Assiniboine Park is worth a visit simply for the food, let alone the world-class attractions.
At every major attraction you’re sure to get at least a tasty snack, while Gather Craft Kitchen & Bar within The Leaf is one of Winnipeg’s best new restaurants.
We know you are going to be visiting the city’s largest park this holiday season, here’s how to eat well when you are there.
Premier dining in our newest world-class attraction
Gather Craft Kitchen & Bar – From the dining room you can see into the Tropical Biome, where the occasional ingredient (coffee, ginger, pineapple, and cocoa) makes its way onto the menu, which is a trip around the world using primarily prairie ingredients. Gather has become a favourite for locals since it opened just over a year ago, with reservations continuing to be a must at this destination restaurant.
Chef Mike DeGroot has so many veg-forward and light share plates to start. Carrots with buttermilk dressing and grilled kale are a must, as is the local smoked Arctic char on a new potato salad with sauerkraut aioli and chips. You can go decadent too, as the winter pork belly has both chili sweet potato aioli and brown butter hollandaise, along with a sous vide egg and fried potato rösti. For more saucy and braised options, there’s a dish that sounds like winter – short rib with root beer demi on a celeriac puree with vanilla –– along with a poutine featuring duck confit and peppercorn duck gravy.
If there's a grinch in your party who doesn’t like to share, no worries, the large plates will all make their heart grow two sizes (in a pleasant metaphorical way, like in the book). The Gather cheeseburger is one of the best in Winnipeg, featuring Bothwell truffle cheese, bacon jam, crispy and melted onions, confit garlic aioli and pickled zucchini for acidity and crunch. From top to bottom, that's how you build it! Then there’s braised lamb shank with potato puree, a ribeye with sauce chasseur, and seared scallops on risotto with roasted mushrooms –– all perfect on a winter's night. The main vegetarian dish, a coconut korma curry with sweet potato and charred cauliflower might be the most flavourful of the lot, while the seitan tacos — plated so you can build your own — also works as a plant-based main. Even carnivores who love tacos al pastor will love this vegan interpretation.
Get cocktails to start. The bar program is frequently coming up with fun seasonal drinks, which also occasionally source from the Tropical Biome, along with herbs from the Mediterranean Biome (here’s looking at you, thyme-infused honey). They even use chickpea juice as an egg white substitute for cocktails, so they are extra frothy for the holiday season and vegan.
Also, order dessert, which again may feature ingredients grown in the attached biomes. Right now there’s an Earl Grey tea cheesecake ice cream sundae with big chunks of graham crumble all hiding under a large honey tuile. Check it out in the headline image then make your reservations now at gatherattheleaf.ca/#reserve
The Leaf is also home to a nice little coffee bar, aptly named The Leaf Coffee Bar, which opens right when biomes do at 8 a.m. It serves locally made pastries, coffee drinks, and large slices of cake, sandwiches and salads from the Gather kitchen.
The Leaf is open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Gather Kraft Kitchen & Bar is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Both are closed on December 25.
Brunch in a frosty forest
The Park Café has been a big brunch draw forever it seems, and it only gets better year after year. It’s always been in the running for crispiest-yet-fluffiest home fries in Canada (give us a plate with some ketchup and mayo and we’d honestly be set), along with having a solid selection of eggs Benedict. For a mainly brunch establishment, the kitchen’s adherence to local products –– including many ingredients that are grown at The Leaf’s Kitchen Garden – is commendable, and you can taste the difference in dishes like the roasted vegetable "tartini," served with two poached eggs, sourdough, and those home fries for under $15!
You’d be hard-pressed to find this many vegetarian and vegan breakfast dishes, and your kids are never going to pass on the new monkey mischief French toast, which has caramelized bananas, whip cream, and Skor dust on three slices of sourdough. It’s a new dish, along with a deluxe breakfast sandwich with bacon and rosemary garlic aioli, and three brisket options – in a quesadilla, as a sandwich, and as a poutine topping.
The Park Café caters to families and is a hot spot for seniors, so you can also expect a kids’ menu with numerous options, quality desserts, a big selection of tea, and free coffee refills with its free-trade coffee. Seriously, who still does refills? Bless their hearts.
When it comes time to skate the Riley Family Duck Pond, located right outside the café (you’ll see skaters from certain window seats), you can also grab chicken fingers, several types of poutine, and a host of hot beverages from the attached Park Treats window.
The Park Café is located in the Qualico Centre, and is open daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed on Christmas).
Burgers with a side of polar bears
The zoo too offers way more than the bare necessities when it comes to snacking while watching its signature bears. The massive Journey to Churchill enclosure, home to all the polar bears, backs up against the Tundra Grill, which provides 9-foot floor-to-ceiling views into the grounds. It makes for a great setting to eat burgers, fancy hotdogs, and pizza by the slice, while adults may also be keen to note, it –– and indeed the whole zoo –– is licensed, so you can grab a local beer or glass of wine while watching the polar bears play.
Throughout the zoo you will also find numerous snack shacks where you can get house-made ice cream sandwiches, hot pretzels, hot dogs, mini doughnuts, and more.
Right now during Zoo Lights, all these spots will be open at night too, offering expanded menus to keep you warm.