Although Riel serves a genre-bending mix of Asian, European, and Gulf Coast-influenced dishes, chef-owner Ryan Lachaine revels in his status as a Winnipeg native every year for Canada Day.
“It’s a good time,” Lachaine tells CultureMap. “There’s a lot of Canadians down here. Last year, it was fucking nuts. We expect it to be even more this year.”
Although it’s observed on July 1, Riel will celebrate on June 30, because the restaurant is usually closed on Sundays. Doors open at 2 pm, and the party lasts, as Lachaine says, “until I’m Canada Day’ed out, which could last a long time.”
To help make the event appropriately enthusiastic, Lachaine has invited two guests to participate in the festivities: Mason Hereford and Mandel Hitzer. Houstonians may recognize Hereford’s name as the chef-owner of award-winning New Orleans sandwich shop Turkey and the Wolf. Hitzer’s restaurant deer + almond has been named among Canada’s best restaurants, and his RAW:almond pop-up, a three-week culinary happening that takes place under a tent on a frozen river, attracts major chef talent, including Lachaine.
The menu will feature signature dishes from Riel’s menu like pierogis and its 48-ounce bone-in ribeye as well as one-offs created by all three chefs.
“It’s the only time I do poutine. We’ll do some other cheesy Canadian things,” Lachaine promises. “Mason’s gonna do a burger. He’s going to do the fried bologna sandwich. I’m not sure what Mandel’s gonna do.”
Yes, that’s the fried bologna that helped Turkey and the Wolf land the number one spot on Bon Appetit’s list of the best new restaurants of 2017. Here’s then-food editor Andrew Knowlton’s description of it:
Three slices of locally made bologna were griddle-fried, blanketed in American cheese, and stacked on thick-cut, butter-griddled Pullman slices with house-made hot mustard, Duke’s brand mayo, and “shrettuce” (what Mason calls shredded lettuce). It was further crunchified with two fistfuls of vinegar-brined potato chips. The whole thing was the size of a Chihuahua.
That's a pretty special sandwich. And a good excuse for Lachaine to bust out his Canadian tuxedo. He won't be the only person wearing one.
Discounted prices on Canadian Club whiskey, free-flowing Molson, Canadian Jell-o shots, and other drink specials will help put the crowd in a festive spirit. Reservations are accepted, but the event usually has a come-as-you-are vibe, especially in the bar area.
“We’re not taking it super seriously,” Lachaine says. “We want to have fun and for everyone to enjoy themselves.”