Best Of Food 2014

bof2014

Restaurants | Menu | People | Booze & Pubs | Breakfast | Coffee & Tea | Shopping & Services

Prairie Dog’s Best Of Food & Drink proudly presents the final results of two open polls— a nomination round and a final round — that ran online at prairiedogmag.com between late February and early May. Thousands of Prairie Dog readers cast tens of thousands of votes for their favourite restaurants, meals, watering holes, food industry people and more, and you hold the results in your hands. Have feedback? E-mail us at [email protected]

Congratulations to all the winning restaurants and people. We might just have a dining scene in this little city.

CREDITS: Best Of Food & Drink 2014 was edited by Gregory Beatty and Stephen Whitworth. The feature was written by Dale Barbour, James Brotheridge, John Cameron, Amber Goodwyn, Savannah J. Hagin, Shane Hnetka, Aidan Morgan, Vanda Schmöckel, and Greg and Steve. Ashley E. Rankin went to Toronto and owes beer to a lot of people as a result. Artwork by the amazing Myron Campbell (notsosimpleton.com). Design by Paul “Awesome” Klassen. Published as always by the long-suffering Terry Morash. We love you, Terry!


RESTAURANTS

Best Restaurant

Flip Eatery & Drink

1970 Hamilton St. 306-205-8345
fliprestaurant.ca

Runners-up: La Bodega (2nd); Fireside Bistro (3rd); Flavours of India (4th); Willow on Wascana (5th)

It’s easy to direct people to Flip. Just tell them to head down 19 block Hamilton until they hit a long stretch of windows with people eating and drinking behind them.

It may seem like a small detail, but Flip’s open design is key to the restaurant’s philosophy.

Regina, despite its sunny summers, is littered with restaurants hidden behind tall fences or windowless exteriors. It’s an old-school notion of privilege, expressed in seclusion and dimness. Flip turns that tradition inside-out and puts everything on display, from dishes to diners.

The food and drink also make for a welcome break from tradition. Under chef David Straub (who also creates the cured meats and pickled everythings at Salt Food Boutique), Flip serves upscale comfort food, full of flavour and inspired choices of ingredients. The recently unveiled new menu keeps some of their favourites and brings in new items, like their roasted rabbit saddle and rabbit fricassee. Oh, and the brunch? Holy god, that brunch! Clear your Sunday morning and find a table at Flip. /AM

Best Restaurant For A Budget Date

Viet-Thai

2080 Albert St. 306-569-3833

Runners-up: Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (2nd); Brewsters (3rd); Pasta Prima (4th)

If you’re a starving artist like myself, you know it’s a struggle to find a decent plate of food for a modest price. Well, thank God for Viet-Thai, because they have the perfect remedy. I’ve scoured the city for spring rolls and noodle bowls to satisfy my serious Thai food addiction and Viet-Thai keeps luring me back with affordable prices and dishes that pack a wallop.

I’ve visited Viet-Thai so many times they know my order by heart, which is either pathetic on my part or admirable on theirs. The ambiance is relaxed — not too busy, and spacious enough that you don’t fret about bothering anyone with your carefree flirting or brooding, solitary demeanor. The decor is pleasing to the eye and welcoming whether your romantic date is a cutie-patootie or, uh, a bad case of writer’s block. The wait staff are very pleasant, and the food is great. So if you ever feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, never fear, for Viet-Thai is here. /SJH

Best Restaurant For A Luxury Date

The Willow on Wascana

3000 Wascana Dr. 306-585-3663
willowonwascana.ca

Runners-up: La Bodega (2nd); The Keg (3rd); Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar (4th); The Diplomat (5th)

Let me run a hypothetical situation past you. You’re a down-on-your-luck kind of person. One day, a giant bag of money falls out of an airplane and lands on your head. Wham! Of course, you don’t get to keep that money. But once you’re out of the hospital, you sue the airline for millions. You’re rich! And you have pins in your neck and back, so bonus! Okay, rich person. Now that you’re out of hospital and ready to spend those millions, where do you take your special lady or he-lady (man)? Prairie Dog readers recommend the Willow on Wascana. Perched on the edge of Wascana Lake, with a fine view of the water and the Legislative Building from an amaaazing deck, the Willow offers a locally sourced seasonal menu full of excellent dishes. The best bet is the six-course tasting menu and matching wine flight, which will leave you dizzy and dazed with deliciousness.

Anyway, congratulations on your luxury date! Go treat yourself to a diamond hat or whatever it is you one percenters like. /AM

PEDANTIC CLARIFICATION: You don’t have to be a millionaire to dine at the Willow any more than you need to be a millionaire to spend an evening pounding pints and pizza at a pub. Have you seen what people spend on booze in one night? Yeah. You can afford the Willow. Even I can afford the Willow. /SW

Best Restaurant For Vegetarians

13th Ave. Coffee House

3136 13th Ave. 306-522-3111
13thavecoffee.com

Runners-up: Green Spot (2nd); Flavours of India (3rd); Da India Vegetarian (4th)

The 13th Ave. Coffee House is the defending champ in this category and it’s unsurprising that they would reign again in 2014. Their victory is built on a fortification of deliciously diverse menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as any and all second-breakfasts and elevensies in between. Featuring everything from rice bowls to sandwiches to baked goods to coffee and booze, 13th Ave. Coffee House leaves the gastronomical needs of no vegetarian behind, and Regina digs that. /AG 

Best Family Restaurant

Boston Pizza 

545 Albert St. N. 306-949-5455
4303 Rochdale Blvd. 306-721-6200
2660 Quance St. 306-779-4500
4657 Rae St. 306-585-1722
bostonpizza.com

Runners-up: Flavours of India (2nd); Houston Pizza(3rd); Jack Keaton’s BBQ & Grill (4th); Montana’s Cookhouse (5th)

What makes a family restaurant the best? Is it random pictures of moms, dads, kids and pets in various combinations on the walls? No? I suppose it would have to be a restaurant that anyone can take their family to for good meals and good times. Fun fact: the Albert Street N. Boston Pizza hosts an open board game night every Tuesday with Comic Readers. Anyone can come and play board games: it’s a family-friendly environment, it’s a learning experience, there’s food and beer, and good times will be had by all. What more could you ask for from a family restaurant? /SH

Best New Restaurant

Leopold’s Tavern

2330 Albert St. 306-525-5367
leopoldstavern.com

Runners-up: Caraway Grill (2nd); Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (3rd); Cora (4th)

Leopold’s Tavern follows the infallible formula for new restaurants. First: name your establishment after a Belgian monarch. Second: offer beer in a glass boot. Third: there is no third thing. Belgian kings and boots of beer are what you need to succeed. Actually, Leopold’s success is based on more sensible factors. The food is pub grub par excellence (I recommend the mac & cheese or any of their poutines), the beer is ever-flowing (and yes, you can get it in a glass boot if you like), and the fenced-off back patio is the perfect summer hangout. Now, if only Leopold’s could make summer happen sooner. /AM

Best Buffet

Hotel Saskatchewan

2125 Victoria Ave. 306-522-7691

Runners-up: Flavours of India (2nd); Siam (3rd); Spices of Punjab (4th); Da India Curry House (5th)

Well. This is awkward, Regina. You chose the Hotel Saskatchewan for Best Brunch and Best Breakfast Buffet. That covers all of their buffets. You already reached 100 per cent buffet coverage, Hotel Saskatchewan-wise. And now you go ahead and perform an act of enthusiastic overkill by giving the Hotel yet one more buffet-based accolade. What possible buffet can you be referring to? Interestingly, the runners-up betray a strong southeast Asian flavour: Flavours of India, Spices of Punjab, Da India Curry House and Siam. Maybe one of you should organize a buffet crawl, bussing from one buffet to the next, until you’re so full that you never want to go to a buffet ever again. At least, not for one whole week. /AM

Best Fast Food

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

4660 Gordon Rd. 306-352-5545
2531 Quance St. 306-569-5555
fiveguys.ca

Runners-up: Opa! (2nd); Baron’s Fresh Grill (3rd); A&W (4th); McDonald’s (5th)

Well, that’s it. An era ends. After only a couple years in town, our outposts of the Virginia-based fast food chain Five Guys have wrested the fast food championship belt away from all comers and hoisted it greasily into the air. Of course, if you’ve ever been inside a Five Guys at mealtime, you could have seen this coming a mile away. The menu is so minimal — burgers, fries, hot dogs, grilled cheese and veggie sandwiches, and drinks — that you can recite it from memory while scarfing down a French fry like I just did in this very sentence. With such a small menu, there’s little to do besides make sure everything on it is great. And according to Prairie Dog readers, Five Guys does exactly that. /JC

Best Chain Restaurant

Earls

2606 28th Ave. 306-584-7733
1875 Victoria Ave. E. 306-949-4955
earls.ca

Runners-up: The Keg (2nd), Original Joe’s (3rd), Boston Pizza (4th), Moxie’s (5th) 

