Spotlight Series: House of Taste Restaurant

Written by Karen Burshtein

Mamdouh and Mariam Hanna, newcomers to Winnipeg from Alexandria, Egypt, are the owners of House of Taste. It’s possibly Winnipeg’s first Egyptian restaurant, and the couple’s first foray into the restaurant business.

But Mariam had already gained a reputation among Winnipeg’s Egyptian community for her home-cooked specialties after moving here in 2015. With the help of Mariam’s brother, who worked in a city restaurant, they decided to take the plunge and start their restaurant business. They found a location in a nondescript strip mall that had the advantage of being in a high-traffic area near major intersections. They then opened on December 18th, 2021.

“It was a kind of challenge to open during Covid,” Mamdouh said, “our dining room is not that big, so we decided to focus on pickup and delivery.”

The small dining room was reduced further when one week after they opened, the provincial government restricted capacity to 50% due to the Omicron variant. With only seating for five, there was even more focus on takeout. What helped were the unique offerings on the menu. Hanna says he as far as he knows, this is the only restaurant in Winnipeg offering classic Egyptian street food dishes such as those sold in the souk.

House of Taste’s specialties includes koshary, likely Egypt’s most famous dish; a multilayered and hearty vegan dish of macaroni, lentils, chickpeas and rice topped with tomato sauce, fried and onions. There’s also hawashi, another iconic dish that’s been called the Egyptian hamburger. Here, minced beef, combined with herbs, peppers and onions, is encased in House of Taste’s flaky homemade dough.

This small and unassuming restaurant has gotten big buzz and great reviews. On an early Sunday evening, in the middle of a Winnipeg winter cold spell, the parking lot was buzzing with people coming to pick up takeout orders. Customers often include Egyptian and Mideast ex-pats, plus others who have visited Egypt and remember dishes from their travels.

While the ownership couple comes from Alexandria, a Mediterranean city, they don’t do common traditional fish dishes (for now). But, because all the available items on the menu are street style, there are still great, must-try eats for an Egyptian restaurant focusing primarily on takeaway.