Neighbourhood: North End
Address: 559 Cathedral Avenue
Phone: (204) 582-8789
(Editor’s Note – This business is no longer open.)
In our plugged-in world that values advanced technologies and continuous status updates, the steadfast popularity of Alycia’s Ukrainian food is remarkable. Apart from growing in size from the original 20 seats in 1977 to 120 over the years, this humble North End eatery has remained unchanged.
Even today the restaurant is a vibrant thread of Winnipeg’s cultural fabric. Author Russ Gourluck takes note of Alycia’s role as a neighbourhood pioneer in his recent book, The Mosaic Village: A History of Winnipeg’s North End.
Charming staff and the aroma of fried onions lead to mismatched tables topped with clear plastic protecting colourful Ukrainian needlework. Decorative plates hang on rec-room style wood-panelled walls. The hodge-podge, cobbled-together decor reflects the relaxed, down-to-earth atmosphere and charm that has swelled over time.
This quintessential Winnipeg restaurant brand has faced hardship in recent years. In 2004 the staff was shaken by the death of founder Marion Staff, followed by two untimely deaths of integral players Don Keith (longtime cook) and Marion’s son Rob Staff. Alycia’s continues on in true pioneer fashion lead by Marion’s daughter Sharon Staff.
In a courageous effort to keep going through their grief, the Alycia’s team continues to spread goodwill by serving up simple, rustic meals Ukrainian-style. Peasant dishes based on an abundant supply of grain, cabbage, potato, and beets are enormous and filling.
A large quantity of chopped up beets give borscht its bright pink hue. A swirl of cream and sprinkle of dill weed mean every spoonful is a pleasant mix of earthy, herbaceous flavours. Soups come with a basket of rye and glistening sesame seed topped egg buns.
Pan-fried potatoes are formed into golden medallions flavoured lightly with onion. The addictive patties are accompanied by an indulgent ice cream scoop of full fat sour cream.
Generous sides of holopchi (cabbage rolls) are stuffed with a mild blend of smoky bacon, rice, and onion baked in sweet and tangy tomato sauce.
A trip to Alycia’s isn’t complete without an order of signature potato and cheddar perogies. Each of the 5,000 perogies prepared daily has been skillfully pinched by experienced Ukrainian hands. These lumpy half-moon dumplings come boiled, pan-fried, or deep-fried with crispy fried onions. The chewy potato dough resists for a moment before surrendering warm cheesy filling. Eat them with garlickly, juicy slices of kolbassa on the side. The coleslaw is not to be missed. It’s light texture and sweet and sour herb vinaigrette punctuates a rich and starchy meal.
Desserts are made in-house and vary daily. Great Depression-era rice pudding is a bowl of stick-to-your-ribs cinnamon sweetness with a hint of orange.
Before leaving, check out Alycia’s wall of fame—a proud who’s who of taste in Ukrainian dining. The late John Candy was a loyal fan. The deli is well stocked with take-home perogies, meatballs, and meals. Alycia’s is open Tue-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 9am-8pm.
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