There’s never been a more exciting time to eat in the Peg.
It wasn’t long ago that Canada’s best restaurants were almost exclusively found in our biggest cities. Over the past decade, however, waves of talented Canadian chefs, who have cut their teeth in top national and international restaurants are moving back to their smaller hometowns to open their own ventures. They’re drawn by the affordable operating costs, as well as the belief that Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver need not be the only Canadian cities home to ground-breaking restaurants.
This movement has transformed Winnipeg’s dining scene from ho-hum to red hot, driven by the efforts of ambitious chefs and the city’s desire to support local restaurants. As more of us look for places closer to home to explore, it’s about time to consider Winnipeg and we have the food road map to guide your culinary journey.
The Forks Market
This modern market is set at the Forks, a historic parkland where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet. Located in a massive restored horse stable, the Forks Market features shops — many of which highlight the work of local and Canadian artisans — on its upper level and a stylish food hall on the lower level.
Some of Winnipeg’s top chefs and restaurants have outposts in the Forks Market, including Scott Bagshaw’s Passero and beloved local burger chain Nuburger. A large central bar called the Common offers over 20 craft beers and 20 wines on tap. Drinks can be sipped throughout the market space, including on the shady outdoor patio, which has lovely views of the river.
Enoteca collected countless “best new restaurant” titles from publications across the country when it opened in 2015 and 5 years later, this inventive spot continues to be one of Winnipeg’s best places to eat. The small plates menu, which draws loose influences from Spanish, French, and American cuisines, plays with pleasantly unexpected flavour combinations. Enoteca is helmed by Scott Bagshaw, who is one of Winnipeg’s most well-known chefs for good reason. If time (and appetite) allow, his other two restaurants, Maque and Passero, are also worth adding to your restaurant hit list.
The Forth Bar
This multi-purpose spot functions as a cafe, bar, and coworking space. You can transition from avocado toast in the morning to craft cocktails and fancy nibbles like rarebit on toasted sourdough in the evening — or take your evening cocktail with a morning-like jolt with the bar’s mean take on an espresso martini. The Forth Bar’s casual-chic aesthetic, which blends brick heritage building setting with a hip, minimalist interior, further add to its appeal.
Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company
This mini-chain of bakeries is a Winnipeg institution for good reason. Tall Grass Prairie works with family-owned Manitoba farms to source organic grain, which is milled onsite into fresh flour on the daily. The result is truly exceptional bread that beautifully showcases the abundant wheat that the province is known for. In addition to bread, Tall Grass Prairie also makes other baked goods, sandwiches, and prepared meals, all of which emphasize local, sustainable ingredients. Their perfectly sticky cinnamon rolls — made with high-quality cinnamon, Manitoba-sourced butter, and organic eggs — are a high demand item that regularly sells out.
Baraka Pita Bakery & Restaurant
You would never know by looking at Baraka’s run-of-the-mill exterior that it serves the city’s most authentic Lebanese fare. Familiar donair, falafel, and shawarma wraps are taken up a notch with the restaurant’s housemade pitas, which are baked onsite in a copper oven. Baraka is ideal for a quick, affordable meal that doesn’t compromise on quality. Be sure to pick up some baklava for dessert, which are also baked onsite and come out just the right amount of sweet.
Another top spot that’s easy to overlook because of its unassuming facade and location in a strip mall, Mercadito Latino is a Central American restaurant and grocery store. This family-run joint serves approachable fare like tacos, quesadillas, and burritos. Our top picks here are the sopa de tortilla, a Guatemalan-style chicken broth soup topped with tortilla chips, chicken breast, and avocado; and the pupusas, which are in-housemade corn flour pockets filled with beans, pork, or cheese (or all three).
529 Wellington Steakhouse
If you’re a die-hard old-school steakhouse fan, then 529 Wellington may be worth the steep price but, otherwise, we’d say that you can get better food for less money elsewhere. Housed in a renovated 20th-century mansion, the restaurant’s setting is classic but also veers a little towards stuffy. We can see why 529 Wellington was a date night go-to 10 years ago when Winnipeg was still dominated by chain restaurants, but as the city’s dining scene continues to evolve, there are far more cutting-edge restaurants that should be further up your hit list.