With over 50 excellent rooms representing some of the city’s best small plates restaurants, wine bars, and casual counter service spots, Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District is certainly a top culinary destination.
For starters, just off the top of our head (with convenient links to past stories we’ve done #winkwink) you have deer + almond – currently ranked number 75 on the Canada’s 100 best restaurant list; The Mitchell Block – which is celebrated for its daily fresh pastas and cool upstairs lounge; Clementine – which, in the words of the Globe and Mail, “produces one of most memorable brunches a person can have in Canada;” and Peasant Cookery – a mainstay destination for food and travel writers.
On top of that, we’ve had sandwiches and such from Miss Browns and King + Bannatyne that have nearly brought us to tears; there’s Shawarma Khan – where we eat lunch more than any other place in the city (it’s just one block from our office and always on point); plus Cibo – which has one of the most gorgeous dining rooms and patios in the city; and the original Chosabi, which has proven so popular that they’ve started to pop up all over the city (#lovethosepokebowls).
If you are a local and reading this, you might also be inclined to opine, “you are forgetting [insert any number of the other excellent restaurants that call The Exchange District home].” True that, that’s why we’re here to tell you about the 9 places on offering this August on the always excellent Exchange District Biz Food Tours.
All libation lovers will not want to miss the The Decadence in the District tour, which occurs every Wednesday night ($75 per person, includes alcohol drinks and grat) throughout August. This three-stop tour will teach you about the area’s cocktail culture, while you’ll get to do some dessert sampling at Cordova Tapas & Wine, Amsterdam Tea Room, and Forth Cocktail Bar.
Let’s start with Cordova, which is easily one of our favourite new(ish) spots (it opened over a year ago) in the city. Here, owners Gael Winandy (originally from Belgium) and Grégoire Stevenard (originally from France) have brought the sort of snacking-while-sipping you’d expect to find in the tapas bars of Spain and southwest France – all in a lively room that locals in the Exchange have come to adore.
From there, it’s on to the neighbours – Amsterdam Tea Room – where craft cocktails by Scottish co-owner Mark Turner always make their mark. (The room itself is also mint, while many of the drinks utilize the café’s large roster of teas, which you can read more about here).
The tour finishes at Forth, which certainly has one of the finest cocktail bars – and rooftop patios – in the city. Here, you’ll get to sample expertly crafted cocktails, while drinking in the sleek-yet-warm design of the place. It’s a real gem of a spot, and one we constantly send travel writers to.
If you are looking for a hardier tour, then the Comfort Food Tour is for you. The first stop here is Kevin’s Bistro – the Stella restaurant empire’s mac ‘n cheese mecca, which specializes in “divine comfort food.” Our marketing team took down seven different varieties of mac ‘n cheese here to kick off 2018 and we’ve been frequent visitors ever since as. Much like its namesake, Kevin’s is one comforting cat.
The tour then heads to Alycia’s, the legendary Ukrainian restaurant (it first opened in 1971) that recently found a new home in the Exchange within the Royal Albert Arms Hotel. Surely perogies, kielbasa and all the fixings will be in order. From there, it’s on to Across the Board Café, whose new location right at Main and Bannatyne is an absolute peach. Along with having plenty of space and a terribly handsome room featuring perhaps the best-looking ceiling in the whole city, Across the Board also has over 1,200 board games to choose from, along with a menu brimming with great burgers, bowls, salads and other comfort food classics.
Comfort Food Tours take place every Thursday throughout August and cost $65 per person (gratuity including).
Finally, on Tuesdays throughout August, there is the biggest culinary tour of them all, the $85 (per-person; including drinks and grat) Savour the Exchange Food Tour.
This tour has a touch of Latin flair to it, with stops including La Carnita – the trendy Mexican restaurant whose interior is just as chic and lively as its selection of tacos (the carne asada is a real standout); The Saddlery on Market – another fashionable room within a heritage building (the wood décor they’ve incorporated within the circa 1898 Great West Saddlery Warehouse building is quite lovely) with a menu that runs from share plates to large entrees; and Corrientes – the always popular Argentinian pizza joint where pies with ample cheese (along with a mighty fine offering of empanadas) is sure to please.
Exchange District Food Tours all run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and you can book tours and find more info here.