Monday, 16 April 2018

Earls (on Main)

...but not on your own.
When I started on this blog, I decided that I wasn't going to review chain restaurants because it didn't make sense to me (Solo in Winnipeg should be restaurants exclusive to Winnipeg, I figure). But also, when I started this blog, I decided I was going to post twice a week. Sometimes we have good reason to break our own rules. Sometimes we don't. Reviewing Earls on Main is the former. I think. I'd received a gift card and saw they had a pretty cool happy hour menu, so I took myself there after work, and eating there alone brought on all the clichés that people assume you'd experience when going out alone that I hadn't experienced until now.

Didn't try these, but I appreciate that there are
options for people who want to be Happy but
don't imbibe.
I sat in the lounge, because that's where the Happy Hour menu is served. The server set a second place at my table without asking and then kind of ignored me  since she probably assumed I was meeting with something. She came by and asked if I'd like a drink... Which she set down at my imaginary friend's place instead of at mine. I didn't get the chance to put in a food order then because she was a big fan of kind of dropping off my order and then walking away really quickly. I cut her some slack for about four seconds, thinking she was the only server, but then saw that there were two others working the lounge with her. I don't know if this is a reasonable number of staff for the lounge at this time, but the others seemed to have the time for their tables so... Maybe I pissed my waitress off by not bringing a date when she so clearly set a place for him? Who knows. I was a little worried I'd sit there until Happy Hour was over and/or starve to death waiting for a date who would never arrive that I assume was the signal my server was waiting for, but I was able to use my laser eyes to get her attention before either of these things happened.

The drink that couldn't save the day.
The Happy Hour menu includes both food and drinks and is as reasonably priced as you'd expect it to be. The Margherita pizza was good enough, but the avocado toast was definitely not worth forgoing a mortgage for. If you want that level of good, you have to take yourself to Forth. My Moscow Mule was somehow indistinguishable from my Mojito... I don't know if that's because my server had decided to not listen to me since I'm clearly crazy, eating alone in a lounge after work, or because the bar is just 'meh.' In any case, for the price, it's hard to complain; the drinks had booze in them and the food was palatable. It's hard to ask for more than that.

The lounge is a cool enough place to sit alone, as long as you are okay with your waitress largely ignoring you. My solo date lasted about 45 minutes longer that I wanted, but fortunately there were enough TVs with sports on them to distract me from the person who wasn't taking my orders. Since the speedy service took me past Happy Hour, I got myself a fancy tiki drink at the end that wasn't on that menu. It was nicely spiced with ginger and possibly clove in with all the fruit flavour. It was a nice drink but not nice enough to save the experience.

Rating: * 
Price: $ (Happy Hour Menu)

Monday, 29 January 2018

Ward 1

Apparently this place has fallen victim to the Basil's curse and is no longer in operation (for what sounds like good reason). 

If you want to sit above the crowd
and people watch, that's a thing
you can do in the Ward 1 lounge.
New Year, new restaurant. Okay, so the new year started 30 days ago; the resolution against procrastinating didn't go so well. Anyway, I stopped in at Ward 1 which is where the Black Rabbit used to be... and some other thing before that, and Basil's a hundred years ago... that seemingly lucrative and cursed corner that can't keep it's doors open. You know, that one. Hopefully the current tenant sticks it out through the summer because although tis not the season for it, that patio is ace. The layout reminds me of something more common in Montreal and other, denser cities.

Vegetables wrapped in bacon and/
or deep fried: the way God intended
Last comparison to restaurants that no longer exist: there's some really interesting two-tier bar seating going on in the lounge that was not there before and it makes the place seem bigger and busier than it was. Which, with that and a hip, brassy soundtrack made for a cool, buzzing atmosphere that made for a great place to sit down and grab a drink, even by yourself. The menu is entirely Louisiana/Cajun inspired, which I believe is not really a thing elsewhere in Winnipeg. In any case, this made it one of the more unique places I've taken myself too, which also makes it fun. The seafood boil looked particularly interesting but is only available for 2+ diners. Sadface. I was also intrigued by the catfish options but since I get sucked in by compelling appetizer menus, and Ward 1's got one, I ordered a couple things that are delicious but probably terrible for me. Both things I ordered - bacon-wrapped jalapenos and deep-fried cauliflower (both or which are vegetables... good for me, right?) - were crispy and perfect; no soggy batter or bacon here. The portions were big enough to be shared but since that's not a thing I was doing, I took some home to not be a total glutton.

