Best Of Food 2012

Best of Food 2012

Restaurants | Menu | Booze & Pubs | Breakfast | Coffee & Tea | Shopping & Services | Style & Ambience

RESTAURANTS

As you’ve perhaps heard, mobile food vendors will soon be hitting the streets of downtown Regina. Will the food on offer extend beyond hotdogs and popcorn? Here’s hoping so. Although expecting them to match the variety (and quality) of Regina’s non-mobile food vendors (i.e. restaurants) that we salute in this category is probably asking too much.

Best Restaurant

La Bodega Tapas Bar & Grill 
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

Finally, readers. After two years, you have slain The Fainting Goat (for a goat that’s known for falling over, it’s a pretty hardy beast) and handed over the crown of best restaurant in the Queen City to La Bodega. It’s a restaurant that has grown and matured over the years, and recent changes to the menu seem to indicate that it’s returning to its original vision of bringing traditional tapas dining to the prairies. Signature touches like the ice bar, the rooftop patio and the always appetizing fresh sheet continue to make La Bodega one of Regina’s most enjoyable dining experiences. /AM

Best Restaurant For A Budget Date

13th Ave. Coffee House 
3136 13th Ave.
522-3111
www.13thavecoffee.com

As research, I took a dear friend of mine out for a dinner date to 13th Ave. Coffee House. The atmosphere is cozy and casual. The restaurant is a house that’s been converted to hold the long-standing vegetarian restaurant. The budget part was right, too. For $30 plus tip, my date and I were full up with food along with some Paddock Wood beer. Sitting near us was a baby and what I’m assuming was his mom and grandma. The grandma managed to eat one of the restaurant’s bowl meals with chopsticks while bouncing the baby on her knee, which is super impressive. Sitting next to three generations has to be some kind of fertility luck charm, which some people might be looking for in a date night. I even bumped into the greenest and one of the cutest couples I know while I was there. This is a date restaurant through and through. /JB

Best Restaurant For A Luxury Date

The Willow on Wascana 
3000 Wascana Dr.
585-3663
www.willowonwascana.ca

Every once in a while it’s nice (some might argue necessary) to have a really special dinner date. For years, Regina couples of varying vintages have turned to The Willow on Wascana to provide that dinner. Why? Because they find it consistently good, and you really do get what you pay for – from their own prairie-classic starters like Land Chowder and delectable Mushroom Ravioli, to mains such as aromatic Mole Chicken and hearty Cassoulet. Their deserts are incredible, like lemon curd cake on crème anglaise, and a super-smooth flourless chocolate cake that just might make you weep. And then there’s the wine selection, carefully curated with many bottles available in the province only through The Willow. Add in a warm and convivial atmosphere (with a great view!), and it’s easy to understand why they end up on this list year after year. /VS

Best Restaurant To Take Kids

Boston Pizza 
2660 Quance St.
779-4500
4303 Rochdale Blvd.
721-6200
545 Albert St. N. 949-5455
4657 Rae St.
585-1722
www.bostonpizza.com

Although I’d eaten there many times in my childhood, fellow prairie dog writer James Brotheridge insisted that before I wrote this blurb, the two of us go to Boston Pizza for a research dinner with his niece. We ended up going with a few twenty-something friends instead. But the fact that the first three members of our party to arrive at the restaurant were offered kids menus (me included) shows that these folks are more than prepared for younger guests. Not surprising, considering how much most kids love pizza. Boston Pizza does more than that, though, offering a kids’ menu that boasts pastas, chicken fingers, and perennial favourite worms and dirt. Plus, kids get to colour while they wait for their meal, which tends to keep the screaming down. That alone must make it worthwhile for parents to choose BP for dinner. /MP

Best Restaurant To Take Your Parents To

The Cottage 
4409 Albert St.
584-1313

If your parents are anything like mine, they’re simple creatures. They aren’t looking for extravagant molecular gastronomy. Or crazy acrobatic performative chef antics. Or some kind of Guy Fieri greasebomb. When you go out with your parents, you want a restaurant that can deliver comforting, classic dishes that everyone can enjoy. The Cottage has just what your folks need – traditional steakhouse fare (four stars on Urbanspoon!) delivered in a quiet, intimate way. Even when it’s crowded, the restaurant’s warm décor and smart layout makes it feel like its only occupants are you, your family and your very accommodating server. That means you and your folks get to drink your wine and eat your steaks (or ribs, or racks of lamb) in peace.

Plus, if things get awkward, and you find yourself in need of a no-nonsense, old-school glass of liquid courage, I can tell you from experience that the bar at The Cottage is up to snuff. So order yourself a favourite cocktail. It’ll come in handy when it’s time to let your parents know they’re picking up the bill. /JC

Best Restaurant For Out-Of-Towners

La Bodega Tapas Bar & Grill 
2228 Albert St.
546-3360
www.labodegaregina.com

Regina has trouble shaking its reputation as a government town terrorized by flocks of angry Canada Geese. We need to impress out-of-towners, and the best way to impress is with delicious food. And cozy decor. And smart, stylish servers. Does this sound like La Bodega to you? Because it sounds like La Bodega to me. Your supercilious out-of-towners will quickly find themselves humbled by the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the restaurant. If it’s summer and you’d like to take your hypothetical big-city cousins out for a drink, escort them to the very non-hypothetical rooftop patio, where they can sip on martinis and enjoy an antipasto platter. /AM

Best Restaurant For Vegetarians

13th Ave. Coffee House 
3136 13th Ave.
522-3111
www.13thavecoffee.com

The menu at the 13th Ave. Coffee House is good, and I think what makes it work is that they focus on the areas that work for them. They’ve got their selection of bowls, such as the tofu bowl or the Jerusalem bowl, with a good variety of flavours there, along with a nice assortment of variations on their great veggie burger. All this while not serving meat products. The ideal for a vegetarian restaurant is that the lack of meat shouldn’t be an excuse for anything, and it clearly isn’t here. They concentrate on making delicious food and it works out great for them. /JB

Best Family Restaurant

Boston Pizza
See Best Restaurant To Take Kids for locations
www.bostonpizza.com

It’s not always easy to decide where to go for dinner as a family. Someone will want seafood; someone will want burgers; someone will point out that you all just went for burgers last week. Boston Pizza’s got you pretty well covered in this regard. Their menu is varied enough for everyone in the family and their whims: those who want traditional fare like sandwiches and steaks, those into more interesting offerings like rice bowls, and those who just want to plough into a pizza by themselves. And with plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options, along with some family-size pasta specials, there is really is something to please everybody at Boston Pizza. /MP

Best New Restaurant

Flip Eatery and Drink 
1970 Hamilton St.
205-8345
www.fliprestaurant.ca

Atlantis Coffee’s Abbey Dolney and Timothy Martin, along with Jackie van Schie and chef David Straub, opened the well-windowed and beautiful-looking Flip last November. Their goal: to combine two seemingly exclusive culinary categories: inventive, contemporary cuisine and comfort food.

Flip Eatery And Drink isn’t the only Regina restaurant pushing diners to expand their horizons. But it might be the first to make dishes like cornmeal crusted oysters and pork shanks approachable and affordable. The menu, which was updated this month, encourages diners to try new things like the fisherman’s stew, braised short rib, and beef brisket ragout

Everything’s made from scratch in an open kitchen.

“[The open kitchen] allows us to be held accountable, at all times,” says Martin. “If we aren’t handling our business in a safe and healthy manner, it’s out there. We’re aware of that. This is our way of saying: ‘We’re ready for you.'”

Flip’s menu is also a response to the food overlap that happens in a town with so many restaurants.

“The menu reads like an approachable restaurant, but uses ingredients that people aren’t necessarily comfortable with, and this has been a shtick of ours for a long time,” says Straub, a veteran of the city’s restaurant scene.

“Everyone else does a striploin, so why are we doing it?” says Straub. “Let’s do a hanger.”

Speaking of the new menu and that steak, this regular Flipper recommends the coffee crusted hanger steak served with cilantro chimichurri, and the new spaetzle noodle bowls. Like their breads, ice creams and desserts, the dense German-style spinach noodles are made on site.

Dishes like the Cuban sandwich and 5 a.m. farmer’s salad are delicious customer favourites. The prawn and polenta bowl is immaculate. It may very well be the end of me.

Oh, and a little off-topic: Flip also mixes its own clamato. Zow.

Flip has a platform six inches off the sidewalk to thank for its existence. The surface that’s now the restaurant’s floor was initially – like many other downtown spaces these days – intended for cars. The space tucked behind Atlantis on Hamilton St. was spared this ignoble fate by a construction quirk: the floor was too high and the necessary ramp across the sidewalk would’ve been too steep for wheelchairs to cross.

Fine by me. Regina’s downtown needs cool restaurants more than more parking lots. /KN

Best Restaurant That Tragically Closed

Bitten Appetizer & Dessert Bistro 
1822 Broad St.
www.bittenonbroad.com

Bitten was a small and stylish bistro open for about three years in a possibly cursed location on Broad street. Our pal and former prairie dog restaurant critic Dave Margoshes visited Bitten in 2008. Dining Dave enjoyed the appetizers, singling out the mushroom caps stuffed with prosciutto and the deep-fried coconut-breaded shrimp with sweet chili sauce. He also liked Bitten’s six-inch pizzas – one tasty one had prosciutto, artichoke and mild blue cheese.

Dave had nice things to say about the desserts, too. And now Bitten is gone. It’s a shame.

