When Mike del Buono, owner of King + Bannatyne, decided to open a restaurant, he knew it had to be in the Exchange.
“It’s very different here—lots of creative people and like-minded, forward thinkers. It’s a lot of fun being here.”
Though the Exchange District has long been a creative hub, there was a noticeable shift in the neighbourhood around the time the corner sandwich shop opened its doors in 2014. Things were really ramping up (Bronuts moved in next door) and the district further solidified its standing as the city’s top destination for food lovers.
Inside the Romanesque revival-style heritage building, the space is undeniably modern with an industrial edge. It’s a perfect reflection of the crafty sandwiches served up behind the reclaimed wine crate counter—classic with twist. The chalkboard menu is scrawled with shop staples alongside newer items and imaginative weekly specials, like the highly requested Jalapeño Cheddar Philly on a garlic buttered pretzel bun. Rest assured, original favourites like the River City Brisket and Smoked Buffalo Chicken will never come off the menu. “People will riot,” Del Buono jokes, but insists the BLT is the most underrated item on the menu. The house-spiced sweet pork belly topped with pickled fennel is a fresh upgrade from the classic sandwich. The menu has also grown to include several hearty vegetarian and vegan options. Everything is made in-house and condiments such as preserved lemon aioli and sweet zucchini pickles liven each jaw-dropping creation.
Del Buono’s love for the community is clear, and his steady involvement is proof. From spearheading the creation of Old Market Square’s skating rink with Nick Van Seggelen (owner of Bodegoes) to developing the digital ordering system for Bijou Patio last summer and even building its rustic bar top, he’s acted as a key player in rallying the neighbourhood together.
It’s hard to talk about anything these days without mentioning the pandemic. The uncertainty is the hardest part he says, but fortunately, catering and the grab ’n’ go ease of sandwiches has kept King + Bannatyne busy. Over the past year, it’s gained a reputation as being a safe and trusted option for lunches, particularly with essential workers in hospitals, clinics and schools.
Like most businesses in the Exchange, the sandwich shop relies heavily on foot traffic from the office crowd, but customers have continued to show their support amidst these difficult times. In fact, Del Buono feels Winnipeggers have been very supportive of local restaurants and retailers throughout the city.
If a global crisis has taught him anything, it’s the resilience of our community.
“I’ve learned that what makes local businesses so unique is their adaptability and willingness to do whatever it takes. We’ll figure it out.”