8 Stars: April 9, 2010.
Building torn down Sept 2012. So that’s that!
The Wagon Wheel. 305 Hargrave Street
Breakfast Special – $5.25, $7.56 after tax & coffee. CASH ONLY.
The Wagon Wheel was closed for about two months after long-time proprietor Louis Mathez died in Feb 2010. The future of the restaurant was uncertain, but suddenly I hear they’ve opened again. I was elated. The Wagon Wheel is a Winnipeg classic and it would have been a shame to lose them. It was part of the dying breed of real diners in Winnipeg.
Well, 25 year ‘Wheel veteran Frannie Gomez stepped up and is running the show. The Mathez family are out of the business, but Louis’ kids still hang out to help around, Frannie said. She has no plans on changing anything, including the absent washroom (patrons have to go outside and two doors down to use the washroom).
The place is a veritable shrine to Louis with his picture and restaurant reviews all over the walls. There’s no art except the art of self-promotion. It’s forgivable, but I wouldn’t mind seeing something else decorate the place. I actually thought the article prominently featured behind the counter, proclaiming “Louis Mathez has no plans to slow down…” was a bit macabre.
They have a quirky menu – under sandwiches, “Toasted 5c Extra.” They’ve figured out the formula for paid work by the second, it seems. Also, “Minimum Booth Charge $1.00 per person.” This seems to be a legal ploy to ensure you buy SOMETHING, as there is nothing on the menu under a dollar.
We’ve been going to the Wagon Wheel for a few years. They were our eighth review (currently we have 126 of them) and they’ve been the most consistent place we’ve ever been to. Except for price, that is. In 2007 the two-egg breakfast special was $4.75. When I interviewed Louis for the Uniter in February 2009, the same breakfast was $5.00. More than a year later, they’ve gone up again to $5.25. That’s still a completely reasonable price for a solid special.
You have to admit, it’s a good lookin’ brek. Four slices of bacon, eggs to order, decent toast and Nabob coffee – that’s a brek. My only complaints are that the hashbrowns were a bit cardboardy, and the slurge factor was significant. Other than that, it’s not the best in the world but it’s reliable and good.
Leif says the pancakes were thick and good; not Aunt Jemima at all. Leif’s other half, Heather, reports the French toast to have been “good and eggy.”
I still think the Nook beats the Wagon Wheel for the best clubhouse, but what do I know?
SEPTEMBER 6 2007, THE WAGON WHEEL, 305 HARGRAVE STREET
Breakfast Special $4.75 + tax, coffee extra
Well, the first thing that must be mentioned is the break in tradition: today’s breakfast was actually consumed at 2pm instead of the more ‘breakfasty’ time of 10am. This is purely due to schedule conflicts which are not interesting enough to elaborate on here. The point being, the breakfast ‘feel’ was not there, but the food sure was.
Right off the bat, the service was great. Even though it was sorta busy, our server came up with the extra chairs we needed in no time at all, and took our orders immediately. The breakfasts (out of six diners, four of us had the special) were prepared super fast, catching us all off guard. The plates were stacked high: four full pieces of toast each and five strips of bacon clearly outstripped (heh) most of the other places we’ve reviewed. Unfortunately the potatoes came in small portions, they were pretty good. They were cut chunk-style, fried on the outside and pleasantly chewy on the inside. My eggs came over-hard even though I had asked for over-easy. When I can’t dip my toast in yolk, well, I’m just not as gooey happy.
The atmosphere in the diner is nice. Full points for sticking with the 50’s diner feel complete with tiny booths and small chairs by the counter. Some decorations adorned the yellow walls, adding to the kitsch feel, but nothing too extravagant.
The Wagon Wheel is famous (as their neon sign will tell you) for their clubhouse. It’s apparently so popular that our waitress was taken aback when none of us ordered it. I’ve had it before, and while I can’t attest to it’s world-class quality, it’s certainly good.
Fast, friendly service, good food and good decor. Just don’t come in huge parties.