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.
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
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.
145 The Leaf Way | assiniboinepark.ca/leaf/lifegrows
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.
Best art museum
300 Memorial Boulevard | wag.ca/about/qaumajuq
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.
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.
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).
Happening this Month:
Alvvays, Burton Cummings Theatre| alvvays.com
The former Walker Theatre was built in 1907 and reborn in the 1990s as a live venue with heritage status. In recent years, the golden balconies and 1,579 poppy-red seats have been refurbished for a new generation of performers, such as Alvvays, the power-pop quintet currently touring their 2022 album, Blue Rev. Before the show, it’s a short walk for mussels and tartare at the Amsterdam Tea Room or steamed dumplings and lotus sticky rice at Kum Koon Garden, a dim sum restaurant with cart service.
“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.