When it comes to Winnipeg landmarks, Ken Hong’s Restaurant (or as their sign states, “Ken Hong Restaurant”) is not usually the first place that comes to mind. But even though Ken’s isn’t as iconic as the Manitoba Legislative Building or as grand as the Winnipeg Art Gallery, it has been a Winnipeg institution for longer than most of us can remember. For that reason, coupled with it being just down the street from our office, we decided to check it out.
This place is indeed legendary for several reasons. First off, if you weren’t already aware that it was open for business, you would think the restaurant had been boarded up and abandoned years ago. There is plywood on the front door, the sign is in disrepair and the windows are constantly obscured by a film of steamy grime. It is, quite literally, a classic hole-in-the-wall.
Second, their menu is notoriously brief. We had heard the main attraction here was the $4 wonton noodle soup so that is what the three of us ordered – and it did not disappoint. The broth was warm and nourishing as a consommée should be, albeit a little on the salty side. The wontons were soft but perky with just a pinch of mystery meat inside, and the noodles began crisp but soon succumbed to the rich broth like so many Cheerios soaking in milk. The bowl also contained a surprising amount of rice on the bottom that made the dish extremely filling. For an extra kick, I highly recommend adding a few squirts of the provided hot sauce to mingle with the green onions scattered on top.
Anthony had heard the mysterious “Shanghai Schwartz” decals on the windows were left over decorations from a movie that was shot there in the nineties. Does this mean Ken Hong’s had posed as a chinese deli? Did they offer a kosher dim sum menu? I’d hate to think that my beloved bbq pork buns and shrimp dumplings had been replaced by matzoh balls and gefilte fish… Alas, Ken does not serve any of the above. However, we did notice two photos pinned up near the counter that proved to be valuable clues:
With a little help from IMDB, we discovered that the restaurant did indeed appear in a film: Namely, 2004′s Zeyda and the Hitman or “Running With the Hitman” as it is known in the U.S. The restaurant appears a few times in the trailer (see below) along with several other recognizable Winnipeg locations. How many can you spot?
On days when you don’t feel like spending so much money on a ‘spensive meal, Subway is great. But generally, you know what you’re going to get. It’s Subway. So why not get that footlong to go and head on down to the Duke of Kent Legion on the corner of McDermot and Albert Street where you can bring your lunch in, heat it up if necessary and have a beer for the price of three measly dollars. They have some Winnipeg classics, such as Standard, Fort Garry and Labatt 50. But please, spare George (the man in charge) the headaches and follow these four simple rules:
1. Bring cash ($3.00 on debit?? Get a load of this guy)
2. Do NOT wear any kind of hat (unless you want to buy a round for everyone)
3. Make sure you sign in by the cash register
4. Bring your empties up to the counter (your mom isn’t there to clean up after you)
Follow those rules and you got yourself a place to sit, some classy drinks and an atmosphere to help you forget about the fact that you’re on a budget and eating Subway.
Here is one of our most frequented nosh spots. We can always rely on Blü Fish for great sushi and hot saké to keep us warm in the winter. They have a fairly wide variety of rolls both on the veggie and non-veggie side. Their caterpillars are fantastic and they are generous with the wasabi (if you’re into that sort of thing).
One of my favourite things about this place is the plates that the sushi comes on. Every time it’s something new, be it the purple galaxy or the silver leaf boat, it’s always a classy surprise.
The atmosphere would be quite bright with its red walls if it weren’t for the lack of light. Not so great for taking photos, but nice if you want to have a relaxing lunch. Although it’s probably one of the more spensive sushi places to go to in the area, it’s still one of our favourites. We recommend it.
If you live in Winnipeg, it’s pretty much a given that you’ve been to The Paddle Wheel (located on the top floor of The Bay downtown). But for whatever reason, Thom and I had only heard stories of this mythical senior’s haven. Having lived in Winnipeg my whole life, I didn’t really have an excuse, but Thom has only lived here for three years (most of those years spent trapped in University), so it was about time I caught up with Winnipeg culture and had lunch at The Paddle Wheel.
I headed straight for the salad bar and immediately lost Thom and Andrew. It probably would have been a good idea to stick with Andrew seeing as how he was an old pro. After loading my plate with almost every salad imaginable, I realized that if I wanted a hot sandwich, the best bet was to go to the meal counter and place an order. And then after realizing that, I found the infamous jell-o back at the salad bar – which required a whole plate to itself.