When I think of a chain restaurant, the first thing that comes to mind are the cheap fast food places that people visit to umm… gorge on cheap fast food. I never really think of classier restaurants like Earls as being in the same category. And I guess that’s what makes it the Best Chain Restaurant in Regina — it doesn’t feel like a chain. Having eaten there recently, I can report that the service was fast and friendly, and the place was busy, but not too busy to serve schmucks like us. Normally, I would have ordered steak, but the ribs were on special and they were awesome. So as far as chains go, you can’t go wrong with Earls. /SH 

Best Chinese Restaurant

Peking House

1850 Rose St. 306-757-3038
pekinghouse.ca

Runners-up: Little Saigon (2nd); China Doll (3rd); Lee’s Chop Suey East (4th)

From Regina, SK, it’s tough to measure what “authentic Chinese food” should be. Ferreting out the inauthentic is easy enough, even for non-gourmets. Just pop some chewy ingredients with goopy sauces into your mouth, chew and swallow. But pinpointing the other end of the spectrum, Chinese food that’s the finest of its style, can be difficult. I may not be able to do that myself, but I can say that Peking House is a great restaurant, period. The wait staff is courteous and quick, the atmosphere light and warm. Prices are decent, and portions generous. And the food –– the food is all finesse, delicious and nuanced and fresh. That’s what all Chinese food should aspire to. And at Peking House, they definitely deliver. /JB

Best Greek Restaurant

Greko’s

4410 Albert St., 306-584-3646

Runners-up: Copper Kettle (2nd); The Cottage (3rd); The Diplomat (4th); Opa! (5th)

Perennial Best Greek Restaurant Greko’s is no mere server of cuisine worthy of Apollo. Nay, this Hellenic wonder serves delights worthy of mythology’s greatest figures. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Heracles himself in Greko’s, feasting on a rack of lamb; or Paris delicately lifting a forkful of moussaka to his lips. When he’s in Regina, Theseus eats at Greko’s too. He has beef souvlaki. Always. /SW

Best Indian Restaurant

Flavours of India

305 Victoria Ave. E. 306-757-5353
flavoursofindia.ca

Runners-up: Caraway Grill (2nd); Spices of Punjab (3rd); Da India Curry (4th); Bombay (5th)

A certain amount of drama always accompanies Best of Food. Our writers and readers are curious to see who the new top dog in town is, and who’s positioning themselves to take a run at the title next year. But sometimes, you just have to recognize the perpetual greatness of a restaurant like Flavours of India. Even in Regina’s crowded and talented Indian food scene, they excel. Caraway Grill and Bombay are both off to big starts in the city. Da India Curry House’s empire has expanded to include Da India Vegetarian and Da India Pizza. And Spices of Punjab is still dropping crazy buffet game right across the street from Flavours of India. That said, FOI is still #1. Their samosas and pakoras are finely balanced. Their sauces are addictive and their meats done to perfection. Whitworth blathers about how good the shrimp pakora is at least once every couple of weeks. To top it all off, the staff are some of the smilingest people out there.

There are a lot of reasons why Flavours of India are still the champs. These were some of them. /JB

Best Korean Restaurant

Orange Izakaya

2136 Robinson St. 306-779-0779
orangeizakaya.com

Runners-up: Korea House (2nd); Sake (3rd); LIG Korean BBQ (4th)

Sometimes, when you’re dragging yourself through the evening streets of Regina, starving for a bite to eat and finding nothing but closed restaurant after closed restaurant, you wonder what kind of a ridiculous city you live in. But then you turn down Robinson Street and discover Orange Izakaya, the restaurant that welcomes you in when everything else is shut tight and laughing at your plight.

But Orange Izakaya is better than merely “open”. Orange serves delicious Korean and Japanese fusion cuisine, from sushi to steaming hot bibimbap. The number of Korean restaurants in Regina has increased mightily over the last few years, but Orange beats them all by providing excellent food in a sophisticated atmosphere. /AM

Best Thai Restaurant

Viet-Thai

2080 Albert St. 306-569-3833

Runners-up: Siam (2nd); Thai Garden (3rd); Thai Basil (4th)

To ensure a fresh, on-point blurb, I ordered Viet-Thai when my sister was visiting from Toronto. I asked her to be specific in telling me what she likes about it. She unhinged her jaw and shoveled in most of a vermicelli bowl. Eventually, mouth packed full of noodles and fresh shredded veggies, she gasped, “I feel no guilt,” which I would guess is because the vegetables are fresh and Viet-Thai is a healthier choice than many other restaurants. Satiated, she muttered, “food coma,” before closing her eyes for a while. Good work, Viet-Thai. /McD

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

Viet-Thai

2080 Albert St. 306-569-3833

Runners-up: Angkor Southeast Asian Delight (2nd); Saigon By Night (3rd); Nhu Y Tree Tea (4th); Ngoc Van (5th)

Double-threat Viet-Thai takes home the prize for Best Thai Restaurant and Best Vietnamese Restaurant this year. (Actually, I guess it’s more of a quadruple threat, because it also won Best Spring Rolls and Best Restaurant For A Budget Date.) By the time I got to this blurb, my sister’s mouth was no longer full of Viet-Thai’s best-in-class vermicelli bowl and curry, so she was able to expand on her earlier observations, having eaten a lot of curries to which to compare Viet-Thai’s. She definitely has a way with words, as you can tell from the following comments, which I dutifully recorded: “Yum,” “just write orgasm a bunch of times,” and “yeah, curry,” followed by, “this is a way better reason for Vietnam to be famous than a freaking war.” She also threw in the pensive: “Thai curry is way better than Indian…Oh, wait, is that racist?” /McD

Best World Cuisine

Selam

2115 Broad St. 306-775-3131

Runners-up: Afghan Cuisine (2nd); Monterey Bay Bistro, Russian Style Family Restaurant (tied 3rd)

Selam grew beyond being just a restaurant a while back, hosting events in their space and starting (what I’m assuming) was Regina’s first hookah lounge. None of that’s to take away from the food side of things. Selam’s still about putting plates in front of people first and foremost and having them dig in. Ethiopian food is a welcome change from a lot of Regina’s restaurants, at bare minimum because of how you eat. Forks are borrring and chopsticks are stressful. Going to town on some vegetables and stews with a sourdough flatbread and your hands is the way to do it. /JB

Best Lunch

Tangerine Food Bar 

2234 14th Ave. 306-522-3500
tangerineregina.ca

Runners-up: Fresh & Sweet (2nd); Flip Eatery & Drink (3rd); Flavours of India (4th); Gilmour’s Corner (5th)

If you wrapped Regina’s lunch scene around the end of a torch, dipped it in oil and set it alight, Tangerine would be the one holding that brand aloft and waving it around. What does that mean? I’m not sure, but I love Tangerine. With a daily rotating menu, sandwiches and suppers to go, plus a selection of house-baked goods, Tangerine is always offering something different and delicious. Owner and chef Aimee Schulhauser experiments compulsively with food, incorporating different influences and cuisines in pursuit of the perfect tart or tagine. The only disappointment is watching the daily menu vanish as the hours go by and hungry diners snare their favourite dishes. But such is life. /AM

Best Business Lunch

Beer Bros. Gastropub and Deli

1801 Scarth St. 306-586-2337
beerbros.ca

Runners-up: Flip Eatery & Drink (2nd); Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar (3rd); Golf’s Steakhouse (4th)

Hey, I’m a real business guy. I mostly try to wear collared shirts to work. I have business cards that may or may not have my current job title on them (I’m not too clear on what my current title is, which makes the whole thing a little difficult). So take it from me, the Real Business Guy: Beer Bros. is a good spot for a business lunch. The prices aren’t crazy, and you get great food from an ever-evolving menu. The cheddar and ale soup is a favourite of mine, and now that the warm weather’s here, you have the option of catching a few rays on the spacious outdoor patio while you meet (wave up at the Prairie Dogs in the window across the street when you do).

