Chef Aron Epp at PEG Beer Co. (Mike Peters Photography)

Brunch? Beer? Worldly cuisine? Yup, Winnipeg has a tour for that

Sometimes you have to go with a pro when you are looking to discover a city’s culinary scene.

Here in Winnipeg, that’s been made easy with the likes of the West End Biz, Exchange District BIZ, and Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, all of whom provide an assortment of tours that will bring you folks to some of the city’s best — and sometimes lesser known rooms — in search of fine food and drink.

West End

The motto of Winnipeg’s West End is “taste the world,” and with over 90 restaurants in this area — the majority of which are ethnic hole in the walls — this is the spot to take your tastebuds globetrotting.

This area is where you’ll find some of the city’s best South East Asian food, with notables including Pho Hoang (794 Sargent Avenue – in fact, Sargent is simply studded with great Vietnamese food), Winnipeg’s Filipino standout restaurant Jeepney (714 Sargent Avenue), and the legend that is Magic Thailand (842 Logan Avenue). There’s also no shortage of Ethiopian, East Indian, Cantonese and Caribbean spots.

Inside Café Dario. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Dining at Café Dario during a Around the World in a Few Blocks tour. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

The “Around the World in a Few Blocks” West End BIZ food tour focuses on a mix of celebrated establishments – like Cafe Dario, Shawarma Time, Casa Grande and Morden’s Chocolates — while also introducing diners to spots that are only on certain locals’ radars. Each week you have new restaurants on the tours — which only makes sense when you can find nearly 100 restaurants here spread over a couple city blocks — while your guide also offers insight to this unique area of the city (with its jazzy murals and cool shops).

The “Around the World in a Few Blocks” tour runs once a week from July through to September 7th. The first one of the summer takes place on Thursday July 7th (get the full schedule here).

Tickets are $50 per person per tour, with the option for additional drink tickets ($4.50 for domestic beer, $6.50 for wine and import beer), and they run from 6 p.m. to approximately 8:30 p.m..

Tours can be booked (two days in advance please) by calling the BIZ at 204.954.7900 or by emailing Joe at joe@westendbiz.ca. Vegetarian meals are available.

The Exchange District 

Over the past several years The Exchange has continued to grow into its own as the hip centre of the city. It’s a place where astute locales, who have often lived in other worldly cities, have brought new ideas home, opening trendy shops in handsome heritage buildings.

Culinary wise, with over 50 restaurants and bars The Exchange covers everything from pre-theatre dinner, to fine dining, to sushi, to casual lunch-centric spots, to pubs, to new wave coffee shops that will fill your Instagram feed. (It’s also home to the brand new PEG Beer Co., where you can meet chef Aron Epp, who is pictured in the lede photo explaining his food on a recent tour. Photo by Mike Peters Photography)

The Dine the District tour includes a stop at PEG Beer Co. (photo by Mike Peters photography)

The Devour the District tour includes a stop at PEG Beer Co. (photo by Mike Peters photography)

The Exchange District BIZ offers two culinary tours during the summer, both of which run once a week July through August. On Mondays, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., you can take part in the Little South America Food Tour, which will take you to Carnaval Brazilian BBQ, Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria and Hermanos Restaurant and Bar — all of which are conveniently located on Bannatyne Avenue.

On Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. you can do the Devour the District Food Tour, which celebrates the Exchange’s eclectic offerings. Here, you’ll feed on farm to table offerings from Peasant Cookery and PEG Beer Co. — Winnipeg’s newest brew pub, along with flavours from Blufish Japanese Restaurant.

Both tours are $70 per person, which includes alcoholic beverages at all the stops. You can book at this link.

Find it Downtown

The most culinary tours in the city come courtesy of Downtown Winnipeg Biz, who are offering 6 tours this summer — most of which are just $30 — that altogether would fit the bill for a full-day feast.

For starters, there’s the most important meal of the day, which they showcase in The Breakfast Club tour. Tour stops include a rotation via The Original Pancake House, Prairie 360 (which has the best views of the city), Nick’s on Broadway (which makes a mean breakfast), The Pint and The Fyxx. Tours run on July 3, September 4 and October 2, from 9 a.m. to noon. (Get your tickets here).

