January 21, 2020

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Alycia's offers unpretentious charm

Ukrainian comfort food spot has difficulty living up to baba's cooking

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/7/2018 (544 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Alycia’s, a purveyor of Ukrainian comfort food and a Manitoba mainstay, started on the corner of McGregor Street and Cathedral Avenue way back in 1971, closing in 2011. With later stints in Gimli and later Arnes, the family-owned business has returned to Winnipeg with a new location at the Royal Albert Arms Hotel in the Exchange District.

There’s childhood nostalgia operating here, as some patrons search for the food they remember from grandmothers’ kitchens, as well as potent North End nostalgia. And the Royal Albert setting adds another layer of memory.

The Taste

Alycia’s
48 Albert St.
The.new.alycias; 204-942-0460

Go for: Ukrainian comfort food, and lots of it
Best bet: The North End special
Mains: $8-19.50

Monday-Tuesday: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday: noon-8 p.m.; Sunday: noon-7 p.m.

★★★

Alycia’s
48 Albert St.
The.new.alycias; 204-942-0460

Go for: Ukrainian comfort food, and lots of it
Best bet: The North End special
Mains: $8-19.50

Monday-Tuesday: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday: noon-8 p.m.; Sunday: noon-7 p.m.

★★★

 


 

STAR POWER

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

The resto opened in May in the glass atrium that fronts onto the street, but with hot summer weather and an issue with overheating, the tables have moved, for the moment, into the old bar, whose cool, dark, slightly weird spaces call up another chapter in the city’s past. Patrons of a certain age might be struck with the feeling that bands like Monuments Galore or the Stretch Marks will be heading onstage for a set at any moment.

So, lots of history, then. But what about the present? Alycia’s might have a hard time living up to the cooking of all those beloved babas — who wouldn’t? And the consensus around my table was that the present-day fare is not quite as good as the food at the original McGregor spot.

The new Alycia’s does offer a certain unpretentious charm, though, and if you stick to the Ukrainian specialties, the food is solid, but not outstanding.

Borscht, packed with beets and beans and served with lashings of sour cream, is hearty but the broth could be more flavourful.

After leaving in 2011, the family-owned restaurant Alycia's returned to Winnipeg in May. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

After leaving in 2011, the family-owned restaurant Alycia's returned to Winnipeg in May. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Perishky, little stuffed buns served as appetizers, are nice, with either good sauerkraut or lovely chunks of sweet-sour plum inside. The house salad is simple and fresh, mostly delicate greens and red onions, with dressing served on the side.

The kitchen’s staples are perogies, cabbage rolls, kielbasa and coleslaw.

Let’s start with the perogies. First off, there are none of those fancy nouveau perogy flavours here — no bison and rosemary or duck with truffle oil.

Alycia’s stays resolutely simple and old-school with the classic potato-and-cheddar-cheese perogy, which you can order fried or boiled. Our server tells us that people prefer fried to boiled more than two to one, and I can see why, that touch of crispness nicely offsetting the dumpling’s doughy placidity. Either way, the results are tender, generously stuffed and finished with bits of browned onions and, of course, loads of sour cream.

The best bet on Alycia's menu? The North End Special. (Farrell Monaco photo)

The best bet on Alycia's menu? The North End Special. (Farrell Monaco photo)

The kielbasa, served in chunks with a few char marks, is OK, though I prefer some of the more garlicky and grainy versions available at North End butchers. The cabbage rolls, stuffed with rice and onion and topped with crumbles of bacon, are likewise comfortingly good but not great.

These dishes are available in the lunch buffet ($14.95), running Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. But you’re already getting whacking big portions if you order almost any of the platters off the menu, which offer good value for the money. The North End Special includes six perogies, two cabbage rolls and kielbasa, with mushroom gravy, sour cream and coleslaw, and the Ukrainian Deluxe is even bigger. On a Sunday around noon, a couple of other tables seemed to host folks enjoying massive, perogy-centred morning-after-the-night-before breakfasts.

There are a few other dinner options, including chicken, ribs and "hamburger steak," that are presumably the "Canadian" part of the menu’s promised "Ukrainian/Canadian cuisine," but they are subpar. The hamburger steak is a real throwback to 1950s diners and lunch counters, being a big chunk of ground beef, fried up and smothered in a mushroom gravy with that thick, glossy texture that suggests a lot of cornstarch.

Mostly, though, that traditional no-frills diner feel works in Alycia’s favour. Fittings are basic, service is friendly — though a bit overstretched at times — and the food menu concentrates on homey tradition.

The drinks menu, meanwhile, tersely announces "House Wine," "Domestic Beer and Shots," and "Cocktails," with no added info — though I love that among this laconic roll, Crown Royal (Gimli’s own!) gets its very own listing.

Alycia's offers a buffet lunch with traditional Ukrainian dishes in their new location in the Royal Albert Arms Hotel. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Alycia's offers a buffet lunch with traditional Ukrainian dishes in their new location in the Royal Albert Arms Hotel. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

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.

Read full biography

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