Oh yeah, and one more thing: Beer Bros. has a great selection of beers, both bottle and on tap, to enjoy with your meal. /JB

Best Take-Out/Delivery

Viet-Thai

2080 Albert St. 306-569-3833

Runners-up: Houston Pizza (2nd); Flavours of India (3rd); 13th Ave. Coffeehouse (4th); Siam (5th)

When it comes to delivery and take-out service, Viet-Thai doesn’t mess around. Many nights when I’ve been frantically working on a cosplay or writing something, that all-too familiar Thai food craving flares up. So I call Viet-Thai, and after 30 minutes of nail biting, my food arrives. It’s fast, the delivery guy is always pleasant and the tip is well-earned. One night I ordered Viet-Thai’s wonton soup. I was apprehensive about ordering soup to go, but when it arrived it was fresh, the perfect temperature, and had the scientifically correct amount of wontons. And the leftovers are equally tasty. There’s nothing better than coming home after a long day of work, opening up your fridge and pigging out on some special fried rice or a half-eaten spring roll. The best part is that after you run out of goodies, you can always call them up and order more. /SJH

Best Meal Presentation

Flip Eatery & Drink

1970 Hamilton St. 306-205-8345
fliprestaurant.ca

Runners-up: Willow on Wascana (2nd); La Bodega (3rd); Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar (4th); Flavours of India (5th)

When I first arrived in Regina, I hadn’t the slightest idea where I should go to eat. I wanted a place that could accommodate my needs for good wine and good food. I walked into Flip with a book tucked under my arm and asked for a table for one. The waiter was kind and prepared a table for me where I wouldn’t feel exposed. I ordered a glass of the Banfi Le Rime Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay and feverishly scanned the menu for some form of sustenance. My eyes fell upon Flip’s scallops, which had some sort of creamed corn accompaniment. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but when the plate came I was stunned. The scallops were placed in a flower setting on a perfectly round circle of creamed corn. I was so taken with the appetizer, the service, and the ambiance, I came back the next day and had their Cheesy Griller with fries. The sandwich was casually cut in two with one half propped against the other as if to say, “What’s up, baby? You like Provolone?” and the fries had just the right amount of salt. In short, Flip is very adept and peerless at the art of presentation. /SJH

Best Patio

Cathedral Freehouse

2062 Albert St. 306-359 6631
thefreehouse.com

Runners-up: La Bodega (2nd); Fireside Bistro (3rd); O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub (4th); Earls (5th)

If summer ever decides to show itself you’ll probably find me drinking sangria on one of my favourite patios in Regina. I’ve spent many Sunday “Fun” Days on their patio. It’s the only one I’ve encountered that gets sunshine most of the day. None of that “It’s 3 p.m., no more sunshine for you” bullshit here. The layout of the patio is like you’re in a backyard, which is a treat for those of us who don’t even have a balcony in our little apartments. The one thing I hate about some patios are bugs: mosquitoes, flies, wasps; basically anything with more than two legs. The Freehouse’s patio is bug-free. I’ve never had to lose my cool over a fly taking a dip in my Caesar or a wasp circling my sangria. So if you’re searching for a great place to sunbathe and sip on a beverage, get your butt to Cathedral Freehouse. /SJH

Best Restaurant For The Diet Restricted

13th Ave Coffeehouse

3136 13th Ave. 306-522-3111
13thavecoffee.com

Runners-up: Table 10 (2nd); Green Spot (3rd); Tangerine (4th)

I used to be one of you, the human equivalent of a billy goat, mowing down tablefuls of food without a second thought as to their make-up or origin. But then I morphed into a different sort of mammal: a breeder. Thanks to the warnings abounding from all the expectant-mother literature (propaganda?) out there, everything in my food world became suspect — especially all the good stuff, like unpasteurized cheese and honey, booze, and smoked deli meats. The horror! The more selective eaters among us (those with gluten allergies and vegan and vegetarian diets) have long opted for the yummy eats at the 13th Ave Coffee House — and now so shall I, since “a deep distress (…) humanized my soul.” (Wordsworth) /AG

Friendliest Restaurant

Bushwakker

2206 Dewdney Ave. 306-359-7276
bushwakker.com

Runners-up: Fresh & Sweet (2nd); Flip Eatery & Drink (3rd); La Bodega (4th); Flavours of India (5th)

This is a tough category because there are a ton of friendly restaurants in Regina. But the clear victor in the minds of our voters is Bushwakker. Since Bushwakker won a couple of other categories that I was also assigned to write, I paid the place a visit. I had eaten there before, but it had been a while, and I can always go for a tasty burger. Yes, the place is friendly despite apparently having a ghost on the premises (that is, if the Bushwakker website is to be believed). It might be haunted by a 1930s-era ghost named Jim, but that doesn’t keep the spirits of Bushwakker’s staff down. In fact, everyone is pleasant and friendly — not just the staff; the whole place radiates friendliness. Perhaps that’s why it’s haunted. /SH  


MENU

Best Appetizers

La Bodega

2228 Albert St. 306-546-3660
labodegaregina.com

Runners-up: Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (2nd); Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar (3rd); Flavours of India (4th)

Of all the places in the city to take a book, a loved one, or your lonely self, La Bodega trumps them all. La Bodega’s menu provides a variety of hot and cold tapas that can satisfy any tummy. Steamed mussels are uncommon in the Prairies, and they’re my favourite appetizer at Bodega. They come in three varieties: white wine dill, spicy tomato (my personal pick), and basil pesto cream. Sometimes when you order mussels, the little morsels aren’t open or are a little gritty. Bodega’s mussels are plump, juicy, and sand-free. The plate is generous, and you’ll normally find a few extras floating in the sauce. The crab cakes pack a chipotle punch and they don’t have any of that fake crab crap.

If seafood isn’t your thing, try walking the Brie Plank. The roasted garlic and toasted walnuts are perfect for sharing with your loved one, a friend, or just yourself. A tip of the hat to you, Bodega! /SJH

Best BBQ

Jack Keaton’s BBQ & Grill 

5650 Rochdale Blvd. 306-522-7227
jackkeatonsbbq.ca

Runners-up: Smokin’ Okies (2nd); Prairie Smoke & Spice (3rd); Tony Roma’s (4th)

I love BBQ. As soon as the snow melts, I get my own BBQ out and start cooking until the fall. And everything goes on the BBQ: steaks, burgers, pizza, and more. But when the snow hits, that’s when the die-hard outdoor cooking stops for me. But it doesn’t mean I have to give up the flavour. Jack Keaton’s does BBQ right, and it’s inside so I don’t have to freeze my butt off outside. And if I’m feeling lazy during the summer months, hey, look: Jack Keaton’s is still working their magic. And while they don’t BBQ everything that I cook, they still have a large enough selection to satisfy everyone. /SH 

Best Burger

Bushwakker

2206 Dewdney Ave. 306-359-7276
bushwakker.com

Runners-up: Five Guys Burgers & Fries (2nd); Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (3rd); Baron’s Fresh Grill (4th)

Hey, look: it’s Bushwakker again. And they’ve won the Best Burger. Now, as a connoisseur of burgers, I had to check out this so-called Best Burger. Yes, it’s a great burger. It’s almost perfect, big and, most important, tasty. The only thing that could wreck it would be if the fries were inferior. There’s nothing worse than an incomplete meal. But wait, Bushwakker has also won another category in this year’s Best of Food. I wonder what that could be? /SH 

Best Veggie Burger

13th Ave. Coffee House

3136 13th Ave. 306-522-3111
13thavecoffee.com

Runners-up: Bushwakker (2nd); Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli (3rd); Montana’s Cookhouse (4th)

Now that I’ve outed myself as a human being gestating another human being, I think I’ll frolic down the garden path a bit further by announcing that my most recent pregnancy craving is cheese burgers. Piles of them. So, imagine my surprise and delight a few weeks back upon discovering the 13th Ave. Coffee House’s “Americana” veggie burger option with all the classic cheese burger flavours minus the red meat! If the usual burger toppings don’t do it for ya, the Original (tahini and mustard), Mexicana,  Blue or Cathedral are other options. Each features a substantial and delightfully toothsome patty, and nothing but nothing will stop me from eating them almost every other day until I give birth. /AG

Best Calamari

La Bodega

2228 Albert St. 306-546-3660
labodegaregina.com

Runners-up: Earls (2nd); Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar (3rd); The Keg (4th); Opa! (5th)

Calamari is one of my favourite seafood dishes. I’m always extra critical because it’s so easy to ruin. I’ve been served squid with too much batter (feels like you’re chewing on a balloon) and no batter, yet it’s oddly crunchy. La Bodega knows exactly what they’re doing. The breading is delicate and the tzatziki has the perfect balance of lemon zest and garlic, with just a hint of salt. The serving is generous too, so that two people can easily enjoy it. If you’ve never had calamari, I strongly suggest going to La Bodega and enjoying a plate of their squiddy goodness. Make sure you get into the half-price wine on Wednesday to top it all off. /SJH

Best Chinese Buffet

Voter Malfunction!

We never said “Best Of Food” was perfect. Case in point: the “Best Chinese Buffet” category. Five restaurants got enough nomination-round votes to make the final ballot. They were Peking House, I Like Sushi, Dynasty Gourmet Asian Buffet, Plum Garden and Lee’s Chop Suey (East). When the votes were counted, Peking House was the winner. One problem: according to Peking House’s owners, the restaurant doesn’t have a buffet. HMMMMM. Then there’s the fact that the first runner-up, I Like Sushi, primarily sells, well, sushi — which, while delicious, is Japanese.

