Address: 3975 Portage Ave
The lilting bugle calls horses to post. Eyes turn to the dining room window as prancing thoroughbreds with colourful jockeys enter the track. Chatter erupts about which horse is the prettiest or looks the fastest. Bets are placed as the animals load the gates. “And they’re off.” The dining room lights dim, the clinking of cutlery stops and eyes fix on the action along the far side of the oval. As the horses round the bend, excitement mounts with diners cheering their horse to the finish.
Now in its 50th season, Assiniboia Downs continues to draw a diverse crowd May through September on live race days. The Terrace Dining Room overlooking the race track is one of the most thrilling restaurant experiences in the city during the summer. The three-tiered, window-lined room allows guests to get close to the action while relaxing with a glass of wine in hand.
Considering the social setting, it’s appropriate that the focus is on the buffet, around which guests mingle in between races. A dinner buffet is served on Friday and Saturday nights ($29.95), while Sunday offers a legendary brunch buffet ($24.95). Regardless of the day, the spread of home-style favourites is always impressive. One evening, the salad bar consisted of a half dozen salads, ranging from creamy cucumber to hearty three-bean. A hulking prime rib, slow roasted and full of meaty juices, anchors the hot entrée station. It is surrounded by seafood, poultry and starch selections that cater classic to tastebuds. Buffet highlight is the DIY pasta bar (for brunch it changes to omelettes) where guests, with help from the station chef, construct their ultimate dish from three styles of pasta, an alfredo or marinara sauce and fresh vegetables.
For those overwhelmed by the expansive buffet, a small menu is available on race days. The roasted red pepper bisque is unique to other versions, the broth thick with flecks of puréed peppers. The smoky sweetness is matched with a cheesy undertone that rounds out the flavour.
The chicken scaloppini entrée is carefully prepared, leaving the meat moist and tender. A shot of champagne adds a surprising tang—and sexy element—to the silky cream sauce. Salmon is creatively wrapped in a golden phyllo coat that adds a pleasing crispiness to each forkful of flesh.
Pace yourself at the dessert bar, a fantastic, multi-table spread with too many cheesecakes and tortes to count. Opt for a wine glass of the raspberry mousse—it’s made in-house and the berry burst evokes summer fun.
The Terrace Dining Room is open Thu 5 pm-10 pm; Fri, Sat & Sun one hour before race time. Reservations required.