Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fringe-area food finds could win standing ovations

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Since Wednesday, downtown streets have been teeming with people, a rare condition that will continue until the 26th, when the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival ends.

Every now and then, though, even the most culture-hungry will hunger for a different kind of sustenance and, fortunately, they can roam the world, gastronomically speaking, at a multitude of nearby choices, including the three new outlets listed above.

Many of the Fringe venues are located in the Exchange and there's a brand new gem in the heart of it. Unless you sit at one of the few stools in the White Star Diner (formerly Albert Street Burgers) or one of the few tables outside, you'll have to take the food out with you. On the other hand, you'll be munching on some of the city's better diner-style foods.

The pulled pork sandwich ($5.25), for instance, is one of the best I've had.

The meat -- marinated for two days in hand-mixed spices -- is tender, juicy and flavourful, packed meal-thick in a good roll along with modicums of barbecue sauce and coleslaw that complement but don't dominate the meat.

The cheese steak is heaped with slices of tender, flavourful beef, as well as sautéed onions, green peppers and cheese, and although I'd prefer the richer flavour of a cheddar or, yes, even cheese whiz (it's one of the classics) to the bland mozzarella, it's a huge, delicious and filling bargain ($7.50).

The six-ounce burger is moist and tasty ($4.50), the massive clubhouse ($5.50) with fresh cooked turkey, rivals the one at the Wagon Wheel, and the fries are twice-fried ($2.50 regular, $3.95 large). Also delicious are the house-made chocolate pecan brownie, ($2.75) and a coconut-oatmal-raisin cookie ($1.50). The usual hours are Monday to Friday until 5:30 p.m., but will be expanded for the Fringe, remaining open until 10 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday.

* * *

If the Gas Station Theatre is the venue of your choice you won't get much closer than the Burrito del Rio (formerly Village Fish), the taqueria right next door, where the filled-to-bursting burritos or folded quesadillas (not to mention a Corona beer) should go a long way to revive flagging spirits.

It's a colorful place, with some lovely Mexican tiles adorning the counter where you place, and pick up your orders, choosing your fillings as you go along. Cheerful, too, with a helpful, unflappable staff; and affordable prices ranging from $6.50 to $9.50 for the delicious Mexican specialties.

Fresh, tender tortillas come in two sizes, and are filled to order with the ingredients of your choice, all of them good. Toppings include beans (refried or whole), grated cheese, cilantro, jalapenos and some excellent salsas, as well as a delicious guacamole. The pork and beef fillings are good, and even the shrimp were plump, tasty and plentiful (eight, at least).

* * *

The aptly named Exchange Café is in the East Exchange area, in a building dating from 1886 -- a nice spacious interior, with walls of pale brick, and rather small, round cafe tables to eat at. The limited menu offers a few grilled panini sandwiches ($5 to $6.25), among them a good Italian press of salami, mortadella, capicolla and provolone. There's also a nice spinach salad, gussied up with, among other things, cranberries and bits of walnuts, a variety of coffees, Italian sodas and gelati from Nucci's. Open until 7 p.m. usually, but all evening during the Fringe.

* * *

Most of the venues are clustered in or near the heart of the city, an area with too many possibilities to list. The following -- a short walk from many of them -- have all been favourably reviewed recently, and a quick meal in most of them shouldn't exceed $10.

Chinatown and nearby areas offer a wealth of choices, such as Foon Hai, 329 William Ave., and Logan Corner, 247 Logan Ave., for full Chinese menus.

Kum Koon, 257 King St.; Golden Terrace, 245 King St.; and Noodle Express, 180 King St., offer dim sum as well as conventional menus. I'm also partial to the huge, pork-stuffed omelet at the venerable Shanghai, 238 King St.

You can have a loaded pizza or an Italian sausage sandwich at Sorrento's, 529 Ellice Ave., or generous sushi (rare in the area) at Yuki Sushi, although you'll need to allow plenty of time for them, 554 Main St. (McLaren Hotel). At 339 William Ave., Kay's Deli's excellent sandwiches include Korean-inspired, tea-marinated roast pork, and a grilled panino of capicolla and provolone.

Pastry Castle, 237 McDemot Ave., does sandwiches as well, plus sumptuous tortes and delectable little dainties.

The above all have in-house seating, but some of the most dedicated patrons will take time off only for a snack on the go, in which case, Asia City's Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and bubble tea, 519 Sargent Ave., or Rasoi's great samosas and potato patties, 596 Ellice Ave., would be ideal.

Others will have reached the stage of wanting to be off their feet long enough for a leisurely, upscale, sit-down and -- obviously -- more expensive meal, in which case there's classic French at Oui Bistro, 283 Bannatyne Ave.; classy Italian at Tre Visi, 173 McDermot Ave.; or seafood sushi in a serene setting at Blüfish, 179 Bannatyne Ave.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2009 D4

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