Casa Ilocandia adds extra Filipino flavour to Sargent Avenue

A new Northern Filipino restaurant has moved into Winnipeg's West End at 1069 Sargent Ave, offering diners a taste of authentic Filipino cuisine. The restaurant, Casa Ilocandia, fits in well with the area's already diverse culinary scene.

The owner, Charmainn Bautista, stumbled upon the location while passing by with her husband. The couple’s lease at the old location of Casa Ilocandia was set to expire and they had been looking for a new location.

“We had an appointment in this area, and then we saw their sign that [said the building was] for lease,” Bautista recalled. “So we called the landlord right away and from there everything went well.”

The building had previously been a Vietnamese restaurant, and before that a bank - so Bautista and her family have had to be creative with the space, sectioning off an area of the kitchen exclusively for making pastries and desserts.

The menu shows the different stages of life Casa Ilocandia has been through. Bautista started the business in 2016, making Filipino desserts out of rented kitchens and delivering them to other Filipino restaurants. From there they moved to a location on Keewatin Street, where they started offering main courses for catering and takeaway, as well as the staple desserts.

This location is the first iteration of Casa Ilocandia that has a sit-down dining area, and also features a FIlipino breakfast menu - something Bautista has been planning for a while. There’s also a karaoke setup that is accessible to any customer who wants to perform for the whole restaurant.

Even though Bautista says she has been surprised with the number of new customers, she remains humble about why she thinks people have been enjoying Casa Ilocandia.

"It's overwhelming in a positive way," Bautista said. "People are coming in and trying our food for the first time, and they really like it. I don't say that we're the best… Our cuisine is authentic. The dishes that we cook are from our province (Isabella).”

While they’ve seen plenty of new faces, Bautista is also very grateful that their regular customers have been visiting lots too.

Bautista thinks that this West End location suits both the restaurant and the community, as there aren’t a huge amount of Filipino restaurants in the West End already, as opposed to where she and her husband live in the Maples.

With the arrival of wildly popular Filipino fast food chain Jollibee in 2016, Winnipeg Filipino food has moved more from being enjoyed just by Winnipeggers familiar with Filipino culture to anyone looking for an alternative to their drive-through favourites.

Bautista isn’t worried about them as competition, especially now that customers can dine in at Casa Ilocandia.

The West End has long been known for its diverse population and vibrant cultural scene. Charmaine Bautista and Casa Illocandia add to that diversity with their authentic Northern Filipino cuisine, which is sure to become a new favorite among West End locals and visitors alike.

Daniel McIntyre-Ridd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf