All in the family Decades-old Silver Heights Restaurant continues to offer a warm and welcoming environment

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a new feature where we revisit restaurants that have been around for a while.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/06/2019 (1283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a new feature where we revisit restaurants that have been around for a while.

Restaurant Review

Throwback Thursday: Silver Heights Restaurant
2169 Portage Ave.

Throwback Thursday: Silver Heights Restaurant
2169 Portage Ave.

Go for: an old-school menu and friendly family atmosphere
Best bet: those famous barbecue baby back ribs
Apps: $5-14; Mains: $25-42

Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

★★★★ stars



★★★★★ Excellent
★★★★ Very Good
★★★ Good
★★ Mediocre
★ Substandard
No stars Not recommended

It often seems as if the food scene is all about the newest things, the hottest spots, the coolest trends. But diners also like the familiar and reliable. And Winnipeggers, especially, love places with a little hometown history.

Accordingly, we’re kicking off this new feature by heading to the Silver Heights Restaurant (SHR), a family-run neighbourhood joint that’s been in business since 1957. Located in St. James, on a stretch of Portage Avenue where you can still feel the expansive mid-century-modernist optimism, SHR is now run by the grandchildren of the original owner, Tony Siwicki Sr. Everything about this venue, including the food, decor and service, seems to go by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doctrine.

J.C. Siwicki (left) and Tony Siwicki, brothers and co-owners of Silver Heights Restaurant, hold photos of their grandfather, Tony, the original owner of the restaurant. (Photos by Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

The menu skews classic — ribs, steaks and seafood; appetizers like escargot and French onion soup — though there are some strategic updates, such as more vegetarian options. The restaurant isn’t afraid of carbs, starting off meals with warm white rolls with butter.

An appetizer of bacon-wrapped scallops could have been served by Mad Men’s Betty Draper, but it still tastes swell today. The scallops are cooked right — not overdone, as they might have been back in 1957 — and the accompanying cocktail sauce gets zinged up with lots of horseradish.

Bacon-wrapped scallops with garlic bread.

Bruschetta is unorthodox — or let’s say, Winnipeg-style — not using the usual thick slices of crusty French or Italian bread, but thin slices of rye. This actually works well, the bread baked up quite crisp and the topping packed with garlic.

Caesar salad is light and lemony, though the croutons could use an upgrade. French onion soup was slightly over-salted, but the caramelized onions and beef broth delivered richness and depth.

The famous ribs, which are billed on the restaurant’s exterior as the best in town, are, in fact, very good. The sauce is not overly sticky or gloppy or sweet, keeping the focus on the tender meat. Another popular dish is pickerel fillets rolled in crumbled salt-and-vinegar potato chips, which sounds a little crazy but actually works.

The veal cutlet comes with what is traditionally called Spanish sauce (though who knows what the Spanish would think of this). It’s also good — I’ll go out on a limb here by saying it’s better than Rae & Jerry’s version — the meat delicate and the breading thin and crisp.

The veal cutlet comes topped with a Spanish sauce.

The french fries could be better, but the onion rings, Spanish onions in tempura batter, are excellent. The baked potatoes, foil-wrapped, come with old-school fixings on the side (crumbled bacon, sour cream, green onions). Mains are served with a daily vegetable. Sampled green beans with tomato and onion were bright and crisp on one night, but on another evening had some greyish, overcooked beans.

Desserts are good but a bit generic. The chocolate cake is multi-layered and moist. The strawberry champagne cheesecake is creamy but needs more strawberry taste, while the apple crisp — a dessert that is rarely “crisp” in restaurants because of reheating — is homey and comforting but let down by a slightly porridge-y topping.

Kashmiri chicken was a recent daily special.

The interior is comfortable rather than chic, recalling the days when restaurants were brown and woody. There’s a genuine friendly neighbourhood feel, rooted in more than six decades in the same spot with three generations of the same family.

The dining room was packed on a Saturday night, with many customers who were clearly regulars and a couple of large tables accommodating celebrations, but there was room in the adjoining lounge. Atmosphere there is casual, with several TV screens for big sports nights and a supply of free popcorn. (A handy fact: you can order the dining-room menu in the lounge and vice versa, and the service is equally obliging and friendly in both sections.)

Silver Heights Restaurant also offers a loyalty program, seniors’ deals and daily specials. (Plus, the 29th day of each month means 29-cent wings.)

The wrap: combining the best of 1957 with a few judicious updates, Silver Heights Restaurant continues to offer tasty food in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

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