Winnipeg’s most acclaimed dining rooms are open for business - or will be very soon.
With the number of COVID-19 cases now so incredibly low in Manitoba, Winnipeg’s dining scene has started again with rooms at 50 per cent capacity.
Patios have already been operating for nearly a month (here's our website listing all the patios that are open), while several of these places below are still also offering takeout for all you gourmands that would still rather enjoy restaurant quality dining at your own dining room table (oh, who are we kidding, more likely on your lap as you sit on your porch, at at picnic, or in front of the TV).
Here are the Winnipeg rooms that have received national recognition or awards - be it enRoute Canada's best new restaurant lists, rave Globe and Mail reviews, Canada's 100 best lists, etc) which are a sure bet when it comes to having an outstanding experience on your first trip back to a dining room.
All three of chef Scott Bagshaw’s restaurants began service this week. Both Enoteca and Máquè made the Air Canada enRoute magazine short and long list for Canada’s best new restaurant when they opened, along with garnering rave reviews in the Free Press. His newest room, Passero at The Forks (including its lunch takeout counter, Corto), received five stars from the Free Press too and made the enRoute long list (2018, along with Oxbow, mentioned below). We’d rank it as one of Winnipeg’s best namely Italian-focused eateries (another top one pick is the more rustic Harth, also more on that below).
At Enoteca, the menu now features some of the chef’s old favourites, several of which are reincarnations of his first acclaimed restaurant Deseo (which he closed in 2016). These include an updated version of that killer crunch salad (lettuces, pistachio, edamame, jicama, bee pollen, avocado, lime vinny) and the mac n’ cheese – with a lick-your-plate good mornay sauce that features smoked paprika and manchego (get the crispy chorizo topping, which adds that extra bit of spice, texture and saltiness). Another can’t miss is the fried buttermilk chicken. The chicken has a crisp exterior and is plenty moist within. It comes with two sauces – a black garlic ranch that is sweet, salty, and all kinds of umami, and a crème fraiche with chive oil for an extra enveloping creamy element. All together on one fork, this is just off the charts and is one of the best fried chickens out there. You should also order the beef tartare, as all of Bagshaw’s versions are knockouts, plus the hamachi toast is a great choice for a lighter number.
Enoteca’s dining room is now open Tuesday to Saturday at 5 p.m., for reservations call 204.487.1529.
At Máquè (Wednesday to Saturday, 4 p.m.; also doing takeout), you can now dine on the socially distanced patio. When you do, you must get one of the city’s most summery salads, the cucumber, mint, kale, watercress jicama and pistachio one with Thai dressing because it is lovely. The pork belly steam buns are a must too, being as luscious as Jackson (both the band and ball player), while the crab-fried rice with crispy sausage, Old Bay, nori and toasted grains is like walking your taste buds through a field of sweet and briny flavour. For resos call 204.284.3385.
Passero opened for takeout on June 3, with the dining room to set to open soon. Here, it’s all about the pasta, with a classic being that ricotta gnocchi with black garlic (also an ode to a former Deseo dish). We’ll always be coming back for that simple tomato salad with Calabrian chili dressing, fresh mozza, citrus segments and basil (it just tastes like summer). The menu also indicates that the chicken parm sandwich will return (it’s marvellous), while they are offering a “Picnic at The Forks” deal where you can choose one vegetable dish, one pasta, and one dessert with two glasses of vino for $75, along with a second option of a sandwich, salad (or veg) with two Barnhammer beers for $50. You can get these then go outside to enjoy them on Winnipeg’s biggest patio looking out on the Assiniboine River.
Sitting pretty above the Corydon strip and on Canada’s 50 Best Bars list (#27) is The Roost, Winnipeg’s top cocktail spot (which also has some nice small plates too, including plenty of vegan options). Here, co-owner Elsa Taylor makes enchanting cocktails that even no-phones-at-the-table advocates want to Instagram – with their edible flowers, super cute handwritten note tags and herbaceous garnishes. It just reopened on June 1, with a new fresh coat of pink paint on the already charming patio. So, go sip in that sunshine.