I’d have to hang my head if I didn’t mention that the 93-year-old Novia Café, which opened onto Regina’s new downtown plaza and closed last June, was a close runner-up in this sad category. The Novia’s shuttering made national news (you can find a June 9 National Post story online). A lot of fingers have been pointed in a lot of directions over the Novia’s failure. But what’s the point? We can’t change what happened. Oh well, maybe someday we’ll get a nice parking lot in the spot where the Novia once served great burgers and breakfasts. /SW

Best Buffet

Flavours of India 
305-A, Victoria Ave. E.
757-5353
www.flavoursofindia.ca

When Regina is in the mood for an East Indian lunch, the buffet at Flavours of India has beckoned for years. Their customers are loyal. They keep coming back for the Tandoori chicken, can’t get enough of the samosas, and daydream about the paneer. In return, Flavours of India delivers all these delights, Wednesday to Friday at a reasonable price. /VS

Best Late Night Snack Stop

McDonald’s 
Multiple Locations
www.mcdonalds.ca

Let’s be real, if it’s 4 a.m. in Regina and you’re hungry your options are limited. You can (1) make something to eat yourself (not bloody likely!); (2) stare at pictures of food on Tumblr (counterproductive!); or (3) go to McDonald’s. Other cities have it better, admittedly – my kingdom for something like Saskatoon’s Olympia Restaurant, a 24-hour Greek diner that facilitates late-night hangouts like nobody’s business. But the popularity of McDicks in Regina is testament to an undeniable reality – namely, that at 4 a.m. the human body craves nothing more, and is satisfied by nothing less, than a 20-pack of McNuggets eaten as enthusiastically as possible. Plus, if you compliment the night shift on their dedication to their job, you can feel like you’ve done a good deed for the new day before even going to bed. Bonus! /JC

Best Fast Food

Burger Baron 
681 Albert St.
522-0323
2830 Quance St.
522-0360
www.burgerbaron.com

Try explaining Burger Baron to someone from out of town. “They have something called a Combination Burger. It’s this completely awesome burger and it has an ENTIRE PATTY MADE OF BACON.” “Bullshit,” the person at the other end of the line scoffs. No amount of persuasion can convince them that you’re telling the truth, and when you hang up you vow to cut them out of your friendship circle for failing to appreciate the amazing thing you have at your disposal. Seriously! New York has Shake Shack, California has In & Out, but do those jerks have anything even close to a patty made of bacon? The answer is no. The choice is clear: Burger Baron reigns over Regina’s fast-food fiefdom like it was divinely ordained to do so. /JC

Best Chain Restaurant

Earls 
2606 28th Ave.
584-7733
1875 Victoria Ave. E.
949-4955
www.earls.ca

Consistency is Earls’ strong suit. Pretty well every time you visit, you can expect your salad or pasta to have the exact same ratios and flavour profile. This is exclusively a restaurant-chain benefit – chains are thorough. Because the identifiable flavours always taste the same, it can inevitably lead to some serious craving. Like the sudden, unreasonable, insatiable need for a Chicken Hunan Kung Pao, or worse, my particular Achilles heel, the pan bread/parm-dip combo. If you haven’t had the opportunity to indulge, don’t. It may consume you. /KN

Best Chinese Restaurant

Peking House 
1850 Rose St.
757-3038

I went back to Peking House to refresh my memories on the place. It was a Monday night and there was an honest-to-God line going up to the cash register. On a Monday. That’s kinda special for a downtown restaurant after business hours. But Peking House is a legend around the Queen City, the most reputable and beloved Chinese restaurant we’ve got. Their menu will satisfy diners looking for everything that’s come to be understood as Chinese cuisine, while also offering some great atmosphere too. May I suggest the Mu-Shu pork, a dish that was a delicious joy when I had it last. /JB

Best Greek Restaurant

Grekos’ 
4424 Albert St.
584-3646

I’m often struck by how the whole South Albert Street strip belies the interiors of some of its dining establishments. Take Grekos’, for instance. There’s nothing to tip you off in the parking lot to the fabulous interior that awaits in their warm and friendly dining room. It’s like stepping into a time machine, and walking onto the set of Ulysses with Kirk Douglas. I love it in there! But enough about the décor. You like souvlaki? You’re probably already a devotée of Grekos’, then, known city-wide for their marinated meats on a skewer, tangy Greek salads, ribs, steaks, dolmas, spanakopita and more. Why not enjoy your meal with a chilled glass of Retsina? It’s delicious and makes for a fine evening out for the whole family. /VS

Best Indian Restaurant

Flavours of India 
305-A Victoria Ave. E.
757-5353
www.flavoursofindia.ca

Regina has been blessed with a number of good Indian restaurants in recent years, and for another year, its citizens have declared that Flavours of India is the best of them all. Here they can enjoy the classics of East Indian cuisine such as Butter Chicken, Aaloo Gobi, Pakoras, and a variety of Biryanis. It’s a popular choice with vegetarians too, and therefore a reliable spot for group dining./VS

Best Thai Restaurant

Siam 
1946 Hamilton St.
352-8424
www.siamrestaurant.ca

I eat at Siam all the time. Holy shit is it ever good. It’s authentic, too. I once lunched with a pal who’d taught English in Thailand, and he confirmed the food’s the real deal. He also said you eat Thai food with a fork, not chopsticks. I’ve been such a fool.

Siam’s menu is huge – nay, staggering. But fortunately it’s got a website with pictures of everything. It’s not a bad idea to peruse it before you visit, because Siam’s abundant choices will cause option paralysis. Not might. WILL.

Want some recommendations from a guy who avoids beef and pork? I can do that. The tom yung koong, a spicy soup with shrimp, is great. So’s the tom yung gai, which has chicken. My friends and I love the wrapped noodle appetizer, which one constructs at the table (it comes with pork, but I leave that out of my inept but tasty little rolls).

One thing I haven’t had yet is the Thai wings, which restaurant critic Aidan raved about in a 2010 review. Soon!

More? Yum pak tod, a tempura spinach salad with an insanely good spicy sauce, is a can’t-miss. And I dig the tofu rad prik, a superior fried tofu concoction.

Top of my list is the pad Thai. So good. There’s no way it’s not the city’s best. I could eat pails of it. Pails.

Siam has a terrific $9 lunch buffet (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. weekdays). It’s a good introduction to the place if for some mad reason you haven’t been yet. Siam has a small dining room, so either make a reservation, get there before noon, or wait until 12:35, when the first wave clears out. That’s my secret tactic for getting a table, by the way. Shhh – don’t spread it around. /SW

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

Viet Thai 
2080 Albert St.
569-3833

Repeat winner Viet Thai is a popular and bustling place after all these years. It’s a decent restaurant with a great-value lunch and a dinner menu with lots of variety. My last visit was a couple of months ago for one of those lunches – still good, I can report. I’ve also been a fan of Viet Thai’s salty squid for years, though it’s been awhile since I’ve been to the place for supper (I miss those tentacles!).

Viet Thai is still located on the corner of Albert and 13th, just a short, pleasant stumble down from the Cathedral Village Free House. /SW

Best World Cuisine (includes Ethiopian, Caribbean, etc)

Selam 
2115 Broad St.
775-3131

When it comes to casual dining in a genial atmosphere, Selam is definitely a front runner in the Regina scene. Proprietors Alex and Leya are your gracious hosts and they always make you feel welcome. The food is consistently delicious, with a menu that covers the classics of Ethiopian cuisine: tibs, kifto, sambossas, and a selection of stewed meats and savoury vegetables. It’s vegetarian-friendly too, which is great for groups of friends looking for a spot that will satisfy everyone. After your meal, you can partake of the laid-back vibe upstairs in Selam’s hookah lounge. The music spans from Ethiopian dancehall to dub, and beyond. In a nutshell, Selam has become synonymous in Regina with a fine night out. /VS

Best Lunch

Deli Llama 
1852 Scarth St.
205-4265

An argument can definitely be made that the sandwich is the best lunch food there is, and the Deli Llama is good evidence of that. Quick and portable, you could eat a sandwich just about anywhere while still having a wealth of options when it comes to textures and flavours and all that business. Well, sandwiches are the Deli Llama’s stock-in-trade and they do them damn well. They’ve got a full roster of bread creations to choose from, complimented by daily (and pretty tasty) soups to warm you up if you need ’em. /JB

Best Budget Lunch ($10 or under)

Deli Llama 
1852 Scarth St.
205-4265

Without breaking the bank (the bank, in this case, being anything over $10) you can get some of what prairie dog readers have decided is the best food we’ve got downtown. Best Sandwich? That’s at the Deli Llama. Best Soup? There too. Those are staple items that hardly anyone in their right mind would argue with, especially when they’re done as well as they are here. Without parting with more than a sawbuck, I can get a Spicy Llama, a nice little creation with some bite to it that might be as satisfying and delicious as anything out there that I could purchase for a couple of Sir John A. Macdonalds. /JB

Best Business Lunch

Beer Bros.
1801 Scarth St.
586-2237
www.beerbros.ca

I’m no businessperson, but when it comes to lunch, I do mean business. And so do Beer Bros. – an establishment that clearly understands the restorative potential of the mid-day meal. Say you’ve got some co-workers who’ve flown in from out of town. They got up early to catch that flight and they’re probably starving, fighting to keep their eyes open even. They need protein – stat! Take them here and they can choose from light fare such as yummy Roasted Root Vegetable & Arugula Salad or heartier selections like the Hard Cider Barbecued Pork Sandwich. Pair that repast with a selection from their outstanding beer list (see Best Beer Menu), and you’ve got yourself a winning combination and the fortitude to help both you and your colleagues make it through the rest of your workday. /VS

