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A favourite from the '80s still going strong

Moose Winooski's is still consistently as good today as it was when it started, writes Wayne Conrad Serbu

I still hold fond memories of the 1950s and one of our family's first holiday fine dining experiences at the Charcoal Steak House.

We were all dressed to the nines and mom even bought a festive new dress from Walkers. We took the railway trolley from Hespeler to Freeport, stopping behind the old Hi-Way Market and the original Charcoal Steak House.

My dad knew the chef then and went into the kitchen to say hello.

The dining room was comfortable and decorated for the season. It wasn't long before a waitress was placing a sausage pig tail and barbecue spare rib platter with cocktail shrimp and a pickled condiment plate on the table. These huge onion rings arrived and I made the biggest one into a wrist brand and gnawed on it till my mom gave me a quick kick under the table to mind my manners.

The Charcoal barbecue steak, ribs and chicken entrees, all served with perfect side dishes, was my first time tasting another chef's cooking and I was soon planning my next visit on my birthday.

Over the last seven decades, I've returned several times. I've never had a bad meal there and I've watched as the company expanded to more locations.

In the mid '80s Charcoal added a new sports pub style restaurant to its roster called Rafters, which opened in the new Pioneer Sports World.

It was later rebranded Moose Winooski's.

Wow-wee was it posh, with comfortable seats at the bar and booths, lots of big screen TVs, and a theme about a hungry moose and home comfort cooking.

Since 1991 it has been serving locals with stellar food and service and is still doing it that way today. When the restaurant and patio are full it's quite a spectacular dining room that runs on high energy.

My last visit was a celebratory family event and I must say it was the perfect place to accommodate everyone's dining preferences.

My family is made up of well seasoned diners and with the 12 ordering personal favourites it was one of the best and smoothest outings yet.

Tuna, the kitchen chef, had a well rehearsed chore of fixing 300 meals and the kitchen kept up with the pace as did the servers. Many sports teams were present and all looked well fed.

Not missing a beat, our server took each order and returned shortly with a team, serving all of us at once and without a single complaint. I was so happy that Moose Winooski's was our pick because it sure made us all very happy and satisfied diners.

Besides the steaks and rib entrees, the appetizer chicken wings and onion rings were perfectly executed. The Moose Burger and meatloaf got big praises with smiles.


After looking back at one the first menus from my collection of local restaurant menus, I must say Moose Winooski's is still consistently as good today as it was back in the '90s.

If you need some spice in your life, here is a hot wing sauce version that will work perfectly on chicken wings made at home.

Sauce inspired by Winooski's wings

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 lime (or 1/2 lemon), juice only 

1 onion minced

1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced(or 1 tsp dried ginger powder)

1 tbsp hot sauce

6 garlic cloves minced

2 tsp salt

2 tsp black pepper

3 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tbsp cinnamon powder

1/2 tbsp allspice powder

1/2 tsp nutmeg powder (preferably freshly grated)

1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig of fresh thyme.

Mix well in a shaker jar.

Toss with fresh fried chicken wings.

A previous version of this column neglected to mention Rafters, the original restaurant that satisfied hungry visitors to Pioneer Sports World before the Moose took up residence in the kitchen. The chef regrets the error.

Chef Wayne Conrad Serbu writes monthly for CambridgeToday. The former executive chef also shares recipes and memories from his more than five decades in the hospitality industry on his blog, the kitchenman.

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Wayne Conrad Serbu

About the Author: Wayne Conrad Serbu

Former executive chef Wayne Conrad Serbu shares some of his favourite recipes and memories from local restaurants in a monthly column
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