Since many Prairie Dog readers apparently can’t tell the difference between China and Japan and don’t know what a buffet is, we’re tossing these results in the garbage. We’ll give you all another chance in 2015. Do not fail us again. /SW

Best Dessert

Koko Patisserie 

1205 Broad St. 306-352-0220
kokopatisserie.com

Runners-up: Fresh & Sweet (2nd); La Bodega (3rd); Bushwakker (4th)

I have a serious sweet tooth and lately I’ve discovered a place that accommodates my need for sugary delights. Enter Koko Patisserie with its delectable array of delicious bonbons. Koko doesn’t use any artificial preservatives or ingredients, which makes a huge difference in flavour. Their bittersweet chocolate truffle cookie is probably the best cookie I’ve ever had — a wonderful duel of crunch vs. moist, and chock-full of white and dark chocolate chunks. Next up is the fleur de sel caramel and dark chocolate tart, which is positively sinful. If you can make it through the buttery caramel to the rich dark chocolate ganache underneath, give yourself a pat on the back. It’s not too sweet, not too bitter, and the gooseberry on top is a nice touch. Koko’s desserts are perfect for snacking, sharing with a loved one, and make a great gift for any occasion. Oh, and if you’re downtown you can find a lot of their goodies in the Hotel Saskatchewan shop. Vive Koko Patisserie! /SJH

Best Fish And Chips

Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli

1821 Scarth St. 306-586-2337
beerbros.ca

Runners-up: Bushwakker (2nd); London Jack’s (3rd); Joey’s Only (Albert St.) (4th)

God, you’d hope a restaurant that makes beer its thing would do a good job if it decided to include fish and chips. Beer Bros. have a high bar to clear and clear it they do. They already have half of the equation down pat with their Best of Food-nominated fries, and their fish is a great example of the form — burnished golden in the fryer, beautifully crisp on the outside with the thick-yet-light sheath of batter yielding moist, tender haddock on the inside. The real test of a proper fish and chips, though, is whether it goes nicely with a classic British-style IPA. The Paddock Wood 606 that Beer Bros. suggests as a pairing with their fish and chips fits the bill so well you’d think the brewery had planned it that way. /JC

Best Fries (Chain)

Five Guys Burgers & Fries

4660 Gordon Rd. 306-352-5545
2531 Quance St. 306-569-5555
fiveguys.ca

Runners-up: McDonalds (2nd); New York Fries (3rd); Earls (4th)

The first time I went in and got fries at a Five Guys, I tried to order a large and the cashier, in her mercy and wisdom, informed me that unless I was planning to share them, I should probably just order a regular. This turned out to be good advice, but just barely — if I really put my mind to it, I could probably eat a large order as long as my heart didn’t give out before my appetite did. Anyway, Five Guys make beautiful, crisp fries out of fresh potatoes fried in peanut oil. They’re just greasy enough and more appropriately abundant than you realize. You can also order them now in a small size if you’re a big wuss with a tiny stomach OR if for some inexplicable reason you hate the idea of making hash browns with leftover French fries. And yes, this can be, has been and is done. /JC

Best Fries (Local)

Bushwakker

2206 Dewdney Ave. 306-359-7276
bushwakker.com

Runners-up: Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli (2nd); Leopold’s Tavern (3rd); Flip Eatery & Drink (4th)

Hmm, what goes with a great burger? Why, it’s fries! And look, the winner of the Best Burger also won Best Local Fries. What a perfect combination. In fact, that makes it the perfect meal, really. You can have a Best Burger, but if the fries are inadequate then you’re just having a so-so meal. But if they’re also the Best Fries, well, it’s just a plate of perfection, isn’t it? And you can even order a plate of fries without the burger, they are that good. Of course, only a fool would order fries without a really tasty burger. /SH

Best Poutine

Coney Island Café

4908 Dewdney Ave. 306-206-1711

Runners-up: Leopold’s Tavern (2nd); New York Fries (3rd); Flip Eatery & Drink (4th); La Bodega (5th)

Coney Island Café will amaze and bewilder you with the variety of poutines on offer, from the classic curds-and-gravy concoction to the perogy poutine, the Coney Island chili dog poutine, the cheese burger poutine…In fact, if you can imagine it, Coney Island can make it on a bed of hand-cut double-cooked French fries, with gravy and slowly melting curds on top. Chinese take-out poutine? Honey garlic spare ribs poutine? Reuben poutine? Yes. Coney Island twists and turns around the basic recipe, but never gets too fancy or ostentatiously gourmet. No matter what, it’s great summer food. Onion ring poutine? Sure. Old receipts and loose change poutine? Uh, no. I think you just spilled gravy and curds in your coat pocket accidentally and now you’re trying to save face. /AM

Best Ice Cream

Milky Way

910 Victoria Ave. 306-352-7920
milkywayicecream.com

Runners-up: Dessart Sweets (2nd); Cold Stone Creamery (3rd); Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut (4th)

Just looking at Milky Way’s beautifully kitschy, mid-century-style sign puts one in the mood for sunny days, bare legs and cool, creamy treats. With its take-away counter on Victoria Avenue and row of red benches, no place else in Regina screams summer as loudly as this local landmark. The generous ice cream menu boasts classic sundaes, banana splits, soft serve and hard ice cream, ensuring that they can offer the perfect scoop of something sweet for everyone. /AG

Best Milkshake

Milky Way

910 Victoria Ave. 306-352-7920
milkywayicecream.com

Runners-up: Mercury Café (2nd); Dessart Sweets (3rd); Dairy Queen (4th)

Milky Way milkshakes bring the boys to the yard, and they’re like, “It’s better than yours.” “Damn right it’s better than yours.” “They could teach you, but they’d have to charge.” “You can use my straw, I don’t have cooties.” “God-DAMN that’s a pretty effing good milkshake.” “Here, Regina. If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and if I have a straw, and my straw reaches across Milky Way, and starts to drink your milkshake…I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!” /AG

Best Smoothie

Booster Juice

2102 11th Ave. 306-352-4666
4621 Gordon Rd. 306-779-1080
2122 Prince of Wales Dr. 306-352-7277
3007 Gordon Rd. 306-585-1080
boosterjuice.com

Runners-up: Nature’s Best (2nd); Sprout Catering (3rd)

Whether you’re in a hurry or just need a healthy snack, Booster Juice is there for you and at least as importantly, me. Smoothies are wonderful and Booster Juice is the best for such fruity delights. Their Mango Hurricane smoothie is my weakness and their pesto chicken panini is the best pairing for it. They offer a wide variety of smoothies, such as the classics Strawberry Sunshine and Breezy Banana. Their “hardcore” line of smoothies, such as I C Carrots and UnBEETable, are excellent for after the gym or if you don’t have time for a full-on meal.

The cool part about Booster Juice is that they also cater to differing dietary needs. Their sonic soy is great for those who are lactose intolerant, and they have some excellent fresh fruit chasers after you brave a shot of wheatgrass. Booster Juice is a fast and tasty way to stay healthy, and it gets a thumbs up from me. /SJH

Best Noodle Bowl

Viet-Thai

2080 Albert St. 306-569-3833

Runners-up: Ngoc Van (2nd); 13th Ave Coffeehouse (3rd); Thai Garden (4th)

Well, this is going to cause problems in my office. We order Viet-Thai for dinner close to once a week, and there’s a tangible divide between the staffers who prefer the vermicelli bowl with stir-fried lemongrass chicken and those who prefer the Singapore noodles. Since this category doesn’t specify the dish for which Viet-Thai takes home this year’s noodle-bowl prize, the great noodle debate in the office will doubtlessly rage on. By the way, since my other Viet-Thai blurbs describe my sister’s reaction to the food, I’ll throw in her reaction to hearing about Viet-Thai’s noodle-bowl win: “Well, it’s obviously way better than frickin spaghetti.” Obviously. /McD

Best Pasta

Pasta Prima

4440 Albert St. 306-347-2782
pastaprima.ca

Runners-up: Luiggi’s Pasta House (2nd); Fireside Bistro (3rd); Taste of Tuscany (4th); Fortuna Ristorante (5th)

I hate to admit it, but my increasing girth may be caused by eating a lot of pasta. Pasta is very, very good, and I may be addicted to it. And hey, Pasta Prima has the best pasta in Regina. Having eaten there many times, I have sampled many a pasta dish, and it’s fantastic. It’s real pasta, hand-made in the restaurant and delicious. To make matters worse, they now deliver. Hmmm. This could be very bad for my waistline. /SH

Best Pita/Panini/Wrap

Zam Zam Wraps

Cornwall Centre 306-522-4030
zamzamwraps.com

Runners-up: Fresh & Sweet (2nd); Pita Pit (3rd); Extreme Pita (4th); Pita Queen (5th)

Do you hate delicious food? That’s crazy. You’re banned from reading Prairie Dog. Go away.

If you DON’T hate delicious food, go to Zam Zam Wraps immediately. I’ll be here when you get back.

Zam Zam makes scrumptious wraps bulging with flavourful meats, and falafels and crunchy vegetables, all drenched in the finest sauces the Cornwall Centre has to offer, then pressed and heated in a panini press. I eat there a lot and oscillate between the chicken shawarma and falafel wraps. ZZ also has beef and lamb donairs. They also sell Middle Eastern platters (meat, rice, vegetables) and a bunch of really tasty sides, including vine leaf-wrapped rice, the alarmingly addictive “zotatoes”, lentil soup and tabouli.(It’s not on the menu but they’ll sell you a large order for $5, which will be of interest to people like me who understand that tabouli is the greatest salad yet concocted by humanity.)

