Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Upstairs in the Village

One of the nicer views from a
Winnipeg patio, in my opinion
So, I hit this one up when, walking home from work, it was too nice to go home and eat alone in my sad, sad basement apartment. This has got to be the best patio in Winnipeg with the worst possible menu. It was small and completely unappetizing. Maybe it was because the only thing really on it was pizza and it was a stupid hot day so I was looking for something lighter; I will revise this if I ever sample the hot food and it ends up not being terrible but I was so unimpressed that I just got myself a Caesar Salad. It was fine, as Caesar Salad tends to be. At least the lettuce was crisp and all those sorts of things that a salad should be, at bare minimum.

The staff is super duper friendly and make you feel pretty normal to be hanging out alone on what I've decided is actually my favourite patio I've sat on this summer. Unfortunately there isn't much of a draw; for one of the very few times when I'm out alone I felt too old to be in an establishment. There's these club tunes going and security staff so I guess I was in a bar although the set-up to me really implies that it's supposed to be a restaurant. The drink menu consists of things that your teenage self might have drank to mask the taste and get hammered as quickly as humanly possible which, considering the night I was there was 'Triple Tuesdays' when you can get a triple of your favourite crap spirits for $10, might be the entire reason this place exists.

The flip side was burgers. Serves
me right for not checking
that the place was a restaurant
before I walked up the stairs...
Oh dear, I just went looking for a website to link up to Upstairs in the Village and all I could find was a Facebook page... the cover photo implies that, yes, I stumbled into and got lost in some kind of bar designed for and by teenagers (it's what could easily be super smashed bar-star girls with cleavage just sort of mashed together into a photo that probably defines some student's awesome Friday, or more likely Thursday, night).

So I guess my advice is, don't go here unless you've just turned 18 (or are younger with an older sibling's ID), the LC is out of coolers, and you have no desire to eat. I won't say that I'm above drinking cheap liquor, but if you've got a friend with a balcony, you could probably have a very similar experience with better booze provided you stopped at Safeway to grab a salad kit before heading over. It'll also help if the friend with the balcony is really friendly and discusses her folk fest plans with you while not judging you for your solo drinking.

Price: $
Rating: ½ (of a star. It would insult actual restaurants if I gave this place a full one. The half is purely because every server who interacted with me was a delight)

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Prairie's Edge

Audrey II peruses the menu;
she was impressed by all the
 tenderloin selection
I guess I'm breaking my own rules pretty quickly about dining alone, but I had to bring someone along this time. She was pretty nervous about her Rainbow Stage debut tonight, so we decided to go for dinner to calm her nerves before the show starts at 8:00. To be fair, she doesn't talk much and seems pretty preoccupied with being fed, so it will essentially the same as when I go out on my own.

Prairie's Edge is the restaurant in Kildonan Park, so it was a natural choice for a Rainbow Stage pre-show dinner. For this reason I did something that I have literally never done before, which is make a reservation for one. Usually, because my dates to myself are somewhat spontaneous, I just walk up with the understanding that if they can't accommodate me, I'll just walk somewhere else. This one is a little far out of the way to take that chance, especially because I have tickets to a show and am therefore a little more time-bound than usual in how my meal has to progress. Making reservations for one is annoying and a little weird, so I try my best to avoid it. It turns out that was pretty unnecessary. But, to be fair, this was a preview show, so maybe it's busier when the show at rainbow is in full-swing. It also appears to have a pretty big patio, but it was too cold for patio dining this week. Also my date, being from what appears to be the plant kingdom, might not have held up so well with the chill.

My Rainbow Stage
actor friend is so
Winnipeg -famous
 that she has a cocktail
 named after her at a
local eatery
As luck would have it, the cocktail menu included a beverage named after my new friend, so we tried that one straight away; I liked it alright even though it had melon in it (I'm not a huge fan). The cocktails here are fruitier and maybe not quite as pro as some of the other places I've been lately. My second one had some muddled blackberries which could perhaps have been more muddled as they kept clogging up my straw. Audrey II had to finish it for me and I didn't really want another cocktail, which maybe says something about their drink menu.

