You might just call it breakfast since it's only available from 7:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to just noon on Saturdays. I'm an early riser though, and I call it brunch since there's no way I could eat like that first thing. Whatever you call it it's terrific. Dessert Sinsations may be known primarily for its rich pastries, but it does one heckofa job on its breakfast/brunch foods as well. And although it may seem odd to end a meal here without a sweet, chances are you won't miss it.
The ambiance is simple and modern, particularly pleasant when sunlight streams through the huge windows -- the view may be of an unlovely parking lot, but the trade-off is that, even though you are in the heart of downtown, you won't have to scramble for a place to park.
Breakfasts range from $8.50, for two eggs with a breakfast meat, hashed browns and toast to $11.95 for the same breakfast with three eggs. They would come closer to perfection if more house-baked breakfast goods were also available, especially in a restaurant that is noted for its baking. We did try an a la carte chocolate chip muffin -- against my better instincts, I admit, since I thought it might be too sweet for breakfast -- but it wasn't too sweet, and it was delicious ($2.25). We also tried a single buttermilk pancake, also excellent ($2).
In fact, delicious and excellent were words that kept coming up for everything we tried. My top choice was a great reinterpretation of the increasingly inescapable poutine -- in this case, two perfectly poached eggs perched on the crispest of skinny fries, glazed by both jack and cheddar cheeses (better in this dish than curds, in my opinion) and graced with -- not gravy, but a lemony hollandaise that managed to be simultaneously light and rich.
For something only slightly less decadent eggs Benedict are a fine alternative, with a similar hollandaise and a choice of ham, smoked salmon or asparagus on an English muffin. For something Latino have the huevos rancheros -- a corn tortilla with black beans, bacon, jalapenos and corn, topped by cheddar, two sunnyside up eggs and sour cream. Both come with what are described as hashed browns but are actually sizable chunks of sautéed potatoes. Delicious though. And those looking for more simplicity can have a well-prepared vegetarian omelette with asparagus, tomatoes and cheddar.
Prices aren't out of line for the quality, but the extras can add up. If you want guacamole with your huevos it's another $1.50, and hot sauce goes for 95 cents more. Not everything comes with toast (another $2.50). Coffee was hot and good -- as well it might be at $3.15, but it was constantly replenished by a friendly and attentive server.
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The first Pancake House opened over 50 years ago on Pembina Highway, and chances are you either went there as a child, or have taken your own children there, at least once. These days there are three branches -- in the Clarion Hotel, at The Forks and on Pembina -- but I chose the original on Pembina, which is where (and it may just have been coincidence) my past experiences have been better than at the others. It is even more pleasant these days with the addition, a few years ago, of a multi-windowed extension, which is flooded with sunlight and seems quieter than the inside room.
There's also plenty of space in the parking lot, and the menu is enormous. As well breakfast/brunches are served at any time of day, and the extensive menu offers just about anything you could imagine, with most prices ranging from $8.49 to $11.99.
Eggs come any which way -- fried, poached, scrambled, or in a nicely done (i.e. not dry or overcooked) cheese omelette. There are more pancakes and crepes than I could ever make a dent in, but I can tell you that the classic buttermilk pancakes, which came with our omelette, were fluffy and tender. An alternative to the pancakes is hashed browns, which here, too, really means sautéed chunks.
Some of the portions are so huge they are sold in half orders as well. The best known -- and one of the best -- is the cinnamon-glazed giant apple pancake, so big it also comes in a "baby" version, which was still more than enough for me. Another favourite is the Swedish pancake -- actually an ultra-thin, delicate crepe that comes in folds that almost overflow the plate; you tear off strips and spread with butter and lingonberry jam. Not all the pancakes were successful though -- certainly not our potato pancakes, for instance, which were stolid and heavy with filler, with almost no taste of potatoes
Bacon ordered "crisp" was really just hard but pork sausages were good, the coffee was full-bodied, hot and plentiful ($2.49), and the service was attentive and professional.
To see the location of these restaurants as well as others reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, please see the map below.