Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Worth the drive... and the wait

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I have it on good authority (i.e. the Weather Network) that the 14-day trend is for more mild, sunny weather, which gives us more time than usual to enjoy autumn's glory.

One of the most scenic drives near the city is the River Road south of Lockport, but when it comes to fall foliage, well, there just isn't much of it. It's not as long as the River Road, and is less well known, but the drive south of Selkirk, which starts at Eveline Street, is an enchanting backwater with a winding, and sometimes even slightly rolling road, lined with houses (some quite old) and trees, affording some gorgeous views of the river.

I prefer the panoramas on display when driving south from Selkirk, which means lunch in Selkirk first. Not so many years ago there wasn't much to choose from beyond the usual burgers, pizzas, fried chicken and the inevitable Chinese food. Not any more. These days there is fine, upscale dining at the Maple Tree, traditional fare and sumptuous desserts at Barney Gargle's and, for the past three years, there's Roxi's as well, which -- although there are a few tables where a counter might otherwise be -- has a diner-like feeling. At least the cafe part of it.

It sounds like a simple enough operation, but if you plan to eat here bring patience and allow plenty of time. At first all we saw was a no frills but cosy little room, with a view into an equally small kitchen, and more waitresses than seemed necessary for so small a space. But after taking a stroll through the corridor that leads to the attached Selkirk Motor Hotel, we found ourselves in a sizeable dining room and lounge, full of diners who were also being fed by that little kitchen.

That, and a significant take-out business, explained the interminable wait for our food, and it says a lot about Roxi's that -- even after an hour's wait -- I still loved the place. Possibly service on a weekday might be faster than on the weekend, and probably chances would also be better during non-meal hours, but there are no guarantees, although apparently the kitchen is being enlarged.

There's nothing exotic on the wide-ranging menu, which runs the gamut of meals from breakfast to dinner, as well as such snacks as onion rings, sweet potato fries, chicken tenders, nachos and quesadillas, none of which we tried. But everything we did taste was skillfully prepared and well above average. For breakfast, there are the usual eggs, omelets and french toast, but also wonderfully fluffy wheat germ and wild blueberry pancakes, a daunting stack of three massive ones, made from scratch (like almost everything else here), and surprisingly delicious for something that's also good for you ($6.99).

Silken perogies, plump with mashed potatoes and old cheddar, are grilled (not deep-fried, thanks be) and dotted with crisp bits of bacon and fried onions (six for $7.59). Fish and chips features sweet-fleshed cod in crisp, thin batter (two pieces for $8.99; $1.95 more for a third piece). Two substantial slices of grilled chicken breast, glazed in marble cheese, and topped with the house cranberry chutney and crushed walnuts ($11.29).

Even a simple chicken salad sandwich, made with fresh-cooked chicken, was superior ($4.99) . So was the mayo-dressed cole slaw, and so -- even -- was the garlic toast. Potatoes in every form were perfect -- a little mountain of the best mashed I've had in ages (Yukon gold, I suspect); thinly shredded hash browns with the breakfasts (diced are an alternative); and fries so good I lamented the fact that we just couldn't manage to try the poutine as well, especially since the house-made gravy with the fries was also light and notably non-salty. One endearing aspect of the menu was the honesty of the little marks denoting which of the sauces, spreads and dressings were made in-house.

Among the other possibilities are the usual array of sandwiches, burgers and wraps, as well as such dinner entrees as roast beef, sirloin steak and phyllo-wrapped fried shrimp. Also a Ukrainian Feast comprising grilled kulbassa, perogies, sauerkraut and a giant cabbage roll in tomato sauce -- how on earth did I miss that one!

There were only a few desserts in the cooler by the time we got to them, but the coconut cream pie (apart from what tasted like stabilizer in the cream topping) was delicious. Others might be lemon meringue or apple pies, chocolate chip cake, or a trifle. The coffee was good, and the service, once the noon-time jam had let up, was friendly and efficient.

 

-- -- --

 

If you want to combine your excursion with food shopping, drop in at the Selkirk Butcher Shop, which has been in business for 30 plus years. Of course they sell fresh meats, but I had come for the cured meats, which are prepared in their own smoke house. It's smaller than its city equivalents, and so is the selection -- approximately two dozen varieties of cured meats -- but all are good, and several are outstanding, made with no fillers or artificial additives.

There's only one kind of ham, for instance, but it is delicately flavoured (and not dripping wet like some packaged supermarket varieties), and the coarse ham garlic sausage and the ham garlic salami are top notch too. I liked the full flavoured hunter's salami, flecked with mustard seeds, the delicate veal salami, the wieners, and also -- although I know I won't convert any diehard headcheese haters -- the garlicky headcheese.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

To see the location of this restaurant as well as others reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, please see the map below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2011 D3

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