Located at 238 Lilac St., the bakery and 40-seat cafe celebrated its fifth anniversary in August.
"We are a simple place, with good energy and hospitality," says owner Tom Janzen. "That's part of my rural background. No pretensions here. Just come in, be as you are, and enjoy some good food."
While the hospitality is reminiscent of country life, so is the food. At this scratch bakery, all the whole grain organic flour is milled on-site. They make their own bread, baking, soup stock and more.
Janzen, a Riverview resident, fondly remembers growing up on the farm in rural Manitoba.
"As a kid, I had one sister," says Janzen. 45. "She left home early, so I had no competition in the kitchen. I started baking bread in my late teens. I learned mostly on my own. My first bread was pretty brick-like, but I started searching for recipes. I loved it. You learn to do what you love."
Janzen also learned to mill his own grain. He started with a hand-turned mill, but now uses an electric one.
When he was in his 20s, Janzen remembers being a jack-of-all trades. He worked a variety of jobs, including construction, until he married a farm girl and they decided to get back into farming.
"We enjoyed the rural lifestyle. It was a lifestyle choice, a great place to raise young children. But in farming, it was hard to make ends meet," says Janzen.
In 1985, Janzen decided to start baking bread to sell at farmers' markets. He baked the breads using his own grains, creating a value-added product.
By 1998, the family sold their family farm and bought an existing business in Winnipeg that became Bread & Circuses.
"Life on the farm was not easy," says Janzen. "We were farming, I was running a baking business and my wife, Jane Powell, had a job, too. I guess I traded it all in for one big job, here."
Today, kids Revanna, 13, Zach, 14, and Silas, 17, all have weekend jobs at the bakery. In addition to Janzen, staff includes 10 cooks and bakers and 15 serving staff.
Displayed along one wall of the cafe is a selection of artwork that changes every three months. The bakery and cafe's first shows featured artists from Janzen's own family and his grandmother's quilts. The word got out from there.
Menu favourites include Janzen's own multigrain bread. In all, there are eight daily varieties, one specialty bread each weekend, and seasonal loafs for holidays. The top selling sandwich is the Big Top Turkey Sandwich.
One Friday a month, the cafe hosts a family supper. The evening begins at 5:30 with dinner, followed by storytelling by Sue Procter, and Celtic music performed by members of a folk circle.
As for how he came up with the rather unique name for his business, Janzen says Bread and Circuses comes from a 2,000-year-old Roman expression that translates as: "Only two things does the Roman citizen worry about: Bread and Circuses."
It was written in AD 62 by Juvenal, who chided the Romans for following their whims and pleasures, allowing their allegiances to be swayed by any politician who would cater to their appetites.
Janzen says the expression captures the philosophy of his business: A place for good food and celebration.
PHOTO LINDA VERMETTE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS