My first Bianca sandwich experience from Crumb Queen/Andy’s Lunch involved me talking to the sandwich in the car.
I asked, “How can you be this good?” (with a swear or two for added effect after each bite), then I quickly called my wife to prep her on what terribly exciting culinary creations were headed her way.
During the drive home––after crushing my pancetta with ricotta, arugula and hot pepperoncini peppers on Bianca bread––I snagged two arugula leaves that had fallen onto the Crumb Queen pastry box. The bitter leaves were so well-seasoned I could've eaten a bag of them like they were kettle-cooked chips.
My wife’s reaction to her sandwich was the same (with even more colourful language). She even deviously suggested eating the kids’ honey crullers before they got home.
I began texting friends about the glory of this sandwich. The replies included, “Just wait until you try the mortadella!” and "Did you get a box of crullers and some sourdough?"
Given the hype surrounding this new shop in Osborne Village, I had high hopes. Chef couple Cloe Wiebe (she’s the Crumb Queen, who’s credentials include being a pastry chef at deer + almond and baking at several spots around the city) and Andrew Koropatnick (he’s Andy, and the former chef of The Roost and Oxbow Natural Wine Bar) opened it late September.
My expectations were surpassed, and then some.
“We're just trying to make some nice, simple food the right way: good ingredients with lots of care and thought,” said Koropatnick.
“To be honest, that bread Cloe makes is insane. Anyone can put anything inside of it, and it's yummy," continued Koropatnick, noting that "the quick toast we do out front in the small pizza oven is crucial to get that crisp texture everyone loves.”
The sandwich and that Bianca-style bread
Wiebe's sourdough Bianca bread is indeed insane, in the crazy good sort of way.
“Andy had some very specific parameters that he wanted for the bread,” Wiebe jokes.
“We just worked on it together––I would make a batch and he would tell me that he wanted thinner, crisper. I'm always fighting to get a little more whole wheat into every single thing I make, and he's like, ‘nope. Needs to be all white bread.’ We've adjusted it literally every single week since we've opened, and we're just always trying to make it perfect,” continued Wiebe.
The thin, crisp top quickly gives way to an airy interior that lets the ingredients speak for themselves. There was the silky saltiness of the thinly shaved pancetta, the bitterness of the liberally seasoned greens, a bit of acidity and heat from the peppers, all rounded out by the creamy ricotta.
As far as taste, texture and flavour go, it’s pretty much a perfect sandwich.
Compared to your more standard focaccia, this Crumb Queen Bianca bread is the perfect vessel, as it’s not weighed down with olive oil that can drown out the other flavours. It also won’t grease up the corners of your mouth (sorry for that image).
This bread, which Koropatnick likens to, “some sort of hybrid between Roman pizza Bianca and Tuscan schiacciata” is baked quickly, around 20 minutes, in a stone oven. This is unlike focaccia that is done in a pan. The process gives it that Neapolitan pizza-like texture, while Wiebe notes that it’s at least four times thinner than focaccia, and it doesn’t have the finger-pressed pools on top that hold all the olive oil.
Before opening up Crumb Queen/Andy’s Lunch the couple travelled extensively through northern and central Italy in Autumn 2022 (check out Andy’s food tour). This trip inspired much of the lunch side of the menu, with Koropatnick citing Rome’s Bonci Pizzerium and Forno Campo de Fiori as two of the spots you must visit when, ahem, in Rome.
Queuing for crullers
Crumb Queen/Andy’s Lunch is a counter service spot that runs as a bakery from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch, which features daily house-made pasta dishes and often new weekly versions of arancini and soups, starts at 11 a.m. There are a few tables available to sit at after you order.
Arrive early and you’ll have your choice of some of the best breads and pastries in the city, including cookies, fritters, Danish, croissants, and two types of crullers.
As many Winnipeggers will tell you––particularly those who lined up outside the shop before it opened during the first few weeks of operation––it’s these crullers that put the Crumb Queen brand on the map. They became a smash hit during the pandemic when Wiebe ran an online baking service. Orders would often sell out in minutes, as these choux pastry doughnuts are in a league all their own.
Now, you can tuck into a still-warm honey cruller accompanied by a cup of Little Sister Coffee at the shop and you’re sure to moan, or at the very least close your eyes to get the full sensory experience. The texture––just crispy enough on the outside, a touch chewy in the centre––is dreamy, while the overall flavour will ruin most other doughnuts for you.
“We knew it was going to be pretty crazy that first month we opened, as obviously everyone was very excited about Crumb Queen having a brick and mortar finally,” said Koropatnik.
“But we did not think it was going to be this busy,” Wiebe continued.
On numerous occasions, lines would form down the block before the doors would open for the first few weeks, and they knew December would remain steady given the holiday season. They had expected business to slow down a bit this month, but that hasn’t really been the case.
“Everyday we open up, there’s often a line of people waiting,” said Koropatnik. “Thursday and Fridays are definitely slower than the weekend, so if you're not interested in waiting in a line, then come Thursday or Friday at 11 or noon.”
That said, there should always be lots to choose from, as the counter is often restocked at 1, 2 and even up to 3 p.m. before closing, while Andy’s Lunch pumps out the pasta right until close.
What else you should order and more details
While the crullers often grab top billing, Wiebe and Koropatnik would also like to point you to the laminated pastries like the Danish and croissants. Right now, there is a maple ‘nduja scroll that is sweet and salty that they say is super fun, but Wiebe’s true passion is the daily selection of sourdoughs.
“I am personally trying to push the bread,” said Wiebe. “I want everyone to eat lots of sourdough every day, all the time, just like I do. So that's my main obsession.”
Wiebe uses local organic flour and grains primarily from Deruyck’s Top of the Hill Farm in Treherne, MB, for all the naturally leavened breads. The couple did a site visit to the mill before opening and were so impressed with the quality of the grains and flour, particularly how fresh the milling process is compared to conventional flours that may have been milled a year before hitting the shelves. They also use Prairie Mills flour from Elie, MB, along with everyone’s favourite local eggs from Nature’s Farm (whom we mention all the time on this website).
These top-notch local products are also found in Andy’s house made pastas, including local veg from Fireweed Food Hub. At around $18 a plate or bowl for fresh pasta dishes, it’s a steal given you could put one of these dishes at a fancier Italian joint at $25+ and no one would bat an eyelid.
And don’t just take my word for it. Look at their Instagram account or the Google reviews and you’ll see a stream of comments indicating that “this is the best _____ [insert: sandwich, cruller, grilled cheese, croissant, arancini, etc] I’ve ever had.”
“We're both very passionate about what we do. So I'd say every single time we make something, even if it's something we've been making over and over and over, we're both trying to make it better and better and better every time,” said Wiebe.
They also sell a few kinds of conservas and other retail items they are proud of like natural vinegars. Plus, there are some house-made spreads and sauces in the small refrigerator, and occasionally lasagna too (the noodles are of course made in-house) fit for a few people.
It’s licensed too, serving Next Friend cider, a couple local beers, Labatt Blue (Andy’s favourite) and Lab Light to accompany your pasta. Given the liquor license, the couple also plan to perhaps start hosting pizza or pasta nights on weekends, so keep on the lookout for those on Instagram.
Go taste the hype for yourself and do it this year. At the moment, they are only locked into a one-year lease in this location.
Crumb Queen/Andy’s Lunch is located in Osborne Village at 166 Osborne, which some locals will note was a former home of Stella’s. It is open Thursday to Sunday 10 a.m. (lunch starts at 11) to 3 p.m. Here’s the website.