In the latter bit of 2023 we started a neighbourhood series that we're picking up again to kick off 2024.
Winnipeg’s North End is proudly more gritty than glamorous, with an impressive culinary scene dotted with old school European joints, diners, brand new Indigenous-run spots and some of the best Filipino and Middle Eastern in the city.
Running up North Main, then cutting west across through areas like Inkster, McPhillips and Selkirk Ave, this guide also showcases a Food Network-winning bake shop, Japanese takeout and so much more on the north side of the tracks.
Heading up North Main
Anytime we are heading to Kildonan Park we stop at Baraka Pita Bakery (1783 Main St.) first. While you may feel sorry for anyone sitting beside you at Rainbow Stage, the garlic sauce here is so worth it, plus you can’t stop the hot sauce and the imported wild pickled cucumbers that make the cut-from-the-spit shawarmas at this Lebanese restaurant the full package. The pita pies and pockets are pretty great too, as you would expect at a place that bakes their own pitas in a crazy hot open flame gas-fired oven. Simply put, this is one of our favourite spots in the entire city.
A few doors down from Baraka, The French Bakery–Mithi Bread (1757 Main St.; formerly called A L’Epi de Blé) is a nice shop for pastries, cakes and breads. The new owners have seamlessly transitioned after purchasing the business from Nathalie and Gilles Gautier –– both classically trained bakers from Marseille, France––in April 2023. You can still find all the French classics here (the new owners were trained by the Gautiers), along with new items like cronuts and cakes that bring the flavours of India.
Before getting that far north, you’ll also pass a number of great spots like Super Boy’s (1480 Main St.) –– whose Fat Boys are perhaps the biggest in the city, feature a half pound of beef covered with all the classic Fat Boy toppings (chili, mayo, shredded lettuce, pickles, mustard and raw onion), along with classic diner, Newcastle Restaurant (1010 Main St.), which serves up all the staples, along with dishes you wouldn’t expect like chicken balls with fried rice and bannock burgers. For more bannock, check out the new Indigenous owned and operated restaurant Shelly’s Bistro (1364 Main St.), where you can get massive bannock pizzas that can feed a crowd.
If you are into sweets and all things kawaii, you also shouldn’t miss Tiny Bliss Café (1354 Main St.). This hidden gem is all about Asian fusion desserts and savoury snacks, with an impressive pastry counter featuring their signature canelé in a range of flavours from mango to black sesame to vanilla. Tiny Bliss’ best-selling items are Korean cream cheese buns, while kids won’t be able to get enough of the meringue cookies that are pipped and hand-painted to look like anime characters and cutesy animals.
If you are looking to pair some of the above pastries with coffee, be sure to check out Modern Coffee (191 Rd 64 N; just off Main, pretty much across the street from Super Boys), a cute little café that serves locally roasted Black Pearl Coffee, along with pastries and breads from both Tall Grass Prairie and Gunn’s Bakery (whom we highlight below).
Moving west from Main
For a classic greasy spoon, we always suggest Luda’s Deli (410 Aberdeen Ave). As you can read in Riley’s story from 2018, “you’ll find nothing fancy but everything tasty” here, all served up in a quaint 40-seat diner from one of Winnipeg’s smallest kitchens. Luda’s is owned and operated by Tracy Konopada and her daughter Kristi, and its plates of perogies with kubasa, the “Famous Rueben” and bowls of absolutely wonderful borscht keep regulars and chefs on their day off coming back time and time again. It’s a charming institution, and one that has been operating for over three decades.
Another North End institution is Gunn’s Bakery (247 Selkirk Ave), which has been serving kosher breads and baked goods since 1937. Today, it continues to supply some of the Winnipeg’s top restaurants (including Luda’s above) and markets under the stewardship of new(ish) owner Jon Hochman (who used to be the chef/co-owner of the much-missed Sherbrook Street Deli). At the bakery, you can still pick up countless varieties of bagels, breads, cakes, pastries and doughnuts, along with a number of soups too.
For more cakes and creations that you just may have seen on the Food Network, check out the Filipino bakery Sugar Blooms and Cakes (1020 McPhillips St A). The cake makers here––Marie Mallari (who co-owns it with her mom), Erika Rotor and Geraldine Ong––beat two US-based teams to win the Food Networks’ third season of The Big Bake: Holiday in 2022. At the shop you must try their signature ube macapuno cake, which won the show when created on a grand scale.
Just up the street from Sugar Blooms on McPhillips is where you’ll find Four Crowns Restaurant & Bar (1030 McPhillips), a popular joint from breakfast through late night. The extensive menu offers something for everyone, from a wide range of burgers to Filipino-style fried rice, deep fried pickles with ranch, and a whole gluten-free menu too. For more Fat Boy-style burgers, you can also check out the North Star Drive-In (531 McGregor St.), which has been keeping regulars coming back for decades, many of which say it has the best fries and Fat Boys in the city.
One newer concept that has found many fans in the area is Beshiestakoyumms (1437 Arlington St.), which comes courtesy of Filipino entrepreneur Atheena Martinez. At this tiny take-out only spot, Martinez serves bubble tea, taiyaki (stuffed, fish-shaped pastries), okonomiyaki, Korean tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes that here are covered in cheese) and her best-selling takoyaki, which she has perfected after multiple trips to Japan. For more Japanese and Korean cuisine, we also suggest Gangnam Sushi (290 Selkirk Ave.), a cheery, kitschy little sushi joint that is known for its large, affordable portions.
On this same block, you’ll also find the German Society of Winnipeg, which is home to Schnitzel Haus––another terrific bang for your buck spot that we should note is only open on Thursday evenings during the winter. The portions here are huge, with heaping plates of bratwurst, schnitzel and frikadellen (German meatballs) with all the fixings, all for just over $20 which could easily feed two. You’ll also love the Bavarian murals on the walls at this jovial space.
The Maples and Garden City
For some of the best Filipino cuisine in the city, head to The Maples and Garden City.
Jeepney (1833 Inkster), which started in the West End and moved to this spot on Inkster three years ago (which used to the home of Crème DeL'Essence, another great Filipino joint), has always been one of the city’s most consistent picks for modern Filipino cuisine. Here you can feast on super savoury dishes like chicken inasal, kare kare, and so much crispy lechon. You can now also find hot takeout and take-and-bake items from its Jeepney Corner at 675 Jefferson Avenue, while the Jeepney food truck is always crushing it from spring through fall on the streets.
Mar’s Sisig (1303 Jefferson Ave.) –– as the name would suggest –– specializes in that sizzling calamansi-kicked dish of cubed pork and chicken liver. This tiny spot located within Lucky Super Market does all the staples, particularly all manner of pork dishes, including binagoongan (pork stewed with tomatoes and fish paste), and even all-day breakfast.
For even more Filipino cuisine in the area, check out Jimel’s Café & Delights (1379 McPhillips St.); the bright and airy Lucitas Restaurant (Unit D2-3, 55 Waterford Green Commons); and Kalan Restaurant (1449 Arlington St.), particularly for breakfast.
If you are looking for massive pastas that won’t break the bank, check out Paradise Restaurant (662 Leila Ave.), which is the second location of the operation that had been a staple on Portage Avenue for more than 40 years. The majority of the pasta doughs are made in house here, from cavatelli to gnocchi, ravioli and manicotti, while there’s all the dishes you’d expect to find at a red sauce joint.
For a list of some of Winnipeg's best restaurants sorted by culinary category, check out our newly updated Best Eats guide.
And should you be looking for a 2023 year-in-review style piece, we made one for our Meetings Winnipeg blog.