Best Take-Out/Delivery

Houston Pizza 
Multiple Locations
www.houstonpizza.ca

Regina’s pizza game is locked down. We’ve got plenty of it and we do it well on a lot of occasions. When that’s your area of expertise, you also have to be on top of the take-out and delivery side of your business. I haven’t looked at their books, but I’m guessing the six Houston Pizzas in town sell a lot of food that gets carried out their door. Their unfailing consistency has been bringing people back for years and has seen their chain grow across the city (and tons of their yellow cups and red lips accumulate in people’s cupboards.) /JB

Best BBQ

Smokin’ Okies 
2547 Quance St.
347-2800
www.smokinokiesbbq.com

You could make a fortune just bottling the smell of this place or finding a way to condense the aroma into one of those Febreze air fresheners. Smokin’ Okies hits visitors with a blast of honest, beautiful wood smoke. Be warned that the prices are a little high, but the plates you get in return – brisket with delicate smoke rings, expertly fried catfish, ribs with a robust, woody flavour, and thoughtfully prepared sides – is worth dropping some change on. Plus, the live blues gigs they occasionally have in the west dining room show that the owners understand a weird sort of primal truth about barbecue. It’s better when someone nearby is wailing on an electric guitar. /JC

MENU

When it comes to delectable food items that Regina restaurants serve, this section’s got it covered from A to Z. Okay, not really. I mean, it’s not like we have a category called Best Zucchini or Best Zwieback. But as far as dishes that are typically found on Regina restaurant menus go, we’ve got it aced – at least, from A (Appetizers) to T (Tapas).

Best Appetizers

La Bodega Tapas Bar & Grill 
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

As a tapas restaurant, most of La Bodega’s menu already consists of appetizers. They’re bringing a gun to knife fight, in other words. But when the tapas is this tasty, let’s not quibble over categories. In fact, at La Bodega you can make an entire meal out of your appetizers and no one, from fellow patrons to stylish servers, will object. So go ahead – start with the mushroom strudel, follow it up with the marinated olives, then throw in the lobster poutine. Go appy happy. But don’t ever say “appy happy.” It sounds even more ridiculous than it reads. /AM

Best Burger

Five Guys Burgers & Fries 
4666 Gordon Road
352-5545
www.fiveguys.com

Really, you were in line for the midnight release of The Hunger Games? Or Skyrim? Or Apple’s iPad 3? Listen up, nerd: your dorky-ass anecdote absolutely pales in comparison to opening night at Five Guys. Absent the klieg lights, it was like going to the red-carpet premiere of a feature film, except instead of talking to Ryan Seacrest you got to put a crazy amount of really good toppings on a really fantastic burger: sauces, pickled things, grilled things, fresh things. And, again, just a great patty – according to the Five Guys website (and most other reputable sources) it’s an 80/20 meat-fat blend made exclusively from cuts of beef with actual names. If you don’t know what that means, here’s a two-word translation: “Hella flavour.” /JC

Best Veggie Burger

13th Ave. Coffee House
3136 13th Ave.
522-3111
www.13thavecoffee.com

A veggie burger fails when it only fulfills the bare minimum requirements of what a burger should be – dropping a rice-and-veggie patty in a bun and calling it a day. In most every way, the veggie burger at 13th Ave. Coffee House gets a top grade. Their patties are thick, like a good burger should be, and can be accompanied by a lot of the classic burger configurations. For example, I had the “bleu” veggie burger which, among other things, featured caramelized onions and garlic aioli. No one’s pretending they’re serving something they aren’t. They aren’t trying to fool anyone. Their burger just lives up to its name, without killing an animal in the process. /JB

Best Burrito

13th Ave. Coffee House 
3136 13th Ave.
522-3111
www.13thavecoffee.com

When they list this item as a burrito “grande” on their menu, the 13th Ave. Coffee House isn’t being hyperbolic. You can’t pick it up, unless you want to run the risk of making a real mess of your clothes. That said, this isn’t a burrito that will leave you feeling gross once you’ve finished eating it. It doesn’t come with any regret attached to it. In fact, it’s not only satisfying but it tastes fresh. Black beans, lettuce, cilantro and other ingredients make this a tortilla-wrapped meal that doesn’t feel like a food bomb in your stomach once you’re done. You’ll just feel really, really full. /JB

Best Calamari

La Bodega Tapas Bar & Grill 
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

Back around the turn of the millennium, I somehow managed to get invited to La Bodega’s launch party. Wine and free appetizers flowed liberally that evening, but the only thing I remember was the calamari. Until then, I’d thought of calamari as “rubber bands from the sea,” as my friend Rob put it. The calamari that night was a revelation: lightly breaded, chewy but not rubbery, and drizzled with a lightly spiced mayonnaise. I realized that every other restaurant had been cheaping out on their squid, serving up a dish without much regard for flavour or quality. Kudos to La Bodega for showing the other restaurants how it’s done. /AM

Best Chinese Buffet

Plum Garden 
4355 Albert St.
337-2889

How did we run a reader’s poll for so many years without a Best Chinese Buffet category? They’re a staple in this town, beloved by diners who want quantity along with their quality. Actually, Plum Garden – our inaugural winner! – might be a little under-rated. I’ve been there with friends ordering off the menu, and I recall enjoying the meal. Anyway, if you’re in the south end and hankering for some Asian buffet action that sneaks a little sophistication into the sweet-and-sour-sauce standards, give it a try. /SW

Best Dessert

La Bodega Tapas Bar & Grill 
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

Years ago, when I was a younger and broker, my notion of treating my wife to something more exciting than homemade spaghetti was taking her out to La Bodega and ordering a chocolate lava pot. It’s still on their menu, and just as good as it ever was: espresso cake hiding a heated pocket of caramel, with whipped cream daubed on top. Now that I live the carefree life of a wealthy freelance writer, I can order the chocolate fondue for two, or maybe the daily cheesecake. Sometimes I throw caution to the wind and order from their fresh sheet. The sky’s the limit, really./AM

Best Fish And Chips

Joey’s Only 
360 Albert St. N
775-3474
2599 Quance St.
721-3474
www.joeys.ca

We don’t exactly have a lot of options here, and Joey’s Only makes fish & chips their specialty, so this would be a hard category to argue with even if I felt like arguing with it. But why would I? While other franchises compete to make sure there’s carb- and heart-friendly options on their menu, or tinker away at adding insulting faux-artisanal malarkey to their repertoire, Joey’s Only gives it to you straight. On the menu page that lists their sandwiches, they have a picture of three different wraps and a caption that reads simply: Various Wraps. That’s because Joey’s Only isn’t stupid. You aren’t there for wraps. You’re there – possibly on a Tuesday, if you’re a smart person who loves all-you-can-eat specials and doesn’t fear overdosing on said specials – for a bunch of deep-fried fish and some goddamn French fries. So drop the pretense, sack up, and order yourself some. Maybe try the haddock if you’re feeling sassy. /JC

Best Fries (Chain)

McDonalds 
Multiple Locations
www.mcdonalds.ca

Allow me to drop a little science on you. What makes McDonald’s fries so good – the crisp, golden exterior and fluffy interior – is the relatively unique way they’re prepped. See, in 2010, all-around food genius Kenji Lopez-Alt tried to discover the secret of McDonald’s fries for his Food Lab column on popular food blog Serious Eats. He learned that McDonald’s blanches its fries in 76 degree water, then flash-fries them, then freezes them for a second round of frying at the restaurant. In trying to replicate what McDonald’s does, he realized that to help the potato’s starches stabilize without breaking down the pectin entirely, you should add one teaspoon of white vinegar to every quart of water you boil your potatoes in, as acid prevents pectin breakdown. And that, as it turns out, makes making phenomenally tasting fries or hash browns that much easier. /JC

Best Fries (Local)

Bushwakker 
2206 Dewdney Ave.
359-7276
www.bushwakker.com

Fries are nearly ubiquitous on restaurant menus for good reason. When they’re prepared, cooked and served properly, they’re awesome. When they’re not, though, it can be an agonizing experience. Whether you order a plate of fries straight up at Bushwakker, or get them as a side, you know they’ll be good. Their thin-cut fries retain some fluffy white potato goodness inside, while never lacking for flavour or the typical sodium-based pleasures of the dish. /JB

Best Poutine

New York Fries 
3025 Gordon Road
2102 11th Ave.
www.newyorkfries.com

A good poutine rests on its three core ingredients: the gravy, cheese curds and fries. With its butter chicken poutine, New York Fries seems intent on shaking things up a bit. Really, it’s just a butter chicken served on a bed fries and tastes exactly how it sounds. But the strength of the butter chicken poutine along with New York Fries’ regular poutine is the last ingredient that I mentioned at the top: their fries. Few fast food chains take as much pride in preparing their fries as New York Fries does, doing everything short of growing the potatoes onsite, and it translates into a better tasting poutine. /JB

Best Ice Cream

Milky Way 
910 Victoria Ave
352-7920
www.milkywayicecream.com

When it comes to ice cream treats in the Queen City, the Milky Way should need no introduction. It is the grand dame of frozen milk, elder statesman of the soft serves; a dairy bar in the fine old tradition of dairy bars. It’s been running since 1956 and shows no sign of slowing down – just check out the crowd, lined up to the curb, happily waiting to order their favourites. They offer 40 flavours of hard ice cream and six flavours of soft. So what’s it going to be? If I were taking you, I’d suggest we split a Cyclone – it’s a cool, creamy concoction blended with your choice of candy bar. I’m partial to the Skor or Crispy Crunch, but we can talk it over while we wait in line. /VS