Next up is the Patio Crawl tour, because downtown is awash with outdoor spots that bathe in all that glorious Winnipeg sunshine. This tour takes you to a rotating roster that includes The Keg, Pony Corral, Earls, The Old Spaghetti Factory at The Forks (which looks out onto the Assiniboine River, The MET (with its stunning rooftop patio), and Carbone Coal Fired Pizza (which is where downtown’s cool kids are often found). This summer it runs on June 30, July 7, July 22 and August 19. Tickets are available here.

On the boozy side of things, Downtown Biz offers both a Tap In beer-centric tour, along with a Winnipeg Wine tour. Beer stops can include Shannon’s Irish Pub (a classic pub), the Garrick Hotel (a classic dive), Carbonzo’s Pizza Pub, Rudy’s Eat & Drink, The Keg, The Pint and Carbone Coal Fired Pizza. Tours run June 29, July 6, 21, August 12, and September 15; tickets here.

At $75, the vino tour is the most expensive of the bunch, but it’s also the best bang for your buck and the longest, running from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

You get five stops total, at either Blaze Restaurant & Lounge (which also has a great burger), DT Urban Kitchen + Oyster Bar (because shellfish and sauvignon blanc belong together), Prairie 360, The MET, Resto 12, SMITH Restaurant (possibly the most handsome lounge in all of Winnipeg), The Merchant Kitchen (#bestfriedchickenever), The Loft Salon, and the always-classy VG Lounge in the Fairmont Winnipeg.

There is also the option of booking this tour in conjunction with a stay at the Alt Hotel, whereby you get two tour tickets and a night stay for only $285. Wine tours run June 24, July 29, August 26, September 30 and October 28; tickets available here.

Arguable the coolest food tour is A Moveable Feast, which will see you joining a hip crew on bike to five restaurants located all across the city. There’s too many restaurant taking part to name, so you’ll have to check out all the participating restaurants here. Tickets to this beauty are $40 per person (you need to bring your own bike), the dates are June 22, July 13, August 17, September 14 and October 1, and the tour runs from 5:30 p.m to 10 p.m.

Photo shrimp et légumes

New & Notable: Upcoming Winnipeg Food Events

The culinary powers that be in Winnipeg apparently want you to do a serious amount of eating and drinking this month — which is just fine by me.

So instead of doing a regular story-based article, this week we’ve put together a guide that works just as well as a culinary (and cocktail!) showcase for our “fare” city this June.

Le Grand Régal Cajun – This fundraiser is for everyone’s favourite winter festival (Festival du Voyageur… Heho!) will see some Louisiana-style cooking courtesy of the Gibraltar Dining Corporation. The menu is a cajun crawfish boil, which gets you all that steamy goodness including potatoes, corn on the cob, shrimp, sausage, and of course, crayfish (a vegetarian option is also available). It will all be served on long communal tables in the middle of Fort Gibraltar to, “enhance the communal, cultural, and informal feel of a typical Louisiana party,” while the live soundtrack will be provided later on by The Dirty Catfish Brassband — which will be so apropos.

And since it’s happening in the Fort, there will also be interactive games in the cabins, themed bars, and a silent auction in la Maison du Bourgeois.

It all goes down June 23rd at Fort Gibraltar (866 Saint-Joseph Street). Cocktails start at 6 p.m., and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. You can get your tickets here.

The Art of Good Food – This one right here is quite the venerable showcase of Winnipeg chefs, as Talia Syrie (The Tallest Poppy), Norm Pastorin (The Cornerstone, also Gold Medal Plates Winnipeg winner), Ben Kramer, Mandel Hitzer (Deer + Almond), Eraj Jayawickreme (The Fairmont Winnipeg), Aaron Epp (Peg Beer Co.), Kyle Lew (Chew), Heiko Duehrsen (Assiniboine Park Conservancy), and Grant Mitchell (NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre), will be serving up dishes tonight to raise funds in support of the NorWest Co-op Community food Centre. There will also be a live art auction and Winnipeg’s Kal Barteski will be painting during the event.

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It is being hosted by BMO and it starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. inside the beautiful Qualico Centre at Assiniboine Park. You can get your tickets here.

