They are my two favorite lunch spots downtown. Kokeb* is an Ethiopian restaurant in the little strip across from Discreet Boutique at Ellice and Princess. The food is amazing and they have a weekday vegetarian lunch buffet for $7.99. The buffet includes the injera which is a large sourdough flat bread, rice, salad, and 7-8 varieties of vegetable stews and lentil purees. Ethiopian food is not too spicy but full of flavour. Kokeb features a beet stew & a potato stew that are awesome. They also have many bean and lentil purees with a variety of flavours. The injera bread is used as your only cutlery and it is easy to scoop it all up. They also have many meat dishes on the menu for the non-vegetarians out there. In the evenings I often get the vegetarian platter which has a mix of dishes served on top of the injera. I have been there a couple times when the business has been slower and the cook has heaped on more varieties than normal making an amazing meal for us. Kokeb is a great place to go for thrifty eaters too because it is very easy to get out of there day or night for around $10.
The Underground Cafe is in the heart of the Exchange District buried in the bottom of a business building. It has crazy decor with murals ranging from vegetables to musicians. The walls are black and the place is always loud and packed. The servers are always nice and seem to really care about the place and the food is good diner fare with a twist. The have a large lunch menu that features mainly comfort food like sandwiches, soups, and salads. The twist is that they reinvent many sandwiches and have a good selection for vegetarians. I can't believe that I have gotten this far into the review without commenting or should I say hailing them for their masterpiece.....THE SUNBURGER. This is the greatest veggie burger of all time. I have been eating veggie burgers for around 15 years now and have never found one to top this one. I have heavy meat eater friends that choose it before anything else on the menu. I am unsure why they even need anything else on the menu because it is that good. It is a rice, probably tofu, eggs, seeds, and cheese (and much more) huge patty served on a bagel with a lime dill sauce, lettuce, green pepper, and red onions I believe (I don't like onions on burgers so I take them off anyways). The sauce is so good that I guarantee that you would lick if off anywhere is spills. It is so big that they actually have a whoosy version for those you don't like sauce all over and the burger is split in 2 and served open face. Whomever orders it that way is a complete whoose in my book though!! ;) For the macho man they actually have a double sunburger. I have no idea how you would eat it though. Anyone who says they know a better veggie burger is on crack. There is no better veggie burger out there.
The Underground Cafe daily soup features are also delicious and fresh. They are also usually vegetarian. They are a good side to the sunburger. They also serve breakfast and have good selection of hot drinks. The one and only issue that I have with The Underground Cafe is that they are sometimes closed for staff holidays when you wouldn't expect it and sometimes for no reason at all. I have been disappointed a few times because I'd have to find a parking spot, pay the meter, and skip over longing for my sunburger for it to be closed. After the tears finally cleared from my eyes I would have to venture into another local restaurant and find something that cannot possibly compare to my sunburger. Another thing is that they only open weekdays for breakfast and lunch so it is hard for fans like me who do not work in the area.
Check out this great review with photos of the Underground and it's yummy food:
Downtown Winnipeg, especially the Exchange District, is full of delicious & unique restaurants. Other decent ones that I frequent are Mondragon Bookstore & Cafe for their TLT (BLT with tofu instead of bacon) and their beet borscht, The Albert Diner for their BBQ Tofu Sandwich, Don Pedro's Mexican Grill for Cheese Enchiladas, and The Fyxx for either their Three Cheesi or Garden O-Plenty sandwich or just a stop in for a dessert and hot drink. I have heard great reviews for the Lo Pub for their great vegetarian and vegan eats and local beers but haven't had a chance to check it out yet.
330 Ellice Avenue,
The Underground Cafe
70 Arthur Street
*Kokeb was formerly known as Yenat. Even though I know it has been changed it will always be Yenat in my head. ;)