Winnipeg’s West End is booming with beautiful murals, locally owned unique retailers and diverse restaurants. Indigenous-owned and using locally sourced ingredients, Bistro on Notre Dame (BoND) is one of the standout local eateries. If it isn't on your radar already — it should be.
After more than 20 years in the hotel and restaurant industry, owner, chef and Manitoba Métis Federation member Dean Herkert, originally from Thompson, Manitoba, opened Bistro on Notre Dame at the beginning of the pandemic in the former home to Notre Dame Burger.
We had the opportunity to chat with chef Dean about the importance of sustainability, sourcing local ingredients, an upcoming trip to London, UK, with Indigenous youth and the importance of creating a sense of identity in the food he serves.
Herkert describes BoND as “a cozy, Red River Métis restaurant offering a fusion of elevated comfort foods.” He wanted to focus on sustainability and being a responsible member of the West End neighbourhood. As a result, he found high-quality ingredients that could be grown here, and sourced locally and infused with different flavours from around the world.
In dishes like Chilaquiles Verde, the bison melt, and the Seoul reuben, you’ll notice bison where you’d expect beef. The bison is supplied by Iron Head Bison, an Indigenous Métis family-owned business by husband-and-wife team, Jason and Erin Boily. They were both raised in small Métis communities and wanted to carry on the legacy of their Métis ancestors. Iron Head Bison Ranch is located 20 minutes east of Winnipeg off Highway #1 near Richer, Manitoba.
Glancing around the restaurant, you’ll immediately notice a common aesthetic — reclaimed barnwood. BoND sources wood from Prairie Barnwood, a wood shop based in Morden, Manitoba, which handcrafts each piece using reclaimed, new or rustic milled solid wood. Their menus are sourced from Wilder Winnipeg who are located right here in Winnipeg’s Exchange District.
One of the common themes woven through food and conversation when learning Dean's story is identity. He talks both about Métis culture and how that identity had been suppressed, as well as about Canadian identity, discussing what 'eating local' really means in modern days.
Eating at BoND is a comforting and fulfilling culinary experience. From dishes like the Moqueca with three types of freshwater fish, wild rice and Iron Head bison chorizo to the Fesenjan, whose star is the Montreal smoked duck breast with chickpea purée, you'll leave feeling nourished, content and connected.
A guest once described his experience at BoND as: “sitting here is like sitting at the edge of the Prairies – you know you’re in Manitoba, you know you’re ’in the Gateway to the West.” Dean reflects, “To establish a sense of home and identity – that's probably the big thing. People walk out of here knowing my identity, knowing what I’m about and being happy about how comfortable they can be in here.”
While reflecting further on identity, Dean acknowledges that identity is the very reason he ended up at the International Indigenous Tourism Conference in Winnipeg. From this conference, the Further Education Society of Alberta (FESA) reached out to him to join their award-winning Cooks with Stones (CWS) program.
Dean described Cooks with Stones as “a program which allows Indigenous youth to get back in touch with traditional methods of cooking. They literally cook meat underground, heat up some stones, put the meat in the ground, bury it and let it cook. As far as I’m concerned this is the origin of low slow cooking. When people from Texas talk about pit BBQ, this is what they're talking about. This is pit BBQ.”
This year, Cooks with Stones were invited by Ralph Goodale, Canada's high commissioner to the United Kingdom, to showcase the program at the Canada Day celebration in London. There was an educational piece highlighting Indigenous Peoples of Canada’s past, present and future. This included a celebration of the Cooks with Stones program delivered in the form of a food truck serving a menu curated by Indigenous youth and chef Dean Herkert. Read more about Dean’s experience in the kitchen with Cooks with Stones.
Another way to enjoy Bistro on Notre Dame while learning more about the fantastically diverse and colourful West End neighbourhood is to join the West End BIZ’s Around the World in a Few Blocks Restaurant Tours.
Bistro on Notre Dame is located at 784 Notre Dame Ave. Follow them on Instagram.