I felt too fancy for happy hour.
Champagne glasses = fancy.
I ignored the all-night happy hour in favour of reviewing the cocktail list (you're welcome). The girly and bubbly Tiffany Twisted was totally my jam combining both wine and gin and fruitiness. For those of you who do not like drinking the adult equivalent of children's juice, the ginger beer drink Wheels of Steel is less sweet than you might suppose; the grapefruit cuts the sugar and balances it out nicely.

I think the menu here makes this one another example of a restaurant that might be better for groups or a date that involves another human given the variety of dishes and the family-style options. Still a great place to hang out by yourself, but bring a bigger appetite than I have or opt for just beverages. The staff, as is often the case in my adventures, was super competent and efficient; I had three different women come to my table at different points and they somehow worked in tandem in a super hopping lounge to take my orders, being me drinks, box the food that bested me, and handle my payment. Bonus points to the girl who asked me if it was 'all together?' when I was settling up; I've been waiting since I started doing this blog to quote cute observations and comments like that.

Rating: **
Price: $$

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Year End Summary

I only really started this blog in the summer, so I don't have loads of posts, but I decided that I should do a summary of the best places for x, for the year; some of the places I've visited weren't full marks but were maybe the best places to, say, go get just cocktails or have the best snacks. Also, since there are people who kind of like me and it's the 'holiday season' I haven't really been eating alone a whole lot. Compilations are what you do when you have no new material. Anyway, here's my picks for the year. Happy New Year and check 'em out in 2018.

Best Cocktails: Sous Sol; They're delicious, creative, and boozy; everything that a cocktail should be. If I could drink nothing else than 'Rencontrer dans le Jardin' for the rest of my life, I would be just fine with that, although constantly tipsy. It's what God drinks at garden parties, I'm fairly certain. Summer in a teacup.

Best Charcuterie: Bouchée Boucher; I really dig that you can pick and choose whatever meat and cheeses you like. Vegetarian? Get all cheese. Lactose intolerant? Full meat selection. In either case, if you love it, you can buy some to take home next door. How awesome is that?

Best Comfort Food: Saperavi; In true Eastern European fashion, this Georgian restaurant has the best things wrapped up in dough and pastry. Super delicious, kind of heavy, and the culinary equivalent to a warm hug.

Best Place to Go With Others: Asian Hot Pot; I really really loved this place but it is definitely for social dining, not solo. Go with your friends, get all you can eat, and mix and match and share. You'll all have a great time and the staff are amazing and accommodating.

Best Overall Outing for One: Thermëa. Yes, this one suffers from capacity problems sometimes. But when your problem is that you're too damn popular, you've got to be doing something right. The best and least awkward place to spend the entire day by yourself. As far as I've experienced. I'm willing to take suggestions.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Meiji Sushi

Mmmmm.... Sushi... I love it so hard and it's been awhile since I've written about it. Maybe there's 'better' sushi out there, I don't know, but this is pretty much my go-to. Meiji Sushi has all the choice both with the food and, due to the attached G Martini Bar, beverages that it would be pretty surprising if you couldn't find something you love. Something about it being all dim and downstairs makes it feel cozy to me which is counter-intuitive, I know, but just accept it. Since it's cold these days and I need excuses to get out and about, I felt that it was time to head over and reevaluate some favourites of mine.

