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Ellice Cafe and Theatre

Neighbourhood: West End
587 Ellice Avenue
Phone: (204) 975-0800
Entrees: $8-$10

(Editor’s Note – This business is no longer open.)

It’s a bustling neighbourhood cafe where tables of 20-something hipsters discuss the world’s problems and locals always find a friendly face. Conceived by the late Reverend Harry Lehotsky, Ellice Cafe provides generously portioned and affordable food for the residents of the West End and its visitors—many of who live below the poverty line.

The charming 35-seat diner is run by a team of dedicated volunteers through New Life Ministries, the community church Lehotsky founded in 1983. Its profits support inner-city development and the kitchen provides training opportunities for those seeking to build new skills and lives.

Located across the street from the West End Cultural Centre, Ellice Cafe supports local arts and culture through an attached theatre (formerly Cinema 3) that offers inexpensive entertainment to area residents. It’s clear this is a place that loves and celebrates Winnipeg with unfettered abandon.

The centrepiece of the room is a set of large-scale vintage photos depicting the city’s history: the Winnipeg Falcons, the first team in Canadian history to bring home Olympic gold from Belgium in 1920, stand proudly with their sticks and skates, while dozens of newspaper boys pose outside the Garrick Theatre.

Table cards labelled with West End street names share their history and a list of the famous who lived there. Menu items like Langside lasagna and Furby fries offer further testament to the restaurant’s affection for the community.

If the idea of eating for a worthy cause isn’t reason alone to entice you into the city’s core, then the atmosphere will do the trick. Everything, from the cosy booths to the honey-coloured wood decor oozes comfort. The food is the culinary equivalent of wrapping yourself in a fleece blanket.

Sandwiches and wraps offer light selections—a favourite is the California spinach wrap with piquant homemade guacamole, moist chicken and creamy mayo.

A variety of pizzas served on thin crispy crusts are the perfect size for sharing. “O Canada” is a meat-lovers dream topped with spicy pepperoni and salty ham.

Small plates include a poutine that is given a noteworthy twist with pieces of bacon joining the de rigueur French fries, cheese curds and gravy. Sweet onion rings are shoestring thin and fried an intense golden brown.

Entrées feature homey favourites like fried cheddar perogies mingled with caramelized onions and crunchy bacon. (For those watching their waistlines, roasted veggies may be substituted.) The airy pockets are tender and creamy.

A cheeseburger needs two hands to hold and exemplifies the simplicity of the classic menu. The beef patty is juicy and packed with savoury flavour.

For veggie lovers, a yam burger is a clever and creative alternative. Mashed yam combined with rice seed and vegetables yields a moist patty with a crispy coating sweetened with the flavour of the tuber.

The brick-sized serving of beef-filled lasagna is hearty and dense. Spending a few minutes under the broiler, a generous serving of mozzarella cheese is golden, and the sweet tomato sauce enhances the richness of the other ingredients.

Ellice Cafe is open Mon-Sat 8 am-8 pm.

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