An 11-day promotional event designed to add some spice to the local restaurant industry's two slowest weeks of the year kicks off today in Winnipeg.
Up to 10,000 diners are expected to give their taste buds a workout during the Dine About Winnipeg event, which will see the top chefs from 35 city restaurants serving up a special three-course meal for a fixed price of either $28 or $36, depending on the restaurant.
This year's lineup of participating restaurants ranges from longtime favourites like Bailey's, the Round Table and Amici, to relative newcomers like the Arkadash Bistro & Lounge, In Ferno's On Academy, and Billabong Gastropub.
The annual event was launched 10 years ago by Winnipeg's Ciao! magazine as a way for local restaurants to showcase some of the their most creative culinary offerings and to boost sales during what is usually the slowest time of the year for the local industry, Caio! publisher Laurie Hughes said Friday.
It also gives Winnipeggers an excuse to venture out into the cold and check out some of the city's finest restaurants, she added.
Hughes said some restaurants use it to showcase some of their signature dishes, while others like to create something entirely new for the event.
"Either way, the diners win."
Because reservations are encouraged, the restaurants have been able to track how many people attend each year. Hughes said it was about 10,000 in 2012, and there were only 27 participating restaurants. So with nine more restaurants this year, attendance should be even higher.
Local restaurateur Noel Bernier has both of his Exchange District eateries -- Hermanos Restaurant and Wine Bar and Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria -- participating this year. And it would have been three if his latest culinary venture -- Carnival Brazilian BBQ -- had been ready on time.
Bernier had hoped to have Carnival and a smaller restaurant/lounge open in the Excelsior condominium complex on Waterfront Drive by the middle of January. But the opening date has since been pushed back to Feb. 15.
This is Hermanos' fourth year as a Dine About Winnipeg participant, and Corrientes' first (it's only been open since last July). Bernier considers it the industry's premier event of the year.
"It attracts people who might not normally take that time of the year to go out and check out their city's restaurants," he said.
And because they know ahead of time what the meals will cost, "it gives them the confidence to go out and try something new."
Bernier also likes the fact there's no government funding or assistance involved.
"It's a completely private-sector event that just makes so much sense."
Diners can view what each restaurant's offering on Ciao!'s website (www.ciaowinnipeg.com), or in the February/March issue of the magazine, which is available in specialty food and wine stores.
Chop Steakhouse and Bar
Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria
Dessert Sinsations Cafe
In Ferno's Bistro
In Ferno's on Academy
Jolly Friar Café
Kristina's on Corydon
Los Chicos Restaurante Y Cantina
The Melting Pot
Moxie's Grill & Bar
Promenade Cafe and Wine
Rudy's Eat and Drink
Amici @ Niakwa
Arkadash Bistro + Lounge
The Current Restaurant and Lounge
Hermanos Restaurant & Wine Bar
The Round Table
Sydney's at The Forks
Terrace in the Park
-- source: Ciao! magazine