A new supermarket dedicated to Filipino pantry staples and deep-fried comfort food will welcome the public into its Winnipeg dining room this week.
The second Canadian location of Seafood City officially opens for business Thursday at 9 a.m.
The 50,000-square-foot space in the former home of Sears in the Garden City Shopping Centre carries imported foodstuffs, and offers a well-stocked produce section, fresh meat and fish, a bakery and a food court with three counters serving up authentic Filipino cuisine.
Shelves at Seafood City are primarily stocked with the most popular food brands imported from the Philippines, a mix of pan-Asian products from places such as Japan and China, and the company’s in-house brand, Pamana, marketing director Mildred Smith said Tuesday during a media open house.
"Filipino-Canadians miss those brands," Smith said. "What we aim to deliver with all the Pamana products here is the authentic Filipino taste. The very original.
"There are many Filipino stores, but they do not bring in or offer the whole range. Anything Filipino you think of, we have here."
When it comes to hot food, veggie lumpia, chicharon bulaklak (deep-fried pork intestine) and deep-fried chicken skin are on the menu at Seafood City’s Crispy Town joint. Across the food court at Grill City, the aroma of grilled pork and chicken is inescapable, while "Mami Hot Bowls," pancit binalot and dumplings are among the offerings at Noodle Street.
Smith said the three fast-food counters provide easy meal options, but also serve the diverse community in northwest Winnipeg by introducing affordable Filipino cuisine.
"People may not know how to cook our food, but they can try it," Smith said.
Seafood City currently operates 28 stores in the United States, with the first opening in 1989 in National City, Calif., and expanding to Nevada, Washington and Hawaii. The only other Canadian location is in Mississauga, Ont.
Smith said the Winnipeg store will employ about 200 people in part- and full-time positions.
The brand is part of a growing number of businesses eyeing the Winnipeg market as the local Filipino community continues to exercise its purchasing power. Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee opened its first Canadian location in Winnipeg in December 2016, with a second location opening shortly afterward.
Earlier this year, retail giant Superstore offered a balikbayan box at select Winnipeg locations; after spending $250, shoppers were able to fill a box and have it freighted to the Philippines for free.
"Winnipeg has the largest percentage of Filipinos (in Canada), which is why we’re here," Smith said. "We want to be the best representation of the culture, and we want to share it."
Allan Pineda, organizer of the pop-up dinner series Manila Nights and founder of food magazine Kucina, said he expects the new grocer to push the limits of the Filipino food scene with its range of products and hot food.
"This place is going to be packed all the time," Pineda said. "People don’t know our food yet, so a place like this where it’s out in the open, now you get to know that we have a bunch of soups, noodles and other good stuff.
"People just need to find that out."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.