Culture

Where to eat, drink, play and stay in Winnipeg

All the standout spots to savour in Manitoba’s vibrant cultural hub
Corey Mintz
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Winnipeg is on the cusp between the old and the new. Some architecture still bears “ghost signs” for brands like Wilder’s Stomach Powder, and although these exteriors can give the impression of a tomb, their interiors reveal a city in a chrysalis stage. Historic buildings are turning into invaluable institutions: in 2022, Hudson’s Bay gave its six-storey landmark to the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, with plans to turn it into affordable housing, an art gallery and more. (It was symbolically traded for two beaver pelts and two elk hides.) There’s a modern culinary campus for Red River College Polytechnic, and young entrepreneurs are opening pop-up vintage stores. The city is at an exciting crossroads, and these spots are a window into its future.

Since it’s hard to grow crops in Manitoba’s climate year-round, Nola is trying new preservation techniques to make the most out of the province’s fruit and vegetables

Nola

Best veggies

101–300 Tache Avenue nolawpg.com

A lot of restaurants claim to be steering away from animal proteins, but chef Emily Butcher actually shines a spotlight on vegetables. Take, for example, a dish of carrots glazed in local honey and butter, spiced with cumin, coriander and paprika, heaped over whipped Macedonian-style feta and garnished with candied pumpkin seeds. “Celebrating vegetables is difficult in Manitoba,” Butcher says. But Nola treats its produce adoringly and honours other  Manitoba staples like goldeye—a smoked fish you won’t be allowed to leave the province without tasting.


 

Rosé Coffee & Wine is a cozy spot for charcuterie, oysters and tartines

Rosé Coffee & Wine

Best atmosphere

474 Main Street, Unit B rosecoffeeandwine.ca

Entering kieu nguyen’s 625-square-foot shop feels like being nestled inside a jewellery box: translucent pink curtains illuminate red velvet drapes, a pink and crimson rug, and chairs upholstered in black velvet. By day, the shop offers top-drawer espresso and flaky pastries. At night, after the champagne buckets come out, the tiny room transforms into a sexy wine bar with intimate booths and a succinct menu of oysters, charcuterie and tartines.

 


 

The Leaf

Best greenery

145 The Leaf Way | assiniboinepark.ca

The first day of spring can feel like a prank in Winnipeg, rarely showing any signs of new life. Except at the Leaf in Assiniboine Park, a new attraction where biomes are devoted year-round to lush indoor habitats, including a tropical rainforest, a butterfly garden and another space filled with the cool flora of the Mediterranean. If you’re there before March 19, visit the Babs Asper Display House, which will be in full bloom.


 

(Photography by Lindsay Reid)

Qaumajuq

Best art museum

300 Memorial Boulevard wag.ca

In the inuit art and culture space Qaumajuq (pronounced kow-ma-yourk), there are harpoon heads made of ivory and contemporary carvings of stone, whale bone and caribou antler. This art centre stands in stark contrast to the rest of the city, much of which is named after colonists who stole Indigenous land and resources. The museum opened in 2021 as part of the Winnipeg Art Gallery (now known as WAG-Qaumajuq), and in April it will exhibit over 400 works by Inuit people that date as far back as 200 BCE.

(Photography by Lindsay Reid)

(Photography by Lindsay Reid)


 

Book ahead if you want to eat at this intimate restaurant, which is only open Wednesday to Saturday

Petit Socco

Most intimate dining

256 Stafford Street petitsoccowpg.ca

At their 10-seat restaurant, co-owners Courtney Molaro and Adam Donnelly keep a tight menu of five to six items, including bread and dessert. “It’s out of necessity,” says Donnelly, who’s also the chef. “It’s just me in the kitchen.” This strategy also speaks to his confidence. Why make something for everyone when you believe in the quality of your concise menu? He bakes sourdough with einkorn, spelt and rye flours, served without butter or olive oil. It’s meant to be eaten throughout the meal alongside charcuterie, seasonal cheeses and family-style dishes, which often feature seafood or meat, rounded off with freshly made desserts like apple brioche tart.


 

At Winnipeg’s hotels, you’ll find rest, relaxation and a glimpse of the city’s past

Inn At The Forks

Where to stay: Best splurge

75 Forks Market Road | innforks.com

Visitors who want to take in the best of the city should stay at this luxury boutique hotel, located in the Forks, a roughly 54-acre public space where the Assiniboine and Red rivers meet. The rooms are sleek and minimalist (they start at $199) and the hotel’s in-house spa offers a full range of services. Nearby are the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and a food hall with over two dozen vendors, where a bag of lemon-pepper-seasoned fried pickerel bites from Fergie’s Fish’n Chips—available in limited quantities in the afternoon—is the ultimate secret snack.

 


 

Fort Garry Hotel

Where to stay: Best budget

222 Broadway |  fortgarryhotel.com

Mirroring the city’s fortunes, this hotel has had its ups and downs, with ownership changing hands many times since opening in 1913. It’s where Prince (now King) Charles stayed in 1979—he was fed goldeye, like every other visitor—and it has been reinstated as the city’s premier accommodation (rooms start at $157). The restaurant features a French-leaning menu and a deep wine list, and at Ten Spa, mint tea and nibbles of Turkish delight are available alongside a Turkish hammam and fancy treatments (like an olive oil wash).


Local Favourite

 

Illustration by Antony Hare

“​​Down the street from my West Broadway apartment is The Tallest Poppy, a colourful restaurant that hosts drag brunches. It’s where I chat with friends over local beers, fried tofu sandwiches and hummus plates. On weekends, we eat Talia’s Breakfast (named for the owner and chef).”— Dee Barsy, Artist


This article appears in print in the March 2023 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Buy the issue for $9.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $39.99.