The Nutini, in all it's almond-y goodness. The
cloth napkins and superb waitresses will make
you feel classy as you drink alone
Since the air outside is cold enough to kill people right now, I felt it would be in everyone's best interest if I started off with some hot foods. Miso soup is, of course, a standard, so I'll skip ahead to some others. The agadashi tofu is deliciously crispy (and no, no matter what your conspiracy-theory wielding friend says, it will not mess with your hormones or secondary sex characteristics)  although the pieces were a little unwieldy for my chopstick-handling skills. This is a good thing, by the way, the pieces are rather large so there's more to enjoy. Gyoza is something that is often overlooked at sushi places, I find, taking a backseat to tempura and, well, sushi. Do yourself a favour and order some at Meiji; the garlicky-onion flavoured pork is so amazing that, despite the pain (they arrive nuclearly hot), you won't be able to wait to crush these amazing dumpling.

The chef's creation in all its glory
(The roll behind it is the Golden
Roll. The others are just random
Now, that's a lot of 'appetizer' before sushi, so let's take a drink break. The martini menu ranges from almost literal dessert to something slightly sweet that your super-masculine, tofu-fearing buddy might admit to liking. I went with an Amaretto-heavy Nutini although my favouritest sugary drink here is the Millennium; raspberry liqueur with vodka and champagne, poured over an actual sugar cube. Fortunately diabetes does not run in my family.  Something that I think gets overlooked in favour of the fancier drinks is the sort of 'build-your-own' feature with classic martinis. there are a nice variety of gins, vodkas, and garnishes to let you assemble your perfect martini (for those of you who like to be more of a Bond and less like a woman on her 18th birthday). I'm an olive girl myself, but there was also the option of a citrus twist, pearl onions, or chocolate, if you still want your sweets.

As far as sushi goes, Meiji has all the standards and then some. My personal recommendations are the Golden Roll; a solid 'cheap roll with tuna and avocado, and the chef creation with avocado and quail egg; the texture is amazing and it's something reasonably unique to get at this particular location.

Rating: **½
Price: $$

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Bouchée Boucher

Apparently I have to check the internet regularly to make sure the places I blog about still exist. This one, it seems, no longer does.

Super bright; super cool.
I don't talk too much about décor because it's largely irrelevant to my dining experience, unless it's truly awful, but Bouchée Boucher's was eye-catching enough to mention. Unlike many of the schmancy places I frequent, the restaurant here is big and bright and kind of a refreshing change from hiding in the dark, inhaling cocktails like some kind of of posh crime lord on the run and in hiding. A lot of places seem to equate dimness with chic, but this restaurant demonstrates that windows and light can be trendy too. If you're one of those people who complain how you can't read the menu in The Keg or Earls, you're going to like this place a lot better.

I really need to start remembering to
take pictures of my food before I
tuck into it.
The menu featured small, medium, and large plates that were priced accordingly and the server let me know right away what wasn't available that evening so I could plan my meal around that. As per usual, the cocktail list featured high prices that, in this case, I wasn't sure were entirely worth it. There was a cocktail with Zubrowka which I was super excited to try; as a Pole I feel particularly connected to that vodka and it doesn't show up on a lot of drink lists in town. It was a nice enough drink but the weird grit that was in the bottom of my glass, which I think was from the juniper berries used in the recipe, was fairly unappetizing.

I found the tartare surprisingly flavourless, considering the place doubles as a butcher, you'd think they'd have a really good one. The really, really charred grilled lines in the sourdough that came with overwhelmed what little taste there was and the texture wasn't awesome either, so overall this dish was a bust. I also ordered some heirloom tomatoes, which were nice, but nothing that you couldn't make for yourself at home.

Mmmmm... Taleggio... the cheese
I didn't know was my favourite
until now
Now, in retrospect, the meat and cheese boards are the obvious choice at this kind of restaurant; if you want a three-star experience, stick with that and you will have it. There are two sizes available and you get to pick your meat/cheese ratio depending on how carnivorous you are feeling, with no change to the pricing. You can also select your meats and/or cheeses specifically, but I'm indecisive, so I left the choosing up to the server/kitchen.Now, the really cool part is that if you particularly like something that was on your board you can walk next door and buy it because that's a service you can offer when your restaurant also doubles as a butcher/deli with a retail space in the same building. Pretty damn cool. If you're up for trying something new that you can also purchase and assemble fro yourself/impress your friends with at home, this is the only place that I can think of which was designed to facilitate that. Check it out.

