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James Avenue Pumphouse Food and Drink Review

James Avenue Pumphouse Food and Drink

Neighbourhood:  Exchange
Address:  2-109 James Ave
Phone:  204-560-5210
Entrees:  $12-$28

A beautiful Exchange District heritage building—once the water pumping station for the city’s fire-fighting efforts—is now home to an industrial chic resto bar. The iconic blond brick building, the subject of developers for 30 years, finally has its new lease on city life.

The building is situated on Waterfront Drive directly facing its historical counterpart (now occupied by Cibo restaurant). At one time these pumping stations functioned together, one drawing water from the Red River and pumping it through an underground tunnel to the other, where it was funnelled to staunch fires city-wide.

James Ave. Pumphouse pays homage to those days. The historic machinery and equipment is in full view behind floor to high ceiling windows spanning the entire interior space. Old fire hydrants, a reclaimed copper extinguisher adorning the bar and black and white photos of turn of the century Winnipeg nod to its original life.

The setting is steeped in history, but this new restaurant’s vibe and menu are decidedly modern. Young, stylish staff welcome young-at-all-ages patrons eager to see the re-imagined project.

Globally influenced dishes abound, symbolic of the cultural diversity of Winnipeg’s population today. Separate vegetarian and gluten free menus ensure everyone is welcomed.

A wide selection of share-ables promotes lively socializing. Crispy fried cauliflower bites are coated in a combo of sweet and spicy barbeque sauce and a “snow” of dehydrated cheese, which adds a salty edge. Braised beef tacos blend warm bites of succulent meat with robust birria dip and classic condiments. Chicken souvlaki and hot sandwich platters stream out of the kitchen to groups reaching across their tables to dip and taste.

Entrees combine variety with familiar comfort. A single giant perogy, playfully called “The Perogy” covers the entire dinner plate. The dumpling is perfectly filled with a novel potato-cranberry combo and topped with dill cream, caramelized onions, and slices of kielbasa and scallions. The size proves to be no challenge. Mushroom stroganoff, a succulent and generous tangle of pappardelle noodles slathered in herb cream sauce and meaty mushrooms is a plant-based winner.

A silky mountain of mashed potatoes sits beneath the meal’s—and possibly the menu’s—main attraction. Braised short rib surrounded by tender green peas and swimming in onion-laced red wine jus is topped with a mess of tart pickled shallots. This beef dinner in a bowl is quickly becoming a front runner for our favourite plate coming out of this kitchen.

Well-founded excitement surrounding the re-opening of one of Winnipeg’s most iconic spaces is palpable. “The Pumphouse” now offers an energetic dining experience with a glorious window to the past. Its new restaurant-attraction status has set it up for a prosperous future.