Winnipeg might just be Canada’s best-kept food secret.
The Manitoba city, with a population just hovering around 700,000, has been making leaps and bounds in their restaurant scene over the past few years, and it’s time everyone else learned about it.
“Especially in the last five years, I’ve just noticed a jump in people really trying to put new food on the scene and trying new restaurant concepts too,” says Robin Summerfield, a journalist and writer behind Peg City Grub, a Tourism Winnipeg-sponsored food blog.
“Everybody just counts us out,” Summerfield tells the Huffington Post Canada. “But this is a great place to start a business. You can afford to live here and you can afford to take a chance and maybe explore the dream that you have.” She points to the many coffee houses that have opened up in various neighbourhoods, creating hubs that offer a real sense of community.
Food trucks are also very hot right now, including Pimp My Rice, a Filipino food truck that helps represents the massive population from that country in the city.
And though Winnipeg may best be known as the Slurpee capital of Canada, the real local food is pickerel.
“It’s a gentle, lovely fish,” explains Summerfield. “You can do anything with it. It’s a clean slate, an empty canvas.”
Check out these 23 best restaurants Winnipeg has to offer, and add your picks in the comments below.
Where: 484 Stradbrook Ave.
Type of food: Modern Spanish
Menu highlight: Fried Brussel sprouts, Feta mousse, baba ganoush and pomegranate dressing
Where: 1433 Corydon Ave.
Type of food: Wood-fired creations, including pizza, paella and fish
Menu highlight: Paella with chicken, chorizo, clams, prawns, mussels, sea scallops, green onions, tomatoes and peas baked with saffron rice
Where: 696 Osborne Street
Type of food: Comfort food elevated to gourmet levels. “His quality is really there,” says journalist and food blogger Robin Summerfield.
Menu highlight: Lobster-stuffed, serrano-wrapped half young chicken with Brussels, pancetta, truffles and pan jus
Where: 588 Broadway Ave.
Type of food: Sushi and Japanese dishes
Menu highlight: Tongarashi calamari — grilled whole Japanese squid marinated with ginger soy and Asian pineapple salsa
Where: 414 Academy Rd. and 312 Rue Des Meurons Street
Type of food: Continental cuisine with a focus on French preparations
Menu highlight: Arctic char stuffed with a lobster gruyère, potato mousseline over a lemon verbena sauce
Where: 171 Dumoulin St.
Type of food: Caribbean-style fusion dishes
Menu highlight: Bacchanal shrimp served with a choice of guava coconut glaze, curry, honey jerk, or roasted pepper rum sauce
Where: 532 Waterloo St.
Type of food: Local, Canadian food — though as they put it, “not exclusively, truffles and octopus are too good to pass up and don’t grow here”
Menu highlight: Stinging nettle ravioli with braised rabbit and ricotta salata
Where: 529 Wellington Cr.
Type of food: Steakhouse
Menu highlight: 22-oz. peppered ribsteak with cognac peppercorn cream sauce
Where: 170 Main St.
Type of food: Burgers
Menu highlight: V.J.’s special burger with cheese, mustard, chili sauce, onions, pickles, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato
Where: 141 Bannatyne Ave. and 79 Sherbrook St.
Type of food: Vegan burgers
Menu highlight: Grilled Buddha patty with chickpeas, brown rice, curry, onion, fresh ginger, garlic, fresh cilantro, and lemon juice
Where: 85 Princess St.
Type of food: Small innovative plates, the chef is also behind many of the exciting food events in Winnipeg (pop-up river meals, food festivals, etc.)
Menu highlight: #humblepie with bison and bone marrow
Where: 513-B St. Mary’s Rd.
Type of food: Argentinian
Menu highlight: Breaded beef topped with tomato sauce, ham, mozzarella cheese, roasted red bell peppers and fried eggs
Where: 725 Osborne St.
Type of food: Comfort food with a beer-loving, gourmet twist
Menu highlight: Chicken livers with Fort Garry dark ale, bacon and caramelized onions
Where: 2 Lombard Pl. (in the Fairmont)
Type of food: Upscale, classic hotel food with local elements
Menu highlight: Veal cheek boubourguignon with truffle pommes puree, Harbourside bacon lardons, “mini” king oyster mushrooms, braised cipollini onions, natural jus
Type of food: Home-cooked food “if your mom had a serious spice rack,” explains Summerfield
Menu highlight: Thai yellow curry made with fresh pineapple, grapes and red pepper in a sweet yellow curry and coconut sauce, served over basmati rice with Stella’s peach chutney
Where: 257 King St.
Type of food: Dim sum
Menu highlight: Shrimp dumplings
Where: 179 Bannatyne Ave.
Type of food: South American with a local slant
Menu highlight: House-breaded Manitoba pickerel topped with tartar and served with house chips
Where: 1390 Erin St.
Type of food: Latin American prix fixe menu
Menu highlight: Corn flour crusted frog legs, fried crispy and placed on a warm bed of Colombian hogao sauce
Where: 550 Academy Rd.
Type of food: Fresh, local, organic dishes — with an all-Canadian wine list
Menu highlight: Panko-crusted pickerel cheeks with local fennel bulb and orange salad, creme fraiche and Northern Pike caviar
Where: 404 Academy Rd.
Type of food: Italian
Menu highlight: The Lucia, with caramelized onions, fig jam, calabrese salami, cambozola, citrus tossed arugula and pecorino
Where: Three locations
Type of food: East Indian
Menu highlight: Tandoor salmon tikka with bite-sized pieces of salmon marinated in special spices
Where: 349 York Ave. and 210 Somerset St. W.
Type of food: East Indian
Menu highlight: The 40 to 50-item lunchtime buffet
Where: 100-283 Bannatyne
Type of food: Healthy, local food
Menu highlight: Persillade-crusted Mahi Mahi with Nantes carrot stew, asparagus coins and tips with parsley water