Winnipeg's best hidden gem patios
The Peg is a patio city.
In almost every neighbourhood you'll find a bar, café or restaurant with patrons sipping away on a sunny afternoon sitting sidewalk side, flaunting their leisure time.
Patios like Peasant Cookery's in The Exchange, Segovia in Osborne Village, Rudy's downtown, Pizzeria Gusto on Academy and Bar Italia -- along with just about every other stop on Corydon, will always be popular choices, both for their lovely culinary selections and their libations.
But behind some of the city's feasting façades await some lush patios, which due to their locations away from the public's peering eyes, may not be on your radar, especially for you tourist types.
Black Rabbit Bistro 135 Osborne Street (patio picture is at top) Bless the hearts of owner Jarrett Connery and Head Chef Gareth Stewart for bringing this (primarily) "share plates and high end cocktail" concept to the former location of Basil's (which seemed to sit dormant forever after a water main break). The cocktails are excellent and so apropos on this wood framed patio which is awash with plants, all comfortably located at the back of the restaurant making for a courtyard setting for Osborne Village's cool kids.
A diverse menu of "elevated bar food" is ideal for sharing -- with items ranging from calamari with squid ink aioli, to sticky pork ribs with a honey ginger reduction -- while mains like a cornish hen with a maple orange glaze, thin crust pies and pastas also make the list. Of course, al fresco should always start with drinks, which Black Rabbit does proper. Two-shot beauties like a Reposado marg served with a chili salt rim and the Lady Grey Sour -- a frothy egg white concoction with rye, Earl Grey syrup, lemon and black pepper -- all punch well above their weight of $8. (Seriously, handmade cocktails don't come any cheaper these days).
529 Wellington 529 Wellington Crescent When you are a stately mansion that backs out onto the Assiniboine River, it's only natural that you have a verdant, garden patio. While 529 regularly upholds the title as Winnipeg's swankiest steak house, where black tie service, a la carte dining and an expertly crafted wine list the size of a small city's phone book are standard, not too many people associate it with having the lushest patio in The Peg.
Yet, its backyard is where white tablecloths adorn heavy patio furniture, where the sounds of the Assiniboine River cascade over your table which should be filled with their famous onion rings (so good that you'll never ask your dining companion if they'd like the last one, instead you'll be looking to stab their hand with a fork -- in the most sophisticated way possible -- should they reach for it), a dry-aged ribeye so good it will bring tears to your eyes, and a bottle of a robust red.
Buffalo Stone Café at FortWhyte Alive 1961 McCreary Rd When your patio overlooks a lake, which is centred within a pristine urban nature reserve where hundreds of birds constantly take to the sky, you are already winning. Such is the case for Buffalo Stone Café, which combines simplistic, well-crafted plates -- many of which feature ingredients raised right on FortWhyte Alive's accompanying farm -- on a menu overseen by 2013 Manitoba Gold Medal Plates competition winner, chef Kelly Cattani.
Winnipeg's only lakeside patio is a must visit when you are in the city. FortWhyte is just a short drive from downtown Winnipeg and the whole place is filled to the gills with fun times for your family. For instance, parents- you could bring the kids and see them off in a canoe or some sailing lessons while you two sit perched over the waters, sipping sauvignon blanc while snacking on seasonal, sustainably grown items like braised pork tacos, a bison burger, or a green salad whose ingredients were plucked just a stone's throw away that morning. #bliss
Inferno's Bistro 312 Rue Des Meurons Street While their new location on Academy also has a very nice plant-studded patio, it faces the street so it doesn't fit our hidden agenda to make this list. Their original Saint-Boniface location, however, features one where dinners are hidden behind a fence alive with greenery.
This setting is ideal for mussels (they do five versions) or perhaps some butternut squash ravioli, all washed down with glasses of See Ya Later Ranch gewurztraminer -- because dry gwurtz' from the Okanagan served under the shade of an umbrella are what sunny afternoons are for.
Tapastry at Niakwa Country Club 620 Niakwa Road While golf course dining is usually not always par for the course, Tapastry takes the 19th hole to a whole new level with delicious, acclaimed share plates served on attractive wooden vessels. Their patio overlooks the fairways and handsome trees of the Niakwa course, so you can enjoy the juxtaposition of eating sophisticated offerings like a confit duck leg on a bed of butternut squash gnocchi, or lamb chops with a chèvre soufflé, while golfers duff balls and curse out their long irons as if was the club's fault and not the fact that they didn't transfer their weight through the hips. #golftipscomefreefromPCG And yes, Tapastry is open to the public despite being located in a private country club.
note: the lead image is the courtyard patio at the Black Rabbit Bistro (photo by Jay Leslie)