‘Over the past 30 years, we’ve had people from literally all around the world’: 5 Questions with MJ’s Kafe owner Bryan Bartel

Bryan Bartel owns MJ’s Kafé in downtown Steinbach Manitoba, which is famous for its authentic Mennonite cuisine.

You bought the restaurant together with your mom in 1988. Are the dishes you serve at MJ’s Kafé her recipes? Did she teach you everything she knew? 
I had the privilege of working together with my mom for approximately 15 years. Some of our family favourites that we would eat at home we have incorporated in our menu at MJ’s. Over the years she’s taught me many things about cooking, but most importantly she passed on the love of food, cooking, and sharing it with others.

In the past 30 years, how has the menu changed? What has stayed the same? 
Many of the recipes and staples on the menu like kielke, vereniki and farmer sausage are made the same as they were 30 years ago. I’d say that 1/2 the menu looks the same as 30 years ago and the other 1/2 is tweaked from time to time to stay with the times and keep it interesting for our regular valued customers.

I feel like when people come to Steinbach as tourists, MJ’s must be an important stop for them. Do you see many out-of-towners dining here? 
Yes, we do see many out-of-towners dining at MJ’s. We often see families who no longer have time to make our traditional favourites, but still want to enjoy them, so they come to MJ’s to get their fill. We definitely see an increase in tourists during holiday times and summer months. Over the past 30 years, we’ve had people from literally all around the world.

I’ve heard that plenty of delicious butter goes into the MJ’s Kafé schmauntfatt. On an average day, how much butter does the kitchen at MJ’s go through? 
There is a lot of butter and cream that goes into MJ’s schmountfat. We use about 1200 pounds of butter and about 2000 litres of cream per year.

This is a bit of a macabre question, but… what would you choose for your Last Meal?
My last meal would be a inch and a 1/2 thick tenderloin steak cooked medium rare, with MJ’s home fries and mom’s fresh baked buns, (no vegetables). Dessert would be MJ’s hot chocolate pudding with ice-cream that’s melting into it.