I’m continuing on my revisits with this post.. I took a couple of trips back to Feast Cafe and Bistro. Feast Cafe took over the corner of Ellice and Sherbrook after the Ellice Café shut down.
Feast Cafe is an Indigenous owned and operated café. On their website, Chef Christa Bruneau-Guenther states: “She wants each visitor to experience modern dishes rooted in traditional First Nation foods while celebrating the spirit of her culture.”
Recently she has parlayed her excellent cuisine into a place on the Food Network. She was a judge on the show Wall of Chefs. One result of this is that you should probably make a reservation if you want to dine here.
Walking into the café recently, one thing I noticed was the change in décor. The booth and counter are pretty much the same as they always were, but the pictures from the Free Press archives have been replaced with nature photos that reflect the Indigenous ingredients that go into the Feast menu.
Also, as you look around the walls of the café you will see a variety of works with Indigenous themes. I didn’t ask, but I figure they were also by Indigenous artists.
On my first visit, I showed up at around 5 pm. All the tables had been reserved, but being on my own, I was able to get a seat at the counter. For my meal I ordered, the soup of the day, followed by the Bison Dip, with wild rice.
The soup was good, and warming. I really enjoyed the Bison Dip. Bannock is one of the specialties of Feast Cafe, and the Bison Dip is served in-between to piece of Bannock. The Bison itself is really moist (given that Bison is low fat, that’s a great thing to pull off). The bannock is good and chewy and has great integrity, not falling apart under the liquid from the Bison. The rice is also very well prepared.
After I finished off my entrėe, my server asked if I wanted any dessert. I listened to them all, but as soon as I heard the first one, Strawberry-Rhubarb pie, I knew what I wanted. The pie had a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. A wonderful way to finish off the meal.
I went back again, on the Saturday. Checking their hours, I noticed they opened at 11 am. So, I figured the best way to go about things was just to show up as soon as they opened. It was a sound strategy, as a wound up with a booth to enjoy my meal.
This time I went with a simpler meal. I ordered the Bison Chili. Again, this was a very satisfying dish. Rich in ingredients and in flavour. Unlike most chili, which comes with garlic toast, this also comes with Bannock. This is a light, airy piece of baking that is good for dipping, or just eating on its own.
I had a pecan tart to finish off the meal. Like all the baking at Feast Café, this is made in-house. It’s not overly sweet and has several pecans in it. The coffee that went with my meal was good and strong, and they made sure that I was kept refilled.
There are a lot of items on the menu that I haven’t tried. In-between visits to other places I’m reviewing, I plan on getting back to Feast Café, to enjoy their many other offerings. Kudos to Chef Krista for creating such a wonderful place in the neighbourhood.
Original Feast Review
Feast Cafe Bistro is the newest restaurant to have opened up in the West End. It’s only been open for a few week in the old Ellice Cafe location. I’ve lived in the West End for what’s heading towards a dozen years. The Ellice Cafe was one of my favourite places to eat during the time it was open. It was a favourite for more than the food. Over the years, several of the staff and customers became friends and remain so even after the cafe closed.
I was excited when I first heard about the new cafe that would be going in, but it seemed to be taking forever to get off the ground. I began to wonder if it would ever open. Fortunately it did. When I first walked into Feast Cafe Bistro, the sense I got was different but the same. The pictures over the counter had changed, and there were some different table setups, but the cozy, homey feeling was still there.
The same is true for the menu. Owner Christa Bruneau-Guenther has created a comfort food menu based on traditional Indigenous ingredients. So, there are a few things on the menu that the average diner may not be familiar with, but the menu still very much resembles a classic cafe type menu. While I may get in trouble with some former Ellice Cafe denizens I have to say, the food at Feast Cafe Bistro is definitely a step up.
Feast Cafe Bistro Dinners
The first time I dropped by I wasn’t certain the cafe was open, but when I inquired, the owner welcomed me in and told me to take a seat. It was clear that they were getting close to closing time, so I went with a simple soup and salad combination. The soup was a very tasty Mushroom soup and the salad was the Spinach salad whose addition of eggs, mushrooms, mozzarella among other ingredients made for a hearty and delicious side salad. The combo was served with a piece of bannock.
The second time I went in for dinner was last night. It was a good sign that Friday at supper time the place was hopping. Every table was filled and as soon as one emptied it was filled up again. This time around I settled on a bison burger with fries, washing it down with a Little Scrapper IPA. This was one delicious burger. Bison has a tendency to be a little on the dry side. Not so with this burger. The patty was moist and tender. The flavouring was good and the Bannock bun it was served on was crisp and chewy. I think that all burgers should be served on these Bannock buns.
I was in the mood for dessert so I decided to go with a slice of their wildberry cheesecake. The cheesecake was good and fairly light, and the wildberry sauce was a real nice topping.
In between these two dinner visits, I stopped in for breakfast. When the location was the Ellice Cafe, breakfast was the meal I most often ate there. I went with the Feastful breakfast. This is the one with three types of meat all served as part of the meal. In this case the Bison sausage is the real local option. I quite enjoyed the sausage. The leanness of Bison lends itself really well to being a sausage meat if done right, and Feast really does it right. I went with the potato squash cakes instead of hash browns and really like the crispy/chewy texture, and the additional flavour that the squash brings.
Now, usually when I order breakfast I order the rye toast. However at Feast Cafe Bistro, you guessed it, I went with the Bannock. The Bannock here is simply wonderful. I could quite happily sit in the table and eat nothing but, until I was reduce to some sort of Bannock induced coma state. The lightly fried, crispy, chewy bread is the best thing on a menu that is full of many good things.
I mentioned at the start that a large part of what I liked about the Ellice Cafe was the people. With Feast Cafe Bistro only being open a few weeks, there hasn’t been time to develop those kinds of relationships. However, the staff have been very welcoming and friendly on the visits I’ve paid. One of the staff they hired, Avery, used to work at another one of my favourite places, Twist Cafe. That immediately gave me a good impression of the place. Hiring good people will make for a good restaurant..
I also noticed, when I went in last night that even the place was busy, there was no attempt to make me hurry and get out of there. Finally I noticed a few former Ellice Cafe regulars having dinner. The owner of Feast Cafe Bistro is committed to being a part of the community and from what I’ve seen she and the restaurant are going to do that.
It doesn’t matter what part of the city you live in, you need to make plans to get down to the west end and visit Feast Cafe Bistro.