Address: 330 Assiniboine Park Dr
Set inside the beautiful Qualico Family Centre, with its wall of windows giving a lush view of Assiniboine Park, dining at the Park Café is as close to a picnic as one can get while still eating indoors.
The serene, nature-steeped experience begins before even entering the restaurant. Driving down the winding lanes that lead into Assiniboine Park and passing by the duck pond on the way from the car beat the typical parking lot experience by a long shot. On the way into the Qualico Centre, take a look at the building’s “green roof”, a living mass of prairie grasses representative of plants indigenous to this region, almost blending the building into the park around it.
Inside, a sloping ceiling and muted earth tones draw the eye to the dining room’s main design feature, the floor-to-ceiling windows that create a sunny space enclosed by views of greenery.
This al fresco feeling is encouraged by a line up of fresh takes on classic comforts—burgers, mac n’ cheese, sandwiches, and more—upgraded with inspired twists. Breakfast and lunch offerings up the ante on typical greasy spoon eats, instead presenting a selection of bright, fresh dishes that range from indulgent comfort food to feel good fare. Those on the clean eating bandwagon will gravitate towards an abundant pile of perky greens—arugula and baby kale—topped with beets, goat cheese, hemp hearts, and a mound of parsnip chips fried to delicate crispiness.
A riff on the veggie burger delivers another good-for-you punch, every bit as filling as its meaty counterparts. A yam and black bean patty, bound with quinoa, is the basis for flavourful toppings including another pile of parsnip crisps, tangy apple chutney, and pickled onion for zip. Like all burgers on the menu, the masterpiece is arranged artfully on a chewy pretzel bun.
There’s room for indulgence here, too. The proof in three words? Farmer sausage poutine, dripping with gravy and molten cheese curds from Manitoba’s own Bothwell cheese. Mac n’ cheese, another classic comfort food, gets some edge with the addition of a splash of Fort Garry Dark Ale. The beer lends a malty note to smoked Gouda cheese sauce.
Breakfast is served all day, and starting one’s day at a table on the patio, tucking into the pork belly eggs benedict, rich with buttery hollandaise and crispy fried potatoes, may be enough ‘fuel’ to motivate a (long) jog around the park.