Zam Zam wraps recently marked their second anniversary in the Cornwall Centre. Hopefully they’ll be there for years to come. They’d better be. And you’d better go there. Or you might just get banned from reading Prairie Dog! /SW

Best Basic Pizza

Copper Kettle

1953 Scarth St. 306-525-3545
ckpizza.ca

Runners-up: Houston Pizza (2nd); Sparky’s Family Restaurant (3rd); Panago Pizza (4th); Boston Pizza (5th); 2-4-1 Pizza (6th)

I love pizza, but I like my pizza uncomplicated. No fancy toppings for me, just the basics: meat and cheese. For pizza lovers with more adventuresome tastes, Copper Kettle has tons of topping combinations. But as our readers know, they’ve also got guys like me covered too. And the crust, I have to say, is awesome. I get offended when I see people who refuse to eat their crust when they order pizza. What’s wrong with them? It’s just wasteful. And when the crust is as delicious as Copper Kettle’s it’s a crime. Arrest the anti-crust bastards! /SH

Best Gourmet Pizza

Copper Kettle 

1953 Scarth St. 306-525-3545
ckpizza.ca

Runners-up: Cathedral Freehouse (2nd); Artful Dodger (3rd); Boston Pizza (4th); Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli (5th)

Our lives are ruled by numbers: driver’s license at 16, vote at 18, drink at 19, retire at 65, upload your consciousness into a robot brain at 80. But for me, there’s only one number that matters: 37. That’s the artichoke, Italian sausage, mushroom & hot pepper pizza from Copper Kettle. That crazy concatenation of ingredients is Exhibit A in my case that Copper Kettle makes the best pizza in Regina. Do you want me to throw some other numbers at you? There’s the 39 (the Garden Groovy, loaded down with vegetables), the 36 (the delicious Gyro Pizza) and the classic 23 (Spinach and Feta, the king of Greek-style pizzas). Other places in town serve up good Italian-style or flatbread pizza, but for a classic Regina pie with with some gourmet flare, go to Copper Kettle. /AM

Best Ribs

Jack Keaton’s BBQ & Grill 

5650 Rochdale Blvd. 306-522-7227
jackkeatonsbbq.ca

Runners-up: Montana’s Cookhouse (2nd); Prairie Smoke & Spice (3rd); Tony Roma’s (4th)

It goes without saying that if you’re into barbequing then you should master cooking ribs. At Jack Keaton’s they barbeque all sorts of things: steak, burgers, pulled pork, chicken breasts — and ribs, obviously. Our readers wouldn’t have given them the nod in this category otherwise. There are plenty of ribs to choose from: baby back ribs, beef ribs, chicken and ribs, and side ribs. I went with an order of side ribs my last time there, and they were fantastic. Best BBQ and Best Ribs – Jack Keaton’s BBQ & Grill is cornering the market. /SH 

Best Greek Salad

Greko’s

Runners-up: Houston Pizza (2nd); Opa! (3rd); Tomas Cook (4th)

Greek salads are marvels of oil, lemon, vegetable, feta cheese, olives, more feta cheese and more olives. You know who’s nuts about Greek salad? Zeus. That guy loves salad. I know he seems more of a ‘roasted whole lamb on a spit kind of guy’, but let me tell you, Zeus really puts away the vegetables. Head to Greko’s sometime, and if Zeus is in town (he often is; big local Greek community and all that), you’ll see him putting away a horiatiki salad — the kind of Greek salad that mythological Greek deities like best. One word of advice: Zeus probably won’t mind you asking for an autograph, but wait until he’s finished eating. Otherwise, lightning bolt to the head! /SW

Best Sandwich

Italian Star Deli

1611 Victoria Ave. 306-757-6733
italianstardeli.com

Runners-up: Flip Eatery & Drink (2nd); Tangerine (3rd); Gilmour’s Corner (4th)

On Victoria Avenue just east of the downtown, you’ll find a place that sells all foods Italian. You’ll find some of the best coffees, herbs and spices, and every pasta you can imagine at Italian Star Deli. Yep, from cold cuts to gelato, Italian Star has everything including THE BEST GODDAMN SANDWICH YOU WILL EVER HAVE. I’d never tasted one of their glorious creations, but my best pal Danny and I set out one morning to remedy that. I even purchased a couple of cannolis for good measure. Back at Danny’s, I unwrapped my sandwich on the porch and took a bite. “Holy hell, that’s a tasty sandwich,” I thought. Rather than dripping with mayo and horribly bland, or leaving you feeling like you just ate a whole loaf of bread, the sandwich wasn’t messy, and each bite offered up something different: a chunk of provolone, a pepper, some pesto. You can have one with a side of soup, or on its own. Either way, you’re guaranteed a good meal. Well done, Italian Star! /SJH

Best Spring Rolls

Viet-Thai

2080 Albert St. 306-569-3833

Runners-up: Lang’s Café (2nd); Thai Garden (3rd); Ngoc Van (4th); Little Saigon (5th)

Spring rolls are probably the best thing in the world. Every time I order take out, I make sure I have at least six or 12 of those fried wonders. It’s got to the point that when I order a dish, I’ll base my selection on whether it comes with spring rolls or not. The first time I went to Viet-Thai, I ordered spring rolls with my special fried rice. When I got them, I’m pretty sure I looked like I hadn’t eaten in weeks because they were gone within five minutes. They’re so good you don’t even need the fish sauce. So do yourself a favour and toss some of those savoury little rolls into your maw right now. They’re the perfect snack for reading (and writing) Regina’s Best of Food. /SJH

Best Steak

The Keg

4265 Albert St. S. 306-585-1717
kegsteakhouse.com

Runners-up: Golf’s Steakhouse (2nd); The Diplomat (3rd)

According to Wikipedia, a steak is generally “a cut of beef sliced perpendicular to the muscle fibers, or of fish cut perpendicular to the spine. Meat steaks are usually grilled, pan-fried, or broiled.” Obviously, we are discussing beef steaks here, and not the fabled fish steak of legend.

Nobody continually serves steak to the standard the Keg does. Having eaten many a steak at many-er a fine eatery, I always end up back at the Keg where it’s cooked the way I like it, with all the fixings, and damn tasty. What more can I say about the brilliance of steak? It’s steak, it’s good, and the Keg’s is the best.

(The Keg also cooks a mean slab of salmon. Fish steak!!!) /SH

Best Sushi

Michi

1943 Scarth St. 306-565-0141
michi.ca

Runners-up: Sake (2nd); Enso (3rd); I Like Sushi, Miso Ya (tie 4th)

Regina is landlocked, but Michi manages to bring fresh, delicate hunks of sashimi to your table through some kind of weird sushi magic. For purists looking for a nice toro or umi, Michi is definitely a Regina favourite. But for those who prefer their sushi with a proper salmon-to-avocado-to-rice ratio, and even a few great hot dishes, Michi delivers too. Even if you are a sashimi lover, try the tenka roll. And if you happen to be dining with the editor of this rag, get two orders, because he steals more than his allotment of tenka and then claims he didn’t, but that he saved you some edamame and daikon. As if that replaces a precious tenka roll. Pfffft. Daikon. You eat the daikon, Steve. I want my tenka roll. /McD


PEOPLE

Best Bartender

Niall O’Hanlon

O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub
1947 Scarth St, Regina, 306- 566-4094

Runners-up: Kurt Beutler (Flip Eatery & Drink); Chelsea Humble (Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli); Greg “Junior” Osmond (O’Hanlon’s); Andrew Shanks (O’Hanlon’s)

Niall O’Hanlon is Regina’s best bartender? Again?!? The guy can barely mix vodka with ice and O.J.! Given the amount of time I spend covering his unreliable ass for being late or missing shifts, it seems quite possible that you mistook me for Niall and I actually won Best Bartender. (Thank you! Where’s my prize? What do you mean there’s no prize?)

Niall’s not so great. One time, Niall bought a go-kart. He only let me take it for a spin ONCE. Actually, that was pretty fun, and nice of him to let me play with it. Another time he gave the entire staff the night off, picked everyone up in a party bus and took us on a pub crawl. He told us he appreciated all our work as he bought us…Coors light and over-proof rum shots. Yuck.

Actually, that was an extremely fun time, too.

Sadly, I can’t really think of a bad word to say about Niall. Between the pub, B-Sides Brewery, Amy’s Winehouse & Offsale, and of course his wonderful family, Niall is often on the go for more hours in one day than he sleeps in three — but he still makes time to smile, crack jokes and swap stories with pals, patrons and employees. Frankly, I’m amazed Niall ever has a spare moment to hack people’s Facebook accounts and write “boner” in their status updates. Thank goodness he does.

What a guy. The best guy. And since he happens to be a bartender, I suppose this worked out okay. Even if he makes Caesars with more Tabasco than Clamato./An Anonymous O’Hanlon’s Employee

Bouncer

Chris “Tiny” Matchett

O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub

Runners-up: Brendan Thibault (O’Hanlon’s) (2nd); Kevin Smith (Habano’s Martini & Cocktail Club) (3rd)

I’ve been mistaken for a bouncer more times than I can count at O’Hanlon’s. I’m not sure why, since my physique is far from chiseled. True, I do have a shaved head, and usually wear a black hoodie. So I suppose that gives me bit of a UFC aura even though I’m not an aggressive person. But there’s way more to being a bouncer than just being tough.

