Address: 141 Bannatyne Ave
Since opening its first location in 1999, Stella’s has been a Winnipeg mainstay thanks to its hearty breakfasts and health-meets-comfort menu. Now, its new sister restaurant Kevin’s Bistro is taking up this mantle with a tighter focus: mac and cheese.
Most of the menu at this cozy spot in the Exchange District is dominated by the childhood favourite. Building on a gooey, creamy base recipe, different variations deliver wild interpretations that range from nostalgic to chef-inspired.
The restaurant’s namesake is Kevin the cat, depicted with some pomp in a framed painting, the only art on the walls of the narrow dining room. The name is a nod to the Stella’s franchise, which was named after Kevin’s feline sibling. (No word on whether Kevin likes mac and cheese.)
In the midst of a fast casual zeitgeist that has office workers grabbing to-go grainbowls and DIY superfood salads, this warm nook stands instead for luscious pasta and sit-down lunches. The occasional carb-load is good for the soul.
This is not to say salad lovers are neglected. A light and fresh mélange of quinoa and Mediterranean fixings is stand out. Fresh pops of tomato and olive blend with the nutty grain and cubes of salty feta.
A short and sweet list of sides and appies hits high points with twists on pub grub. Buffalo wings are remade as breaded cauliflower dunked in the classic smoky, paprika laden sauce. Fluffy pretzel bites score extra points when served with a sweet-tart mango mustard dip.
Macs are the main event, served up in 12 different styles. The “Hops and Blue” is speckled with blue cheese and caramelized onion, its creamy sauce spiked with a Belgian witbier from local Torque Brewery. The brew imparts a richness with a subtle malty edge.
A Mexican-inspired variety is creamy and smoky, burning with a little hot pepper heat from roasted poblano pepper. An old school entry named “1970s Casserole” is a rich, hearty bowl of tuna salad and peas mixed with a sauce of smoked Gouda and havarti. A crispy layer of breadcrumbs on top is interspersed with perky strands of lemon zest. If mom had made tuna casserole as good this, we would have cleaned our plates.
The all-day menu transitions to evening with the addition of a robust wine and cocktail list for those unafraid to pair a Malbec with their macaroni. Cuddling up with a bowl of noodles and cheesy sauce proves the one thing better than a home-cooked meal is Kevin’s-cooked one.