Rating: **

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


Alright, it's winter. There's no denying it and it sucks. However, when the weather is at it's worst, it is actually a great time to head to one of my super favourite solo-dates. Thermëa is certainly not without its flaws (many of which I think might be due to its own success) but it is definitely the best thing that I can think of to do alone on a cold, crappy day. Also, considering you can spend as much time there as you wish, it's a pretty economical staycation in an hourly sense, particularly if you can make it out on a weekday when the rates are reduced.

So, the cons of this one are oft-cited, so I'll just confirm that some of the legends are true: be prepared to wait forever to check in. Even the so-called 'fast lane' for those of us who book massage appointments and such are entitled too moves at a snail's pace and, if you need your receipt for insurance purposes, be prepared to wait again (for some reason) after your appointment. All this, of course, is a best-case scenario; if you try to go on a holiday or particularly nice weekend and they are at capacity, the wait-list is literally four hours long. Since I mentioned massage appointments, I'll just mention here that such services are not required to enjoy the spa and in fact I wouldn't even recommend it, to keep your costs down. The discount they offer on the 'thermal experience' is comical considering the cost of their services. But my back is what professionals refer to as 'permanently f*cked' so I opt to get a deep-tissue massage whenever one is available.

Come prepared with your own bathrobe and sandals since these are not provided and renting/purchasing them is just further raising your costs unnecessarily. The towels are also stupid tiny, so you might want to bring one of your own if you want to wrap yourself up in it. Maybe bring an extra bathrobe if you've got it since yours will inevitable get wet and that's not super comfortable all the time. Final pro-tip: memorize your locker number; the sharpie they use to write it on your wrist band will wear off approximately 36 seconds after you enter the spa. It's almost useless that they do it.

Now, back to the reasons why, despite the minor annoyances listed above, I think Thermëa is the greatest solo-date: you move through at your own pace and (when they're actually enforcing) the silence policy means that conversation isn't even an option. Basically, in my opinion, it's designed to be done on your own. I mean, I suppose if you've got a partner that you don't mind snuggling in public, this could be a place to do that, but apart from that I can't think of any other reason that going alone is not the optimal experience.

Silly Thermëa, Vegan Farmers are called 'gardeners.'
If you do use the restaurant, be prepared once again for some signature, Thermëa-style waiting. Seating can take forever, especially since the entry to the restaurant is in an awkward spot for staff to see who's waiting for service. While there are no pants required in the restaurant, it can be a bit chilly in a thin, wet robe, so you might want to bring a change of clothes or that extra, dry towel I recommended earlier. The slow service once seated isn't super noticeable since the staff is supremely friendly and you really shouldn't be rushing off anywhere anyhow. If you did book a spa service, maybe do that before visiting the restaurant so you done have to sprint off. The menu is alright, but I feel it could use more nibbles; I'm not really looking for a full meal after spending all day in a steam-room.

I got soup because it's the thing to have in the winter. It was nothing special but I am never really super moved by tomato-based soups, so maybe that was it; I find them boring. Cheese was the only really snacky-thing that appealed to me, so I went with that. There were two smoked cheeses out of three, which I thought was a poor choice, but it smoked Gorgonzola was pretty awesome, so it made up for the lack of variety. The baked brie was tasty but could have been hotter; it wasn't gooey all the way through as one might have hoped.

They don't allow phones in the spa,
so you'll just have to be content with
this pic full of chocolate.
Desserts aren't usually my thing, but if you're going to be here all day, you might find the time to try a couple. The rhubarb platz was super delicious ans super huge, so my super kind server boxed it for me and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to go *hearts and flowers*. The lockers are pretty tiny here, so that was appreciated. A much less portable but definitely more fun choice is the chocolate fondue; how much fun is it to have your own little burner at the table? Speaking of fun, they used to offer sippy cups so that you could take a cocktail outside. But when I asked about this, the server informed me that you can't take them to the pools or pavilions so... I don't really know what the point is. I'm 80% sure you could take them to the hot tubs in the recent past. I assume things got irresponsible and now it's been ruined for the rest of us. I can't imagine walking around in the cold in a robe drinking a mimosa would be fun, but that's just me.