Best Milkshake

Milky Way 
910 Victoria Ave.
352-7920
www.milkywayicecream.com

Making a good milkshake isn’t rocket science, but it’s amazing how few places do it right. Milky Way is most definitely one of them. Their contribution to the milkshake universe is very thick, very creamy, and has the power to evoke summery mid-evening cravings. In other words, Milky Way’s shakes are nothing less than stellar. /VS

Best Noodle Bowl

Viet-Thai 
2080 Albert St.
569-3833

All hail the reigning champ. Viet-Thai is the perpetual winner here and it’s no wonder. Their bun bowls — rice vermicelli on a bed of salad, topped with their Best of Food-winning spring rolls and meat of your choice — are fantastically delicious and filling and pretty much perfect in most ways. While Viet-Thai has a lot of tasty dishes available, this is the kind of menu item that can draw you in every time you come. It certainly has with me. I’ve been eating there for years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve strayed to try other dishes that they have available. /JB

Best Pasta

Pasta Prima 
4440 Albert St.
347-2782

I hadn’t been to Pasta Prima for a while and I don’t think I’ve ever been there for lunch. WELL THAT’S NO GOOD. So PD photographer Darrol Hofmeister and I trekked over last Thursday around noon. Darrol ordered the fettuccini alfredo and I picked the pesto pasta with spinach linguini noodles and a bowl (larrrge) of mushroom soup. It was very nice, our server was friendly and on the ball, and I stuck Darrol with the bill – which was (sing-song voice) AWEsome! /SW

Best Pita/Panini/Wrap

Pita Pit 
1821 Hamilton St.
359-7482
3B – 1101 E Kramer Blvd.
584-7482
5510 Rochdale Blvd.
352-7482
www.pitapit.com

When you visit Pita Pit’s website, there’s a Flash-animated opening that, for some reason, doesn’t feature the cartoon sandwich ingredients that are on the walls of every location. I’m a little disappointed, since I think a character like Dopey-Looking Ham has legs. Not literally, but you know what I mean. That quibble aside, Pita Pit has the right idea. Give customers a good selection of ingredients to choose from when making their pita, panini or wrap. Two kinds of lettuce plus spinach? You got it. How many places let you have sprouts if you want ’em? Pita Pit does. The grill factor helps a lot, too. Never underestimate the benefit of heating your mushrooms and green peppers for a minute before chowing down. /JB

Best Pizza

Copper Kettle Gourmet Pizza 
1958 Hamilton St.
352-8888
Copper Kettle Restaurant
1953 Scarth St.
525-3545
www.ckpizza.ca

The Copper Kettle has 40 pizzas on its menu. If you’re stuck, owner Robert Gardikiotis will order you the spinach and feta. I’ve had S&F pizzas but never the CK’s. That unfortunate oversight has now been remedied. It’s good! A mole in the company (not Gardikiotis) tells me the secret ingredient is dill but I have not journalistically confirmed this information – so consider my report reckless hearsay. It’s a tasty pizza, duders – that’s what matters.

Anyway, I usually pick the Irish pizza (potatoes, spinach and feta, roasted garlic and pesto) or a vegetarian without cheese (no offence to cheese!). Another underappreciated CK ‘za is the Garden Groovy, which has grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, beans, red peppers, onions, feta and pesto sauce. I don’t eat mammals, but the gyro pizza sounds tasty. It has tzatziki. Tzatziki, people!/SW

Best Ribs

Tony Roma’s 
4450 Albert St.
586-7427
www.ribs.ca

I’ve got some fond memories of Tony Roma’s, let me tell you. Ribs were always sort of a Thing in my household. And when my birthday came around, and my parents would treat me to a meal at a restaurant of my choice, Tony Roma’s was my jam. As a teenager, I couldn’t get enough – beef ribs, back ribs, side ribs, riblets, and four sauces, which was three more than my usual options. I sort of burned myself out on ribs as a result, so I don’t make it to Tony Roma’s very often. But when I do, it always feels like coming home – except now I can drink beer! And who can resist eating themselves into a meat coma now and then? Besides vegetarians and communists, that is./JC

Best Greek Salad

Houston Pizza 
Five Locations
www.houstonpizza.ca

Diligent fact-checker that I am, I ordered Houston’s Greek salad tonight (DETAIL: Saturday, April 14!). Here’s what I can tell you about it.

FACT #1: My salad had nine olives. NINE. That far exceeds the United Nations’ mandated four-olive minimum for meal-sized Greek salads. (Trivia: The UN’s side salad olive minimum is only two. Shocked? Back in 2009, France tried to raise that to three olives but those asshole Russians used their Security Council veto to block the resolution. It was quite the controversy. I think Gwynne Dyer even wrote a column about it. It’s not like I would just make something like this up.)

FACT #2: My salad had more than 20 good-sized cubes of feta cheese. That’s an awful lot of feta. It’s probably enough to deter other restaurants from cheese escalation. Good thinking, Houston Pizza. That’s how you win a Regina restaurant arms race.

FACT #3: Prairie dog readers apparently like their Greek salads loaded with iceberg lettuce, because their favourite Greek salad-seller holds the onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to a minimum. Hmm. Well, that’s okay. I guess. Nine olives and a ton of cheese make up for a lot./SW

Best Sandwich

Deli Llama 
1852 Scarth St.
205-4265

Sandwich chains breed a certain amount of overconfidence into the consumer when it comes to their ability to decide what should go between those slices of bread. The truth of the matter is the best sandwiches aren’t made to order. They’re made from recipes that have been considered and fine tuned. So it is at the Deli Llama. Their menu ranges from the mildly conceptual — their current featured sandwich is the Mac and Cheese, which features macaroni and cheese — to sandwiches based on far simpler ingredients. The important thing is, they understand those ingredients really well and know how to apply them to make delicious sandwiches, every time. /JB

Best Seafood (local)

La Bodega Tapas Bar & Grill 
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

Good seafood is a treat in this city. Fortunately, the rise of Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine has made it relatively accessible and affordable. La Bodega does not disappoint, with frequent and creative appearances of seafood on the menu. To prepare for this blurb, I dropped by the restaurant and ordered The Great Eastern Fish Fry, which turned out to be the tastiest mountain of fish I’d had in years, although I was struggling to finish by the time I got to the crab leg. /AM

Best Seafood (chain)

Red Lobster 
730 Albert St.
522-2224
www.redlobster.ca

Red Lobster is no ordinary seafood restaurant. One does not simply walk into Red Lobster and order fish. No, you order lobster linguine alfredo, lobster pizza, lobster rolls, grilled lobster tails, lobster-stuffed mushrooms – maybe even lobster-stuffed lobster with lobster sauce. You don’t have to order those cheddar biscuits. They come free. /AM

Best Smoothie

Booster Juice 
3007 Gordon Road
585-1080
2122 Prince of Wales Dr.
352-7277
2102 11th Ave.
352-4665
www.boosterjuice.com

My feelings towards the composition of my Booster Juice smoothies are strong. For instance, if banana is present, it has to be counterbalanced by pineapple or something else that’s pretty strong. Also, mango is always a preferred ingredient, though I’ll stray to switch things up. My go-to jam is the Mango Hurricane. Still, all of the Booster Juice locations in Regina have enough different offerings to meet my own fruity predilections, along with those of anyone who isn’t asking them to toss a durian in the blender. And if you’re looking for a hip nickname to hang on a Booster Juice smoothie how about: a Boostie or a Booster J? /JB

Best Soup

Deli Llama 
1852 Scarth St.
205-4265

Like their sandwiches, Deli Llama’s soups are inventive numbers, showing creativity with old standards and whole new creations too. They’ve got a good variety, with each soup made from scratch. As I write this, I’ve just finished a bowl of one of three soups they had available today: the smokey cheddar and broccoli. Cheddar and broccoli is the “Over the Rainbow” of the soup world, a crowd-pleasing tune that can be done well in any number of ways. The Deli Llama folks take it above and beyond, making it unlike any variation on those two ingredients that I’ve had while still being damn tasty. /JB

Best Spring Rolls

Viet-Thai 
2080 Albert St.
569-3833

Viet-Thai does well at just about anything they try their hand at, but if they wanted to, they could be sustained on the strength of their spring rolls alone. They are simply that freaking good. Served fresh and hot from the kitchen, they’re one of my favourite dishes, crunchy and flavourful and an ecstatic experience. You just have to sit back and marvel at how that little rod of food could be so damn tasty. /JB

Best Steak

The Keg 
4265 Albert St.
585-1717
www.kegsteakhouse.com

And the beef-searing juggernaut that is The Keg muscles its way to top spot on our 2012 Best Of Food “best steak” category. I’m at the Keg probably eight times a year with a couple of my best pals (code names Flipper and Black Mamba). Flipper usually orders the rib steak or prime rib. Mamba mixes it up: steaks, seafood, steaks AND seafood – it’s probably a plot to keep her enemies off-balance (“They’ll never know what I’m ordering next!”).

As for me, I’m a big fan of the zesty salmon (NOTE: not steak!), which has always been good but seemed to get better after The Keg moved to its new location a couple years ago.

It’s obviously true that other Regina-owned restaurants serve a top-flight cut – The Creek in Cathedral, The Diplomat and Golf’s come to mind. And I’m sure there are other worthy contenders – but the Keg got the most votes from our readers so it claimed the title. It’s not surprising: it’s reliable and the food’s consistently good.

It probably helps that The Keg is a major, nationally-promoted chain, too. In a wide-open poll like Best Of Food, name recognition gives you an edge. Marketing pays off again!

