeg’s best shawarma.”
… And come back for two more servings next week when we pick our top spots for vegetarian, dim sum, pizza, potatoes, sandwiches, a negroni, salad, French fare, fresh pasta, pho, cake, Thai curries, Ladies Night, and so much more!