Red River Exhibition
From house-cured pork tongue and dill pickles to grilled flatbreads with tangy tabouli and creamy, vegan chocolate ice cream, Winnipeg’s Exchange District has always been a hotbed of amazing and adventurous eats.
But with so many outstanding eateries in the 20-block neighbourhood, the big decision is where should we eat?
A new food and walking tour takes that vexing decision off the table.
With seven tasting and sipping spots per tour, Devour the District hits all the culinary high notes in the history-rich neighbourhood just north of downtown.
The summer walking tour is the work of Exchange District BIZ, in collaboration with Peg City Grub and Tourism Winnipeg, among others. The new tour is two-parts eating and drinking and one-part local history lesson with a little walking thrown into the mix.
In between restaurant stops, friendly and history-savvy guides offer a brief history of the area and the 100+year-old historic buildings that have been transformed over the years from grain exchanges, warehouses and storefronts to some of the city’s most notable modern eateries.
Guests take a feast on foot during the tour, meeting chefs and restaurateurs who also talk about Winnipeg’s cuisine scene and their approach to food. And there’s plenty of food to go around.
On a recent preview tour, 14 guests started their ‘eatventure’ at Peasant Cookery for some house-cured charcuterie, one of the district’s most popular restaurants. A sample of a ‘soft but structured’ garnacha from Spain finessed the brine, salt and smoky notes of pork shoulder terrine, pork tongue and pepperoni, all made in house.
Around the corner, chef Mandel Hitzer of Deer + Almond dazzled with a simple but spritely taste of grilled flatbread with zucchini, tabouli and garlic-laced hummus.
One block along the cobblestoned district landed eaters at Underground Café, the home of The Fantastic Sun Burger. These slider-sized veggie burgers include a patty of sesame and sunflower seeds, rice, cheeses, spices and eggs. Tangy lime-dill sauce, romaine, green peppers, tomatoes and onion added sass.
Across Main Street in the East Exchange, Hermanos and Boon Burger were the next pitstops. New Zealand oysters with a dollop of creamy curry sauce and a spicy pork chorizo with grilled onions and peppers fired up appetites at Hermanos, a South American steakhouse. Down the street, Boon Burger, Canada’s first all-vegan burger joint served a sweet repast—chocolate-flavoured coconut milk ice cream.
The tour wrapped with cocktails (a choice of pineapple lemonada, hibiscus mojito or an Argentian Malbec) at Carnaval, a Brazilian barbecue on Winnipeg’s picturesque Waterfront Boulevard.
Boutique bakery Cake-ology, delivered a parting gift, a three-bite chocolate cakette and a mini-Imperial cookie.
And in the end, we devoured the district with nary one decision made but everyone’s appetite satisfied.
The new tour officially launched Monday June 10th, the first day of Tourism Week in Winnipeg. The tours cost $58 per person and run Tuesdays 2 p.m. to 5 p.m and Thursdays 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tours wrap up for the summer at the end of August. Different restaurants are visited on alternate days.
Participating restaurants include: Blufish, Boon Burger, Brooklyn’s Bistro, Cake-ology, Carnaval, Corrientes Argentinean Pizzeria, Deer+Almond, Hermanos, Peasant Cookery, Sensi Wine Lounge and Underground Café.
For more information or to book a tour click here or call 204-942-6716.
Neechi Commons Come & Eat Café
Address: 865 Main Street
Phone Number: 204-949-1388
Neighbourhood: North Main
Every restauranteur wants to open shop in a great location where customers flock.
The folks behind Neechi Commons restaurant have been gutsy enough to do it in an uncommon neighbourhood.
Neechi Commons—a combination grocery store, bakery, art gallery and restaurant—opened four months ago at 865 Main Street, several blocks north of downtown Winnipeg in a neighbourhood commonly known as the ‘rough part of town.’
Neechi Commons isn’t your typical destination for travellers. This neighbourhood’s rough-edged history is often evident in the area’s buildings and denizens.
Neechi Commons, with its Come & Eat Café, is part of a concerted effort to rehabilitate the neighbourhood’s reputation and bring more people to the area. The co-operative is also focused on hiring neighbourhood aboriginals and youth.
Come & Eat Café is the work of Talia Syrie, owner and chef of The Tallest Poppy, a nearby restaurant. Syrie’s food, both at the Poppy, and at the new café, focuses on homestyle dishes using local food and made-in-Manitoba products. Using grandparents’ cooking as the touchstone, the menu features favourites like stew, French toast, eggs and bacon.
Bison, bannock, Manitoba wild rice and blueberries, to name a few foodstuffs, make appearances throughout the classic breakfast and lunch diner menu.
Sandwiches and salads and all-day breakfasts are the foundation at Come & Eat, which is currently open until 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and until 5 p.m Sunday. Weekday breakfast starts at 7 a.m. The restaurant opens 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Customers order at the cafeteria-style counter, adjacent to the open kitchen and line. Food is delivered to the table by friendly staff. We devoured bannock French toast with wild blueberries and wild rice croquettes with a roasted corn salsa on a recent, weekday visit. The dining room—which has floor to ceiling windows overlooking Main Street—was packed with office workers and other professionals, seniors, families with children and students.
Both dishes were flavourful and satisfying. The wild blueberries, in particular, were an instant taste of summer. The crispy and dense wild rice croquettes were bound with mashed sweet potato, providing an extra flash of sweetness in every bite.
After your meal, check out the art gallery, located next to Come & Eat Café on Neechi Commons’ second floor.
Insider’s tip: Come & Eat has quickly gained a loyal following. Lunches can be quite busy.