So yes, it's true, there are a few things about this place that are less than perfect BUT if you actually want to do something by yourself for the day, as opposed to just sitting around a restaurant lounge, this is your best potion in the city. That I have found so far. I'm totally open to suggestions.

Rating: ** ½
Price: $$

Monday, 6 November 2017


I've mentioned my renoviction before and was thinking about my standard solo date-nights that are now slightly further for me to walk to and thus not as common these days for me as they once were. So I decided to head over to Cornerstone, which is my favourite place to go on a Monday night. Not only is the restaurant geographically convenient for someone like me, but it's open until 2:00 every day which is nice, given that most places shut down by 9 or 10, particularly on weeknights.

From my small, corner table, I
probably looked like a psycho,
taking pictures of other humans in
their natural environment
So, why Monday? the specials for their 'TGIM' include $1.50 oysters and discounted bubbly, which can be a perfect after-work date on a day of the week many 9-5ers loathe. When I lived in Osborne/Corydon I was a big fan of using this place as an after-work stop since my bus stopped literally steps away from the door and it got quite a bit of seating. It can be pretty hopping there, even on weeknights, but right after work it's fairly easy to snag a seat at the bar or at one of the small tables along the window. The TVs and loud-ish music might be distracting if you are here with friends, but it makes chilling alone super easy.

The bar service can be slow, especially when there are like-minded after work crowds, but the cocktails are smooth and creative (in addition to my standard Cornerstone-Monday Cava, I snagged myself a Citrus-Sage Sour) without falling too far away from classic to be threatening or obnoxious. Speaking of drinking, in cool, crafty bars like this one, I find they can make a decent mocktail since they have a lot of house-made syrups and such. Don't ask for one here. I requested a non-alcoholic drink from the bar and my server looked at me like I was an alien and informed me that the bartender couldn't do that. Maybe she thought that keeping me drinking booze would keep my bill up, even though I find that fancy virgin drinks are usually $5-8 anyway... I don't know. It was weird. I wouldn't recommend trying it.

The red stuff in the middle is super
Anyway, food. Let's talk about that. Naturally I ordered oysters, which can come with hot sauce or horseradish, if you're into that, but I declined since I just really like the dressing/vinegar that it comes with; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Also, since it's cold out now, I went with the chickpea soup, which was amazing and had all the textures going on at once and is anything but boring (some people think that soup is boring; those people are wrong). I've got a bit of a cheese platter obsession going on right now, so I got that too. It was both great and awful all at the same time. The crosini was weird and, like... stale? I don't know. It was really bad. I don't usually ask for a reboot, but this time I did. Round two was the same. I've had cheese here before and I don't remember the crostini being oily, not crunchy, and old-tasting but I also don't like making a fuss, so I just let it go. Not having crostini that's palatable might have been okay, but the cheese bits were really small, so without bread, it ended up being a pretty minuscule plate. Regardless, the cheese was really good and since that's the name of the game, I suppose that's a pass. I didn't know it until having a Cornerstone cheese platter, but apparently I can like blue cheese. Even when it's not smoked. The server told me that it was something Dutch and I found it way milder than the other blues that I try to force myself to eat when they show up in dishes that I've ordered in an effort to not look picky. There was also some kind of soft cheese from Quebec that made me equally happy and a Parmesan to round everything out. It all came with a couple of savoury jams, which I prefer over sweet when eating cheese.

Apart from some of the weirdness I mentioned (one I didn't because it's not super relevant, but still confuses me: there's an ATM by the door. I don't really understand why it's there, but it is. I guess that's just a bar thing? They take credit and debit so...? Yay for choice?)  this one is a pretty cool spot that's buzzing and fun but not full of teenagers. I recommend it if you'd like to play a trendy business person who's who's unwinding after work some Monday. Or another day of the week if oysters aren't your thing.

