There are some things that all Manitoba Mennonites seem to know about… except me. Like the legendary Morris MCC Sale… which I only learned about from my friend Tracy at the end of its long run. And d’8 Schtove. Tracy talks about d’8 Schtove a LOT — a Winnipeg restaurant that made the BEST Mennonite food. Meanwhile, I’d never heard of it… and I’ve come to realize I’m pretty much alone in this. Since hearing so much about this awesome restaurant from Tracy, I’ve asked a lot of people about d’8 Schtove, and they’ve all heard of (and have often dined at, and also miss) this epic Mennonite restaurant. Perhaps another factor in elevating d’8 Schtove to “legend” status is the fact that it’s just not around anymore.
So you can imagine my surprise and delight when Don and Marlene Hoeppner, who we’re fondly acquainted with, mentioned d’8 Schtove in passing. I sat straight up and learned forward. “What did you say? Did you say d’8 Schtove? That was YOU?!”
Naturally, I proceeded to pepper them with questions. I decided not to do a “5 Questions” feature for Mennotoba, but rather to write a straight-up blog about my thoughts after our fun and fascinating conversation.
d’8 Schtove began pretty much the way most great things do: two friends dreaming about what could be. In the late 1970’s, Don and his friend George Friesen were hanging out, spitballing ideas, one of which was, “Why don’t we open a restaurant?” Followed by, “How hard could it be?” From there, things kind of snowballed into famous Mennonite restaurant d’8 Schtove. The name of which is a play on the Low German for “The Eating Room”.
When Don and Marlene showed me the menus, that was the first time I’d seen the d’8 Schtove logo. I think it’s fantastic! It’s so cozy, fun, and comforting — much like what I imagine it was like to dine at the restaurant. Don drew that logo freehand. He also jigsawed the sign (same as the logo) out of plywood. (Today, Don Hoeppner is a watercolour artist. You can see his work here.)
Another thing I noticed in the menus — wine and beer, served alongside Mennonite food! From what I’ve heard from Tracy and others, it didn’t hurt d’8 Schtove’s popularity either…
Winnipeg Free Press food critic Marion Warhaft reviewed d’8 Schtove more than once, always favourably, triggering a flood of customers each time, often with line-ups out the door!
Then I asked Don and Marlene to describe some of their favourite items from the d’8 Schtove menu. I learned about Rindfleesh von Helene (you take beef steaks and pound them and wrap them with bacon and bake it). And, Laiva Bieta (little bits of liver breaded and grilled and served with a cream-based dipping sauce, served with onions). And of course Roll Kuchen (they’d roll out the dough and on order drop them into the deep fryer so they’d be freshly done, all fluffy with big air pockets inside) with Roger’s Golden Syrup, and Vereniki with Farmer Sausage and Schmauntfatt. And fresh Raspberry Pie! I became very very hungry hearing about all these delicious foods.
d’8 Schtove may be no more, but one of the people who worked in the kitchen of d’8 Schtove has gone on to open his own restaurant — The Dawning on Portage Avenue. I’ve heard many of the dishes are reminiscent of the ones that had been served at d’8 Schtove. I can’t wait to go!
Thank-you Don and Marlene for sharing your memories!