Made with Love  Who doesn’t love a cocktail competition, especially when it’s held on a Monday night? (Which is really the best way to get over those post-weekend blues). The Winnipeg leg of Made with Love, Canada’s “most extravagant mixology competition” takes place on Monday night (June 20th) at the Crystal Ballroom in the Hotel Fort Garry (6 p.m.-10 p.m.). The winners of this regional final will then go on to rep Winnipeg at a national finals in 2017.

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Last year’s Made With Love Winnipeg was quite the shindig (Made With Love)

Last year, Winnipeg’s regional final was won by Blind Tiger’s Alex Weiss (Judge’s choice) and Teo’s and Mano A Mano’s Laura Cameron (People’s Choice), both of whom will be back to defend their titles against competition that will be even stiffer than the drinks. Other notable competing mixologists you may have read about here include Erik Thordarson — who slings incredible historical cocktails at Sous Sol and Jordan Bergmann from The Roost Social House, which is a total gem of a place on that should be on everyone’s radar.

There will be 13 barchefs competing, in a format that sees an original cocktail creation paired with an amuse bouche. For tickets (which gets you cocktails, bites, and a vote for People’s Choice) click here.

Note: the lede image is courtesy of Festival du Voyageur

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The Common at The Forks sets a new standard for public markets in Canada

There is simply nothing else like The Common in Canada, the brand new (it just opened yesterday at 11 a.m.) reimagining of The Forks Market.

The whole first floor of the building now has a liquor licence, meaning you can shop and mingle around the market while sipping a Malbec from Mendoza, or perhaps a Bavarian Hefeweizen — heck you can even do a flight of three wines or four beers served on Manitoba boards by Huron Woodwork.

A nicely curated selection of 20 wines and 20 beers on tap awaits, all coming from a chic new bar that is part of a $2.8 million renovation.

It's official~ @thecommonwpg is open! Stop by and say hi 👋 #MeetMeAtTheForks #alwayscraft #ExploreMB #pegcitygrub

A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀The Forks (@theforkswinnipeg) on

There are sexy new sturdy communal tables, and an overall design by Winnipeg’s Number TEN Architectural Group (which was executed by Manshield Construction) that utilizes, “raw steel, hand-forged blacksmith work and natural wood detailing” which pays homage to the building’s history, “as a place of turn-of-the-century industry” (more on that design concept from Number TEN’s Erin Riediger here).

And peeps, I haven’t even mentioned the hip staff who you’ll find sporting locally made leather aprons from Winnipeg’s Wilder Goods, nor the great selections on offer from the taps.

“The people at The Forks have been really great in allowing creative juices to flow,” said Will Predhomme, the Toronto-based sommelier who was hired to develop The Common’s drink program.

“They just said, ‘be creative, live up to that goal of trying to enhance and expose Winnipeg to people.’ And that is very rare [in my business]. It’s often that you have to work with a certain supplier, or with certain beers, or whatever it is, because there is monetary incentive.”

“But here, we’ve just put our best foot forward to try to lead the pack creatively. So that’s been the most exciting part,” continued Predhomme.

Sommelier Matt (PCG)

Sommelier Will Predhomme(PCG)

The resulting options are a mix from both artisanal Canadian producers, to larger global players, all of which you can also find in Winnipeg boutique wine and beer stores.

For starters on wine, you have some cheaper and cheerful selections, like a Farnese Faniniti Primitivo ($10) and Red Roster Pinot Gris (a bargain at $9 — all glasses are 6 oz outside of flights), to more massive numbers like a Barolo from Fontanafredda Serralunga D’Alba ($25) and a pricey cab sauv from Cliff Lede.

There’s even wine by former Winnipeg family the Tolaini’s, whose Tolaini Estate Al Passo Sangiovese/Merlot is available for $16, and Ontario’s Leaning Post Lowry Vineyard Pinot Noir, the winemakers of which — Ilya and Nadia Senchuk — are both originally from Winnipeg too.

The wine selection includes bold choices like the (PCG)

The wine selection includes bold choices like the (PCG)

“I did my best to source wines with a Manitoban, Canadian, and Winnipeg connection… And we wanted to highlight the fact that these wines [we are offering] come from Winnipeg-owned wine stores,” said Predhomme.

