Reviews and Such Restaurants Vietnamese

Long Island Cafe – Portage Avenue

Winnipeg’s weather has been quite cold this winter. So, while I still walk as much as possible, I do try and duck inside during my walks, just for the chance to warm up. The other day I was walking through the University of Winnipeg, when I noticed a poster that said that the Long Island Cafe was reopening at the end of February. This was a bit of surprise, as I wasn’t aware that it had closed down in the first place. 

Long Island Udon
A bountiful bowl of Udon Noodle Soup.

I mentally stored this away, and last Saturday, on my way home in the evening, I stopped by to see if it was open. Under the old ownership it had closed early most days. So, one thing that appears to have changed is that the new management has given the place extended hours. 

Walking in, the first thing I noticed was the lack of freezers. Under the old management there were freezers and coolers all over the floor. These are all gone. Instead there is a greater variety of tables. The tables are light in colour, and feature a variety of colourful chairs around them. There is also one table with a long bench the wall at the front of the restaurant. 

The snacks are still there, but the space has been reorganized in such a way as they don’t stand out so much. The next thing I noticed is that the menu is stripped down. It’s down to about a dozen or so items, and the focus seems to be more based on Japanese cuisine thank anything else. This is another promising sign.

The two items that caught my eye on the menu were the Ramen and the Udon soups. I was about to order the Ramen, but at the last second I changed my mind and went with the Udon (picture at top of the page). I was happy that I made the change. The Udon noodles were good and chewy, the pork Char Sui was well-cooked with some good, fatty pork, the broth was rich and there were several nice fish balls in the dish. 

Long Island Ramen
The Ramen comes with wontons as well as the ramen noodles.

Having tried the Udon on my last visit, I decided to stop in again this morning and give the Ramen a try. Long Island also advertises itself as a coffee shop as well, and I ordered a Salted Caramel Mocha to drink. 

The Ramen came with a good combination of dumplings and noodles, along with the egg and a good sized piece of pork. Much like the Udon the pork came lined with nice bits of fat to enhance it’s flavour. On the whole this is an average to slightly above average ramen, but it’s good, filling portion, and at $10.95 for a bowl, it’s a pretty tasty value choice. 

Long Island Mocha
An enjoyable beverage. I hope they move to indoor cups as they settle in.

I had placed my order for inside, so I was a little surprised when my mocha came in a take out cup. It’s a little thing, but when I am sitting in, I prefer to drink out of an actual mug. However, it was also the first day on the job for the person taking the order, so it may just have got lost in passing it on to the person who actually made the drink.

On the whole the new Long Island Cafe is an upgrade over the old one. The space is cleaner and brighter, and there appears to be an improved level of food quality across the menu. It appears that in addition to new management there is also a bunch of new staff, and so it may take a bit of time before all the routines get sorted out. Still, this will be a good place for a quick nourishing meal.

I recently decided to visit the Long Island Cafe on Portage Avenue just across from the University of Winnipeg. It’s been quite a few years since I last visited the cafe. At the time it was largely a coffee and dessert sort of place. Since then it’s become more of a lunch/early supper place with an emphasis on Vietnamese cuisine.

The prices are quite good and there is a good bit of variety on the menu. The cafe does a lot of takeout. As a result a lot of the dishes are pre-made, and the freshness tends to vary. If you are regularly in the neighbourhood it seems like the sort of place where you could find out the best days for certain dishes.

fried rice
The fried rice from Long Island Cafe. A somewhat disappointing dish.

The cafe is an interesting place to walk into. There are coolers and freezers all over the place, It gives the vibe of being coffee shop, restaurant and tuck shop all rolled into one. Despite it’s small size, there are still a good number of seats to choose from.

Long Island Cafe Lunch

One of the issues with Long Island cafe is; the owner struggles a bit with English. I went in and ordered the sticky rice with chicken. It was out of stock, so the owner asked if I would take the fried rice. I asked if that was with chicken and she seemed to say yes. I thought the price was a little cheap, but perhaps that was to make up for not having the sticky rice. However it is one of those dishes that sits in the cooler in the counter to be reheated when served.

Long Island Corned Beef Sub
The Corned Beef Sub from Long Island Cafe.
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I ordered a Corned Beef Sub to go along with the rice. Fortunately this made of for rice quite nicely. There was a large portion of meat in the sub and a good mixture of vegetables to go along with it. I’d prefer one of these to a Subway sub any day. The Cafe also offers Bahn Mi (Vietnamese subs).

Pho and Salad Rolls

I went back a few days later. It was a little later in the day, and so the place was fairly empty. This time I decided I would stick with Vietnamese specialties. I ordered the Pho with pork balls and tomato, and the salad rolls with shrimp.

Long Island Cafe Pho
A delicious Pho.

Again, the salad rolls weren’t the freshest, and the shrimp flavour was quite strong. Also, the paper was stretched so thin that they fell apart as I was trying to eat them. On the plus side, they were well filled and there was plenty of crunch to the vegetables. The price is also quite good, as are all the prices at the cafe.

The Pho on the other hand was good through and through. The broth was flavourful, there were several of the pork meatballs, along with a good pile of noodles. I’d recommend this as a must try if you visit the cafe.

One thing I do like about the cafe is that if you want a soda, they offer them in the 710ml bottle for $2.25. Increasingly this is what you’ll pay for a 591ml at the various food outlets downtown.

Despite the language difficulties, the service is friendly, and they do a good job of processing your order. If your budget’s tight, the Long Island Cafe is a pretty good place to get a good, quick meal on the cheap.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.