Because of its proximity to the University of Manitoba, where many international students have come for education and subsequently made The Peg their home, you'll now find delicious dishes from Asia have taken over this area that runs from Fort Garry to the end of Fort Richmond.
I always like to say Winnipeg has two Chinatowns: one in Downtown Winnipeg and one in South Pembina, as this lengthy strip boasts so many options when it comes to Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine. On top of this, you'll also find several Winnipeg institutions that keep the classics alive in this thriving and growing neighbourhood.
From generational Italian family recipes to Taiwanese hand-pulled noodle soups to Hong Kong party feasts and local beer paired with Persian food, there's no shortage of selection from the worldly culinary community of South Pembina.
It's Winnipeg's passport to extremely delicious flavour and diversity. Get your chopstick skills ready!
Dim Sum Heaven
As a dim sum tour host, I absolutely love South Pembina's dumpling scene.
Historically, Chinatown was the OG location for dim sum in Winnipeg. During the late '90s and early 2000s, there was a decline in foot traffic in that area, along with a huge boom of Chinese immigration into Fort Richmond, just south of the university.
North Garden Restaurant (33 University Cres) has been a South Pembina institution for many years. Originally known as the go-to Chinese delivery spot for U of M students cramming for exams, it's evolved into one of the best dim sum restaurants in Winnipeg. The difference here is the quality and huge portions, like the juicy jumbo sui mai (pork and shrimp dumplings) and hai gow (shrimp dumplings), are all made in-house. You also have to order the steamed rice rolls with Chinese doughnuts – the peanut sauce dip is to die for.
Just a couple of blocks away is Glory Dim Sum (1855 Pembina Hwy), which provides a popular dim sum cart system. The cart pulls up with hot dishes – you see it, you like it, and it's instantly on your table. Glory Dim Sum offers a couple of Mainland Chinese dishes you won't see at other dim sum spots, like the popular xiao long bao soup dumplings and black salted custard buns. Dim sum is all about exploring different varieties!
A Winnipeg Italian institution
Nestled in the Pembina Village Shopping Centre off Chancellor Drive, Nicolino's (4-2077 Pembina Highway) has been a Winnipeg institution for over 30 years. My friend Nick Zif and his family own and operate the restaurant where the recipes have been passed down generations from the family's hometown of Muro Lacano, Italy.
It specializes in family-style Italian dining, perfect for special milestones and occasions involving a bigger table. We recently celebrated my friend Adriane's 40th birthday here and boy, did we have a feast. We started with Nicolino's famous calamari and wild boar Pecorino Romano cheese crostini, followed up with a plethora of pasta dishes (recipes all from Nick's family, and you'll note that the menu indicates every pasta that is rolled in-house, which is the majority of them) that included rigatoni and cavatelli. We followed this with pizzas and the yellowfin tuna insalate that comes on a warm cannellini bean salad with pistachios. Their bar makes amazing cocktails, too, which makes Nicolino's the spot for Winnipeg Blue Bombers post-game celebrations. Nicolino's can host huge private parties and have half-priced wine on Tuesdays. It's always a guaranteed hit!
The Best Asian food from Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo
Just a couple of units over from Nicolino's, we have Hong Kong-style Chinese food at Sun Fortune Restaurant (Unit 15 - 2077 Pembina Hwy). Here, you can find house-made BBQ duck and pork with a wide variety of seafood. My family loves Sun Fortune for their authenticity, and we always order deluxe egg foo young, fish filet tofu hot pot, crispy chicken, and Cantonese chow mein (get the lobster chow mein when it's in on special). Sun Fortune can easily host a large family party of 10, guaranteed to activate your taste buds!
Up a block on Pembina at the Markham Professional Centre is Golden Loong Restaurant (2237 Pembina Hwy) with traditional Mainland Chinese dishes. Hand-pulled noodles have become popular across the city in the last decade, but they've been doing them at Golden Loong for many years before that. The best-braised beef noodle soup is at Golden Loong, and I love my hand-pulled noodles thick! They're the best because of the massive chunks of tender braised beef and the silky-smooth broth. It always hits the spot.
If you're looking for great ramen, check out Cho Ichi Ramen (1151 Pembina Hwy). Owned and operated by my friend Cho Venevongsa of the famous Wasabi Group, this hip and colourful space features an open kitchen equipped with chefs rolling out fresh ramen noodles to order. Can't-miss dishes here are the Okonomiyaki fries, chicken karaage, takoyaki, Cho Ichi bao buns, and, of course, the Cho Ichi Original Ramen. They always have specials – on my last visit, I was able to get lobster ramen and Korean BBQ short ribs ramen, so make sure you follow them on Instagram!
Good neighbours (or a fun pairing for football)
While I can't get as many picks in here as I'd like (take one look at South Pembina on Google Maps and you'll see the eateries don't stop), I must point out the unique scene at Stone Angel Brewing Co. (1875 Pembina Hwy, unit 9) and Tehran Market and Café (unit 8). Stone Angel serves upwards of 15 beers and ciders in the taproom and is the best spot to watch Liverpool FC play (along with other EPL, Champions League, and rugby games), as one of the owners – Irish Paul – is a huge supporter (you'll find so many members of Liverpool Supporters Winnipeg to cheer on the Reds/yell at another poor VAR decision with you). Beside it, at Tehran Café, you can get amazing dishes –including grilled lamb chops and other Persian barbecue dishes and platters – that you can also bring into Stone Angel's tap room. In fact, Stone Angel has Tehran's menus in the taproom, and the café will deliver your order right to you. If Tehran isn't open, or on big game days – particularly during Bomber home games – Stone Angel also will play host to food trucks to bring even more flavours to the brewery.