Introducing Filipino food to the ’burbs
Jackie Wild and her father, Augustin Doming, are introducing traditional and fusion Filipino food and culture to south St. Vital residents as well as people from other parts of the city and rural Manitoba.
Tito Boy Restaurant at Unit M – 730 St. Anne’s Rd. opened in late 2022. After a busy holiday period, Wild, her father and her team are starting to feel like part of the suburban neighbourhood. Wild said nearby residents who might be unfamiliar with Filipino food are beginning to come in to enjoy a new culinary experience.
“We’re a community meeting place,” she said. “It’s a safe space for people to connect, share stories and discover what it means to be a Philippine-Canadian.”
Formerly La Fiesta, the restaurant has undergone a makeover. Its decor now includes light-coloured rattan chairs and lamps, banana-leaf-patterned wallpaper, and eye-catching green geometric prints created by local Filipino artist Jonato Dalayoan. The words “kain tayo” hang behind the front counter, which translates to “let’s eat’ in Tagalog. This is the invitation commonly used in the Philippines to invite people to share a meal together.
While Wild is the restaurant owner, she credits her father with inspiring her to venture into the hospitality industry.
“It was always his dream, since he was a young boy, to open a restaurant,” she said.
Doming married his wife Tita Jean in the Philippines before immigrating to Canada as her sponsor in the 1980s. Growing up in the rural farmlands of Southern Leyte, he learned to make traditional recipes while watching his mother cook, but it took him many years to work his way into cooking for a living.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Wild watched her father take on various jobs in pursuit of his dream. She decided to use her business experience and help him make his dream a reality.
“As immigrants, they’ve already taken a tremendous risk moving halfway across the world to pursue a better life in Canada. So, I decided to take the financial risk for them (her parents).”
Wild said the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba played a big role in helping her prepare a business plan, look at real-estate options, understand lease agreements, and finally access a business loan.
In doing research for her business plan, she discovered that people of Philippines ancestry make up one of the top three racial groups in southeastern Winnipeg. She also wanted to be located in a different part of the city than where most of Winnipeg’s Filipino restaurants and bakeries are situated.
“There’s nothing like it here,” Wild said, adding this makes Tito Boy’s unique but includes the challenge of educating people about Philippine delicacies like longganisa (sweet pork sausage), sinigang (a sour tamarind-based broth with vegetables and meat), among many other dishes. The all-day breakfast is a good starting point for diners unfamiliar with Filipino fare.
Wild said she loves to see these newbies try their food: “It’s great to see their reactions.”
Her team is coming up with fresh ideas to bring in new customers, one of which is holding a karaoke night on Wednesdays.
“Philippine people take their karaoke very seriously,” she said.
Tito Boy will offer fixed menu items for special occasions and, Wild said, will feature fusion cuisine for a new spin on traditional dishes.
“We want to modernize traditional recipes. This helps lower barriers in accessing and understanding our foods and flavours.”
A larger goal of Wild’s is to collaborate with other Philippine restaurants and bakeries as well as nearby locally-owned restaurants. She aims to make Tito Boy Restaurant an important part of the St. Vital community.
St. Vital community correspondent
Andrea Geary is a community correspondent for St. Vital and was once the community journalist for The Headliner.