Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Best (and Worst!) of Winnipeg

I wrote this as I was minding Brodie, my coworker’s adorable subservient quadruped, so I thought I’d share some of her suggestions for me when I asked, “Anyone got any blog ideas for this weekend??”  Luckily, Shannon had a few, and last weekend I set out exploring them.

First up was Mitzis chicken finger restaurant, downtown at St. Mary’s Ave and Garry St.  Meaning “tasty food” in Chinese (not sure if it’s Cantonese or Mandarin), Mitzis has a fun backstory.  I love the idea of a home-grown, family-based restaurant, particularly when it has a “secret recipe” it’s adapted itself to please the customer.  So, large library book/solo dining companion in hand, I took a drive down to sample their famous poultry offerings.

Starter consommé soup, with green onions and rice, alongside my dinner companion book.
Stand in awe.  This were FANTASTIC.
I was NOT disappointed.  Aside from the huge portion (I ordered a “medium” platter), these suckers were juicy, tender, perfectly cooked, well seasoned, obviously hand-made, and piping hot.  The fries were your standard crinkle-cut, and were quite tasty.  Best of all: the dipping sauce.  Judging by the jar on my coworker’s table, the concept of honey dill chicken finger dipping sauce isn’t unique to Mitzis, but it was a first-time experience for me (could it be a “Manitoba thing”?) Not too sweet, and with that delicious dill flavour, this was a great condiment for the chicken.  I’ll have to find a recipe for it and use it at home, though that certainly won’t stop me from making another trip back for more of the original.

The next day, I took a trip out to the Bridge Drive-In, also known as BDI.  We’d had a conversation at work about this soft-serve ice cream/milkshake/sundae joint, and it sounded fantastic.  Fun little side note, though; not being familiar with the name, I originally thought the place was called “The Beady Eye”… and later mistakenly referred to it as “The Hairy Eyeball”.  Not exactly appetizing… luckily, the true place didn’t disappoint.  It is all soft-serve ice cream, but they offer truly unique combinations of flavours and toppings all at a very reasonable price.  I went for vanilla soft-serve swirled with black cherry flavouring… and yes, little brother, if you’re reading this, they do have the “blue goo” variety that you so enjoy.  Despite the cooler bite in the air, this place was still hopping.  I’ll definitely be back next season, once Hubs is here, for a romantic stroll on the epynomous bridge across the Red River.

So there’s two of the “bests” that this city has to offer.  Now, before I go on to the “worst” of Winnipeg, I need to clearly state that this was NOT one of my coworkers’ suggestions.  In fact, everyone at work warned me AGAINST trying out the following establishment.  It was I who chose not to listen.  I will never stray from their sound advice again…

Cue the omimous music...
Obviously, one of my goals has been to try uniquely Winnipeg- or Manitoba-based food fare.  Salisbury House fit the criteria.  Kyle told me a little bit about this home-grown burger joint and their relative success.  As far as I’m aware, Salisbury House does not exist outside of this fair province.  How could I live here and NOT try it?!  They’re seemingly EVERYWHERE, including the HSC cafeteria, YWG airport terminal, and the famous Esplanade Riel.  There had to be SOMETHING about them that kept people coming back, and I would not be left out of the loop.  So, last Friday I left work and drove about a block down Notre Dame Ave. to a location I’d seen before, strategically placed across the street from a Burger King and McDonald’s.  Fierce competition!

Right from the get, I was uneasy.  I quickly scanned the menu up on the wall behind the open kitchen, and politely told the surly and unpleasant employee that I’d like a cheese “nip” (aka burger) dinner to go, please.  The nice part was that I got to watch my order be made by a much more pleasant cook.  This was definitely not “fast food”; my burger was made right from ¼ lb of ground beef and formed into a patty right before my eyes.  That part I could get behind.  The display of red velvet cake, pie, and homemade doughnuts also looked tempting.  The whole place had the feel of a Waffle House (if you’ve ever been to one in the southern United States), which I enjoy… and their greasy-spoon breakfast menu looked quite yummy.  I started to wonder if my coworkers had been over-exaggerating a touch.

Um, no.  They weren’t.  I got home and opened up my takeout package… and saw this:

Okay, so looks aren’t everything.  Let’s rearrange:

 Slightly better.  And now to the tasting… what a letdown.  Despite being almost wafer-thin, my burger was still pinkish and cool in the middle.  I did like the cheese and fried onions, but was slightly disappointed that I was responsible for all my other toppings.  The bun was almost like cotton candy, the way it sort of dissolved as it hit my mouth… NOT good eats.  I like a bread with backbone, and this wasn’t it.  The whole mess was just as greasy as can be… it sort of reminded me of a larger White Castle burger (which is not a compliment, in my mind).  Well, okay.  Usually fries can save this kind of burger mess.  Nope, not in this case.  Y’know how sometimes fries can have a mealy, almost grainy interior and a dry, cardboard-esque exterior?  The kinds of fries that make the potato gods weep with fury?  Yeah, these were a prime example of that.  To top it all off, after eating the grease pit that was dinner, I ended up feeling a touch queasy.  

Figgy liked the coleslaw... and he seemed to be fine after his little taste.
 Not a pleasant experience, overall.  Perhaps I’ll visit the Provencher Bridge location one time in the future to enjoy a piece of cake and a coffee while looking out onto the Forks, but that’ll probably be my last Salisbury House experience.  I only wish it had been my first.

Hoping that hardcore ‘Peggers don’t run me out of town for bashing their fast food chain,


  1. Um, I think you need to revisit a Sals and actually take the time to sit down in a restaurant and take your time over the menue. Who gets Sals to go? And to go to one on Notre Dame? Go to the one on the bridge and go for breakfast. They are not JUST about the Nip.

  2. Thanks for your comment! :) I'd definitely like to go to the one on the bridge. And I have to admit, their coffee and red velvet cake are worth it. I got Sal's to go because my only previous experience with it was seeing the small to-go kiosk in the cafeteria at Health Sciences Centre... I guess I assumed that it was more like a McDonald's in its setup. I'll give it another shot, but this makes me nervous: So far I've agreed with these guys on their reviews of other breakfast places in the city... maybe they have it wrong for Sal's?

  3. I think Sals is appreciated most by the older generation. The food is, at best, mediocre.

    It's time the one on the Esplanade Riel be replaced by something else, hopefully from St.Boniface... but I'd take a Stella's.


  4. Salisbury a house is AMAZING. They updated their menu, I highly suggest the Grand Gourmet burger. And you definitely can't just order sale to go. I'm addicted to their fries and gravy. But the gravy must be dipped! Not spread over your fries. There IS a Way to eat sals! Lol