“Deluca’s, La Boutique del Vino, Banville and Jones, and Kenaston [Wine Market] have been really, really helpful. We called them up and said, ‘hey guys, we have this project — what represents you the most? What do you want to see on this board that you are proud of, that people can then come and get at your store.'”

Tasting flight boards by Huron Woodwork (PCG)

Tasting flight boards by Huron Woodwork (PCG)

On the beer side of things Predhomme is offering options from across the globe, while also looking to harness Winnipeg’s burgeoning beer scene, citing the two craft breweries currently operating here — those being Half Pints and Fort Garry, who both have taps in The Common — along with others that are slated to open soon, those being PEG Beer Co (whose restaurant is open), Torque Brewing, Barn Hammer Brewing Company, One Great City Brewing Co., and Nonsuch Brewing Co., some of whom could perhaps be served here in the future.

“We know there is going to be more craft brewing here, so we are excited for that, and we want to be an outlet for those new breweries,” said Predhomme.

“There’s four million people that come through here a year, so we want it to continue to be an even better showcase in which to experience Winnipeg.”

There’s new food kiosks too, with two now up and running.

Empanadas and fries from Simon's Cuisine (PCG)

Empanadas and fries from Simon’s Cuisine (PCG)

Locals will love seeing the return of Argentinian empanadas from Simon’s Cuisine, whose former location on St. Mary’s Road was a neighbourhood gem. Owner José Sturym, who originally moved to Winnipeg from Tucuman, Argentina back in 2003, is now up and running in The Common hand-pinching crispy, pillowy, pockets of deliciousness filled with beef, chicken, or spinach and ricotta.

My recommendation is to get the spicy beef ($3.70) and pair it with a glass of La Folle Noire d’Ambat ($9), a big, funky, naturally produced French wine that has notes of charcoal and hedgehog mushrooms that will stand right up to that meaty filling.

Simon’s is also doing really well-executed fries (the size of which are in-between a regular restaurant fry cutter and the huge fries you’d find at a Kenora chip truck) that you can get with a chunky chimichurri for $3.70.  Paella is also on the menu ($12.50), along with Milanesa sandwiches ($8.50) a pretty banging Argentinian-style onion fritada ($7.50), and more.

The other new food kiosk is Fusian Sushi, from the same people behind Academy Road’s Fusian Experience, one of the few restaurant’s to receive a 5-star review from former Winnipeg Free Press food critic Marion Warhaft in recent years.

Hawaiian shrimp nachos from Fusian Sushi (PCG)

Hawaiian shrimp nachos from Fusian Sushi (PCG)

Fusian is bringing quite a number of their umami-forward creations from the original location, including those killer Hawaiian shrimp nachos and a selection of nigiri and rolls. It all pairs well with a glass of Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay wine from Wolfville, Nova Scotia — a white blend that was tailored to accompany briny oysters with its sour green apple finish and effervescent mouthfeel.

(Or, if you don’t want to sound like a pretentious fop like me using words like “effervescent mouthfeel,” you could just get a pilsner from Surrey B.C.’s Central City that would work well with some sushi nachos. But, I’d also like to steer you towards Pommies Apple Cider from Caledon, Ontario, which is another great pick on tap.)

Three more food kiosks will be revealed shortly, adding more to this already great space that surely is going to get even busier than normal.

Chelsea Thompson and Dave Pancoe from the Forks (with drinks in hand) just loving life as they shop the Forks Market (PCG)

Chelsea Thompson and Dave Pancoe from the Forks (with drinks in hand) just loving life as they shop the Forks Market (PCG)

“What will be interesting is we’ve just opened on what is the start of our busiest time of the year,” said Chelsea Thompson, manager, marketing and communications for The Forks. “We have a major festival happening every weekend and then Canada Day, and then of course July and August is all summer holidays, so it’s an interesting time to test it out.”

“We want people to know that this [The Common] is all meant to be an accompaniment to your meal… we’ll always be maintaining that family friendly atmosphere.”

And the best part, the more success this space sees, the better The Forks is going to get.

“All the proceeds from the craft beer and wine kiosk are going back into the building,” said Thompson. “This has always been about keeping the building, and maintaining the building and reinvesting in ourselves here in The Forks Market.”