Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Five Great Winnipeg Lunch Spots

The dining scene in Winnipeg continues to fly under the radar so hopefully this list (and this blog) gives some exposure to a few great restaurants that also represent the complexity and variety of what we have to offer.
By the way, it’s no coincidence that the majority of these restaurants are vegetarian/vegan and that they are all inexpensive.

Punjab Sweet House to me is the definition of a hidden gem. Located deep in the Maples, they offer all vegetarian cuisine and sweets (obviously). The buffet is what to get, and as far as I know it may be your only option if you’re looking to dine in. Unlike most Indian or Pakistani buffets in the city the items vary on each visit but you can always count on chana massala, creamy lentil dahl, usually a dish featuring paneer and at least two other vegetable dishes (mushroom curry or aloo gobi are also pretty common). Fresh, unlimited chapatti is also included. There are a handful of great Indian places in the city, and a lot of mediocre ones too, but I cannot give enough praise to Punjab Sweet House for keeping things delicious, inexpensive, and offering a change of pace from the usual buffet offerings. I’ve also recently heard that they’ll be opening up a second location on Pembina for those of us that would rather drive really far south than really far north. As an added bonus, if you can’t make it for lunch you can still get the dinner buffet for the same price ($8.95 the last time I went).
88 Mandalay Drive
(204) 663-1600 
Punjab Sweet House & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I’ve had a long relationship with Harman’s dating back to its first location adjacent to Harman’s Pharmacy at the corner of Portage and Sherbrook. I was devastated when they closed and tried to find another Ethiopian restaurant to to replace it to to no avail. Needless to say, I’m elated that they are back. The food is still excellent, as is the service. If I’m going for lunch one combination plate is enough to satisfy two people and ensures that you don’t waste any injera. If you’re going that route you’ll pay little more than $5.00 per person. If you don’t want to appear cheap, or you’re starving, then the full combo plate is still only $10.00. I am far from an expert when it comes to Ethiopian cuisine and you can expect a proper review to come soon but rest assured that there is nothing I’ve had here that I didn’t like whether it was meat or vegetarian.
570 Sargent Avenue
(204) 774-6997 
Harman's Cafe on Urbanspoon

If you’re here for lunch Monday to Friday the lunch special should really be your only option (you can order off the menu but it would be more expensive and you can do that at dinner anyways). You can always count on the special being tofu accompanying a different sauce and vegetable (tofu with broccoli, tofu with hot tomato, tofu with satay sauce and mushrooms, etc.). That comes with a spring roll as well as a choice of fried rice, white rice or chow mein. In my opinion, the best part of the lunch special is the soup. In my youth, hot and sour soup was my #1 favourite food and the hot and sour soup here (especially at lunch) is the stand out for me. The soup is honestly a meal in itself. You can get wonton or consomm√© but get the hot and sour if it’s your first time. Also under $10.
1467 Pembina Highway
(204) 477-1530
Delicious Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thus far, this is my local food discovery of the year. I’ve tried a few of the dishes and a few more of the cocktails here in the past but the burger is in a class of its own. I know that Winnipeg has a long tradition of burgers but, whereas those burgers are a harmony of ingredients (mainly garlic and onion based chili coupled with a ton of condiments), this is the first burger I’ve found where the beef is not cooked to death and is truly the star of the show. Be warned that with the brioche bun this thing is very rich and though I could never imagine having another bite once I’m finished, I tend to crave another within hours. I’d suggest asking them to skip the lettuce as it tends to wilt pretty quickly. If you’re not dining alone, pay a few dollars more to share a salad instead of adding on fries or mixed greens. The priciest lunch on this list, but it’s a steal when you consider what you would pay for a burger of this quality in a bigger city.
283 Bannatyne Avenue
(204) 989-7700
Peasant Cookery on Urbanspoon

Winnipeg has a surprising number of excellent Vietnamese restaurants. But, though there may be a few up and comers contending the crown, I still think Nhu Quynh is the best. Though they have an extensive menu, I’ll admit that I haven’t strayed far from my old favourites of pho and vermicelli. I’m in the process of a pho tour of Winnipeg so I’ll save a full review of Nhu Quynh for that. In keeping with the recurrent theme of this list, this lunch will also cost you less than $10.
609 Ellice Avenue
(204) 786-1182 
Nhu Quynh on Urbanspoon

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