Yeah, it comes in handy on occasion when force is needed to subdue and remove an unruly patron. But the true test of a bouncer is their ability to defuse a situation before it gets out of hand. To do that, I imagine, bar staff all work together to keep alert to potential trouble spots and ensure everyone has a safe and fun time.

Knowing Tiny, he’d probably be the first to credit his co-workers at the pub for the help they provide him. Size-wise, he’s certainly intimidating. But he’s also a friendly guy who goes out of his way to make people feel welcome. And when people feel welcome, they’re less likely to cause trouble.

Tiny’s also a musician who performs regularly at O’Hanlon’s and other venues in the city, so hell, he might even serenade you with a song or two. Probably not while he’s on bounce-duty, though. Congrats to him on this award. /GB

Best Barista

Dan Gunther/Neil McDonald (tie)

Brewed Awakening/Roca Jack’s (R.I.P.)
3115 Woodhams Dr. 306-565-2739
brewedawake.ca

Runners-up: Ian Brodland (Atlantis) (2nd); Ethan Anderson (Artful Dodger) (3rd); Phil Smith (Atlantis) (4th)

Dan and Neil have a lot in common as baristas — great rapport with folks on the other side of the counter, tremendous personal fashion sense —  but they especially share an ability to inspire loyalty in their customers. Neil’s co-victory in this regard is bittersweet, as Roca Jack’s shut its doors permanently earlier this year. But you can still catch him slinging drinks at the Artesian, just across 13th Ave. from his old haunt. As for Dan, it’s going to be pretty funny for the next few days, me working in the east end and getting my morning coffee from him, knowing that’s he’s won in this category but unable to share the news with him until this issue hits the streets. Hi, Dan. Let’s talk Scott Rao sometime. /JC

Best Chef

Dave Straub

Flip Eatery & Drink
1970 Hamilton St. 306-205-8345
fliprestaurant.ca

Runners-up: Jonathan Thauberger (Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar) (2nd); Ricardo Rodriguez (Artful Dodger) (3rd); Ritu Raj (Flavours of India) (4th)

Every restaurant’s backbone is their kitchen, and the strongest of the strong is Dave Straub’s at Flip. I’ve visited Flip countless times, and always notice how smooth the kitchen runs. It’s an open kitchen, and if you sit at the bar you can watch them prep your food. With his kind demeanor, Dave always finds time to ask me how my meal is and make small talk. You can tell Dave takes pride in his craft, and not only wants the business to prosper, he also wants his staff to share their creative flare with him.

The first time I had the Chef’s Steak I was skeptical due to my lack of knowledge about the cut. Dave came over to my little table and explained it to me and I’ve been hooked ever since.

The 35-year-old has been in the business since 1998 (papered since 2001) so it’s early in his career, but he’s definitely made an impact on Regina by bringing a refined, big-city feel to dishes such as roasted rabbit saddle and praline glazed duck breast. He’s also a huge fan of humble foods with surprise twists, like his “creamed corn” that’s actually a roasted cob covered in creamed spinach. Plus he’s a fanatic about scratch-made everything, from mayo to clamato. So take the time to stop by Flip and transcend your usual palate with one of Dave’s creations. /SJH

Best Server

Eddy Alvaro

Flip Eatery & Drink
1970 Hamilton St. 306-205-8345
fliprestaurant.ca

Runners-up: Cheryl Tovey (Bushwakker) (2nd); Tony Psenica (La Bodega) (3rd); Simar Sekhon (Flavours of India) (4th); Becky Magnus (Bushwakker) (5th)

Eddy Alvaro has been serving at Flip for less than a year, and he’s already made a lasting impression. After seven years of graphic design, the 27-year-old decided a change of pace was necessary — something that didn’t involve staring at a computer all day. It’s his first serving job, and he’s proven to be a natural. With an impressive understanding of body language, he’s adept at reading his tables and knowing when his services are needed. I always seem to get servers who quality-check your meal right when your maw is full of food. Eddy’s approach is a simple and endearing “thumbs up”. You feel acknowledged, but don’t have to fret about looking like a slob by blurting out “Food’s great!” while you’re chewing. Eddy brings it home with his urban savoir-faire, which complements Flips’ sophisticated atmosphere. When asked how he felt about winning Regina’s Best Server title, Eddy replied, “I’m proud to represent Flip. I couldn’t have done it without the support and help of the staff. Everyone’s been really supportive and awesome at helping me along the way. I’m truly humbled.”

Eddy recommends the “Shroom Burger” on Flip’s new menu for your tastebuds’ delight. Congrats, Eddy! /SJH


BOOZE & PUBS

Best After Work Drinking

O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub

1947 Scarth St. 306-566-4094

Runners-up: Bushwakker (2nd); Leopold’s Tavern (3rd); Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli (4th); La Bodega

I don’t drink, and my fellow Prairie Doggers find it hilariously funny to always assign me the drinking segments of Best of Food. But that’s okay. I have a clearer outlook on the topic than those souses do. And just because I don’t imbibe doesn’t mean that I don’t like hanging out with my friends and co-workers after a hard day’s work. And according to our readers, the best place in town to do that is O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub. Sometimes when we meet up, future issues of Prairie Dog get discussed. But most times we talk about other things, and it sure is nice to relax and forget about work troubles for awhile. Also, they have like the best Diet Coke. /SH 

Best Beer Menu

Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli

1801 Scarth St. 306-586-2337
beerbros.ca

Runners-up: Bushwakker (2nd); O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub (3rd); Slow Pub (4th)

Life is filled with unexpected joys and challenges, and an excellent beer menu, like the fully stacked list at Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli, is one way to mark the prevailing winds…Or happy hour, whatever. With a constantly changing selection of pilsners, ales, lagers, stouts and more, Beer Bros. has whatever your palate or circumstance calls for. For example, they have soda pop and water available for pregnant women like yours truly, sitting swollen and sullen at the bar eyeing the gleaming pints of gold being carried to the lucky many cozied up in every corner of the place.

(You read what Shane wrote about how Prairie Dog staff think it’s really funny to assign booze blurbs to writers who don’t, or can’t, drink, right? Yes. Very funny.) /AG

Best Cocktails

La Bodega

2228 Albert St. 306-546-3660
labodegaregina.com

Runners-up: Flip Eatery & Drink (2nd); Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (3rd); Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar (4th)

Putting aside my many, many half-price wine hangovers for a moment, La Bodega’s spectacular selection of martinis and cocktails is not to be overlooked. La Bodega’s extensive list of cleverly named cocktails is worth at least two or three look-overs before you decide. You WOULD be crazy not to order a Crazy Juice, and the Swedish Berry really does taste “just like the candy”. My favourites are the Soho and La Pampa, seeing as I can’t get enough of lychee and liquor. Their Holy Water is far better than the stuff you find in churches and their Dazed and Infused will leave you dazed and confused as you make your way up to the bar for a Banana Cream Pie. Feel like taking the air? Make sure you have your Honolulu Hammer in hand and sit on the patio and check out the movie playing on the projection screen. Dennis the Menace and I will join you under the Caribbean Moon./SJH

Best Liquor Store

South Albert SLGA

4034 Albert St. S. 306-787-4251
saskliquor.com

Runners-up: Quance St. SLGA (2nd); Willow Park Wine & Spirit (3rd); Normanview SLGA (4th); Broadway Ave. SLGA (5th)

The Albert St. South SLGA wins as Regina’s fave place to fill brown paper bags with glass, plastic and aluminum containers of booze. Conveniently situated off Albert St. with a fair-sized parking lot, the store has whatever you need: cases of regional and imported beer, an international selection of wine and spirits and the usual colourful cast of characters one can find at most SLGAs. If you’re a pregnant woman looking for de-alcoholized options, though, you’re SOOL. Your best bet then is one of the several grocery stores in the neighbourhood. You’ll get fewer concerned eyebrows raised as you heft your nine-month pregnant belly up and down the aisles. /AG

Best Nachos

Bushwakker

2206 Dewdney Ave. 306-359-7276
bushwakker.com

Runners-up: Leopold’s Tavern (2nd); Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (3rd); Original Joe’s (4th); Slow Pub (5th)

I don’t know what to write about Bushwakker’s nachos that hasn’t already been written in previous victory blurbs. They’re pub nachos. They’re good. They’re covered in just the right amount of cheese to give you that burst of salty richness while ensuring that there’s a healthy number of nachos still crisp enough to pick up the toppings without soggily falling apart and landing in your lap. The toppings are abundant and diverse and traditional. The guacamole and salsa are well-made and classic-tasting. They’re perfect for sharing with your friends. How weird is it that I just typed up a short list of facts about Bushwakker’s nachos and now have an intense craving for a plate of delicious nachos? Also weird that I’m now in my car and dictating this blurb into my phone using speech-to-text as I drive to Bushwakker. Don’t worry nachos, I’m coming. /JC

Best Wings

Bonzzini’s Brew Pub

4634 Albert St. 306-586-3553

Runners-up: Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (2nd); Broken Rack (3rd); Barley Mill (4th)

Were perennial wing-masters Bonzzini’s on a Drive For Five-style mission? Sure seems like it, because 2014 marks the fifth consecutive year that the south Albert St. pub is PD readers’ favourite purveyor of deliciously cooked chicken limbs (they wrested the plumed crown from 2009 champs Brewster’s in 2010, although they tied with Earls as far back as 2008).