Audrey II just stuck with
drinks; they didn't have
what she wanted on the
menu and she's a
surprisingly picky eater.
The menu here definitely is 'prairie;' things that I kind of took for granted might be a Manitoban thing were all over the menu: pickerel, beets, wild rice, fruit crisp on the dessert menu (this week's was rhubarb; very Prairie). I wanted to try a few things to write the best review, but I don't have a huge appetite (unlike my voracious date), but the fried rice dish looked like something I'd like (someone out there try it and tell me if I should go back for it). I started with a VERY small cup of wild rice and mushroom bisque... I could find the wild rice in it but it looked pretty well puréed, so maybe it got immersion blendered in with everything else. It wasn't super flavourful; I added salt which is not something I usually do (although I am a pepper fan, and there were some cracked corns on top of the soup, so that was nice). I ordered a beet appetizer on which I found it strange that the bacon was hot; everything else (cheese, egg, beets, greens) were cold. Since it was more of a salad I didn't really like the hot meat on it. The deep fried pickerel dish I got was really nice and crispy but was't as delicious as the description led me to believe. Overall I guess I found the food to be as uninspiring as the cocktails although, to be fair, I did not try a main. There were tons of steak, fish, as well as veg options, so it's possible I just made the wrong selections.

Fortunately, for once, my date comprised of more than eating alone, so the meal didn't have to be the main attraction. Fortunately, my date got to have her own food preferences addressed during the run of her show. I think she had a better time there than with me at the restaurant. I guess I'm a lousy date. I was glad to have her along anyway though; this wasn't a great spot for me to go solo (distance, ambiance, ineffective wi-fi password,,,) and the menu didn't wow me. It would have been a rough go alone.

Price: $$
Rating: *
Quick, pre-show selfie to prove that I could totally
get a date to join me for dinner - I just don't wanna

Monday, 19 June 2017


So here's one that is actually the opposite of my usual; I've been several times but never alone. It is the 'sharing' kind of place given that it is a tapas bar, but I am pleased to announce that it also works out super well if you're going it alone. It has a very small bar that one can sit at and again, I was pleasantly surprised that there was no wait for me to snag a chair. Segovia doesn't take reservations so it's always a bit of a race for seating, even the comparably less favourable bar stools.

Le menu. Don't be intimidated by
the brief descriptions; your server
can totally help you pick some
good ones.
What I really liked about this spot is that the bar seating isn't in front of the bar but rather in front of part of the kitchen so you get to watch some meal prep rather than bar-tending which is a cool change up for the seasoned solo diner.When I sat down, I saw exactly what I wanted to try first being prepared, so it was really easy to ask what it was since it was literally being made right in front of me (beef tartare tostada, for the curious). My server was also really great at describing what was on the menu since, as you can see, there's a limited description of the dishes so if you lack a culinary vocabulary, having a translator is useful. While Segovia is a pricey place, I find your dollar buys you more variety than at another top dollar place like Deer + Almond. The plates are small enough that even someone with my appetite can try four of five different things without spending more than at my other $$$ rated places.

Another thing I've always appreciated at Segovia is how they change up their menu; there are some standards as well as daily features for variety but they also change up the rest of their menu.. quarterly? I want to say quarterly. Anyway, it changes ever few months (save a few standards) so you won't get bored or completely lose your favourites.

When I went in on Friday they had a scallop feature that was the most AMAZING texture; it was the best thing I've ever had in my mouth and I know how that sounds and I don't care. The gazpacho it was served in was a little weird as a complement, but I didn't care because, again, oh-em-gee, that scallop.My tartare dish disappointed me a little; I didn't think the hard corn tortilla went super well with the tartare itself and found the green goop (the chef told me it was yogurt with parsley and some other green stuff that I forget now) kind of overpowered the meat bit, which is the main reason I like tartare. Nonetheless, I appreciate that they tried something different with one of my favourite ways to eat raw food. The cocktails here were on par with the other $$$ places I've been to: well-made, strong, not sweet, While that kind of drink isn't generally my bag, I thought I'd try a couple for, uh, research purposes. My go-to drink at Segovia is sangria and since I'm usually not here alone, a pitcher is the way to go. They do sell it by the glass but since it's super chilly for June (because, Winnipeg) I wasn't feeling it; I like my fruity fizzy drinks on hot days, preferably outdoors.

