Winnipeg restaurant toasts 90 years of classic cold cuts

Winnipeg's Oscar's Deli is celebrating 90 years of cooking up classic corned beef sandwiches from the grill this October.

Oscar's Deli opened in 1929 in Winnipeg's North End before moving downtown 40 years ago

Larry Brown and his daughter Rachel have been running Oscar's Deli for 40 of the restaurant's 90 years. (Colton Hutchinson/CBC)

Winnipeg's Oscar's Deli has been cooking up sizzling corned beef sandwiches from the grill paired with fries since October 1929.

For the last 40 years, the bustling restaurant has been serving up classic cold cuts from its cozy little corner on the main floor of a seven-storey building at 175 Hargrave St.

The family restaurant opened its original location in the North End near St. John's Park on Main Street.

"I remember Saturdays and Sundays, we would go pick up corned beef for supper, and I was this little kid standing in a throng of people waiting at the takeout," said deli owner Larry Brown.

"Must've been 15 or 20 people waiting to pick up their deli meat for the weekend," he said.

"It was the old North End. There was no TV then. People were out and about."

The deli has had a number of owners over the years; Brown took over the restaurant in 1979.

Oscar's Deli serves a classic Philly combo fresh off the grill. (Colton Hutchinson/CBC)

Rachel Brown, his daughter, has joined him in the business. She remembers hanging around during the downtown restaurant's construction when she was four years old.

The deli has gone through some changes, such as adding turkey, ham and meatless options. Corned beef, pastrami and salami sandwiches — with pickles — remain staples.

Oscar's is also now known for its spud, although Larry Brown said he was "very stubborn" and took some convincing before he agreed to add a deep fryer five years ago.

The best compliment he receives is "when people try our fries and say they're better than Kelekis [Restaurant]" — an iconic North End Winnipeg eatery known for its hotdogs and fries before it shuttered its doors in 2013.

The downtown deli has been cooking up homemade chicken fingers since it first plugged in a newly purchased deep fryer. (Colton Hutchinson/CBC)

Oscar's keeps the Browns on their toes, especially during peak hours.

"Hectic, sometimes madness," Larry said.

A toasted Philly platter with melted cheese alongside homemade fries is another restaurant classic served up at Oscar's.

"Simple is delicious," Rachel said.

The deli will celebrate its birthday by pouring happy hour drinks from 3 to 5 p.m. all month, featuring the 1980s menu with prices from that decade.

LISTEN: Oscar's Deli celebrates 90 years of corned beef and community

Oscar's Deli has been serving up cold cut sandwiches since 1929, originally from a location at St. John's Avenue and Main Street. Since moving to 175 Hargrave St. nearly 40 years ago, owner Larry Brown has found a way to preserve the classic history of Oscar's, while modernising the menu and space. The CBC's Colton Hutchinson visited Oscar's Deli and heard the highlights of the past 90 years from owner Brown and his daughter Rachel. 8:07

More from CBC Manitoba:

With files from Colton Hutchinson


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.