Salisbury House is a Winnipeg institution. A small, local chain, that is half diner, half fast-food place. It’s not a place that I visit regularly. However, there have been a couple of times in my life when Salisbury House(or Sals as it’s commonly called) was a fairly regular stop for me.
The first period was about 35 years ago. I was working for Henry Armstrong’s printing in what was the old bus depot(now the Rice building). There was a Sals in the basement. They offered a soup and salad combo that I frequently bought. My favourite item was the chef’s salad. It was inexpensive and very substantial.
The second period was when I was traveling from the center of the city out along Pembina Highway quite frequently. I would frequently stop at the Salisbury House on the corner of Pembina and Stafford to pick up coffee. It kept me warm on those occasion when it was a long, cold wait for a bus.
I also remember one of my Red River Profs talking about how, back in the day, Sals was the place to work because they paid a nickel more than other diners, etc. So, while I don’t make Sals a regular part of my dining experience, it still holds a bit of a soft spot in my heart.
Of my recent visits to Sals, I don’t have any pictures of the first one. This was at the location at St. Anne’s and Fermor, where I ended up on a Saturday where every other restaurant was closed. I treated myself to the big breakfast, which, while tasty was a little greasy for my liking.
Salisbury House in the Exchange District
When planning to visit Sals again, I initially forgot that they had opened a downtown location in the Exchange District. This location is easy to get through making use of the downtown underpass at Portage and Main.
From an aesthetic point of view this Salisbury House certainly outclasses the other locations. Like many downtown buildings there are high ceilings. There are large windows that give a lot of natural light. The booths are very comfortable. There are also a few booths that feature plugins and USB charger stations.
The tables are set out in such a fashion that you can easily find room for a large group. I also like the way that the restaurant is decorated with a series of classic Salisbury advertisements on the walls. On the whole, the location creates quite a cozy feeling.
My first dinner at the downtown Salisbury House was an historic one for me. I ordered the Lemon Chicken from the Sals Silver Menu. Yep, I am over 55. I clearly look it because no proof of age was required. I guess it’s time to begin my career as a silver fox. Or is there such a thing as a silver sloth? That would be much more my speed.
Although the menu says seasonal vegetables, I received my order with cole slaw. I liked the silver menu choice. It’s a little cheaper, and the portion is a little smaller. It was a good choice on a day when I wasn’t as hungry. The chicken was pretty good, and the lemon flavour came through.
When I went back a few weeks later for my second visit, I took advantage of the charging stages to fill up my laptop battery while I ate lunch.
I looked through the menu. This time I decided I would eschew the Silver Menu and ordered from the regular menu. I ordered the Salisbury Steak. As I was writing this I went back and looked at the menus. The regular version of the Salisbury Steak is 8oz, and the Silver version is only 4oz.
I guess if you call yourself Salisbury House, Salisbury Steak. I quite enjoyed this one. They serve the steak with onions on top, and I chose shredded hash browns for the side. The dish also comes with a homemade chili sauce. I suppose that people tend to pour it over the burger, but I mixed in with the potatoes. It makes quite a nice, savoury topping.
It’s interesting to note, that this is $3.00 more than the Silver menu version. However, while you get double the meat, the Silver menu includes dessert which the regular order does not.
I found the service situation interesting. When I went out to St. Anne’s, it was busy but there were several servers. On both occasions downtown, it seemed there was only one server. However, he did such a good job, that you wouldn’t know there was only one server. I think the servers at the St. Anne’s location could take lessons from the server downtown.
I don’t figure that I’ll be adding Salisbury House a regular stop for my meals. However, at the right time, and in the right mood, I can see myself stopping in for a bit of dining out nostalgia.