I still feel like a bit of a tool snapping
pics of my food/impending food.
And saying, 'no, really, it's for my
blog' makes it sound even more
obnoxious. Here's where I was
sitting. The tattooed arm is the
culinary wizard who seared my
scallop. That sounds like an
innuendo. It really isn't.
I'm not usually into desserts when I go out alone; sweets take money and calories away from my preferred vice of hard alcoholism BUT the marscapone dates are the best thing ever, Jesus Christ, try at least one no matter how weird you think it sounds.They are also a rare example of something actually being cheaper in a restaurant than making it yourself. They once printed the recipe in Ciao! magazine which I did make and they tasted EXACTLY like the ones you order from Segovia. However, the ingredients are not cheap. Per date, I suppose it's cheaper, but as much as I like them there is no way I can eat the 32 or so in one go that you'd have to make to make the endeavor economical. And, at $2 a piece, there is no reason not to ad a couple to your bill at the end of your meal.

Overall, this is one of the best dates you can take yourself on; super staff and seating that doesn't make you feel like a werido, expensive enough to feel classy without making you gag a little when you see your bill, and they make eating your vegetables fun (I had the asparagus dish at the suggestion of my server and didn't regret taking it over something with less vitamins in it).

Price: $$$
Rating: ***

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Asian Hot Pot

Okay, I'm going to start this one off by saying that just because someplace is not so great of a solo dining place does not mean that it's not a great place to go. I decided (finally) to stop into Asian Hot Pot for the first time a couple weeks ago and I liked it so much that I brought a friend a week later.

The place is literally tucked in a corner on Corydon between Nikos and Freshii and I've seen it a zillion times over since I moved to Winnipeg, always wondering what it was like, but never trying it. But the beauty of going out alone is you can just say to yourself, 'Self, we're finding out what this restaurant is like right NOW.' So that's what I did.

Their website is for take-out, so I don't
believe their in-house menu is online.
Mmmmm... lookit all the noodles...
I don't know if there's other places that do this in Winnipeg, but I've never seen it; what they do at Asian Hot Pot is... a hot pot. They give you a burner, you pick a broth and then you kind of cook the stuff you ordered yourself.This was intimidating since I'd never done it before but only for about 13 seconds; the service here is AMAZING. The server did everything short of actually holding my hand to help me through this first hot pot experience. It's all-you-can-eat which she wisely picked up would not be a great option for me, so she graciously sold me the lunch special even though it was about 9 PM  and told me precisely what I should order (one veg, one meat, one ball, one noodle). She then walked me over to the sort of condiment bar that they have (included in the price) and told me how that works (it's got green onions, garlic, spices, sauces - soy, oyster, and the like). They even have handy combos printed on the wall in case you are not sure what goes well together.

The broth is $2-5 above the cost of the all-you-can-eat (or in my case, 5 topping lunch special) and comes with free refills to accommodate your culinary endeavours. I'd ordered green onion and ginger broth and soft tofu, udon, bean sprouts, quail egg, and lobster ball for 'toppings'. My server gave suggestions on how long I should simmer everything and we had a great talk about how awesome noodles are and she invited me back to try all of them (I will).

Now, the down side of all this (for a solo diner) is that it is definitely a social eating kind of place. Going with others would have allowed me to try more things and dicking around on my phone was hard to do when trying to cook. It wasn't a cocktail kind of place, although there was beer and wine, so I just stuck with tea. Food-wise, everything was perfect. The only thing I'd recommend in terms of what to order/not order is to make sure you grab salt from the condiment bar - I didn't since, typically, Chinese food is super salty. The broth here doesn't seem to be salted at all, which is great if you're sharing since everyone has different tastes. Another sort of negative seems to be entirely with me; I made a huge freaking mess. A quick look around at other diners seems to dictate that this was my problem alone. If anyone can give some pro-tips on how to not look like a slob when eating here, I'll take them.

