‘What an incredible accolade’: Winnipeg eateries crack Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list
Among Toronto hot spots and Quebec bistros, two Winnipeg restaurants have cracked a prestigious list ranking Canada’s best eateries.
The list by Canada’s 100 Best magazine was released Tuesday night, with Winnipeg’s Deer + Almond coming in at 59th and Máquè at 98th.
To narrow it down, 130 judges dined out at restaurants across the country and cast their votes based on the complete dining experience including service, décor, wine selection and food quality.
Deer + Almond co-owners and co-chefs Mandel Hitzer and Kris Kurus got the news Monday.
While Hitzer has been serving up home-style small plates at the Exchange District eatery since 2012, Kurus, who happens to be Hitzer’s cousin, came on as his business partner and co-chef during the pandemic.
“What an incredible accolade after being in business with me for just over a year that we make the list. Kris was completely beside himself and thought this would never happen,” Hitzer told CTV News Winnipeg by phone Tuesday.
Deer + Almond co-owners and co-chefs Mandel Hitzer and Kris Kurus are shown in an undated photo. (Source: Mandel Hitzer/Instagram)
Deer + Almond has made the list three times before, but this year’s inclusion is particularly meaningful thanks to a pandemic rebirth.
After starting off in the industry as a dishwasher at Deer + Almond when he was 16, Kurus found himself working as a sous chef at Vancouver’s prestigious Published On Main, ranked third on this year’s list and first on last year’s.
Still, his hometown called.
“My last day there was the day they got number one on the list,” he recalled.
“It was nice to come home and bring some of the knowledge from such an amazing restaurant back to Winnipeg.”
With its doors temporarily closed during the pandemic, Deer + Almond got a complete reset, from new paint to a new menu featuring some of the eastern European fare Hitzer and Kurus grew up eating.
“It gave us an opportunity to restart and refresh. It gave me an opportunity to take on the business and invite Kris to be a partner, and I don’t know if that would have happened otherwise,” Hitzer said.
‘THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A FEW MORE RESTAURANTS IN THE CITY’
Chef Scott Bagshaw, owner of Máquè which came in at 98, is no stranger to the Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list. The Crescentwood eatery serving up steamed bao buns and towering plates of chow mein ranked 74th last year.
His intimate Corydon restaurant Enoteca also cracked the list in 2020, thanks to artfully plated dishes of yellowfin tuna and chicken liver mousse.
Bagshaw says while he’s incredibly proud of his team and what they’ve created at all three of his restaurants, lists like these are very subjective.
“It’s not like a hockey game or a race where there’s an objective winner,” he said.
“It’s nice to be on (the list) but I personally feel, subjectively, there should have been a few more restaurants in the city that I would recognize as being as good, if not better than us,” he said, giving a shout out to Petit Socco, Harth Mozza & Wine Bar and Preservation Hall.
Crescentwood’ Máquè ranked 98th on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2023 list. (Source: Canada’s 100 Best)
Bagshaw predicts Máquè’s inclusion could give his restaurant a bit of a boost, mostly from out-of-towners browsing for a place to eat in a new city.
Still, his restaurant’s bread and butter – no pun intended as neither is on Máquè’s menu- has always been a loyal, local customer base.
“We’ve never really changed our MO. My staff are happy, my customers are happy, I’m happy. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, and hopefully people will keep coming back and recognize that.”
The full list can be read on Canada’s 100 Best magazine’s website.
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