A final unsolicited and off-topic appetizer suggestion: try the tempura snap peas and asparagus./SW

Best Sushi

Michi Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar 
A 1943 Scarth St.
565-0141
www.michi.ca

Michi is a worthy repeat winner of this category (which is now contested by at least seven restaurants in this town – an excellent development!). Since I eat there a lot, let’s have some random recommendations of delicious stuff that might not be flagrantly obvious. Sound good?

My favourites include the spinach gomaae (a cold salad in peanut sauce with sesame seeds), the salmon sunomono (another cold salad, this one on the sweet side), the tenka roll (tempura batter crumbs, fake crab, real avocado and roe), anything with salmon sashimi (kinda obvious but I do lurve salmon) and for dessert, the black sesame ice cream. Yummy.

Michi first won Best Sushi in 2006. They’ve won it every year since. There’s a reason. If you haven’t already, give this place a try. /SW

Best Tapas

La Bodega Tapas Bar & Grill 
2228 Albert St.
546-3360
www.labodegaregina.com

La Bodega opened as a tapas restaurant back in 2001, and while I`d argue that it`s drifted from its original vision over the past ten years, there`s no doubt that it`s one of the few places in the city where you can get genuine tapas dishes. Loosely translated, “tapas” means “morsel” or “taste” (although strictly speaking, it’s Spanish for “top”). For North American diners accustomed to heaping plates of food, it’s definitely a different way of approaching a meal, with lots of little bites of food eaten between plenty of talk and drink. Some of the dishes on La Bodega’s tapas menu, like the steak frites, verge into full-meal territory. But there are plenty of options to choose from. Fair warning: food served this way doesn’t come cheap, but it’s usually worth it. /AM

PEOPLE

In economic development-speak, restaurants, bars, coffeeshops and whatnot are classed as part of the Hospitality Industry. If you check the dictionary, you’ll see that the root definition of hospitable is “given to generous and cordial reception of guests”. And that pretty much sums up the people you’ve singled out for special recognition here.

Best Bartender

Niall O’Hanlon 
O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub
1947 Scarth St.
566-4094

I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Niall for seven years, and one thing should be made clear: he’s no mixologist. How then, does he sweep this category year after year? Niall may be responsible for shifting the definition of a bartender, from say, someone who might be able to deftly make an apple martini to someone who creates a whole culture around their establishment. Who needs a wealth of cocktail knowledge if you can charmingly just change a person’s drink order to a Guinness or a whiskey (or a deadly combination of the two à la a car bomb). Seeing Niles, Nigel, Noodles, Neil (or whatever people choose to call him) behind the bar provides customers with the perfect dose of over-caffeinated charisma and child-like sabotage that’ll keep them coming back – swishy martini or not /Agent K

Best Barista

Katie Mantei 
Atlantis
1992 Hamilton St.
565-2213
www.atlantiscoffee.com

While at Atlantis not long ago, I watched Katie Mantei grill a new barista, Sheldon, on his technique. Another day, I recalled it to her and asked if she thought, down the line, Sheldon could be a great barista.

“Maybe he could, if he listens to me,” she said.

He’d do well to listen up, since prairie dog readers have named Katie Regina’s Best Barista.

She has a long history of working at coffee shops. Included in her c.v. is a stint at another downtown coffee shop Aegean Coast starting in August 2009. When it got sold in June 2010, she moved over to Atlantis Coffee. Obviously, she’s been a good fit there, as she became the head barista and manager of Atlantis less than a year later, in June 2011.

To customers, she’s a welcoming presence, with a bright smile and friendly word. As you might imagine, though, getting her started on coffee will elicit an especially enthusiastic response.

“I’m chatty about coffee,” she says. “I love it. It’s the only thing I know other than the miscellaneous things I learn at school.” /JB

Best Chef

Ricardo Rodriguez (The Creek In Cathedral Bistro)
3414 13th Ave.
352-4448

Pleased to announce that Ricardo Rodriguez of the Creek in Cathedral Bistro has won the Best Chef category award this year. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ricky has lived in Canada since 2001, and worked at The Creek since 2004. His cuisine reflects his South American heritage, but he’s also committed to using fresh, seasonal ingredients. I’ve never witnessed anyone cook on extreme heat like Ricardo does, and it’s positively mind-blowing to see someone execute perfectly cooked meat and vegetables off a grill that could be mistaken for a small kitchen fire. Dishes like the grilled open-face steak sandwich showcase his expertise, along with the toothsome sauces he’s become known for. Ricardo’s grilled fare, coarse chutneys and rustic salsas are the perfect balance to Creek Chef Martin Snow’s elegant French sauces and techniques. You can also get your paws on Ricardo’s cooking for private events through Ricardo and his wife Heather’s recent venture Patagonia Catering (596-2298). I may never cook for myself again. /KN

Best Server (Male)

Tony Psenica
La Bodega
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

Sure, Tony Psenica is an excellent waiter – these prizes don’t get handed out for anything less than superior service. But really, does anyone care? What we want to talk about is Tony’s ass. It’s mesmerizing – round, firm, high. It’s like a peach – from heaven. It’s the product of a rigorous tennis training schedule, and the object of many helpless sidelong glances and an abnormally high number of dropped napkins around the tables in Tony’s section. Runner up in the category of sexy waiter bum: Scott Mclean from Fireside. /CS

Best Server (Female)

Kate Walker 
La Bodega
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

When I first started going to La Bodega I couldn’t figure out why I’d get so … uh, hammered. I’m not exactly the life-of-the-party type. I finally pinned it on the subtle mind control of Kate Walker. On top of having excellent service skills and a dry sense of humour, she has a way of never letting a glass sit empty. “I guess I’m a pusher,” she says. “But I only do it to people I know want to get tipsy.” Kate receives this award with typical grace and calm, with a deep gratitude for the honour of being recognized in this special way. “Thank you,” she says to her fans. “Can I top you up? How about a double this time? Would you like a bottle instead? Aw, come on. I can move your car around the block. I can call you a taxi. Don’t worry about it, I’ll drive you home.” /CS

Best Stylish Staff

La Bodega 
Tapas Bar & Grill
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

The bartenders at Crave look plenty snappy, and Earl’s may give you an endless parade of waitresses in little black dresses, but La Bodega’s staff continue to perform their duties with black-clad panache. They bring a sense of individual style while still looking professional and comfortable. It’s a tough look to pull off, but they make it look effortless. /AM

Best Staff

Bushwakker
2206 Dewdney Ave.
359-7276
www.bushwakker.com

Having no serving experience, unless you want to be extremely generous and count my time working for Subway, I might be wrong on this, but it seems like Bushwakker might be a tough gig at times, only because there’s a lot of balls the server would have to keep in the air. Some people are hanging out with a few pints, others are expecting prompt meals. Everyone I’ve had dealings with at the longtime Regina brew pub has been friendly and professional, working well with whatever I was looking to get up to while I was there. In a key role that can make or break a patron’s night, they’re always in the “make” category. /JB

BOOZE & PUBS

Now that mobile food vendors are poised to hit downtown Regina, can mobile booze vendors be far behind? Yeah, you’re right, we’re joking. When it comes to booze, Saskatchewan definitely likes its regulations. So we’re fairly confident we won’t be seeing mobile booze vendors any time soon. Fortunately, within the confines of the existing regs, we’ve got a solid assortment of thirst-quenching options. Here’s some of your favourites.

Best After Work Drinking

O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub 
1947 Scarth St.
566-4094

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 8:39 p.m.: This is a handy coincidence. I’ve been working on Best of Regina “blurbs” (technical term for these short features) for a few hours and it’s quittin’ time. So I’m about to shuffle off for an after-work drink. And where will I go? To Regina’s Best After Work Drinking Place as voted by prairie dog readers, of course. Bonus: it’s been within stumbling distance of my desk since February 2004. Hooray!

THURSDAY, APRIL 12 9:37 a.m.: Last night I had a Guinness, some poutine and a stimulating, nay, scintillating conversation with prairie dog city hall scribe Paul Dechene (apparently, city hall is not perfect. Who knew?). Good times. I pronounce my after work drink a mighty success. May yours be too. /SW

Best Beer Menu

Beer Bros.
1801 Scarth St.
586-2237
www.beerbros.ca

According to reliable sources (Wikipedia), beer is the world’s third most popular beverage after water and tea. And, to put it simply, the beer selection at Beer Bros. is staggering, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring, and possibly humbling. They have an impressive list that surpasses all reasonable expectations. In addition to stouts, lagers, pilsners, bitters, wheat beers, ales (and pale ales), they up the ante with offerings of lambics, fruit beers, and ciders. Try Trappist beer from Belgium, sip lager from Kenya, or even gluten free beer if that’s what ales you (get it?). Beer Bros. offers a wonderful world of beer (and in the summer, a breezy patio to enjoy it on) and the downtown is a better place because of them. /VS

Best Frou Frou Drinks

La Bodega 
Tapas Bar & Grill
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

If the massive volumes of Guinness sold at O’Hanlon’s are any indication, Regina is kind of a beer town. But there’s always room for the fancy and the frou-frou: drinks that catch the light beautifully and surprise your brain with three or four kinds of alcohol blending together. My favourite mixed drink at La Bodega is the Havana Cocktail, a sweet citrus concoction with rum and fruit juices. It makes me feel like it’s 1955 and I’m knocking back drinks with Hemingway after an afternoon of sport fishing on his legendary boat the Pilar. Get all liquored up at La Bodega. /AM