Rating: **
Price: $$

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Palm Lounge

Oooooh, ahhhh.
I've been relatively recently renovicted from my Osborne/Corydon area apartment and thus find myself downtown a lot more these days. It's a bit a of a re-adjust since a lot of my go-to's for after-work dinner dates were along Osborne or Corydon. But then, I remembered the place I usually stop after getting my hair did because it's just down the street, which is also downtown and also super convenient for one.

If you're out alone and want to blend in while having a schmancy meal, a hotel bar is actually a really good place to do it. The Palm Lounge is one of the classier places that I've sat at a bar; the live music thing happens most evenings and makes it feel like you're doing something more significant than just drinking alone, although here that's a really normal thing to be doing since you're essentially in a hotel lobby. If you dress nice, maybe people will think you're successful or something and on a business trip. That's what I tell myself and it makes me feel important. The bartender also recognized me even though I haven't been by in a few months, so that definitely worked with my sense of self-importance.

The appetizers here are too pricey to really do more that one, but the entrées are a little more reasonable. In any case, I appreciate a good cheese board, so that's what I did.It was a nice mild to medium selection with both hard and soft cheeses that came with fresh figs, strawberries, dried berries  and apricots, grapes, and nuts. Everything went together really well, unlike some accoutrements out there.

Yes, this is now irrelevant, but I
was just excited that I'm not the only
freak who likes to mix iced tea with
her gin.
Now, I took down notes for this in the summer (yes, I put off writing this one for way too long) so I had the summeriest cocktail (cucumber, elderflower, and prosecco) but really wine is the thing you're supposed to do with cheese, otherwise they kill you. I think. Anyway, my bartender did a mini wine-tasting for me which was SUPER awesome. Not just because, cool, free wine, but she was busy AF because a couple wedding parties had stumbled in. She still somehow found the time to chat with me about cheese (they were from Quebec <3 For some reason, I have really enjoyed Quebecois cheese whenever it comes up), recommend wines (New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc  makes me happier than any other Sauvingnon Blanc, it seems), and have a quick discussion about how diversity in the workplace cuts down on employee harassment in the hospitality industry sometimes (at least, that's the conclusion we came to about both The Palm Lounge and the restaurant that I work at on the weekends).

If you aren't super into eating whole chunks of dairy fat like me, the shrimp dumplings are steamed and will make you look healthier and worldlier since they come with chopsticks, and you can show off your skills (or lack thereof) with alternate eating utensils.

Anyway, if you find yourself downtown and want to go out alone, this one is definitely a prime spot, being in a hotel. They are probably super used to serving single guests as well as people who are in a rush. So if you don't want to spend too much time sitting alone, you don't have to. But, for the same reason, you can kind of chill as long as you like and just pretend you have nothing better to do for the rest of the night than hang out listening to lounge music. Classic.

Price: $$$
Rating **

Monday, 23 October 2017


The view from my bar stool left
something to be desired.
People often ask me if it feels awkward going out alone. For the first time I can honestly say 'sometimes;' entering this restaurant is so weird and the opposite of subtle. You sort of fall through a foyer of curtains right into the centre of the room where you have to stand like an idiot, waiting to be seated. Enoteca is a super small place, so my seating options were limited since I didn't think to make a reso for one on a Wednesday night. I don't find this place to have the same friendly vibe as some of my other favourites and my server seemed to think that I didn't understand what tapas was... but not in a inclusive kind of 'let me help you with this method of dining' kind of customer service that I've sometimes got. Overall, my whole date was off to a deeply uncomfortable start and didn't immediately improve; there was no where for me to put my purse since the bar stools had no backs and I couldn't see any wall hooks. After struggling with the 20,000 league distance between my seat and the floor where my bag was stowed all evening, I did discover the coat-hooks... around the corner and, uh, conveniently located just outside the washrooms. The whole set up of this restaurant is pretty weird; I suspect that the space was used for something dramatically different before it became a tapas place.

Anyway, general discomfort aside, I rather liked the wine menu. Not so much for the specific contents, but I really dug that there were 3oz glass options; I asked the server to follow her heart and just make up some pairings for whatever dish was coming out, which isn't a thing I could probably do with a larger glass size. I mean, I could, but I'd be highly unlikely to remember what I thought of the food or drink when I was finished with the evening. It was a nice way to sample a variety and stay sober-ish, which might be a particularly good thing if you're the kind of person who might drive out to this one. I was only given the wine menu, but I did see beer and spirits up on the wall, so I assume those are options as well.

