Kkiko’s Grill finds home in West End
Transcona trio tantalize local taste buds
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This article was published 02/11/2022 (212 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new restaurant and delivery business specializing in authentic Filipino cuisine won’t leave you hungry.
Kkiko’s Grill is located inside Raffy’s Cafe at 1060 Ellice Ave. in the West End. Its founders are Mary Kate Estanislao, chef and CEO; Janel Francisco, chef and COO; and Kiko Cadorna, barbecue master and president. Cadorna’s wife Dianne Cadorna handles the admin work.
“We love to eat,” Estanislao said.
Estanislao, Francisco and Cadorna were born in the Phillipines. Estanislao and Cadorna met early on in their culinary careers as employees at a KFC restaurant. They became fast friends. Naturally, the business partners — all Transcona residents — decided to open a restaurant while having dinner. They began to work out the logistics that same week.
“When you are an immigrant from the Philippines, you miss the foods back home that you can’t find here,” Cadorna said. “Why don’t we bring those menus here to Winnipeg. Let them feel the Philippines’ streets again.”
Kkiko’s Grill began as a ghost kitchen operating out of Canton Buffet in the Pacific Industrial area. But, when the kitchen inside Raffy’s Cafe opened up, they jumped at the opportunity to expand.
Kkiko’s Grill’s first day in the West End was Sept. 9.
Estanislao enjoys feeding others just as much — if not more — than she loves folding into a well-crafted meal. Estanislao owned and operated a restaurant in the Province of Rizal in the Philippines. More specifically, Cardona — an hour’s drive outside Manila, two with traffic.
Estanislao explained her restaurant was turo turo-style, which translates as “point point” in Tagalog. Guests sat on a stool in front of Estanislao while she cooked and told her what dishes they wanted. The eatery wasn’t much larger than the front counter of Kkiko’s Grill, but offered everything from soup to dessert.
“She wants to bring the flavour of her restaurant from back home here,” Francisco said.
The restaurateurs consistently brainstorm new menu items. Two savoury delights on the current menu include isaw, meticulously cleaned pork intestine served on a skewer, and siomai, a dumpling offered in both a Filipino version (with shrimp and pork), and a Japanese version with crab encased in seaweed.
Fret not, vegans. Kkiko’s Grill has a full slate of options containing no animal products.
“Vegan communities would like to try Filipino dishes in a vegan style,” Cadorna said. “We did that and we are overwhelmed with their support.”
So far the vegan menu offers pancit, chop suey, veggie rolls, and more. A vegan skewer is in the works.
Now a hub for Kkiko’s Grill, Raffy’s Cafe hosts live music and karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
“On the weekend, that’s when the action happens,” Francisco said.
Though the music is reserved for weekend nights, Kkiko’s Grill serves customers every day. Third-party delivery apps like Uber, DoorDash and SkipTheDishes and large delivery orders fill the line with orders during the weekdays, they explained.
Kkiko’s Grill is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, to give staff, “some time to rest,” Estanislao said, with a laugh.
In reality, the restaurateurs have little downtime. Each has a full-time career separate from Kkiko’s Grill. But there’s always time to cook a homemade meal for others — sometimes hundreds of others. Kkiko’s Grill has dished up hundreds of meals in one day, with heated serving dishes provided.
“Our mission is to grow this business,” Cadorna said. “It’s not just about profiting from it. It’s being able to share Filipino food with the community.”
Kkiko’s Grill can be contacted about delivery options and menu items through Facebook, by phone at 204-881-1201, or by email at email@example.com
Katlyn Streilein was a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review.