Neighbourhood: St. Boniface
Address: 112 Marion St
This is a new school tavern. Effortlessly cool, it’s decked out with luxe marble accents, industrial charm and the warm aroma of an open fire that radiates from the open concept kitchen. Here at the Norwood Hotel’s Wood Tavern, nearly everything is roasted over hot coals and wood, giving a signature smokiness to dishes that lean more towards lusty bistro food than pub grub. Rest assured though, guests can still order a local pint at the bar top and catch the game.
Follow your nose and peek into the open concept kitchen to see an impressive seven-foot-wide wood-fired grill. Burger patties ground in house are thrown to the fire, getting a nice charred exterior and juicy interior. Heightened with thinly sliced back bacon, extra crispy onion rings and a buttered bun, “True Canadian” is a masterpiece, delivering a fresh take on toppings without overwhelming the taste buds. The final flourish: a generous spread of kicked-up hickory bacon ranch sauce. A side of fries served in a mug repping the slogan “venture into the woods” gets bonus points for presentation.
House-made Andouille sausage (comparable to chorizo) is the biggest surprise of the night. It’s exceedingly juicy and bursting with flavours of red peppers and fennel, which lends licorice-like sweetness and balances the spiciness of the sausage. An accompanying puddle of ketchup made with fire-grilled peppers is a serious upgrade from the old standby.
A good barbequed chicken – the kind eager home cooks spend hours slaving away to achieve, only to set it aflame at the last second – is hard to come by. Wood Tavern’s take on a half chicken is exquisite, demonstrating the elusive balance between char-grilled and moist. Its molasses soy glaze elevates this classic Sunday night dinner, acting as a drizzle for the fluffy mash.
It’s not only meat that is subjected to the flame. The aptly named “campfire cauliflower” is a stellar rendition of the trending veggie. Humming with strong smoke flavour, it is served, unexpectedly, with a bed of hummus and hot honey chile oil. Crunchy chickpeas add texture and fresh cilantro cools the palate.
Armed with the challenge of pleasing hotel guests and neighbourhood dwellers alike, Wood Tavern brings something charmingly unexpected to the table. It may be in its early days, but it’s surely slated to, shall we say, catch fire, as Winnipeggers seek refuge in its cozy wood-burning depths this winter.