plonq: (Entertain Me)
One of the things I plan to do after I retire is explore local restaurants. My goal is to venture out at least a couple of times a week to sample a wide variety of breakfast and lunch places, hopefully hitting a different one each time. A good friend of mine is retiring later this year, and when I mentioned this plan to him, he immediately said, "Sign me up!"

Ultimately I want to walk or cycle to as many of them as I can, or walk there and take the bus home again; the idea is to get exercise as well as a meal. My plan for my retirement years does not consist of sitting on my butt as I slowly fade away.

I know it's not a unique or new idea, but I am also planning to BLOG about the places as I visit them. I am torn between creating a public BLOG for it (maybe see if I can coax my dear wife to give me some space on one that she has already created), or just post it here.

I may experiment with a few formats before I settle on something consistent, so please bear with me. Also, don't expect a lot of entries on this until I'm actually retired in a year.

Relli's Breakfast & More
Home Style Cooking

Attached to the Green Brier Inn, North Main St, Winnipeg

August 11, 2017

[personal profile] atara and I spotted this new place when we were walking down Main Street a couple of weeks ago to hit up a local butcher shop. There have been a couple of other restaurants that have set up shop in the front of the Green Brier over the years, but each has looked sketchier than the one before.

At this point I should probably give some background on the Green Brier itself. This is a pub located in the north part of Winnipeg, with an attached liquor vendor, and (as I mentioned above) a succession of restaurants occupying the other street-front portion of the building. In fairness to the pub, I have only been in there once, and it was long before its renovations a few years ago. At the time when I visited, it radiated an unwelcoming, stabby kind of vibe that caused my friend and I to exchange an uneasy glance before we wheeled and walked out again by unspoken, mutual agreement.

The fact that there was drunken, off-key karaoke taking place at the time did not hurt our decision process.

When we passed this new restaurant (New as of June this year, as I later learned from the owner), I told [personal profile] atara of my plan to walk down there for breakfast at some point during my week of vacation. Yesterday I followed through on that.

Between the gaily painted window - which features a smiling portrait of (who I presume to be) the self-same Relli taking an order, and a grinning cup of coffee holding a breakfast sandwich - and the Venetian blinds inside, I could not see into the restaurant from the street. I dithered outside for a minute, trying to find a write-up about the restaurant on my phone before I finally admitted to myself that I was just procrastinating.

I opened the door and ventured into a rather pleasant, homey little diner. It had five tables in total, one of which was occupied by a family of four, and another by a young woman who was drinking coffee and reading the paper. It did not take me long to figure out that she is the owner's daughter, first when she offered me a menu and told me to help myself to coffee, and again later when I heard her complain, "Mom, I'm not even supposed to be working today."

Mother and daughter were both very friendly, and quickly defused any hesitation I may have felt about trying the new restaurant.

The menu selection was fairly limited - if memory serves me, they offered a maximum of five or six breakfast selections. I glanced over the options quickly before choosing the pork chop and eggs, as pictured below.


The coffee was fine, but not extraordinary. It tended toward the lighter and thinner end of the spectrum for my liking, but it was fresh thanks to the high throughput. If one was looking solely for coffee, I would steer them toward other outlooks first, but I would not actively discourage them from coming here.

I ordered the eggs with my meal sunny-side-up, and they were cooked to near perfection. Most place are pretty good when it comes to eggs, but it is nevertheless a nice treat when they nail it. The potatoes were also handled well. The breakfast potatoes are usually the things I dread most when I try a new place, but these had just a nice amount of crunch where they were browned, and just enough onion mixed in to give them a good flavour. It's possible that they were cooked from frozen, but I'd still rate them around the same level as what you will usually get from one of those family-style chain restaurants.

The rye toast could have been left in the toaster for another minute in my opinion, but I will take slightly light toast over burnt any day. The toast was buttered, but not saturated as some places are wont to do. When I say buttered, I think it is more likely that it was margarined - at least, that's the impression I was left with from the taste and texture of the spread. They offered no sides (jam, jelly, peanut butter), and I did not see any readily available for patrons. They probably would have brought some if I had asked, but I was satisfied to dip the toast ends into the egg yolks and enjoyed it that way. Still, next time I will ask for peanut butter.

The only real disappointment with the breakfast was the pork chop. I have seen some thin cuts of meat in my time, but it takes real skill to shave off a chop this thin. It's not like I think the breakfast needed a thick chop - it was quite filling, and the chop was more for flavour than anything else, and I understand that a thin chop cuts the cooking time during the busy breakfast hours. It was well-seasoned and flavourful. My issue with the pork chop was that it was overcooked. It was not quite reduced to jerky, but it was tough and chewy. One does not want to serve raw pork, but this one would have benefited from a minute or two less on the griddle.

The slice of strawberry and summer melon were a nice finish, but in a small enough portion that I would almost classify them as garnish rather than as part of a meal.