Best Caesar

Fainting Goat 
2330 Albert St.
352-4628
www.thefaintinggoatrestaurant.ca

Caesar lovers far and wide can exhale in learning that under the new ownership of Christopher Fink, the Fainting Goat has not only kept the name, but their famous infused Caesars as well. The art of the Caesar, and it is an art, has been mastered by the Fainting Goat. This award reflects what I perceive to be a Caesar revolution in Regina. A rimmed glass, vodka, clam and spice just don’t cut it anymore. The Goat has recognized this and has embraced the versatility of the Caesar. Take the Smoky BBQ Caesar which includes bacon-infused vodka and is garnished with a cheddar cube and beef jerky. I’m salivating at the mention of it. A special nod also goes out to Flip Eatery and Drink who appears to be following suit, offering a MSG-free version with house-made clamato juice. /KN

Best Martini

La Bodega 
Tapas Bar & Grill
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

Once martinis were simple: gin, vodka, olive, agitation and serve. As the drink grew in popularity, it began to mutate and take on more ingredients. Purists may complain, but for those types, there’s always the turpentine tang of the original. The rest of us will jump into the endless permutations of the mutant martini – and believe me, La Bodega has around 75 recipes to soak your brain with. They range from the familiar (the Crantini, the Cosmopolitan) to the disquieting (the Viagra Martini, the Jagermonster) to the out-and-out threatening (the Nutcracker). And then there’s the Rorgasm, presumably invented by Rory the bartender, and … that’s all I’m going to say on that subject. /AM

Best Liquor Store

Willow Park Wines & Spirits 
3809 Albert St.
585-1661
www.willowparkwines.com

They’ve been a welcome addition to the fine wine and spirit scene in Regina for a few years now. Not only can you peruse the racks for harder-to-find offerings from Portugal, Spain, and Italy, but there’s an array of sprits to choose from as well. They have smooth tequilas, fine floral gins, and silky vodkas that’ll make you swear off that paint remover you’ve been mixing with orange juice since high school. Willow Park also offers tastings and sponsors wine courses for budding oenophiles. Word to the management, though: please lose the scented candles. /VS

Best Offsale

The Empire Hotel 
1718 McIntyre St.
522-2544

Hours and location are keys to any good offsale. By design, you’re going to one of these because the night has taken an unexpected turn, either because you’ve run out of booze or you’re looking to satisfy a previously unanticipated need for booze. The Empire offsale is centrally located, not too far from the Dewdney Ave. strip and most popular downtown haunts. They’re open pretty much every night until late, and the generally-solid selection is the cherry on top. /JB

Best Lounge

Earls
2606 28th Ave.
584-7733
1875 Victoria Ave. E.
949-4955
www.earls.ca

I’m pretty sure Earls continually wins this category because we’re all enthusiastic people watchers. Anyone who’s been to the Earls lounge, either the south Albert location or the younger counterpart out east, has partaken in this pastime. From any booth in the lounge you can not only see the entire length of the bar, but also all the other customers and the serving team. This provides ample distraction if needed (like my specialty: dates gone wrong) or, at the very least, gives the impression that there is always something going on. Not to mention the actual things that do go on – like Wing Wednesday with in-house dj accompaniment, and big sporting events on TV. I’ve heard mixed reviews about last year’s renovations and the jump from four to 17 TVs, but obviously supporters outnumber naysayers as Earls prevailed again this year /KN

Best Nachos

Bushwakker
2206 Dewdney Ave.
359-7276
www.bushwakker.com

I’m not sure what a complete reinvention of the nacho wheel would look like. No need to worry about that at Bushwakker, as their nachos don’t stray into the realm of the experimental. The brew pub excels at this popular snack because they understand how tough it is to get even regular nachos perfect. A large nacho plate at Bushwakker is huge, and can easily satisfy three hungry people. At other restaurants, a serving of nachos that big would cause problems. They might screw up the toppings-to-chips ratio or go overboard with cheese, leaving you with a soggy mess at the bottom. None of that at Bushwakker. Everything is exactly right. /JB

Best Wings

Bonzzini’s Brew Pub 
4634 Albert St.
586-3553

This isn’t the first time Bonzzini’s is prairie dog readers’ choice for chicken wings – the south end pub won Best Wings outright in 2011 and 2010, and tied with Earl’s in 2009. Last year I wrote they were “a winning wing machine”. They are!

But you know, that’s kind of boring. Here’s the important stuff.

1.) Bonzzini’s has an all-day wing special every Tuesday, when they’re $6.50 a dozen. The rest of the week they’re $11.95.

2.) Bonzzini’s has an $18.95 wing platter on their menu: you get 24 wings in three flavours on a big plate. I shared it with friends on a recent Monday. It’s a good deal.

3.) Bonzzini’s has 19 wing flavours. The least popular is “orange ginger”. I haven’t had it, but it sounds damn good. Maybe I’ll single-handedly make it the MOST popular flavour.

4.) Bonzzini’s suicide wings aren’t for wimps. They are freaking hot and hard to eat. I managed five. It hurt like hell. It was awesome. I’d do it again.

5.) When I called Bonzzini’s to fact check this li’l essay, the nice lady I spoke with (her name is Sherry) asked if I’d ever had my Bonzzini’s wings grilled. “Bwuh?” I said. “Oh you silly man,” she said. Apparently that’s the best way to have wings, especially the hot wings.

So there you go. Don’t say I never give you useful information. /SW

Best Pub Grub

Bushwakker
2206 Dewdney Ave.
359-7276
www.bushwakker.com

Bushwakker also scored wins in the Best Fries and Best Nachos categories this year. Those are high up there in the pub grub pantheon and this brew pub is tops in both. They excel elsewhere, too. Their wings, for instance, are none too shabby. In fact, prairie dog food critic Aidan Morgan was quite complimentary of them last time he reviewed them. Their burgers are notably good, especially the bison option, which I really enjoy. Best of all, when we talk about pub grub at Bushwakker, you can’t find fried cheese sticks or anything of that ilk here. It’s a good, solid menu that won’t grease your hands so much that you won’t be able to pick up your pint. /JB

Best Sports Bar

Press Box 
909 Albert St.
924-0111
www.pressboxregina.com

Gentle reader, I am here to tell you that there is a place in this city where the beer runs cold, the chicken wings are savoury, and you can enjoy an unobstructed view of the NHL playoffs no matter what direction you might be sitting in. That place is the Press Box. Feeling peckish? Why not try the Zingers (spicy breaded chicken wings)? Really hungry? You can order a pizza named after your favourite sports franchise. They also have a tasty burger named after Rod Pederson, and a sandwich called the Cheerleader (featuring grilled chicken breast). Me, I partook of the Rider Sliders – four cute mini-burgers that I enjoyed with a side tossed salad. My conclusion? The Press Box provides a lively, sporty atmosphere for the sports fan and anthropological explorer alike. /VS

Best Wine List

La Bodega 
Tapas Bar & Grill
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

Here is the part where I sit down and scratch my head like Grape Ape (remember Grape Ape?). La Bodega’s wine list is pretty good. There’s a nice selection of affordable bottles, including a couple of my favourites (among them the Villa Theresa Organic Pinot Grigio, first suggested to me by a La Bodega regular). And the servers are excellent at suggesting a good wine pairing. But I’m not sure that this is the best selection of wines in the city. But who am I to argue with readers? Drink up. /AM

Best Place For A Wicked Bender

O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub 
1947 Scarth St.
566-4094

My dictionary defines “bender” as “a wild drinking spree”. Fun stuff, but we must have some rules. Here they are: Drink water between shots. Eat something during your bender adventure. Don’t barf in the bar, or on the sidewalk outside the bar, or in the taxi on the way home from the bar. Don’t pee your pants. Don’t drink so much that you die. Have a sober (or at least semi-sober) friend keep an eye out for danger and make sure you don’t overdo overdoing it. Be equipped with condoms in case sex breaks out. Don’t walk out on your bill. Don’t be a stingy tipper. Obey Thy Bouncer. No fighting, biting or rioting. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t have wicked benders if you’re taking medication that reacts badly with booze. In general, have fun and be fun to get drunk with. Remember, this is a Wicked Bender, not The Drunkpocalypse That Shall Live In Infamy.

If you choose O’Hanlon’s as the place to have a wicked bender, as our readers heartily recommend, here’s some advice. Adhere to an hourly Guinness regimen supplemented by three to six Irish car bombs (a scrumptious concoction of Baileys, Jameson and Guinness that tastes sort of like a beer milkshake) over an evening. That ought to deliver you unto Benderdom. Now off with you, you boozy scamps! /SW

BREAKFAST

You did it again, didn’t you? After perusing the Booze & Pubs section you were overcome by a powerful thirst and abandoned this feature in mid-read to try first-hand some of the venues and products that our writers so enticingly extolled the virtues of. And now it’s the morning after the night before, and you’re hungry. Just like last year, we’re here with some breakfast options for you.

Best Basic Breakfast

Smitty’s 
Six Locations
www.smittys.ca

I’m told this was a close one. Mr. Breakfast, La Bodega and the Mercury were all strong contenders. But like Canadian politics, Best Of Food operates on a first-past-the-post system. So the candidate that gets the most votes wins. And Smitty’s got the most votes of any breakfast place in Regina. That’s democracy, people! Like it or lump it.