I followed my tradition of trying the beef tartare. I wasn't a huge fan of how bits of it were 'deconstructed' since it made it hard to kind of put flavours together in a way I might have if the yogurt wasn't a hundred miles from the rest of the dish BUT there was foie gras included with the dish, as opposed to an add-on, which made my day. I think foie gras is one of the most f***ing decadent things that you can eat with tartare, and I liked that the chefs here were inclined to agree with me.

The cauliflower dish I had was so rich and amazing that I understood for a second how it might be possible to consider vegetarianism as a viable lifestyle choice. I didn't love the sablefish, however, as much as the price-tag suggested that I might. In general, I did find that the cost here got in the way of giving this restaurant a really thorough review; there was a huge variety of things I'd love to have tried, but eating more than I did would have been financially impossible. I get that pretty much all the restaurants I review on here are pretty pricey, but this one I really noticed even before I received the final cheque.

Price: $$$
Rating: *½

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Roost

So, even when doing something for fun, like writing reviews for your totally hip blog, motivation can be a tricky thing. Because, you know, watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine and eating popcorn is way easier than trying to be witty, in print, for a small group of people who may or may not care if I post a new thingy about how I feel when I eat at places alone in Winnipeg. ANYWAY, I work at a restaurant/dining corporation that does weddings and such as a second job and the other night, which banquet serving and feeling generally menial, one of my bosses/owners said that he'd read my blog AND HE LIKED IT; thought it was well-written n shit. Well then, if an industry professional thinks this is fun to read, then IT MUST BE SO. Anyway, with renewed enthusiasm, I present to you my latest dining adventures.

Yup, it's not the poor lighting, that
there is popcorn. Don't get me
wrong, popcorn is my favourite
vegetable, but not in this context.
The Roost is a tiny, especially if you have to exclude patio seating due to weather. It's also a walk-up, so be careful you don't miss the door entirely; I may have been known to walk past the place once or twice while looking for it. I've had trouble getting in in the past, but today was my day. The food menu here is, in my opinion, a little too small but it is an allergists delight; with all their vegan, vegetarian, gluten, and dairy free options, every food sensitivity (both real and imagined) can be accommodated here. The seating seems to be set up to allow for socializing, but it is certainly not an awkward space for one (providing that have a spare seat to give you).

The most user-friendly drink menu in this city. It even has a
pictorial guide so there are zero surprises when your beverage
I ordered the mushrooms on toast which was super delicious for something that sounds like what university students eat for dinner instead of a real meal. It had a whipped goat cheese on it that reminded me of a Segovia dish I once loved but, alas, no longer exists. The main part of the dishes here are generally very good, save the ridiculously salty scallops I had, but the accouterments range from bland to baffling. I don't know what I expected the popcorn grits to be, but it was literally popped corn on grits. It was weird to me and not particularly tasty, so I could have gone without. Although I do enjoy eating weird things, it has to be pretty delicious if I'm going to do it. Speaking of delicious, the brussel sprouts made my day in a way that vegan food rarely does. At least I assume it was vegan since the menu called the sauce a 'cheese' sauce. I don't really want to know what it was made from, since I generally prefer my cheese to be coming from a quadruped and don't think we need to get inventive with the stuff. BUT if you're not into animal products, this'll work for you.

The only surprise you might
experience with your beverage is
how beautiful it looks
The cocktail menu is arranged from easiest drinking to the harder stuff, which is really handy if you don't know what to drink specifically. There's some pretty imaginative stuff: the rooibos tea cocktail with a cake pop reminded me of something Starbucks would have if it was a bar and the Dangeroost is dangerous indeed. I definitely enjoyed this place more for the cocktails than the menu. I think it's because I really like eating animal products; I'm kind of an economic vegetarian when I'm preparing my own meals, so I like to indulge when I take myself out. BUT, if you're not into eating animals, I think this would be a pretty cool hangout for you; a lot of schmancy date places tend not to have vegan-friendly options (especially plural 'options,' avec un 's') so this will definitely meet the coolness of both your style and dietary needs.

