Introduction

For decades, they helped define Winnipeg: restaurants, started in many cases by immigrant families who decided that cooking and serving meals was the best and sometimes the only way to make a living.

Over the decades, some of these establishments evolved into more than just a place to eat. They achieved the ultimate status of beloved civic landmark.

So it was with Kelekis, which announced on Nov. 30, 2012, that it is shutting down. But other longtime eateries have closed recently, marking the passing of a generation that contributed so much to this city's character.

Alycia's

1971-2011

Winnipeg's best-known Ukrainian restaurant, Alycia's was described by Lonely Planet as a place where "everything was deliciously bad for you."

Located in the North End, on Cathedral Avenue near Inkster, it included a small shrine to the late comic John Candy, who reportedly called it one of his favourite eateries.

Alycia's specialized in handmade perogies and, at one point, claimed to make 5,000 of them per day.

Founder Marion Staff opened it in 1971, initially calling it Alice's Restaurant. Later on, she changed the name and adopted Ukrainian decor.

As the years passed, it came to be regarded by its customers as the embodiment of Ukrainian culture in Winnipeg's North End.

After the death of the founder, the restaurant struggled to pay its bills. In 2011, it closed for renovations and never reopened.

Edohei Sushi

1988-2012

Edohei Sushi and Japanese Restaurant, Winnipeg's original sushi restaurant, closed for good on Feb. 25, 2012, after 24 years in business in the city's downtown.

Sadao Ono, who opened the Ellice Avenue restaurant in 1988, said he was retiring after working six days a week for 24 years.

While Edohei opened well before sushi became popular, the restaurant's reputation grew over the years as culinary purists sought Ono's traditional style of sushi.

Ono has also trained many chefs — including his own son, Makoto Ono — who have gone on to open restaurants in Winnipeg and elsewhere.

To his legions of regular customers, the elder Ono said, "I'm [saying] sorry to them, but I can't do another 20 years."

Kelekis

1931-2013

The iconic family-run restaurant on Main Street near Redwood Avenue will close on Jan. 30, 2013.

Kelekis has been in its current location for 81 years and has a wall of photographs featuring some of its famous customers.

"So many friendships have been forged with customers that this is a very hard thing to contemplate," the restaurant stated on its website on Nov. 30, 2012.

"We will miss all the contacts and the conversations with all of you," it added.

"But times have changed, and Mary will soon be celebrating her 88th birthday and she finally deserves a break from the daily routine."

Mary Kelekis and her sisters took over the restaurant's operation from their father, who started his business from a push cart prior to the 1920s.

Papa George's

Early 1970s-2012

An iconic part of Winnipeg's Osborne Village neighbourhood closed its doors for good in 2012.

Papa George's, located on the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street, was one of the first in the city to stay open well into the early morning hours, lighting its 4 a.m. neon sign for patrons spilling out of the area's bars and pubs.

But after 40 years in business, the restaurant's owner decided to retire.

Graeme Rowswell, a property manager with Rowswell Realty, said the lease on the restaurant was up Nov. 1, 2012, and there has already been plenty of interest in the site.

No decisions have been made yet as to whether the building will remain standing.

Shanghai

1940s-2011

The Shanghai restaurant's owners ceased operating their business and wanted to sell the property to the Chinatown Development Corp.

It was one of the oldest remaining buildings in downtown Winnipeg before being demolished in November 2012.

The building dates back to 1883 and was originally built for a variety of retail tenants.

It was constructed following the city's first real estate and construction boom of 1881.

Wagon Wheel

1951-2012

An iconic Winnipeg restaurant that dished out countless clubhouse sandwiches for more than 50 years closed on July 13, 2012.

The building was torn down to make way for a new hotel development in the city's downtown.

"It's sad ... a lot of people cry, you know, and of course they make me cry too," Franny Gomez, the restaurant's owner, told CBC News on the Wagon Wheel's last day.

Gomez had worked at the Wagon Wheel for about 28 years, initially as a dishwasher. She took over as owner in around 2010, following the death of longtime owner Louis Mathez.

She continued the restaurant's tradition of putting fresh turkey inside their thick clubhouse sandwiches.

In the Wagon Wheel's final days, fans and loyal customers lined up outside the restaurant to enjoy those sandwiches for the last time.

Paddlewheel

1954-2013

The Paddlewheel restaurant, a mainstay of The Bay's downtown store in Winnipeg, will close January 24, 2013.

The restaurant in the downtown store, at the corner of Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard, features a simulated paddlewheel steamship alongside one wall and painted steam clouds on the ceiling.

Some of the seating gives the illusion of being on a paddlewheel deck.

Once an immensely popular restaurant that has served generations of Winnipeggers, the Paddlewheel appears to have fallen out of favour in recent years.