The best places to eat, drink, and get outdoors in Winnipeg, Canada, according to Nils Vik of local design brand EQ3 (and an 18-year Winnipegger).
“Winnipeg is special because it’s underrated, undervalued, and is a charming underdog,” says Manitoba-native Nils Vik, Senior Director of Brand Development for Canadian furniture and home goods brand, EQ3.
“For a city of our size, there is such a rich offering of culture,” Vik says. “The art being created in this city is world-class, and the music scene continues to be a hotbed of innovative artists. I’m proud to say that Winnipeg gives Toronto a run for their money in terms of the natural wine selection.” (Check out Ellement at The Forks to fill your luggage prior to departing.)
“But most importantly, our license plate says ‘Friendly Manitoba,’ and it’s true,” he adds, referring to Winnipeg’s wilderness-filled Canadian province, which borders Ontario and Hudson Bay. “It’s too small and too cold to be mean, and if you are—well, it’s going to catch up to you and you run the risk of getting hypothermia!”
All joking aside, the director takes great pride in all the northern city has to offer (especially to those looking to get warm). “We have great art, music, food, and people. That’s all you need, and it’s what we’ve got,” Vik says. Below, find his recommendations for the best places to drink coffee, hit the slopes, and get a real taste of Manitoba’s arts and drinking scenes in Winnipeg, Canada.
Nils Vik’s Perfect Day in Winnipeg
8 a.m. – Two cozy cups of coffee
Parlour Coffee. (I own the joint, so I’m biased.) I always order an espresso and sometimes a cup of black coffee, and then a cappuccino as dessert—but always an espresso. What I love about Parlour is the vibrance of the Exchange District and the crowd. I like standing around chatting with long-time customers, tourists, and friends—the shop is conducive to conversation which really activates the space. There are only 12 barstools, so it’s always intimate.
I love visiting Café Postal in Saint Boniface as well. This simple little spot (perhaps the tiniest café in Winnipeg) is always cozy, always friendly, and always delicious–plus they don’t mind if I sneak my standard poodle into the queue.
9 a.m. – Creature of habitual breakfast
The whole menu is divine at Clementine, but as a creature of habit, I often defer to their porridge with pineapple puree and a cup of Dogwood Coffee. If you’re not boring like myself, I would suggest the Turkish eggs or any of their toasts. Designed by Fiona Sanipelli (who I’ve known since kindergarten and now lives and works in Brooklyn), the space is an unexpected subterranean delight with an unassuming storefront (a modest door on Princess Street and a staircase leading to the basement).
In the winter, I love to throw my skis in the car and either head to Windsor Park Nordic Centre for a quick ski or walk my dog along the frozen Seine River. In the summer, I like to go for bike rides with my 5-year-old, ending up at a café, park, or record store.
12 p.m. – Dessert for lunch
I’m slightly addicted to this modest German bakery called Crusty Bun that’s fairly close to EQ3’s head office and manufacturing plant, which makes it all the better. Otherwise, I like to visit King and Bannatyne for a sloppy sandwich, BMC Taqueria, or Shawarma Kahn for some garlic breath, but there are lots to choose from: Baraka Pita, The Tallest Poppy, or Corto at The Forks Common (bring your drink and your plate outside to enjoy some people watching and a view of our muddy river).
I also personally love the DeLuca’s restaurant above their grocery store on Portage Avenue. A slice of pizza, a bowl of pasta, and an espresso is a nice little break from shopping for olives and cheese.
1 p.m. – Cruising and perusing
3 p.m. – Back to back gallery visits
I love to visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery followed by the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art. I rarely get the time to take an hour or two just for myself, but when I do I find wandering through the WAG to be particularly calming, and their collection of Inuit art is one of the largest in the world.
5 p.m. – It’s 5 ‘o clock in Winnipeg
Little Sister Coffee Maker in South Osborne has a small yet wonderful beer and wine menu with inventive and delicious light fare to accompany impeccable coffee. You can’t go wrong. The space is beautiful, the people are beautiful. It’s a mistake to miss this spot.
7 p.m. – Pizza, churros, and/or steak
Vera Pizza is a Neapolitan-inspired, no-nonsense restaurant with an incredibly refined and simple menu in the most comfortable and unpretentious setting. Their entire team is salt of the earth. The open kitchen, the fun and refreshing playlists (90s punk and obscure contemporary indie bode well for this eater), the high-quality ingredients, and the attention to detail warrants a much higher price point – but in true modest Manitoban fashion, it’s always cheaper than it should be. The wine menu is great, but you are welcome to bring your own bottle (Mondays is $1 corkage and $10 margarita pies).
Segovia was ranked #46 in the top 100 restaurants in Canada in 2018, and I’m surprised it wasn’t higher up on the list. Established in 2009, Segovia set a new standard for quality and service in our city. This Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant takes liberties with its name and ventures beyond the expected Spanish tapas menu. The chef/owner, Adam Donnelly, takes ingredient sourcing very seriously and the proof is in every dish. You’d be foolish to skip the patatas bravas or the sherry flight to accompany your churro. I don’t often order coffee at a restaurant but the team here takes their coffee seriously, so I will often risk a sleepless night by ending with an espresso (and another sherry).
I would be remiss to not mention Rae and Jerry’s, a classic 50s steakhouse. Skip the dining room and head for the lounge where the interior has been carefully preserved since opening in 1957. Some things should never change.
My favorite pub is Yellow Dog Tavern. Their offering of local craft beer is always fresh and noteworthy, plus their hot dog is hard to pass up. The Yellow Dog has always remained true to itself and its customers, often flying under the radar, but its cult following is loyal for good reason.
For the best cocktail in the city, there’s no question that you should be visiting the beautifully intimate basement bar Forth. In the summer you’re welcome to take your drink up to the tiny rooftop patio to enjoy a third-story view of this historic neighborhood. Since you’re in the neighborhood, it’s also worth visiting Nonsuch Brewing’s taproom for a remarkable offering of Belgian inspired beer and an unexpectedly impressive food menu for an oddly elegant beer joint.
The Winnipeg Essentials
What to Know Before A Trip to Winnipeg
You’re going to potentially sweat in the summer and most definitely freeze in the winter. Both are surprisingly extreme. Thankfully, both can be enjoyable if you come prepared.
Unfortunately, our public transit in Winnipeg is lacking, depending on the area of the city you are in—despite the shortcomings of the system, I do recommend taking public transit over driving, provided time is not in short supply and your destination is between Osborne Village, West Broadway, The University of Manitoba, Downtown, The Exchange, or Saint Boniface.
If you are driving, everyone appreciates a wave if you are let into a lane of traffic!
Where to Stay in Winnipeg
I think the Mere Hotel on Waterfront Drive is a fantastic choice–the fact that you can have a room overlooking the river and be within walking distance to The Exchange District, The Forks, and downtown within minutes is great.
Your best bet is the Exchange District due to the large volume of condos. For a real treat with an unexpected view, I’d consider splurging to experience a little gem by local architectural firm 5468796 Architecture.
What to Read Before a Trip to Winnipeg
Winnipeg Modern by Serena Keshavjee for the architecturally inclined, Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg by Bartley Kives and Bryan Scott, and Stolen City: Racial Capitalism and the Making of Winnipeg by Owen Toews for a better understanding of the history of colonization, repression, and resistance.