Overall, I would rate the meal as good, but not great. The diner was clean, and the atmosphere was friendly. The food was about on par with what you would expect from a little family-run diner.

I won't actually give a review-style rating for the place since I have only been there once, and I like to return and try other dishes before I actually do a review, so I'll finish with a tentative rating of will return.
plonq: (The Goggles Do Nothing)
I posted this to the local fur list, but I figured it might be of interest to other locals who are not part of that message board.

Italian Kitchen
1715 Kenaston Blvd

I normally don’t do a review after only one visit to a restaurant, but because this one is rather off our usual beaten track, I doubt we will be going back again anytime soon.

We stopped for lunch at Dacquisto the weekend before last while we were out and about the town. When initially stopped at this plaza it was with the intention of having lunch at Mongo’s next door, but at the last moment we decided to try a give the new place a try. We’ve had good dining experiences at other restaurants in the WOW! Chain and figured it was worth checking out at least once.

Our initial impressions were positive. The restaurant exudes a Moxies-level of upscale, and the pleasant aroma of the wood-fired oven greets you the moment you enter. The hostess seated us promptly, and our first drink order showed up very quickly in spite of some confusion over who should actually be taking our order. Our waitress confessed that she was fairly new on the job, so we cut her a bit of slack for that.

They gave us both a lunch and a dinner menu, telling us we could order from either. The lunch menu consisted mostly of sandwiches, and smaller portions of items on the dinner menu. Atara opted to go with the spaghetti and meatballs off the lunch menu, while I chose to order their wood-fired Siciliana pizza off the dinner menu. Finally we decided to split a bruschetta off their dinner menu as an appetizer.

Normally when one orders an appetizer, there is an unspoken assumption that it will arrive before the main meal. The purpose of an appetizer is to give the patrons a little sample of food in advance of their dinner to keep them occupied while they wait, and to whet their appetite. When our food eventually came, she brought out all three dishes at the same time. From the state of the bruschetta, it was pretty plain that the fault lay with the server and not with the kitchen.

If it had been brought out when it was supposed to come, it would probably have been quite passable. The flavours were still pretty good, but the toast was cold and soggy from sitting far too long. We probably should have sent it back, but being the meek consumers that we are we ate it without complaint and moved on to our main courses.

Atara’s spaghetti was uninspiring and forgettable. The pasta was cooked just right, and it had the proper proportions of sauce and meat balls, but both the sauce and meatballs were bland. The sauce could have stood an infusion of garlic, or almost anything to add a piquant touch to it. The meatballs needed help as well, both in flavour and texture. Some garlic and minced onion would have gone a long way toward salvaging these meatballs, but their biggest failing was the texture; the hamburger was ground much too fine for the meatballs. There are valid uses for fine-ground hamburger, but making meatballs out of it is not one of them.

Unpleasantly flavourless and mushy meatballs aside, we were also disappointed that the spaghetti did not come with garlic bread. It may be because we ordered it off the lunch menu, but that is really unacceptable for a restaurant of this calibre. Even most low-end greasy spoons will serve garlic bread with an order of spaghetti – they go hand in hand. It’s like serving chocolate-dipped ice cream in a plastic bowl instead of a cone. Like the soggy appetizer, the lack of garlic bread was not the end of the world, but it was part of a string of disappointments.

I would like to report that things got better with the pizza, but I cannot truthfully say that. The crust was delicious – by far the highlight of the dish. The rest of the pizza not bad, but it was woefully bland. The Siciliana is one of their bianco (white) pizzas, and this one came with “grilled hot and sweet peppers, ricotta cheese, grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella.” If there were any hot peppers on the pizza, my palate certainly could not discern them in the mix. While we ate I regaled Atara with ideas on how they could redeem the pizza. Any of the following would have been a significant improvement in my opinion: enough hot peppers to actually affect the taste would have been good, as would roast garlic, pine nuts, and/or caramelized onions. Ultimately though I think the ricotta cheese was the deal breaker. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to put ricotta cheese on the pizza. It added nothing to the flavour, and added a texture similar to the meatballs in Atara’s dish (hm, I sense a pattern here…). Substituting a soft goat cheese, a flavourful parmesan or even feta would have made a world of difference.

We never did get drink refills.

In the end, our meal was forgettable, but not terrible. If we lived closer to the restaurant I would be willing to go back at dinner time and try some other menu items before passing final judgement on the place. The atmosphere was very pleasant, and the service was friendly but inattentive (which I largely blame on the inexperience of our waitress). The prices were about what you would expect from a restaurant of this type, but a bit more than the quality of our food warranted. I give this place neither a recommendation to visit or avoid. Any restaurant that smells this good MUST have something good on the menu. We might have simply caught them on a bad day and had a very mediocre experience.

Out of *****

Value ***
Taste **+
Atmosphere ****
Service **+
Menu ***

September 2017

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