Every so often I run across a place, and wonder to myself, how did I miss this place for so long. Cottage Bakery on Pembina Highway is one such place. I lived just off Pembina and McGillivray for the best part of nine years. I was about four blocks from Cottage Bakery and yet somehow never managed to visit. In the end, my first visit came about 15 years after I left the area, because I needed change for the bus. I simply bought a coffee to go. However, that first visit was enough to convince me that I wanted and needed to return.
Now it is possible That I dropped in once to pick up something in a hurry, but don’t remember having done so. What’s interesting, as the sign shown above indicates, I’ve been missing a real Winnipeg institution. Cottage Bakery & Cafe, is the oldest, continually operating business on Pembina Highway. When it opened it was located a little farther north, by Pembina and Merriam, but it’s been part of Pembina Highway for 87 years.
Cottage Bakery is a family run establishment. Over the many years it’s been in business, the families who own it have changed, but they have been and are all, committed to bring good quality baked goods to the neighbourhood. On the west wall there is a blackboard which gives a potted history of the bakery. It began right at the time when the Great Depression was exerting it’s grip on the country. As the story goes, Frank Brown, the original owner of the bakery, sold only one loaf of bread on his first day in business. However, he showed his commitment to his community by taking the remaining loaves to the local community centre to share with the homeless and unemployed.
Afternoon Coffee at Cottage Bakery
One thing that made me stop by Cottage Bakery a second time was that I noticed they had packages of butter tarts for sale, and I so I went in to check and see if they had them for sale as individuals. I’m hoping to make some additions to my Winnipeg’s Best Butter Tart list, and figured this might be a good one to add. However they only had the packages, and so I picked two other items to go with my Americano.
One of the things I like about Cottage Bakery & Cafe is that they offer a good variety, of small, recently priced treats in their counter. I chose two items to go with my beverage. The first was a raisin scone. It is one of the lightest and fluffiest scones that I have tried anywhere. It has great texture, and a nice little crunch as you bite into it. My second item was a little Apple Tart. The pastry here was quite good, although thought it a little light when it came to the filling.
Service at Cottage Bakery is done at the counter. You place your order and then they bring it to your table when it is ready. The first thing I noticed about the service was how enthusiastic the counter staff was. It was if they had been waiting all day just for me to come in. I observed this on each of my visits, and also as I watched other customers being served. I also noticed this attitude in various servers who were working, although I think I’ve had the same person serve me on each occasion.
I was out and about on Monday, and lunch had been skipped. I was taking the bus from Lindenwoods area, and the route I got on was one that makes it’s way to Pembina Highway while taking the scenic route through industrial parks, and the Wildwood area of Fort Garry. The trip is about 15 minutes as the crow flies, but about 40 minutes as Winnipeg Transit crawls. This left me with a limited amount of time to get something to eat before my transfer ran out.
I managed to catch a bus southward on Pembina quite quickly and got to Cottage Bakery with about 35 minutes on my transfer. I wanted to give the Cafe part of Bakery & Cafe a try, and so I ordered a bowl of soup. I wanted a little sweet treat, and so I had a Lamington. I didn’t order a beverage, because too much liquid can make the bus trip uncomfortable.
The soup of the day was tomato, and when it came I was pleased to discover that this was most definitely homemade. It’s not all that common to order tomato soup and discover little bits of tomato in it. I also liked that, unlike commercial tomato soups, this was not an overly sweet tomato soup. There was just enough sweetness to balance out the acidity of the tomato.
I chose the Lamington, in part, because the only other time I had seen one was at High Tea Bakery. This one compares pretty well to the High Tea Bakery one. I would say that the one from High Tea was a moister cake, but I really liked the cocoa and coconut covering from Cottage Bakery. I found it a little moister, helping to counteract the drier cake. The other thing about Lamingtons that I like is that they connect me to the Australian part of my heritage.
As I was leaving I noticed in the far corner of the bakery case, that they had small meat pies available. They were only three dollars, so I grabbed one to go. When I got home, I popped it into the oven for a few minutes and then enjoyed it as part of my supper. The filling is a mixture of pork and potato. The pork is ground to a smooth consistency and with the potato mixed in, gives a rich, thick, creamy feeling to the filling. The pie is lightly seasoned allowing both the pork and the potatoes to shine through as themselves.
I asked about the butter tarts when I purchased the meat pie, and it turns out that they are only sold in packages. There are two choices 6 large for $9.00 or to 12 small for $10.00. I will be back to purchase some, but I will wait until I need to take some with me to some sort of gathering so I don’t eat that many all at once.
Oh, and I was able to get from the bakery to the bus stop in just enough time to get on my homeward bound bus on the one transfer.
Cottage Bakery & Cafe is not far from the Diocesan Offices, where every so often I find myself for brown bag lunch meetings. I think picking something up from Cottage Bakery will soon become my new practice. If you’re looking for a place that offers great variety, reasonable prices and very friendly service, I highly recommend Cottage Bakery & Cafe.