Another drink-forward joint, this one being beer, Nonsuch Brewery, which also opened the patio and umbrella room on June 1. Nonsuch was listed as #2 of the ten best new restaurants on the prairies by The Globe and Mail (along with another Winnipeg spot, the super casual Magic Bird #10, where you can currently get takeout) due to both having excellent Belgian-style beer along with chef Tyrone Welchinski’s menu, featuring house-cured charcuterie, a super delicious burger cooked on a Big Green Egg, cod from Fogo Island and some really great vegetarian dishes too. For the time being, just snacks (like oysters) and charcuterie will be coming out of the kitchen, but we assure you that is still plenty exciting.
Patio is first-come, first-serve, while the umbrella room has seating at less than 50 per cent capacity for your comfort and physical distancing.
Pasta-forward joint, Harth Mozza and Wine Bar – which also has terrific meat and veg dishes that come out with a good char courtesy of their wood-fired oven – also just opened in June. You can now sit in a social-distance-approved setting that is super slick, courtesy of design team Fireside Design Build, while eating housemaid charcuterie before you dig into a bowl of pasta that is of course, made in house. Harth sous chef Renée Girard (check out her Insta account, it will make you hungry) was singled out by The Globe and Mail as one of “the country’s next top chefs.”
Harth’s dining room is open Tuesday-Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m. For resos call 204.255.0003.
Two of Winnipeg’s premier Japanese restaurants – Yujiro, along with its second restaurant Gaijin Izakaya both opened their dining rooms this week too (June 1 for Gaijin, Yujiro on the 3rd). Chef Ed Lam – a 2017 Western Living Foodie of the Year finalist – and the crew have spent most of this pandemic time serving plenty of takeout – along with feeding frontline workers – and now is the time to experience that gorgeous fish in house. You can also savour ramen at lunch (both locations) and those perfectly charred robatayaki dishes at Gaijin.
Reservations highly recommended for Yujiro (call 204.489.9254), while you can read about new protocols here.
Sous Sol, everyone's favourite highly rated namely French restaurant with some of the city's best cocktails all hidden in a basement is now open too! Owner/barman extraordinaire posted a fun vid of him getting the restaurant ready this past week so now you can go enjoy this mighty fine looking new menu that you can find on the world's best restaurant website.
Finally, WOW Hospitality’s 529 Wellington – Winnipeg’s best steakhouse – has now opened its dining room and garden patio too, along with the dining room at Peasant Cookery, where the French fare is top-notch.
Canada’s best brunch spot (yup, we said it, and our friend Dan Clapson at The Globe and Mail backs us up on this one) is also now set to return.
Clementine has just announced that it will re-open its doors on June 10 (at 50 per cent capacity of course), which means Winnipeggers are about to freak the frick out. (So please, remember to maintain your social distancing etiquette on the 10th because a line is guaranteed.) Chefs Chris Gama, Paul Eccles and co. are back, along with owners Carolina and Raya Konrad (Gama is also a co-owner) and ready again to provide a brunch experience that is simply heaven. Given that Caronlina and chef Adam Donnelly have now closed Segovia during this COVID-19 pandemic, which was Winnipeg’s most nationally acclaimed restaurant, Clementine is sure to be even more popular (if that’s possible) when it reopens. No word yet on what the menu will be, but our fingers are crossed for some of their gold-standard dishes. This list includes Winnipeg’s best burger (which is saying a lot, The Peg being a burger town) in whatever incarnation they choose, be it the pho-style or beef dip; that outrageous fried chicken toast with sauces that always balance sweet, spicy and silky (not to mention those pickles!); the Turkish eggs – with perfectly poached Nature’s Farm eggs and that dreamy, creamy hummus, and that ever-evolving panna cotta.
Stay tuned to their Insta to for more info.
Other highly rated Winnipeg rooms to watch for that will open soon include deer + almond (Canada’s 100 best restaurant list, 2017-2018, its sous chef Emily Butcher also recently took third at the Canadian Culinary Championships, while you chef/owner Mandel Hitzer is a judge on The Food Networks Wall of Chefs), Oxbow (enRoute long list 2018, no date set yet), and all the restaurants that fall under the Academy Hospitality umbrella (Pizzeria Gusto, Merchant Kitchen, most of Hargrave Street Market), which are headed up by two-time Canada's Kitchen Party Winnipeg champion Jesse Friesen.