Cozy dining room on ice a major winter attraction in Winnipeg

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada — The term frozen food has new meaning. RAW: almond, a pop-up restaurant at the confluence of the frozen Assiniboine and Red rivers, returns for another mid-winter run January 25 to February 14, 2016.

RAW: almond at night

As the wind howls outside, ardent foodies don down-filled parkas, fur aviator caps, and sub-zero boots and converge in a stylish, heated tent for one of the hippest dining events in Canada. The temporary restaurant is located at The Forks, a popular tourist destination in Winnipeg renowned for innovative outdoor recreation in winter.

In its fourth year, RAW: almond claims to be the only pop-up restaurant of its kind in North America, and may be the only one in the world. It is also the recent recipient of the 2015 Tourism Association of Canada’s Innovator of the Year award.

RAW: almond runs for 20 days offering three sittings of 40 guests each night. The menu is always a surprise: diners have no idea what’s cooking until they sit down on their fur-lined stools at two long, communal tables. An out-of-town chef is at the helm of one table, while a band of top local chefs host the second table. The chefs rotate nightly.

Inside RAW: almond

Food lovers can expect a multi-course meal with fine ingredients and creative flavours; example dishes from past years include duck perogies sprinkled with duck prosciutto and bison tartare flavoured with dried salsa, chimichurri aioli and cured yolk. In addition to dinner, a walk-up brunch is offered on weekends.

RAW: almond first stormed Winnipeg’s food scene in winter 2013. It’s the brainchild of Mandel Hitzer, chef/owner of Deer + Almond, and architect/designer Joe Kalturnyk of RAW Gallery. Hitzer says the mission of the winter pop-up restaurant is to connect Winnipeg’s art and food communities, create a local food experience, and help redefine the city’s winter reputation. It also brings strangers around a table to enjoy a meal and conversation in a one-of-a-kind setting. “It’s the kind of experience that connects people,” Hitzer says. 

Chef at RAW: almond

RAW: almond is part of a global architecture competition hosted by The Forks called  Warming Huts: An Art + Architecture Competition on Ice. The designer warming huts are erected once the ice is at minimum three feet thick, and the public art complements all the fresh-air programming that happens along Winnipeg’s famous river trail. The Red River Mutual Trail holds the Guinness World Record for longest naturally frozen skating trail, stretching for nearly six kilometres (3.5 miles) down the Assiniboine and Red Rivers.

Local architects Et Cetera Projects won the 2016 design competition for RAW: almond with a design titled Frame that will pull visitors into the riverbank landscape and offer a cinematic view of what’s happening in the tent before reaching the entrance.

Dinner tickets are $120 per person and can be purchased on the RAW: almond website starting December 14. Walk-up brunch is cash only and $25 per person.

For more information on winter travel in Manitoba