This March, while in Winnipeg to consult with Travel Manitoba about national culinary strategy, Eric Pateman was pleasantly surprised to discover an exploding culinary scene.
He was so impressed, in fact, that he asked us to dish the scoop on a few must-visit spots in town.
As President of Edible Canada, he is one of a handful of people in the country who have as much expertise with foodie tourism. So our ears pricked up when we heard how excited he was about the action over in the heart of our country.
If we’re honest, many Canadians have some unflattering ideas about Manitoba. What usually comes to mind are swarms of behemoth mosquitos and infinite fields of wheat. But this false image is actually a gross disservice to the rich, remarkable boom of cultural activity in recent years.
Yes, Hutterite and Mennonite colonies are still growing plenty of wheat and raising livestock, as they have for several centuries (which has lent an Icelandic and Eastern European influence on local cuisine). But their mosquito counts are almost zero – the lowest they’ve been in 40 years.
Most importantly, the urban scene in their capital city has undergone a renaissance. The primary reason for this shift is the balanced cost of living.
Housing and rental costs in Winnipeg are half that of Vancouver, while the standard wages and general costs are roughly the same. These economics have attracted many young families, business owners and chefs, which has brought about a vibrant rejuvenation of the city’s population and culture.
The higher ratio of revenue to expenses also means there is a lot more disposable income to support the flourishing food and beverage entrepreneurs.
Thanks to all this, Winnipeg has evolved into a hip, buzzing hub of multicultural arts and recreation. It’s also one of the only cities in Canada with a dedicated food blogger employed by the tourism board.
Here are Chef Eric’s Top 10 Picks From His Winnipeg Tour – including a few photos he snapped along the way!
1. RAW:churchill Dinner
The main reason Eric went to Manitoba was to cross this item off his bucket list. One of the coolest dining experiences in Canada – both literally and figuratively – the annual RAW:churchill event is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Imagine an intimate, world-class meal prepared and served in a 300 year-old fort under the Northern Lights.
With full packages for airfare, accommodations and dinner at $999, it’s great value. Not to mention that you’re shuttled to and from the venue on tundra buggies!
“Probably the best Spanish restaurant in the country,” says Pateman. Small, sleek, and rustic yet modern, Segovia is a Spanish tapas bar, just south of downtown over the Osborne St Bridge. Their menu boasts an incredible mix of flavours and textures, with unique items such as fried quail and rabbit & pork sausage. Plus, their service is outstanding!
Eric recommends trying their gin and tonic with lime sorbet.
3. Clementine Cafe
AirCanada’s in-flight magazine, Enroute, voted Clementine Cafe one of 2017’s best new restaurants. Just off Main St, in the heart of downtown, Clementine was founded by the same woman behind Segovia.
This also happened to be Eric’s favourite breakfast/brunch spot. With one look at their menu, it was easy to understand why.
4. Tall Grass Prairie Bread Co.
The words “Cinnamon Bun Croissants” were all I needed to sell me on this joint. Eric says he knows travel writers who have picked some up on their way to the airport to bring home with them.
All puns intended, Tall Grass Prairie Bakery has bonafide grassroots origins. It all began in the 1980’s, when a few people were nostalgically yearning for the community and connection which came from baking for others.
Today, it’s a full-scale bakery and cafe in The Forks Marketplace.
5. Fools & Horses
If you’re looking for a stellar cup of coffee to stroll the market with, look no further than Fools & Horses.
Also sold in the shop are equally phenomenal donuts from Bronuts, with unique rotating seasonal flavours, such as Lemon Hibiscus Brûlée and Rhubarb Elderflower.
6. The Common & Passero @ The Forks Market
Curated by William Predhomme – who Pateman brands “the best sommelier in the world” – The Common is a craft beer and wine haven, nested in a newly renovated section of The Forks Marketplace.
It boasts a stunning and fun interior, which attracts the millennial market and bustles until closing at 11pm.
If you’re a craft beer fan, be sure to head 15 minutes West of downtown and check out Barn Hammer Brewing. They’re always pouring interesting experimental brews in their gorgeous taproom.
Sharing space with The Common, Passero has brought a whole new level of dining experience to the marketplace. Eric says their octopus is even more fantastic than their outstanding service.
A stones throw from The Forks Market, Eric says Forth is “where all the cool kids hang out.” A killer rooftop patio, late hours, live music, cocktails, tasty snacks make this venue one of the hottest spots in town.
(Instagam Image by @travis_ross for @forth_wpg)
8. Jenna Rae Cakes
Ranked by Martha Stewart as one of the “Top 20 Cake Makers to Follow on Instagram”, Jenna Rae Cakes has been making waves at The Forks Market since the Spring of 2014.
Their notoriety has customers lining up out the door, which you wouldn’t expect to see in Winnipeg.
9. Feast Cafe Bistro
A personal friend of Eric’s, Chef Christa is the philanthropic visionary behind Feast. A proud member of Peguis first nations, she uses cuisine as a way to educate others and share indigenous culture.
Eric has brought her to Vancouver and the Yukon to cook at his events and share her inspiring story. Browse the bistro’s menu to get a glimpse of why this place is up to something special.
10. Canadian Museum of Human Rights & Assinoboine Park
While you’re digesting organic treats from the market, or need to buy some time before the next cocktail, head just down the block to visit the only human rights museum in the country. The architecture, artifacts, stories and educational experience alone make this a must-see during your stay.
Just outside of the city is Assinoboine Park – Winnipeg’s zoo and conservation park. Take the family to see rescued polar bears and seals. It’s a rare taste of the Great White North in the city.
(feature image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bryanscott/)