Because of the food-industry-shaking disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re not reviewing new restaurants right now. As we wait for the scene to stabilize, we want to take a closer look at some of our city’s neighbourhoods, in all their culinary richness, variety and tastiness.

Neighbourhood noshes

We’ve kicked off this series with St. Vital; obviously, this is just a short list from an area packed with possibilities.

We’ve kicked off this series with St. Vital; obviously, this is just a short list from an area packed with possibilities.

Let us know what else is going on: We’re asking longtime locals, food fanatics and fellow travellers to write in and share their favourites, whether it be a hotbed of world cuisine, a suburban food oasis or a hidden neighbourhood gem.

Email alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

We’ll spotlight five eateries — from sunrise breakfasts to late-night snacks, from holes in the wall to luxe dining rooms — to suit a range of dining moods and modes.

(We’re also including current COVID-related operating protocols, but keep in mind these could be subject to change. You can check restaurant websites or social media accounts to get the latest information.)

We’re starting in St. Vital, home to some green and pleasant residential streets, some busy commercial strips, the historic Riel House and — of course — lots of good eats.

DATE NIGHT:

Harth offers dishes made for sharing.

PHIL HOSSACK / FREE PRESS FILES

Harth offers dishes made for sharing.

With its refined, contemporary take on classic Italian cooking, Harth Mozza and Wine Bar (1-980 St. Anne’s Rd., 204-255-0003, harthwpg.com) offers dishes made for sharing, from mussels with Calabrian chili and fennel pollen to a perfect torta al cioccolato.

Service is gracious and professional, and behind the unassuming strip-mall door, this is one of the handsomest dining rooms in the city.

Harth has reopened for dining in, with physical distancing, and welcomes phone reservations.

 

COFFEE TIME:

The Yellow Derny Cafe is a tiny coffee spot tucked into Woodcock Cycle Works.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Yellow Derny Cafe is a tiny coffee spot tucked into Woodcock Cycle Works.

The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted bicycle sales in a big way. At the Yellow Derny Café (433 St. Mary’s Rd., 204-253-5896, yellowdernycafe.com), a tiny coffee spot tucked into Woodcock Cycle Works, you can see to your biking needs and grab a cup of joe at the same time.

This longtime St. Vital business is serious about cycling. Going by a sampled nitro cold brew — with a creamy head and a smooth, subtly sweet finish — it’s also serious about java.

Along with hot and cold drinks, Yellow Derny sells coffee beans and specialty teas from house roaster Caffe Umbria and a rotating selection of indie labels.

Although there’s really no dine-in at the moment — it’s a very small venue — you’ll get chatty, obliging outdoor service, and you can always take your coffee across the street to the leafy riverside park there.

 

GARDEN PARTY:

Jardins St-Léon Gardens is your destination for Manitoba-grown produce.</p></p>

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jardins St-Léon Gardens is your destination for Manitoba-grown produce.

If the recent quarantine had you rediscovering the pleasures of home cooking, Jardins St-Léon Gardens (419 St. Mary’s Rd., 204-237-7216, stleongardens.com), a neighbourhood fixture since 1979, has the farmers market ingredients you need to up your game.

The Manitoba produce is the main draw. A recent visit saw verdant, fragrant garlic scapes, luscious local strawberries, small and bursting with flavour, and even haskaps, which are like weird, wonderful, edgy blueberries.

Beyond fruit and veg, there are good breads and pastries from Winnipeg bakeries such as Hildegard’s, Red Spring and Le Croissant, fresh corn tortillas from La Cocina, and pantry staples including local pickles and preserves.

COVID-19 protocols include sanitized carts, wider aisles and a limited number of customers, so there could be a bit of a lineup on the weekend. It’s worth the wait.

Another option is online ordering and curbside pickup.

 

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FRANCHISE:

ZA Pizza Bistro offers endlessly customizable pies.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

ZA Pizza Bistro offers endlessly customizable pies.

Za Pizza Bistro (E-1220 St. Mary’s Ave., 204-615-0808, zapizzabistro.com), with several locations in Winnipeg, has a great hook: It offers endlessly customizable pies. Choosing your crust, sauce, cheese and add-ons is kind of fun, and — at $12.70 for an 11-inch with unlimited toppings — it’s also a good deal. Children love all that variety, and it’s also handy if you’re looking for vegan cheese, a keto-diet cauliflower crust or gluten-friendly options.

Order online for pickup or get delivery through SkipTheDishes. You can also go in and just ask for your pie at the counter, picking out the toppings as you go along and then watching everything go into the oven. There are currently no tables in this tight location, but you could picnic at nearby St. Vital Park.

 

THE REAL DEAL:

Siam Thai Cuisine is currently the only Thai restaurant in Winnipeg to have achieved Thai Select Premium status.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Siam Thai Cuisine is currently the only Thai restaurant in Winnipeg to have achieved Thai Select Premium status.

A St. Vital mainstay for 20 years, Siam Authentic Thai Cuisine (587 St. Anne’s Rd., 204-254-7765, siamthairestaurant.ca) is currently the only Thai restaurant in Winnipeg to have achieved Thai Select Premium status, a certification granted by Thai government representatives to venues serving authentic Thai cuisine.

The sour and spicy soup is anchored by a clear broth that’s full of vivid but perfectly balanced flavours, and the pad thai — fresh, light, ungreasy — is a model of this often abused dish.

Reservations are currently requested for in-person dining, and you can do contactless pre-ordering and pre-payment if you prefer. You can also opt for pickup or delivery through DoorDash.

 

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

   Read full biography