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Friday, August 19, 2016

Eating Gluten Free in Winnipeg

Last week I spent five days back in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba visiting with my elderly grandmother in a care home. When there, it's usually up to me to choose where my family and I eat, since I'm the one with the food restrictions.

So I did a bit of research and came up with a few places near our hotel in the Fort Rouge / Osbourne Village area. Here are a few places I came up with, and my thoughts on them:

Gluten Free at Boon Burger, Winnipeg

Boon Burger, an all vegan burger joint with several locations across Winnipeg (I went to the one on Bannatyne). They have a variety of gluten free and vegan patties made from things like tofu, chickpeas, black beans, brown rice, oats, etc., and for an extra $2.75 you can get a GF bun, or have your burger served wrapped in lettuce.

They have a ton of different themed burgers, like a pizza burger, Thanksgiving burger, buffalo burger, and more. I had the salsa burger, which came with tortilla chips, guacamole, tomatoes and lettuce. We also shared a separate order of fries.

Seating is super casual, a bunch of picnic benches where you may or may not end up sitting next to a stranger. I had no problems with the picnic tables, but my aunt and mom, who are of course older than I, found it a bit hard on their backs to not have anything to lean back on.

My verdict: I felt confident that my burger was GF. The staff were friendly, though it's semi self-serve. My burger was tasty, and my aunt (who's vegetarian) and I were both happy with our burgers. My mom didn't like the soft texture of a bean patty, but any vegan / vegetarian will probably be familiar with the squishier nature of a vegan burger.

It's not exactly a place I'd hang out in for long, given the nature of the seating, but for take-out or a quick bite, I think it's great. 

GF savoury crepe on the right, regular sweet crepe on the left

Enormous crepes!

Kawaii Crepe  A yummy crepe place with two locations. I visited the one on Osbourne. They have vegan crepes as well, and when I told them I was gluten intolerant, they asked if it was an allergy, as they would wash down all the work surfaces and utensils to prevent cross-contamination. So naturally I felt confident that they knew what they were doing.

They have a variety of sweet and savoury gluten free crepes, and I had a hard time deciding which one to choose!

My verdict: The savoury crepes are enormous, and delicious. I felt super confident they understood gluten free, and for a quick meal I would definitely go back again.

Gluten Free Pizza from Paradise Village

Paradise Restaurant: An Italian restaurant with pizza, pasta, etc. Their GF stuff is listed on their menu. I visited the one on Portage Ave. It's a big place what offers medium-sized GF pizzas for an extra couple of bucks, and GF pasta.

Overall my pizza tasted excellent, and the crust was very well done for a gluten free one. They certainly didn't skimp on the toppings or sauce. I ate half for dinner, and the other half the next day for lunch.

Service was less than stellar, though. While our waitress was friendly, the restaurant was empty when we got there, except for one other table. Although there were a couple of servers on staff, no one came to offer us more water, check on us, or anything else throughout our meal, even though we were a table of four ordering a fair amount of food. We had to track someone down to ask for the bill, then wait up at the front counter for a few minutes before our waitress came. As a former server myself, I was less than impressed with the poor service.

My verdict: I felt fairly confident that the restaurant understands gluten free, although the waitress didn't ask if I was actually allergic or not, which is becoming a new standard as restaurants take allergies more seriously.

Frankly, I'd be more inclined to order take-out than sit in, given the lackadaisical service.  If you're celiac, I'd ask for more info on what they do to prevent cross-contamination, as I don't know how careful they are about prepping and baking GF food.

Gluten Free burger at Market Burger, Winnipeg
Market Burger:  A funky burger joint on Corydon Ave. with a variety of sides that must be ordered separately from the burger. Their in-restaurant menu is more descriptive than the online one. 

They offer GF buns and the waitress asked me if I was allergic or if my no-gluten policy was a preference. I explained to her that I'd get sick if I ate gluten, and she seemed to totally get it. There was no one else in the restaurant, so I felt reasonably confident that I would get what I asked for.

However, when the waitress brought my burger, I thought, geez, this is the fluffiest-looking gluten free bun I've ever seen. So I asked her if it really was GF, and she laughed and said "oh no! I forgot to tell the kitchen. Let me fix that."

When asked what she planned to do (most places would, at this point, totally re-make the burger), she said they'd sear the patty and change the toppings. Since I'm not celiac, just intolerant, I was sort of okay with this, but if I'd been celiac I wouldn't have felt comfortable at all. 

Also, rather than offering to comp us any of the things we ordered, she charged full price for the contaminated burger. Neither did she return to offer us more drinks or to check on us, even though only two more tables came in while we were there.

My verdict: My mom and aunt were happy with their burgers (my aunt had a falafel burger, my mom a regular one).  My burger tasted ok, but I lost confidence with the service. I don't know that I'd return, and would definitely caution celiacs to ask questions. 

One more suggestion:  Back in 2014 I also reviewed Maxime's Restaurant in Winnipeg, and while I didn't visit them this time around since I wasn't in that area, I would definitely check them out again.

Have you been to Winnipeg? What are your recommendations?

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