No matter where you look in Assiniboine Park this summer you’ll see something wondrous – from gorgeous gardens to swimming polar bears to expansive green space and eye-catching attractions.
You’ll also spy countless delicious things to eat, which is what this guide is all about.
Here’s what’s on the menu throughout the Park – from picturesque patio meals at The Leaf, brunch at the Park Café, and snacks and such all throughout the park.
Gather Craft Kitchen & Bar
For a dining room and patio that is second to none, along with a menu that literally draws ingredients from two of the most unique settings in the city, Gather Craft Kitchen & Bar is a must-visit.
Located within The Leaf building (there’s no entry fee for the restaurant), the popular restaurant sources many local and tropical ingredients from the outdoor Kitchen Garden and The Leaf’s Hartley and Heather Richardson Tropical Biome, both just steps from the dining room.
Its kitchen under chef Mike de Groot has been having fun with the exotic ingredients being grown right in the Tropical Biome this season, which includes coffee pods, cocoa pods, ginger, lemongrass and even – should you visit later this season – pineapple which you’ll find near the bridge in the ultra-lush horticultural attraction.
To date, they’ve used the biome-grown lemongrass for lemongrass ice cream that accompanies the lemon tartlet with candied ginger on the current menu. Awaiting use this summer is a fermented coffee syrup composed of red coffee cherries you’ll spy in the biome. “It has a bit of coffee flavour to it, but without these beans being roasted, you get this nice floral, fresh tasting element,” said de Groot, noting he plans to first start using it as a duck glaze.
Should you take a stroll through The Kitchen Garden before lunch (you really should; it’s just outside the backdoor of The Leaf), you’ll discover vegetables that are now plump on the vine, from tomatoes to zucchini and beans, along with leafy greens including collards, kale and several varieties of lettuce. Many of these ingredients will make it on to the menu at some point as elements on specials (surplus produce from the Gardens is also donated to local food banks), plus the current summer menu is full of gems.
Our favourite dish was a vegan ode to tacos al pastor. It features seasoned slabs of seitan that had a fun oyster mushroom-like texture, served with La Cocina tortillas, slaw, pickled onion and a bowl of mole sauce so you could assemble your own tacos. We’d also recommend the tuna crudo rice bowl, featuring big chunks of tuna on a sticky rice with all the accompaniments it craves, like sweet soy glaze, kewpie mayo and pickled chilis.
A few other musts we recently tried include brown sugar-cured bacon on toasted brioche with fig jam and a big dab of black garlic aioli. Topped with pickled fennel and crispy potato sticks, all the crispy outside layers yield to a succulent centre of pork belly that’s quite meaty. The black garlic aioli adds an extra layer of umami, and the pickled fennel brings some shine. Looking for something even richer? Hit the duck gravy (loaded with shredded duck confit) poured over the parmesan fries.
For drinks, there’s plenty of local beer on tap, a solid wine list featuring a few fabulous wineries from the Okanagan like Sumac Ridge, Black Hills and Osoyoos Larose, and an expansive cocktail and mocktail list (featuring ingredients from the Tropical Biome) led by head mixologist Jason Thompson. Tune in to Gather’s social media to find featured drinks.
Reservations can be made for the dining room, and the 75-seat patio is open to walk-ins. If there’s room outside, anyone with a reso who would like to sit outside can do so.
Gather Kraft Kitchen & Bar is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Year after year the Park Café remains one of the city’s busiest brunch spots – and how can it not be given its location and those crispy potatoes! Seriously, you can’t not order a version of eggs Benedict (we prefer the smoked salmon, but you do you if you want pork belly) for the table because dunking their oh-so-crispy spuds into the velvety Hollandaise and runny Nature’s Farm egg is where it’s at.
Love the pancakes too (as do the kids), while the sandwich and burger menu is also abundant. New for summer is a Korean-style pulled pork in gochujang barbecue sauce with ginger slaw on a pillowy onion bun. That same bun is used for the fried chicken burger with jalapeño remoulade which could enter Winnipeg’s best fried chicken sandwich debate (and there’s a lot of good chicken burgers out there these days). Plus, like Gather, The Park Café also takes advantage of The Kitchen Garden’s bounty.
You’ll find a fun little takeout window (‘Park Treats’) on the outside of the restaurant on a patio beside the duck pond. From here, you can get more cool treats like ice cream, iced coffees and sundaes, along with hot items like hand-cut fries, wraps and chicken fingers.
But seriously, those home fries! 500+ 4-star Google reviews will also tell the story.
Park Café is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s busy and bustling on weekends, so if you are looking to hit up a Benny while looking out on the park on a quiet day, choose a weekday visit.
The most chill setting to spend an evening in the city, Cargo Bar is an outdoor patio replete with a shipping container bar featuring craft cocktails, local beer and wines, and one of the city’s best food trucks.
If you go during the Summer Entertainment Series, you can see and hear performances right on the Lyric Stage (located across the field from Cargo Bar). Tuesdays are also so fun as there are often professionally-led dance nights that are beyond cute.
For food, PoachT food truck opened in 2021 and is the brainchild of WestJet pilot-turned food entrepreneur Erin Popoff. The bowls, dips and desserts (they change each month) are about as pretty as you're going to see coming out of a food truck – loaded with micro greens, local vegetables, several sauces, and usually a poached or hard boiled egg. Texturally, they are glorious too, including the current ‘And then I ate the Bowl’ which is served in a fried pita and filled with everything from ‘bacon avocado mash’ to pico de gallo and a variety of greens. For current menus, click here.
Cargo Bar is open Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.
With more than 150 fascinating species and many fun exhibits, you won’t go hungry for excitement at Assiniboine Park Zoo. You also won’t go hungry.
Making it easy for meandering families, there are treats and hot items to be had all over the zoo. After viewing the famous swimming polar bears, you can dip into Tundra Grill for lunch where burgers, fries, pizza by the slice and countless kids’ items come accompanied by views into the Journey to Churchill exhibit. Don’t be surprised if a 10-foot-tall bear decides to stand to peer into the dining room.
As soon as you enter the zoo you’ll find the Bison Snack Shack, featuring big pretzels, wraps and cool treats. There’s a hot dog cart at Aunt Sally’s Farm, a Hawaiian shaved ice shop near the Polar Bear Conservation Centre and Winston’s Ice Cream Shoppe – known for its house-made ice cream sandwiches – just steps from Toucan Ridge.
For full hours on all kiosks and the Tundra Grill, click on the “won’t go hungry” link.