A New Kind of Frozen Dinner: Eating in Winnipeg

We had no idea what kind of food to expect in Winnipeg, but when we heard about a popup restaurant last winter on the frozen Assiniboine and Red Rivers, we knew we were in for good things.  I mean, a RESTAURANT on a FROZEN RIVER with TREE STUMPS FOR CHAIRS and PARKAS and CANVAS WALLS and FLIPPIN’ ELK TARTARE? Come on.  That's solid stuff.

Photo by Marianne Helm  

The pop-up was called ‘Raw: Almond,’ and conceived of by Deer + Almond chef Mandel Hitzer, Segovia’s Adam Donnelly, and Raw architecture gallery’s Joe Kalturnyk.  Throughout the restaurant’s short life, various chefs took the helm to cook for groups of sixteen at a time, including brunch on Sundays.  The wildly successful project seemed to sum the city up well: even in -35 temperatures, the people of Winnipeg couldn't be prevented from collaborating, creating, and having a darn good time.  It makes dining on anything but a frozen river seem very drab indeed.


While we showed up in summer when the Assiniboine still flows freely, we had plenty of opportunities to explore Winnipeg’s dynamic and ever-changing food scene.  We began with an eating tour of the historic Exchange District, which could be compared to Vancouver’s Gastown

All kinds of restaurants and shops are moving into the ground floors of restored brick buildings, and in just a few blocks you can try everything from flaming scallops at Blufish to the house-made charcuterie at Peasant Cookery (we returned later to try their full platter!)

The tour included stops at six Exchange District eateries, as well as short history lessons on the area and buildings in which we dined.

Another day, feeling the need for something to combat all the gloriously fat-laden rillette we’d eaten the night before, we went to Boon, an all-vegan burger bar with a focus on sustainable and fair-trade ingredients.  Honestly, this is the kind of shop I’d expect to see on the west coast, not in the middle of Manitoba, and we were so happy to have found it!  Boon was super tasty, healthy, filling, and very, very popular.

Buddha Burger from Boon

Over various evenings, we also had the great fortune of dining at three of Winnipeg’s most popular restaurants: Segovia, Deseo, and Deer + Almond.  All three were phenomenal, with highlights including patatas bravas and white sardines on grilled bread at Segovia;

beef tataki with squash and deep-fried feta (yes, I said deep-fried feta), as well as the madly-good crunch salad at Deseo;

and the iceberg/watermelon/crispy pork belly salad at Deer + Almond which, along with several great cocktails, couldn’t have been more refreshing on a hot day. 

We may not have had a chance to dine on Winnipeg's frozen waters, but as you can see, the food we had on land was extraordinarily good. 

Up next: dessert.