The whole time I was collecting plates of food, doing unorganized laps around the entire buffet area, I forgot that the price of your meal depends solely on how much your tray weighs. So this was by far the most expensive meal that I’ve had so far on Eating Out Winnipeg. Mere pennies when thinking about what it is to experience a part of Winnipeg history.
Oh and the food was pretty okay.
The Underground Café is located in the basement of a building on Arthur Street in the exchange – just a building tunnel away from our office. This makes The Underground a frequent food source of ours. The first thing you’ll probably notice once you walk down the stairway to get to the restaurant is the walls (well, probably the strong food smell first, but then the walls make you forget all about that). The walls are painted with all sorts of familiar figures including Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Joni Mitchell and Salvidor Dali. Not exactly classy, but very interesting. It gets to be like a “Where’s Waldo?” once you start looking hard enough.
One draw back of The Underground is that it makes a better summer restaurant than a winter one due to most of the sandwiches being of the cold variety, plus it’s hard to convince yourself to go outside in the morning for a breakfast bagel (which are top notch at The Underground). Luckily, we know just what to order to stay warm and enjoy our sandwiches.
Andrew and I enjoyed a hot, delicious bowl of cream of mushroom soup while Thom and Andrew sipped on some nice warm tea. As an appetizer, we ordered a plate of toasted pita bread with hummus. Very delicious.
For the main course, Thom got the “Sun Burger,” The Underground Café’s famous veggie burger. I got a “Wendy,” and Andrew got a tuna melt. Quite delicious, but definitely overshadowed by our appetizers. Overall, it was probably the best meal I’ve ever had at The Underground. So, be sure to catch them on a good day and you wont be disappointed.
The Tallest Poppy (best known for its family-style Sunday Brunch) is a very unique restaurant. With its own fresh baked challah bread, slow-cooked meals and ever changing menu, The Tallest Poppy is a different taste adventure every time. We started our adventure by perusing the mini library which mainly contains photography and art books. Then we moved on to looking at the art from their artist residency program before having our orders taken by the one and only Kitty.
I had the grilled cheese sandwich on challah with the usual rippled chips and fruit garnish on the side. Thom and Andrew LITERALLY flipped their lids at the sight of the lamb sandwich and Andrew sprung for the salad. Mark ordered “anything vegetarian” and got some kind of custom-made delicious sandwich with no name.
After the food came and went, we just sat there – stunned and satisfied. Definitely one of our favourite places to eat in the city. Andrew went as far as saying, “Best sandwich I’ve had all year,” and took it one step further to say “top five of last year!” Thom’s ‘pinion: “Best lunch in Winnipeg.” (Watch out for our upcoming blog feature, “Thom’s ‘pinion Tuesdays”)
The Albert Diner is by far one of our favourite places to eat. Not only is it right across the street, but it’s also delicious! The staff there are extremely friendly and the dining area is located in the sun lit façade.
But things haven’t always been this pretty for the diner. It recently had to undergo a switching of the hands along with a make over by our Thom and his Nils. Thankfully, the dust has settled and we can eat.
They offer a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options along with some great local grass-fed meat options. Not to mention their daily specials. The yam fries with their very special lemon basil aioli sauce is highly recommended. I dream about this stuff at night. All in all it was a great tasting time, as expected.
Eating Out Winnipeg is a new feature on our blog in which we showcase the ups and downs of eating out in Winnipeg. We will be documenting our lunch experiences every Wednesday. First up: Kawaii Crepe.
Kawaii Crepe is a new local eatery that serves up both sweet and savory crepes. It just recently popped up on Osborne Street near River Avenue. The food is quite delicious with names to match such as the Tofu Dill-Lite, Chickplease and Hit Me Baby One More Thai.
Chris Kroeker highly recommends ordering from the all-day breakfast menu while Thom’s favorite pick is A Lovely Pear off of the “Sweet” menu. Andrew, being the rebel of the group, decided to create a custom crepe of his own. I’d like to mention that it is a great place to get your bubble tea fix.
As far as the look goes, I think they nailed it. The interior is bright and fairly simple. It is a great addition to the visage of Osborne street and adds a much needed “friendly” vibe.
Unfortunately, it’s quite far from our office, so we don’t get to go there for lunch as often as we’d like. But we definitely recommend it. Check out their menu right over here.