Alycia's Restaurant is coming back to Winnipeg
Iconic Ukrainian restaurant set to open at the Royal Albert Arms Hotel
The North End Special is coming back home to Winnipeg.
After spending the last few years pinching and rolling perogies in the Gimli area, Alycia's Restaurant is set to open up shop in the city once again, but instead of the North End, the Winnipeg institution will now be making its famous Ukrainian fare at another Winnipeg mainstay.
Alycia's Restaurant is opening up at the Royal Albert Arms Hotel. It's famous for its North End Special of a cup of borscht, six perogies, four pieces of kolbassa, two cabbage rolls, coleslaw, mushroom gravy and sour cream.
"I'm from Winnipeg, and I, like many other people, used to go to the Albert, and I have a real love for historic buildings and history and things like that," said Alycia's owner, Colleen Swifte, of the move.
"I think it's just kind of a really neat merger of two really nostalgic Winnipeg ventures. It just felt right."
Alycia's, which first opened as a two-seat restaurant at the corner of Cathedral Avenue and McGregor Street in 1971, closed in 2011 shortly after founder Marion Staff's death.
The restaurant was reincarnated in Gimli, Man., in 2016 by Staff's grandson Aaron Blanchard, his mother Sharon Staff and his step-father Roger Leclerc, who had all moved to the community in the years after the Winnipeg restaurant closed.
The restaurant moved a little further north again last March, to Arnes, Man., when Blanchard's mother-in-law, Swifte, took over the business.
It's been busy at the new spot, says Swifte, but the location — and the fact it was mostly hungry Winnipeggers who were keeping the cabbage rolling — wasn't ideal.
She says she's been toying with the idea of bringing Alycia's back to the city for a while, and when she saw an ad to take over the Albert's restaurant space, she jumped at the chance.
"Since becoming Alycia's we were finding that so much of our traffic was coming out of Winnipeg and winter traffic was highly dependent on road conditions and things like that," she explained. "Alycia's was always a Winnipeg institution."
The Royal Albert was bought at an auction in December by Neil Soorsma, who later told CBC News he plans on re-opening the 104-year-old heritage building just the way it is after some minor renovations.
The 53-room property is best known for the main-floor indie-rock venue that operated from the 1980s into the early 2000s. The building was completed in 1913 and has been serving as low-income housing, even though it's only zoned for use as a hotel.
Soorsma couldn't say for sure whether the hotel's beloved live-music venue would reopen, but did say he expected the restaurant would be ready to open by May or June.
In the meantime she's still serving up North End Specials at Alycia's Restaurant in Arnes and plans on keeping that location open until the move in to the city.
Swifte says the restaurant's menu won't change much from what they're serving now, but she is planning to make one big change for their new Exchange District location — Alycia's will serve a daily Ukrainian lunch buffet for the downtown business crowd, she says.
"It would be like the North End Special on a buffet," she said, adding that'll mean daily servings of all-you-can-eat mushroom gravy, borscht, perogies, cabbage rolls and kielbasa.
And if the music venue does end up reopening, Swifte says Alycia's will likely stay open late night to serve the after-bar crowd, too.
Swifte is aiming for a May 1 opening, but said that isn't set in stone.