Good to go
Winnipeg has so many options for delicious to go food that it is admittedly difficult to pinpoint where to begin. So for this culinary trail we are going to make it easy on you navigators and work our way north-south, highlighting oh-so-good ethnic food, iconic burgers and some freshness that you’ll surely need for an excellent finish.
1783 Main Street
Chef Rami Aboumrad
Pita pocket goodness
Creating the pita.
A ways up on north Main Street is where you’ll find Baraka Pita Bakery, where the take out motto should be “go garlicky then go home.” The friendly Lebanese family who runs this place has their pita game on lock-down, transforming raw dough in their open flame natural gas oven into pita pockets that are simply superb. Their house made pitas are also put to equally good use in their beef donair and chicken shawarma, both of which are the most acclaimed in the city. The meats are cut right from the spit, the garlic sauce is out of control delicious, and the Persian pickles are the tangy in the best way possible.
Burgers aren’t just for carnivores in Winnipeg – in fact, one of our most celebrated establishments is Boon Burger Cafe, where vegans (and meat eaters alike) can be found devouring their bean-centric creations. What started as one small shop on Sherbrook Street has now sprouted (pun intended) into a second, swankier location in the Exchange (along with another Boon in Barrie, Ontario). Unlike other vegetarian burgers that are often dry and not very flavourful, Boon Burger does a bang-up job of making their patties incredible delicious and ideal for grabbing on the go.
170 Main Street
V.J.’s fatboy burger
Asking someone if they want to go for a “Fat Boy” in Winnipeg is totally legit. It means you are going to go have our iconic burger, a sloppy number where a thin, flat top cooked patty will be topped with a runny type of chilli (often spiked with a touch of cinnamon and no beans) shredded iceberg lettuce, mayo, a pickle and some raw onion.
You can get these burgers all over the city, and fiercely territorial Winnipeggers will insist that the version in their hood is the finest. Arguably – and there will be arguments when you ask locals what their fav is – the standout Fat Boy spots include White Top (North End), Dairy Whip (St. Boniface), Daly Burger (Corydon) and V.J.’s Drive Inn (Downtown).
Our focus for the sake of being linear is the Main Street shack called V.J.’s Drive Inn. I’m doing so because the V.J.’s Special Drive is not just special – it’s splendid. It’s the sort of sloppy, saucy, unpretentious old-school burger that you’d imagine Anthony Bourdain would make a point of hitting up (if he were to do a Winnipeg episode) before heading to the airport to film another episode.
The patty is crispy on the outside, juicy in the middle with the chilli mixing with what seems like an aggressive amount of mayo. The pickle adds the needed acidity, while the shredded lettuce gives you that extra crunch. Get it with their beautiful fries, which they will ceremoniously shovel into a paper bag before dumping them into your to go box. It’s a fun bit of theatrics that you can always look forward to at this cash-only establishment.
331 Pembina Highway
B.B.Q. Pork at Evergreen.
If it is Cantonese is what you are craving continue south via River-Osborne Stradbrook and onto Pembina Highway to Evergreen Restaurant – one of Winnipeg’s many hidden gems. Inside this converted house these Chinese B.B.Q specialist have been serving arguably the best B.B.Q. pork and duck in Winnipeg for over three decades. Other standout dishes include the lemon chicken, hot and sour soup, and deluxe wonton soup.
Saigon Jon’s noodle bowl.
Saigon Jon’s burger.
Finally, as I would imagine you are getting pretty full by now, we’ll continue south on Pembina until we’re right by the University of Manitoba and the takeout specialists at Saigon Jon’s Vietnamese Kitchen. This place is a real standout in that they grow many of their own herbs onsite and they use locally sourced, natural ingredients. You can taste the difference in their delicious noodle bowls, their solid bahn mi, and their super fresh salad rolls and spring rolls. Plus, the staff and owners are really friendly.