And why not five years in a row? Bonzzini’s wings are terrific.

Bonzzini’s menu lists 20 varieties, with standards like Hot, Screaming Hot, Buffalo Ranch and Lemon Pepper, as well as unique offerings like Prairie Pilsner BBQ, Chipotle Mustard (tried it for the first time last week; it’s good), Orange Ginger (yum) and the awesome Sticky Heat (ordered on every visit). Every Tuesday wings are on special, and a basket runs you $6.50 (the regular price is $12.95).

Finally, I strongly urge, nay, INSIST that Bonzzini’s fans ask for their wings grilled (a manager told me about this trick a few years back). It makes them better — especially the gooey varieties. Yum! See you Tuesday. /SW

Best Pub Food

Bushwakker

2206 Dewdney Ave. 306-359-7276
bushwakker.com

Runners-up: Leopold’s Tavern (2nd); Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (3rd); Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli (4th); Lancaster Taphouse (5th) 

A pub could do great pub food and be a lousy pub. Their nachos could be immaculate piles. Their burgers could come in beef, bison and chicken — and all three of them could be great. Their fries could be some of the city’s best. All that could be true, but if the beer is lousy and the atmosphere shit — Hey! What am I talking about? That’s not the case with Bushwakker. They brew a ton of great beers, their atmosphere is casual and friendly, and they serve great pub food. They’re hitting all the bases. /JB

Best Place For A Wicked Bender

O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub 

1947 Scarth St. 306-566-4094

Runners-up: Leopold’s Tavern (2nd); McNally’s Tavern (3rd); Birmingham’s Vodka & Ale House (4th)

Reginans hit snooze on their alarm clock multiple times but finally roused themselves to blearily declare (or slur) that, once again, O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub is their preferred place to moisten their beaks into oblivion. The staff is friendly, the crowds are plentiful, the bands are loud, and the dance parties epic — all awesome backdrops for your F5-scale drinking session. I (the pregnant writer they made write this) didn’t even have to test this category out myself as certain other Prairie Dog staff and writers who shall remain nameless prove on a regular basis that when you’re looking to get the next morning off to a rough start, O’Hanlon’s is the place to do it. /AG


BREAKFAST

Best Basic Breakfast

Fresh and Sweet

2500 Victoria Ave. 306-751-2233

Runners-up: Mr. Breakfast (2nd); Cora (3rd); Nicky’s Café (4th); Smitty’s (5th)

What does “basic” mean anyway? The know-how to do eggs right? To straddle the line between crispy and overdone bacon? To not screw up toast? Or coffee, for that matter? A basic breakfast is all those things, plus the ability to deliver the goods at a reasonable price. Arguably, Fresh and Sweet go a little beyond that, which is probably why the place is packed with folks whenever I show up for breakfast on the weekend. Not only can they lay down your classic breakfast combinations, with prompt refills of water and coffee and uniformly delightful service from the staff, Fresh & Sweet also exhibit serious game elsewhere on the menu. White chocolate banana bread French toast? Goddamn. /JB

Best Fancy Breakfast

Hotel Saskatchewan

2125 Victoria Ave. 306-522-7691

Runners-up: Fresh & Sweet (2nd); Fireside Bistro (3rd); Cora (4th)

One groggy Thursday morning, Aidan Morgan and I came up with the brilliant idea of venturing out to have a fancy breakfast at the Hotel Saskatchewan. I sauntered into the dining room and begged for coffee and failed at conversation. The decor is marvelous and regal and was a nice change from drinking wine in the Monarch Lounge. I ordered the caramelized grapefruit and thanked the coffee gods for the carafe they brought us. When it comes to hotel coffee, the Hotel Sask. has the best you will find. When our food came, it was so elegant, I felt underdressed in its presence. The grapefruit was huge and coated in brown sugar. Now, I’m a little grapefruit challenged, and had to ask the server for instructions on the proper way to eat it without looking like a tool. It was precut on the inside which made it easier to separate from the rind and it was impossibly juicy. When it comes to the fanciest and most intimate of breakfasts, the Hotel Saskatchewan has it down to an art. /SJH

Best Brunch

Hotel Saskatchewan 

2125 Victoria Ave. 306-522-7691

Runners-up: Fresh & Sweet (2nd); La Bodega (3rd); Artful Dodger (4th)

Emergency! A squad of hungry grandmothers has just dropped into the city, and now they’re roaming the streets, dragooning tired families into going out for Sunday brunch. In this scenario, you are Brunch Brunchton, the world’s leading Brunch Crisis Expert, and a panicked Mayor Fougere has you on the phone. “Brunchton!” he barks. “You better deal with this situation pronto, or we’re going to have a catastrophe of brunch-tastic proportions on our hands!” “Keep your hair in place, Mayor,” you reply. “Just send them to the Hotel Saskatchewan. They’ve got the best brunch in town. The dining room gets pretty crowded on long weekends, but the selection is incredible and there’s a guy who’ll make you an omelette right in front of your eyes.” “Brunchton, you miraculous SOB!” says the Mayor, “You’ve saved us all. And don’t worry about my hair — it’s immaculate.”/AM

Best Eggs

Mr. Breakfast 

1247 Albert St. 306-522-6770

Runners-up: Cora (2nd); Table 10 (3rd)

Walking into Mr. Breakfast on a Saturday feels like a step back in time. In an age when even Burger Baron has reinvented itself as Baron’s Fresh Grill, Mr. Breakfast sticks with the things that its customers have come to love: awesome hash browns, coffee that is hot, eggs (nearly) any way you want them and a charming refusal to surrender to such passing fads as opening on Sunday or accepting debit cards.

Peppery eggs over easy, gooey omelettes stuffed with cheese, a down-home plate of scrambled eggs. You won’t discover fancy fare at Mr. Breakfast, but that’s not why you go there. The prices seem to have crept up over the last year, but that’s par for the course in Regina. Not even the power of breakfast can hold back the boom. /AM

Best Omelettes

Fresh & Sweet

2500 Victoria Ave. 306-751-2233
valleygirlscatering.ca

Runners-up: Nicky’s Café (2nd); Cora (3rd); Fireside Bistro (4th); La Bodega (5th)

Legendary French chef Jacques Pépin once filmed a five-minute crash course on omelette preparation techniques that, since it’s available on YouTube, should be mandatory viewing for anyone interested in preparing or eating eggs. He clearly explains the difference between the two main types of omelette — the refined, classical French style featuring a thin, soft sheet of unbrowned egg; and the “country-style” omelette with a crisp, browned exterior and a fluffy interior. Made properly, both are absolute killer breakfasts. Fresh and Sweet’s omelettes definitely fall into the latter category, with their manifold ingredients worked up into a meal-sized omelette that takes up half a plate. Prepared this way, they’re the ultimate in breakfast comfort food. /JC

Best Hash Browns

La Bodega

2228 Albert St. 306-546-3660
labodegaregina.com

Runners-up: Mr. Breakfast (2nd); Nicky’s Café (3rd); Denny’s (4th)

Potatoes are probably the most universal of foods. You can fry ’em, bake ’em, grill ’em or steam ’em. At La Bodega, one of the best ways to have taters is hash browns. Fresh cut every morning, they’re the ideal accompaniment to any brunch dish. Cube cut and sautéed in butter, these white Russet potatoes are lightly dusted with sea salt and garnished with fresh chives. They are the perfect pairing for your eggs Benedict or Gordo Burger and will leave you pining for next Saturday’s brunch. The rustic style of La Bodega’s breakfast sidekick makes you feel like you’re having a home-cooked meal. Yet they still manage to add a contemporary feel to the simplicity of the potato. Well done, Bodega. Well done. /SJH

Best Breakfast Buffet

Hotel Saskatchewan

2125 Victoria Ave. 306-522-7691

Runners-up: Artful Dodger (2nd); Casino Regina (3rd); Houston Pizza (Quance) (4th)

Some buffets are ornate and busy, full of exotic items and seafood lurking in cream. Others are straightforward and simple. The breakfast buffets at the Hotel Saskatchewan falls into both categories. There are three: a weekday buffet ($19), a Saturday buffet ($22) and an epic, frankly intimidating Sunday brunch ($27, and you’d better call ahead for a reservations). This beast is the buffet of legend, and if you consider yourself a citizen in the city you should try it at least once. The killer app at the end of the buffet is the omelette bar, where a stalwart chef stands ready to fry, flip, fill and layer your eggs to your satisfaction. The results are invariably delicious. /AM, SW


COFFEE & TEA

Best Coffee Shop

Atlantis

1992 Hamilton St. 306-565-2213
atlantiscoffee.com

Runners-up: Brewed Awakening (2nd); 13th Ave. Coffeehouse (3rd); Naked Bean (4th); The Green Spot (5th)