To commemorate this historic occasion, here are six things I like about Smitty’s breakfast: 1.) It’s available all day. 2.) The booths make it hard for other people to see that I’m a piggy who ordered eggs, toast, hash browns AND pancakes. 3.) The big tables in the Cornwall Centre’s Smitty’s are good for spreading out a bunch of work-related crap and, uh, working on it. 4.) I’ve always had friendly servers at Smitty’s! 5.) With six locations in Regina, you’re never far from a Smitty’s. 6.) I haven’t been to all of them to confirm this, buuut… don’t all Smitty’s have licensed lounges? Aha. I begin to understand prairie dog readers’ enthusiasm for this chain. /SW

Best Fancy Breakfast

Hotel Saskatchewan 
2125 Victoria Ave.
337-4311
www.hotelsask.com

The Hotel Saskatchewan is famous for its buffet but I like the breakfast they have on the menu. Options include your basic eggs, bacon, toast and potato dish, yummy-sounding saskatoon berry pancakes, and the one I’m almost always going to order, poached eggs and smoked salmon in Hollandaise sauce.

There’s also a tasty daily special with poached eggs, asparagus and Hollandaise. I click “like” on that one, too.

Breakfast is served from 6:30 to 11 a.m. in the dining room. On weekends you can nosh in the lounge across from the lobby. It’s a great little nook, especially on a Sunday morning after an art opening. Give it a try. Your wine and cheese hangover will thank you. /SW

Best Hangover Breakfast

Smitty’s
Six Locations
www.smittys.ca

I suppose if you wanted you could spend the evening drinking in Smitty’s licensed lounge, then return the next morning with a hangover and have breakfast in the very same lounge where you acquired your hangover. Then after you were done eating you could start drinking again, then return the next morning with another hangover and … whoa, I better stop here. This is starting to get confusing. Did Smitty’s win Best Hangover Breakfast, or Best Pre-Bender Breakfast? Or was it Best Place For A Post-Breakfast Bender? Damn. /GB

Best Eggs (Omelette, Benedict, Etc.)

La Bodega 
Tapas Bar & Grill
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

Bacon and eggs. Huevos rancheros. Crab cake benedict. Chorizo burrito. The Double Dose breakfast – heaped with bacon and chorizo and paired with a mimosa, it may be the greatest hangover remedy in the city. The classic three-egg omelette. Need I go on? Unless you’re a strict vegan, eggs are the primer in the fuel that propels you from Saturday morning to Sunday night. This is something that La Bodega clearly knows. Hey, I totally forgot about their egg tostadas. You can find an omelette or a scramble nearly anywhere in this city, but prairie dog’s readers know where their eggs are at. /AM

Best Hash Browns

Smitty’s
Six Locations
www.smittys.ca

I’m a fan of hash browns – technically speaking, boiled, finely-chopped (hashed) potatoes fried until light brown. They go great with eggs. You can fancy them up with fried onions, corn, peas or meat, or splash them with ketchup, Tabasco or even Sriracha sauce. Salt the hell out of them to induce a sodium seizure if you like. Hash browns come in all shapes and sizes, including chunks, disks, chips, formed patties, julienned and flash-fried conflagrations and shredded mounds. And let’s not forget small, seasoned cubes, just like at Smitty’s – which a slim majority of Best Of Food voters picked as their favourite morning potato. /SW

Best Breakfast Buffet

Hotel Saskatchewan 
2125 Victoria Ave.
522-7691
www.hotelsask.com

No surprise here. The Hotel Saskatchewan is renowned throughout the province for serving up a great Sunday brunch. They have everything from breakfast-y stuff like scrambled eggs, waffles, and omelettes (made to your specifications), to lunch-ier offerings like roast beef, salmon, ham, salads, fresh fruit, and oodles of deserts. And it’s a buffet, so if you’re still hungry after round one, you can always go back for more.

(The Sunday buffet is open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The website says reservations are “a must”. The Sask also has a hot weekday breakfast buffet and a continental breakfast)

The dining room is pretty swishy too. Isn’t it nice that we have a grand hotel in town to enjoy brunch in? Sigh. We should really do this more often. /VS

COFFEE & TEA

When it comes to coffee and tea, we’re not in the same league as some cultures. The Japanese, for instance, have devised an entire ceremony around the preparation and consumption of tea. And in Islamic countries, where the drinking of alcohol is strictly prohibited, the brewing and serving of coffee has been elevated to a veritable art form. Still, as this list of winners demonstrates, we have our moments.

Best Coffee Shop

Atlantis Coffee 
1992 Hamilton St.
565-2213
www.atlantiscoffee.com

A good coffee shop needs to be a lot of different things to a lot of people. Some customers are coffee connoisseurs who would shudder at the thought of drinking a commercial brand of coffee like Folgers or Maxwell House; others are on a coffee break and in need of a reliable caffeine fix. Some are looking to stick around; others are in and out. Some want a place to meet people; others want to be alone. With its spacious patio, private room, comfy couches, cozy tables and quality menu, Atlantis is the kind of shop that can be all things to all people. Need proof? In addition to this award, just look at all the other Best of Food nods it garnered. /JB

Best Coffee Shop Menu

13th Ave. Coffee House 
3136 13th Ave.
522-3111

The name of the 13th Ave. Coffee House has always felt like a misnomer to me. They’ve got teas and coffee, to stay and to go, so you can completely consider them a coffee shop. Still, their menu is so big and varied and delicious that it’s always taken precedence when I think of the place. When I’m going there, it’s the food that’s drawing me in. And draw me in it does. Their vegetarian menu is strong enough to tempt even the most dedicated carnivores, except for the fanatic ones. So props to them for their win in this category. /JB

Best Cup Of Plain Old Coffee

Tim Hortons 
Multiple Locations
www.timhortons.com

Saskatchewan is the province where a few years ago intrepid software developers Blaine Korte and Cory Jacobsen created an iPhone app called TimmyMe that actually directs users to the nearest Tim Hortons. So it’s no surprise that this venerable chain is our readers’ choice when they’re in the mood for a plain cup of that magic elixir derived from the ground seeds of a large evergreen shrub (genus Coffea) – a shrub originally native to Africa, but now cultivated in many equatorial countries around the world. We don’t grow it here, obviously, but when it comes to brewing and serving the beverage, Tim’s is certainly a Canadian icon. So congrats to them. /GB

Best Fancy-Schmancy Coffee

Atlantis Coffee
1992 Hamilton St.
www.atlantiscoffee.com/

I traveled to Italy in the spring of 2011. That’s where I developed a love (read: addiction) to café latté. When I got home, I set out in search of a coffee shop in Regina that would make a latté as good as the ones I got in Rome. I failed. Since I am not an aficionado, I don’t know why no one here couldn’t do it, but my guess is it probably has more to do with the ingredients than the technique.

Or maybe it’s the fact that the lattés I had in Rome were consumed IN ROME.

Regina isn’t Rome. But these guys make it taste about as close as you can get. Maybe if we erected a replica of the Pantheon or Arch of Constantine in that parking lot across from Atlantis on Hamilton it would help. But that’s probably not going to happen.

The important thing is, in my humble opinion, Atlantis is the only place in town to go for latté. /DH

Best Tea

David’s Tea
Cornwall Centre
522-2828
davidstea.com

Let’s be honest: tea stores are generally not hip. They’re all dark wood and dusty jars full of weird dry leaves. Even the lighter and brighter shops seem to be reaching out to the demographic that likes to display bone china in glass-fronted cabinets. David’s Tea took this venerable formula and plunged the works through a filter of pure Starbuck’s-style cool. Their Cornwall Centre store is hipster tea heaven, with colour-coded stainless steel bins and employees that probably play in Library Voices (Library Voices has around 300 members, right?). Their teas aren’t cheap, but you won’t care about price once you’ve had a cup of their Organic White Tiger or Guangzhou Milk Oolong. /AM

Best Place To Buy Beans

Roca Jack’s
2610 13th Ave.
347-3093

This is one of the few categories that didn’t go to this year’s coffee-related juggernaut Atlantis, but with good reason. Coffee beans have been a big part of Roca Jack’s business pretty much since day one. When you walk into their cozy 13th Ave. location, what strikes you most is how much of the space is dedicated to the storage and processing of coffee beans — that, and barista Neil McDonald, who was voted Best Hippie by prairie dog readers in last fall’s Best of Regina poll. With a killer combination like that, you know you’re in the right place. /JB

Best Coffee Shop For Cards, Chess/Board Games

Stone’s Throw Coffee House 
1101C Kramer Blvd.
949-1404

The important thing to know is that there’s a huuuge boom in board, card, tabletop and other games going on right now. Indie games like Settlers of CatanPower GridDixit, Seven WondersTicket To RideFlash Point and a lot more are taking over nerd-cellars everywhere. Not just nerds are playing, either. This new age of gaming has moved far beyond their (um, our) pale-skinned circles.

I knew we’d passed some kind of milestone when my bank teller told me recently about his weekend playing Flash Point, a co-operative board game about fire fighters. My bank teller? Well then.

A lot of these games would play well in a coffee shop, out in public with other humans and a nice cup of brew. And our readers say Stone’s Throw, which is located in a strip mall just across Wascana Parkway from the university, is the best place for that. So give that a try. It’s a hell of a lot more civilized than playing angry birds on the can. /SW

Best Coffee Shop to Work/Study

Atlantis Coffee 
1992 Hamilton St.
565-2213
www.atlantiscoffee.com

When I told head barista Katie Mantei about Atlantis’s win in this category, she immediately rattled off a bunch of the same reasons I would cite for why it won: a convenient location, good atmosphere, and the staff.

“It’s a really good environment to be in, because the baristas we have are really friendly and personable and are all getting a little more stoked on coffee,” says Mantei. “It’s a pleasant place to come into even when I’m not working here.”