Even though I enjoy eating animals,
I am super pleased by all the tofu;I
really enjoy the stuff. I think I
counted eight different options
 (two with fish in it though, sorry
veg friends)
Since this is a solo dining blog, this may seem a little off topic, but going with my friend who is super duper vegetarian brought out some points that might assist someone like me who doesn't eat animals. Again, the service was spectacular when we went and there is a good variety of vegetarian broths (all of the $2 ones can be vegetarian. The $5 ones can't since the upsell on those is that they have chunks of meat in them). You can see from my menu shots that there is a huge variety of vegetarian stuff and none of it has hidden animal products in it - if it says it's a noodle, it's just a noodle. Again, one of the servers accompanied us to the condiment bar where he gave my friend a personal tour of the vegetarian options (which was about 75% of the selection). There was also one point where my friend was about to say we should get a second pair of tongs as we were trying to figure out the order of things so that my animal choices didn't taint his soup, but before he finished his thought, a server just kind of materialized with a second set for us. As I said, every server here was almost magic they were so genuine and I really regret that I lack the income to lavishly and obnoxiously over-tip them.

So, to sum up: unless you have a much bigger appetite than me, this probably isn't a great option for you, dear solo date. But the food is unique and delightful, and the service rocks. Skip this one if you're looking for something more than ordinary in the alcoholic sense or want to look classy, because unless you discovered the secret that every other patron there seems to have mastered, you might get soup on your everything.

Price: $
Rating: **

Monday, 12 June 2017

Deer + Almond

Hello Winnipeg.

I've been taking myself on dates for awhile because there are cool restaurants in this city that I want to go to but don't always have the energy to wait around for people to scrape together the time and cash to join me. It turns out I am not the only person who does this. I was chatting with my friendly neighbourhood bartender at Deer + Almond, where I'd ducked in because it was raining and a Friday and I wanted to do something cool, and bam, inspiration struck. Forgive the shoddy pictures. These will get better now that I know this is a thing I want to do.

The main thing I look at is some variant of how awkward it is to eat at a place alone (seating, do I need resos, is there Wi-Fi, do the servers look at you funny). Then I'm going to tell you how much I liked a place out of 3 and the priceiness. Keep in mind that since I'm making these as dates to myself as opposed to, say, grabbing something at a drive-through, a 1/3 for price is still going to be expensive. Dining alone is not cheap, especially if you drink, so don't call me out on that one. I got it.

The best popcorn is
complimentary popcorn
So, back to Deer + Almond then. This was my very first time going here and the staff made it super easy to grab a seat by myself. They had a sit-in bar, which I always appreciate, because then I don't feel like I'm taking away space from bigger parties as the place starts to fill. Mr. Bartender was totally on board with my eating out alone, as I mentioned before, and was great at recommending cocktails and getting me started there. The ones I tried were super strong and well-made. I'd say you'd be into them if you are more into stereotypically 'manly' alcohol. I like the girliness myself, so I'd recommend the Strawberrykin if that's what you're into. Also, they gave me popcorn as an appetizer while waiting for my... appetizers. Which was pretty rad.

If you can't read through the blur,
it says 'congratulations,
your dining choices
helped others today'
I'm a fiend for raw meats, so I ordered the deer tartare and omg, holy sh**, that is one awesome dish. Instead of just egg yolk, they use hollandaise my friends, hollandaise sauce. The texture was perfect and clearly, I thought it tasted great. It was served with plain salted chips which were too thin to support the weight of the tartare if you like doing that (I do) but it paired super well anyway. And, AND, just so you can feel even better about eating this thing, they donate $1 to the St. Amant Centre each time they sell one.

Everybody wins.

If I'd stopped there we'd be looking at 3/3 but I decided I should probably eat something else. I ordered a halloumi dish. To be fair, the menu did say it came with lentils and such, but I would describe it more as a lentil dish with halloumi rather than a halloumi dish with lentils. It was fine, but maybe my standards were too high after that tartare.

Anyway, I'm glad it rained on Friday and I'm glad I stopped in on my way home. It was a great place to dine solo, had some Wi-Fi for me to use and cool staff. The major downside for me was it was crazy expensive for one, even by my generous solo-dining standards.

Price: $$$
Rating: **½