Price $$$
Rating: *½

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Mon Ami Louis

Quantity over quality, I feel.
I don't usually want to start off a review comparing a restaurant with 'how it used to be' because that'a not terribly useful since both you and I, dear solo diners, have yet to master the art and science of time travel. Unfortunately, that is all that I could think during my recent foray to Mon Ami Louis. I last visited a couple years ago and really missed the duck-fat fried fries, savoury crepes, and all the things that kind of made it chic and French. As it is now, I found the sharing plates on the menu sounded pretty uninteresting. While I appreciated that there was both a large and small options for charcuterie, the impressiveness was a resounding 'meh.' My super cool server asked which was my favourite bit and I honestly couldn't tell him, it was all so unremarkable. Probably just the strawberries, which were a garnish. I think. I found the inclusion of strawberries as a compliment to the charcuterie to be weird. Is that weird? I thought that it was.

Mmmm... Caribou...
The cocktail menu has some local culture infused into it (Festival-famous Caribou and maple ingredients as well as two drinks named after our provincial founder) as well as some inventive sangria options although none of the ones I tried really stood out as excellent. There were some local beers available, but I thought I'd get a glass of wine since I'm not super into beer. The menu didn't state what the South African blend was a blend of, so I asked. The server said he'd check and then some strange bloke in a suit (the owner? He was shuffling around kind of poking at everything when I came in, so I assume he was doing some kind of supervision) came to talk to me about what was in it. Except that he didn't know either and I didn't understand why no one thought to just check the bottle or box or whatever. It felt like entirely too much of a production to find out what this wine was made out of. Strange Suit Guy finally brought me the bottle so that I could read it and find out what the blend was myself which, again, really seemed unnecessary. I finally read it off the label in a fairly easy way that probably didn't require three people to do and yes, after all that, I have forgotten what grape varietals were in the bottle. The experience of getting it was so much more memorable than the wine itself, so I figure it wasn't great.

Wish I was sitting at the bar
Unlike the cocktail menu, the menu menu doesn't feature a lot of local flavour; there is one appetizer with pickerel and the rest of the entrees are chicken, tuna, and something with lobster that I passed on. I figured I had to base my review on more than an unremarkable charcuterie and a South African mystery wine, so I ordered a 'traditional' tarte flambée, which it turns out is just a pizza. Why can't we all just call a pizza a pizza? Is this some kind of contemporary restaurant taboo? Speaking of taboo, is there something wrong with putting salt and pepper shakers on the table? It seems that whenever I need some, it's never there, and Mon Ami Louis followed the rule accordingly.

The glare from the lighting
prevents me from showing you the
best part of the restaurant.
I can't say I really recommend this one for solo dining. While the view was amazing, this is the first establishment I've been to that gave me a garbage seat (awkward corner by the washrooms; it was so bad that the hostess apologized even before bringing me there) potentially because I was alone; the place wasn't hopping so I couldn't really see any justification for hiding me out of the way like that. I only hope that they don't make 'real' patrons sit there. Also, the wi-fi they've got is not for patron use, so you may need to bring a book or something while you wait for your food. Clearly, the ambiance for me wasn't stellar, but in general, they have retained the neon red lights from when it used to be a Sals, so there's this weird kind of diner feel layered on top of the chic French-ness that they are trying to go for.

Now, while I didn't have a great experience, one thing that was great was my server. What I've noticed since starting this venture is that even the most mediocre restaurant can have the most amazing staff; I have yet to go to a place with terrible service. Even places that I have found truly awful in terms of menu, et cetera, have the friendliest and most competent staff. I'm not sure if this is because we live in Friendly Manitoba, because the post-recession job market makes serving super competitive, or if it's just that my wait staff feels sorry for my because I'm sitting all by myself, but I appreciate having a rapport with the person serving me. It reinforces that dating yourself is not as lonely as people assume.

Price: $$
Rating: *