2020: At least the food was good.
That’s our motto for this year where things were not ideal for anyone–particularly the local restaurant biz. And yet, we discovered that so many of the city’s best restaurants and chefs were perfectly capable of perfecting takeout while going above and beyond feeding healthcare workers and those in need.
From noodles to pastries, to rice dishes, waffles, kimchi and tacos, these are some of the best things we ate (along with some other fun things too) in Winnipeg in 2020.
All the shawarma! Downtown Obby and the team have the plates on lockdown with that ultra-creamy garlic sauce and that beet apple salad to cut through the fattiness of the crispy meats; Baraka is the absolute legend on North Main – you simply cannot be heading out that way and not stop in for chicken shawarma with those Lebanese pickles and the two sauces combining to make your mouth sing; Les Saj, where the thin saj works wonders at keeping it altogether; and Yafa Café whose whole Middle Eastern menu (particularly the Msakhan) has us high-fiving (metaphorically of course) our dining companions.
Cookies are a hidden gem at Pennyloaf Bakery. Much like Hildegard’s, we are now convinced that Pennyloaf only produces masterpieces (see here for sourdough for starters). Their cookies… oh man, they celebrate butter-like Swedes celebrate the Midsummer.
That whole damn menu at Khao House. Living in Wolseley this past year, by far the two places we went most were Khaos and Tall Grass (more on that in Part 3), and in doing so we went through the whole Khao experience. My kid is obsessed with the eggplant kalapao, which he calls sunstones (no idea, he’s three) and guards like a large bird over its eggs. For us, it’s all about going splitzies on the banh mi with tocino pork and the gochujang and tobiko covered fried chicken sandwich with a side of nam khao salad.
The huitlacoche tacos with rajas and grilled queso fresco from Sargent Taco. Love the fact that they put fried cheese on so many of their tacos, while the salsas are so lively too, complementing the smoky corn smut.
Mushroom risotto from Pizzeria Gusto. The chewy mushrooms, the amount of wine in the stock that comes through in every bite, the roasted garlic and all that herbaceous-ness. Travels as takeout surprisingly well too.
Thanksgiving dinner from Capital Grill. Sure, not on the menu, and we thank chef Wayne so much for the huge favour for our socially distanced turkey and all the fixings dinner – but my word, one of the best plates of food all year. The stuffing and the dark meat roulade… the gravy… the pumpkin pie… all outstanding. Plus, shout-out to the popcorn shrimp (like when would you ever normally order popcorn shrimp?) which is always on the menu and so addictive with that perfect light batter.
Gamjatang from Kimbaek. Still our go-to for Korean takeout (although, that said, be on the lookout for the Baekho – Taste of Korea food truck should you see it), Kimbaek’s #5 – potato and pork neck bone in spicy broth is so flavourful – and only $9.99!
Everything from Black Market Provisions. But if we must choose only a few, that new maple coffee vegan ice cream is divine (if you put it on Hildegard’s butter tart you will be taken to a new dimension where you can only close your eyes and pray for it not to end), the Minestrone soup, the picnic salads – particularly the vegan chickpea, and the best-ever chia pudding. Also, great online ordering and pickup system.
The hefty gaucho burger from Simon’s Steaks. This sandwich single-handedly powered the staff of The Common through another busy summer slinging beers on the patio. A perfectly grilled steak tenderloin is topped with swiss cheese, fresh arugula, and a sunny side up egg. The chimichurri, mayo and horseradish give it added layers of flavour and spice.
The biryani from Sizzling Dhaba. There is a great debate across Winnipeg Reddit threads and Facebook posts about the best Indian food in the city. While we know of many incredible spots, Sizzling Dhaba's biryani (we usually go for shrimp) is the dish of our dreams with fragrant basmati rice and warm flavours of fresh spices and turmeric. The portion size makes for fantastic leftovers for a few days afterwards.
Neon Cone’s espresso flake ice cream. Really, any of Neon Cone’s dozens of artisanal ice cream flavours. The espresso flake is made with dark chocolate curls tossed into a creamy De Luca’s coffee base with no bitterness, just perfectly balanced sweetness. Owner Daniel Olivier also enjoys experimenting with cocktail-inspired pints, so we’ve scooped up delicious flavours like mulled wine and mojito, too!
The spicy, crispy tater tots from Kosmo’s Space Cowboy Cantina. We wrote about this funky, far-out ghost kitchen back in November and they've gotten even more popular since. Order with any of their housemade sauces for the familiar childhood flavours you crave. While you're at it, take a look through their IG captions and hashtags for a laugh.
Zinn Farms' breakfast sausage. Guaranteed to become the gold standard to which you compare all other breakfast sausages. These fat little stubby fingers pack so much flavour.