By Tania Moffat
The Mitchell Block, owned by Chef Sean McKay, continued to operate under the name Tre Visi for about a year before he rebranded the McDermot Street institution. The name pays homage to the Mitchell Drug Company who built the building for its pharmacy and laboratory in 1886. While the restaurant no longer offers the same traditional Italian fare, you can find an assortment of homemade pastas which are made fresh in-house, along with a variety of finely crafted dishes.
A military brat, Sean was born in Ottawa and spent a fair bit of his life moving around – but he always felt Winnipeg was home and that it was the place he would eventually settle down. “Ever since I was young I was fascinated with Downtown Winnipeg, especially the Exchange District,” says Sean.
“I loved the old buildings, the history and heritage of the neighbourhood. When the opportunity to have a restaurant in the Exchange presented itself, I couldn’t pass it up.”
As a teen growing up in Belgium, he discovered his love of creating things with his hands. He started cooking for fun – visiting the markets, buying local Belgian produce, and carting it home while trying to decide what he would create. He also worked a job in a wood shop after graduating high school.
“It was between carpentry and culinary,” he says. When he moved back to Winnipeg, he took the plunge and enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at Red River College – and never looked back.
His love of developing new dishes is why The Mitchell Block has been receiving such high accolades for its menu creations. “I take great pride in the fact that my team and I make fresh pasta every day, butcher our meat ourselves, and take the time to make our own stocks and sauces. We take care to make every dish on our menu something special,” says Sean.
If you are looking for something special along with a lovely atmosphere, great service, and beautiful presentation, then you really should visit. The Mitchell Block is open for the downtown lunch crowd as well as evening diners. Sean is also among the local chefs guesting in the kitchen at RAW:almond on the river.
Inside The Mitchell Block, the decor is rustic and chic, paying tribute to the beauty of the Exchange. A large fire door, old freight elevator pulley rails and other unique pieces have been salvaged from neighbouring buildings undergoing renovations. An old butcher block from a shop in China Town is waiting to be brought to life as a new coffee table in the upstairs lounge. “I appreciate old pieces, anything skillfully handmade, and especially items that are part of the heritage of Winnipeg’s Exchange,” says Sean, of his decorating tastes.
Open for only six months under its new name, The Mitchell Block is destined to be a mainstay in Winnipeg. Intimate seating for only a dozen tables creates a welcoming atmosphere, ripe for dinner conversation.
Those looking for a more vibrant experience, or just wanting an appetizer and drink, can view the street below from the ultra-modern upstairs lounge equipped with a stunning wine cellar (a glamorous throwback to the lounges of old).
Sean and his crew have lots of plans moving forward, from creative new dishes to further updates in the decor; he promises there will be lots of exciting things continuing to change in the old Mitchell Drug Company building.