Coffee shops can sometimes be a second home for writers. They’re small, quiet, and have a relaxing ambiance. They’re also a great place to people watch, or meet up with friends. Everyone has a favourite and Atlantis is the choice of Prairie Dog readers. Atlantis was the first place I set foot in when I moved here and I was instantly enthralled. After snagging a latte and finding a quiet spot to chill, I realized I’d be spending most of my time here. The staff is incredibly pleasant and I love that they take the time to remember their clients and their preferred beverage. The walls are always adorned with artwork done by local talent, there are comfy couches to sink into, and you can check on the growth of their coffee bean plant “Beanjamin”. Aside from being enjoyable in the summertime, Atlantis is also cozy when Old Man Winter comes around. Sitting by the fireplace with a good book and a cappuccino is the perfect way to chase away the winter blues. /SJH

Best Coffee Shop to Read a Book In

Stone’s Throw Coffee House

1101 Kramer Blvd. 306-949-1404

Runners-up: Atlantis (2nd); Artful Dodger (3rd); Rochdale Roca House (4th)

What are the criteria for a good coffee shop to read a book in? Notice it says “book” here, so we aren’t necessarily talking about electrical outlets for E-Readers and iPads. There needs to be enough light, I guess. Coffee helps you stay awake, and you need to stay awake to read. It helps if there are books already there. Stone’s Throw has books! Coffee too! And light! They’re on the light train! Plus, they’re only a hop and a skip away from the University of Regina, giving students a quiet corner right when they might need it. /JB

Best Cup Of Plain Old Coffee

Tim Hortons

Multiple Locations
timhortons.com

Runners-up: McDonald’s (2nd); Atlantis (3rd); Green Spot, Starbucks (tied 4th)

I don’t drink coffee. So why am I writing this blurb? Because that makes me objective, that’s why. Unlike other Prairie Dog writers, I don’t have a favourite java joint. And I know from talking with them, and other Reginans, that people can be quite passionate about their coffee. Judging by this poll, a good chunk of our readers are passionate about Tim Hortons. I’ve driven enough people on my way to work in the morning, and accommodated enough requests to stop at Tim Hortons so my passengers can grab a cup before starting their day, that that’s no surprise to me. According to Tim Hortons’ website, there are 19 locations in Regina for people to get their caffeine fix. That’s a whole lot of coffee. /SH  

Best Fancy-Schmancy Coffee

Atlantis Coffee

1992 Hamilton St. 306-565-2213
atlantiscoffee.com

Runners-up: Starbucks (2nd); Naked Bean (3rd); Artful Dodger (4th)

Did you know that Atlantis has been around for 14 years? That’s a hell of a long time to hang around in a city that has been slow to embrace modern coffee culture. Atlantis has been home to some of the city’s most talented baristas, and it shows in the shop’s expertise at the thing it says they do on the sign (making coffee, that is, not being ruled by Aquaman). Everything the coffee mermaid claims it can do, Atlantis can do better, thanks to a combination of fresh (mostly single-origin) beans from 49th Parallel and an understanding that milk-based espresso drinks are about more than being searingly hot. Plus, you get cute latte art pretty much all the time! /JC

Best Tea

Davids Tea

Cornwall Centre
2102 11th Ave. 306-522-2828
davidstea.com

Runners-up: Cuppa T (2nd); Vintage Tea Room (3rd); Atlantis (4th); Colony Coffee (5th)

We’ve endured the petty taunts of coffee drinkers for years. Grimaced as our tablemates were asked pleasantly if they’d like a refill as we tried to beat extra flavour out of our one lonely tea bag. We’ve suffered in coffee shops that don’t get that you have to boil the water to make a proper cup of tea (is that SO hard, people?!) Being a tea drinker in North America has always meant playing second fiddle to the great god coffee.

But no more!

Finally, with David’s Tea there’s a place where tea reigns supreme. The first store opened in Toronto in 2008, and the company has since expanded to dozens of locations across Canada and the U.S. It offers a rainbow of loose teas — black, green, herbal, white, you name it — lined up in tins on one wall, and a host of tea paraphernalia on the other. And when you enter the store they will beg you, BEG YOU, to have a sample.

Your best bet when buying is a 100-gram tin. They look funky, and you can re-use the tin at a discount when you go back for more. A load of Earl Grey won’t set you back any more than a quality box of tea at the local supermarket — yes, no name tea is cheaper. But if you drink that you shouldn’t even be reading this blurb. Go. Just go. But prices do vary depending on the variety, so be advised. It’s all loose tea, so if you don’t have one already, you should buy some sort of tea infuser. But honestly, you’re better than that. Get a cast-iron tea pot and do a proper job of making your tea. With tea, the crafting is half the experience. Otherwise we’re no better than coffee drinkers. /DB

Best Place To Buy Beans

Roca Jack’s

Closed (R.I.P.)

Runners-up: Atlantis (2nd); Colony Coffee & Tea (3rd); Green Spot (4th)

This 13th Avenue java hut cum guardian of the entranceway to the Cathedral area off Alberta St. closed its doors at the end of January. However, the memory of its extraordinary beans and brew obviously lives on in the hearts of Regina residents. In advance of Roca Jack’s closure, folks stockpiled the caffeinated manna from heaven in hopes that their favorite beans might help fill the hole in their hearts (and palates). Alas, no amount of flavourful beans could last forever or sandbag those tears. /AG


SHOPPING & SERVICES

Best Bakery

Cathedral Bakery

2130 Robinson St. 306-522-3764
cathedralbakery.ca

Runners-up: Orange Boot Bakery (2nd); Koko Patisserie (3rd); Kneaded Bakery (4th)

Quality fresh-baked goods hit pleasure centres immediately — the look, smell and taste combine into something incredible. For Regina’s Best of Food voters, that magic happens best at Cathedral Bakery, a premier stop for baking in the Cathedral area. Owners Darrell and Diane Dickson bake loaves of bread and buns, in addition to a selection of cakes and traditional and gourmet cupcakes. And this being Saskatchewan, they’re also required by law to make perogies available to their customers. /JB

Best Butcher

Butcher Boy Meats

2136 Robinson St. 306-781-6913

Runners-up: Fellinger’s (2nd); Butcher Boy (Park St.) (3rd); Butcher’s Best (4th)

A theory: You don’t need to trust the person making your pizza. You’d like to, and there’s no shortage of trustworthy pizza people out there, but you don’t need to. If it passes the eyeball test, you’re good to go. A butcher? You want to trust a butcher. Whatever they’re doing with cuts of meat or sausage or what have you, it needs to be on the up and up, otherwise all sorts of health and taste issues can crop up. Best of Food voters obviously feel they have that in Butcher Boy Meats in the Cathedral neighbourhood. /JB

Best Catering

Valley Girls/Fresh & Sweet

valleygirlscatering.ca

Runners-up: Wallnuts Expressive Catering (2nd); Sprout Catering (3rd); Evolution Catering & Fine Foods (4th)

Oh…My…Gawd! This is sooo bitchin’! It’s like, totally gnarly that Prairie Dog readers voted the way they did in this category. Not that the runners-up aren’t très cool in their own right. There’s not one of them that would cause you to gag on your spoon when you were enjoying their catered appies, soups, salads, mains, sides, desserts and bevvies. I mean, barf me out if that ever happened. But Valley Girls Catering are seriously trippendicular.

Founded by Beata Thompson in 2002, Valley Girls has since added Tania Fraser, Gerda Klyne and Allison Sweet as partners. They’ve expanded beyond catering too, and operate two zlint cafés in downtown Reggie: Fresh & Sweet and Fresh on Hamilton. In April, Thompson and her partners were even featured in an episode of You Gotta Eat Here on the Food Network. Rad! Fer shur!

Ahem. Sorry about that. Congrats to Valley Girls! /GB

Best Deli

Italian Star Deli

1611 Victoria Ave. 306-757-6733
italianstardeli.com

Runners-up: Salt Food Boutique (2nd); Ukrainian Co-op (3rd); Beer Bros. Gastropub & Deli; Dad’s Organic Market (4th)

By now, this one-stop-shop for all things delectable should need no introduction. The Italian Star’s sandwiches alone are Regina’s unofficial official sandwich — but you can find everything you need behind their deli counter to make your own concoction at home, from spicy capicola to melt-in-your-mouth mortadella and a nice selection of cheeses, olives, and even fresh basil (they think of everything!). Did I mention their fresh sausages? It’s made as per Gina Giambattista’s personal recipe, and will transform any pasta sauce into a gift from God. /VS

Best Specialty Grocery

Italian Star Deli

1611 Victoria Ave. 306-757-6733
italianstardeli.com

Runners-up: Dad’s Organic Market (2nd); Ukrainian Co-op (3rd); Nature’s Best; Eat Healthy Foods (4th)

The Giambattista family have been bringing quality food and service to Regina since 1966, and the city loves them for it. Ask any serious cook in town where they most like to shop, and they’ll invariably tell you it’s at the Italian Star. Three generations of the family now work here and it’s obviously a labour of love for each of them. Carlo and company are renowned for bringing things into their store you just can’t find anywhere else in Regina; things you didn’t even know you needed, like whipped chestnut cream from France, Greek mountain tea, and sweets from Poland. What they all have in common is uncommon deliciousness. /VS