Seating also merits a mention when it comes to this category. Whether you’re studying alone, or as part of a group, there’s enough space for you to wiggle in while still feeling like you aren’t alone. And that’s always essential for a good coffee shop work space. /JB

SHOPPING & SERVICES

In contrast to other cities, where people tend to live in small dwellings and spend a lot of time patronizing local restaurants, pubs and coffeeshops, Reginans favour large dwellings that they can cocoon in. That doesn’t preclude them from entertaining, of course. And thankfully, when they do, they have plenty of great businesses like these to shop at to get the products and services they need to ensure that they and their guests have a great time.

Best Bakery

Orange Boot Bakery 
3904 Gordon Road
584-2668
www.orangeboot.ca

Orange Boot is probably the best thing to happen to food culture in Regina in years. Most of us eat bread, and up until Orange Boot came along, the choices in this city weren’t great. Allow me to elaborate. Their Volker Rye is perfect – just the right density and bite you want out of a light rye and it works either for sandwiches or toasted for breakfast. The Birdseed bread is another popular choice that goes beautifully with just about anything you’d care to put on it. They also have a rotating selection of delicious cookies and muffins. And then there’s the Baguette: they introduced it to their repertoire in the last year, and it’s been the best thing to happen to me in Regina in that time. I love Orange Boot and am so thankful they are here. If you don’t know them yet, do yourself a favour and get to know them before you suffer through one more week of mediocre bread. /VS

Best Butcher

Butcher Boy Meats 
2136 Robinson St.
781-6913
1849 Park St.
525-9112

All hail the Butcher Boy! They’re a godsend to the casual barbequer and serious home chef alike. For Regina’s carnivores, they’re the go-to spot for juicy steaks, chops, cutlets and roasts. They also have weekly deliveries of local, free-range chicken, which is always fresh and full of flavour. Their shelves are stocked with an impressive collection of dry rubs, hot sauces and marinades too, which is great for prepping meats if you don’t have time to come up with your own concoction. My personal reason for loving them so? The service. They’re friendly and helpful – and they always seem to have fresh flank steak in stock when I need it. /VS

Best Catering

Deli Llama 
1852 Scarth St.
205-4265

The Deli Llama didn’t just appear out of thin air. Before they opened their downtown sandwich-and-soup shop, the owners pleased palates in Regina with their catering business: Any Occasion Katering. The “K” isn’t just a bit of phonetic silliness. The initials, when taken together, spell A-OK. Although if you’ve seen the Deli Llama’s logo, a goofy-looking cartoon llama, you’ll know the owners aren’t above having a little fun now and then. But they take their food seriously. And with Deli Llama, they’ve opened a second front in the deliciousness war that they’ve been fighting and winning in Regina. /JB

Best Deli

Italian Star Deli 
1611 Victoria Ave.
757-6733
www.italianstardeli.com

Recipe for success: soft focaccia, mortadella, porchetta, salami, hot peppers, pesto, mustard, feta, and provolone. If you have never had one of Italian Star’s famous deli sandwiches, drop what you are doing and get there now. You can change your sandwich if you want to – sometimes I opt for marble rye. Generally, the options include mild, medium and hot. What more does a person need really? Well, besides fresh basil, genoa, prosciutto, garlic stuffed olives… /KN

Best Kitchen Supply Store

Kitchen Gear 
3418 Hill Ave.
359-7773
Northgate Mall
352-7773

If you want to cook, you need tools. When many people think of these tools, they think of large, expensive appliances. But God lives in the details. You need whisks, skewers, egg coddlers, peelers, graters, piping bags, ricers … the list goes on and on and you can pretty much find everything on it at Kitchen Gear. For instance, I was once in a bind, looking for something to hold a chicken upright in my roaster (and I don’t believe in beer cans) so off to Kitchen Gear I went and, wouldn’t you know it, they had just the thing! A Vertical Chicken Roaster! /VS

Best Specialty Grocery

Italian Star Deli 
1611 Victoria Ave.
757-6733
www.italianstardeli.com

It’s rare to walk up the steps of the Italian Star Deli and encounter a customer heading out the door who doesn’t look visibly pleased. Something about the place is unforgettable. Carlo Giambattista has mastered the art of making people feel welcome; possibly the reason my sandwich visits usually lead to the purchase of twice as much stuff as I originally came in for. I find myself walking in circles, lengthening the visit, absent-mindedly grabbing gnocchis, oils and vinegars, cannolis and other awesome items. I’ve finally decided this behaviour can be explained as either a desperate attempt to absorb the essence of the place, or pathetic loitering to snag another catch-up with Carlo. Always worth it though /KN

Best Kitchen Renovation Store/Company

Home Depot 
1030 Pasqua Street N.
564-5700/
1867 E. Victoria Ave.
761-1919
homedepot.ca

I don’t know shit about renovations, so before I wrote this blurb I consulted with someone who does: my dad, Scott Cameron.

My parents redid the kitchen a few years back, and several of the things they installed (new countertops, a new pantry door and a dishwasher) came from Home Depot. According to Dad, the major factors that led them to choose Home Depot were the price, customer-friendly in-store service and return policies, and convenience. He also mentioned that his Home Depot credit card has proven pretty useful.

Now, my Dad’s an opinionated dude, and he singled out the big box chain’s driveway-only delivery policy and laggardly restocking as “big strikes” against it. But Dad said that, while annoying, those things don’t negate the virtues of Home Depot.

“On the balance, the pros outweigh the cons,” he said.

Thanks, Dad! I’m sorry I cornered you about this on your way to the gym. /JC

STYLE & AMBIENCE

Humans don’t have a long history of dining in a refined and dignified manner. For most of our two million or so years of existence we couldn’t afford to be too precious about how we ingested the food and drink we needed to survive – lest we end up providing a nutrient boost for one of the many predators that menaced us. Now, we can afford to do it up a bit when we nosh. If the idea of doing that appeals to you, here’s some places our readers recommend you try.

Best Arty Ambience

La Bodega 
Tapas Bar & Grill
2228 Albert St.
546-3660
www.labodegaregina.com

First-time visitors to La Bodega would be forgiven for thinking that they’d booked a table for two at an art gallery. The art on display, which includes the likes of Wilf Perreault, is striking, but perfectly in keeping with the cosmopolitan atmosphere that La Bodega strives to achieve. Most notable of all may be the doors of the men’s and women’s washrooms, painted in bright geometric shapes by D.J. Tapaquon. For sheer aesthetic oomph, though, nothing beats the ice bar. Created every winter by artist Peter Fogarty, the ice bar is the swankiest place in the city to order mulled wine or vodka shots. /AM

Best Comfy Restaurant

Bushwakker 
2206 Dewdney Ave.
359-7276
www.bushwakker.com

When I think of “comfy” I think of a chair, a big soft one that you can sink into and feel good while you’re sitting on it. I get why you’d call Bushwakker comfy too, though. There are no recliners to be seen in the place. It’s more of an atmosphere thing, right from the moment you walk through the door. The brew pub doesn’t stand on pretense or formality. You seat yourself wherever there’s room, pulling over whatever tables or chairs you might need, order off paper menus, then see where the night takes you. While they’re serious about their menu and their beers, the folks at Bushwakker also invite their patrons to get casual when they’re there, which, along with a tasty brew every now and again, is what a lot of people need. / JB

Best Décor

La Bodega 
Tapas Bar & Grill
2228 Albert St.
546-3360
www.labodegaregina.com

One of the nicest things about going to La Bodega is that your choice of seating can produce very different dining experiences. Too often a lounge is a pale puffy-chaired afterthought, but La Bodega is a centaur of a restaurant, with a long, modern lounge attached to a series of cozy wood-lined dining rooms. And centaurs, as we all know, are magnificent and beautiful creatures. The dining rooms are great for couples or groups who want a meal in an intimate but still casual atmosphere. For a more raucous time, the lounge gives you a nice long bar and a scattering of tables. And in summertime, the two patio areas and rooftop unfurl like powerful open-air dining wings. /AM

Best Patio

Cathedral Village Free House 
2062 Albert St.
359-1661
www.thefreehouse.com

What makes a great restaurant patio? Attractive, comfortable design and being attached to a restaurant with good food and service, duh. The Cathedral Village Free House’s patio hits these targets like an angry bird hits a pig: with almost kinetic force and to the great delight of everyone involved (except the pig, but pigs aren’t allowed on decks anyway. Except as food).

This marks the ninth year (out of ten) that the Cathedral Village Free House has won Regina’s Best Patio. Our champ’s only setback was waaay back in 2004, when the old Alfredo’s on the Scarth Street pedestrian mall took the prize. There are a lot of great decks in town – The Willow in Wascana, the Fireside Bistro and La Bodega come to mind. So it means something that the Free House’s patio stands out year after year. It means the deck’s a hit. And once our usual erratic April weather grudgingly surrenders a few warm, sunny days, it’ll be the best place in town to grab a Corona and nibble on a Margherita pizza. /SW

Best Bathrooms

Moxie’s
1800A Victoria Ave.
781-5655

When it comes to restaurant bathrooms, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve peed in worse places than Moxie’s. And why should I be? The shame, after all, isn’t mine – especially when the bathroom was grotty and gross. Considering that food is being prepared and served at these establishments, the bathrooms, at bare minimum, should be clean and well-lit. Stylish bordering on lavish décor is an added bonus. Now, I don’t have any firsthand experience from the ladies’ side of things at Moxie’s, but the men’s bathroom features stone walls, a fireplace and the pièce de résistance – TV screens above the urinals. Pretty sweet, eh? /JB