Bistro on Notre Dame
Neighbourhood: West End
Address: 784 Notre Dame Ave
Winnipeg’s West End is the most culturally diverse neighbourhood in the city, rich with eateries that serve cuisine inspired by the far-flung corners of the world. Two short years ago, Bistro on Notre Dame added Manitoba regional style to the area, focusing on the province’s basket of ingredients to build its menu of comfort dishes.
Chef owner Dean Herkert’s commitment to all things local is notable in the space’s interior design as well as the menu. Inside an underwhelming exterior, guests step into a lovely dining room furnished with modern flair. Reclaimed barn boards from Morden, Manitoba, upholstery accented with leather and bare filament bulb fixtures hint at rustic cabin chic.
The menu surprises too, offering nearly limitless choice when other restaurants are cutting back. Kick off the local love with a cocktail of Manitoba made spirits and bitters and syrups crafted on site.
Some patrons come for the familiar comforts of soups, burgers and the pleasure of a kale Caesar laced with smoked Arctic char. Others are drawn to hearty breakfasts borrowing traditions from the Deep South of the United States—six varieties of waffles offer a range of profiles to pair with fried chicken.
Apples, carrots and pecans are added to ‘carrot cake’ waffles, while the bacon and jalapeño variety’s fluffy batter is boldly smoky and piquant. The chicken’s pecan coating puts a twist on the deep-fried favourite.
Soups and salads reflect the kitchen’s penchant for flavour mash ups, like a silky corn chowder perked up with smoked corn and onions. A not-so-’70s Waldorf salad takes creative liberty by adding colourful pops of oranges and dried berries to apples, nuts and mixed greens. A dollop of house-made ricotta and poppyseed vinaigrette lighten up the traditional mayo dressing.
Mac and cheese loaded with walleye is another classic inspired by the region’s bounty. Nature’s Farm pasta, locally caught fish and Bothwell cheese come together in a luxurious cream sauce topped with parm.
Burgers are tailored to all tastes, offering a choice such as northern pike, turkey, chicken and veggie patties. Manitoba bison, charred and covered with sharp horseradish cheddar is dressed with a sweet-sour mix of pickled onions and berry aioli on bannock pan bread.
Finish with a rich slice of chess pie. Anise and rosemary-infused grapefruit custard turns a few cocktail ingredients into decadent bites that make a lasting impression.