Patio season is upon us, and if there is one thing that The Peg loves more than perogies, pizza, poutine, potatoes and the letter P in general, it’s a patio.
In fact, there are so many these days that it feels like almost every restaurant and café has one. So below we’ve going categorically to meet your al fresco needs, whether you are looking for drinks with a view, a private courtyard setting, sublime small plates on an equally small patio, brunch under an umbrella, or simply a place for people watching while you wait for a show at Old Market Square to start.
The Big One
We have to start with what is both the city’s newest and biggest patio, which is located right in front of The Forks Market. This brand new (it just opened in May) 250-seat patio must be the biggest one in Western Canada, and perhaps one of the largest in Canada (this is coming from someone who used to work on Vancouver’s largest patio, which is much smaller, while our Toronto searches have found just a handful of places that can hold 250).
But it’s not just its size that is so impressive, it’s also the setting itself and the wide range of dining and drinking options that come with it. For seating, there are plenty of communal-style picnic tables that can seat up to 10, while intermixed throughout the area, which runs from the Canopy down the first flight of stairs toward the harbour (meaning pretty much every seat has views of the rivers), there are comfortable Adirondack chairs and two-top bistro sets. You won’t even need an umbrella to stay out of the sun, as almost every spot receives some shade from the trees that dot the outdoor area.
For food options, you can order from any of the amazing kiosks within the Market, while the patio is serviced by an outdoor version of The Common, meaning you can choose from 20 wines and 20 beers that have been curated from one of the world’s top sommeliers, Vérnoique Rivest. Sip away while looking at boats going by on the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. It’s a setting and setup you simply can’t beat anywhere in Canada, as Globe and Mail prairie food columnist Dan Clapson remarks here.
Also at The Forks, we’d be remiss not to mention SMITH at Inn at the Forks. They have a gorgeous west-facing patio with two-and four-top tables along with a sectional couch that is just begging for you and your crew to hit up for an après-anything. SMITH’s cocktail program is one of the best in the city (get a Manitoba Fashioned, made with Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye, and pair it with the salty, sweet, and always on the money pounded cheese board), while you can eat every meal of the day from chef Barry Saunders’ farm-to-table centric menu, from breakfast through to late night snacking.
Eggs al fresco
Outside of SMITH, the city has a few other great spots to enjoy a sunny-side-up egg with an extra side of sun.
St. Boniface in particular does breakfast outside right, with two of our favourites being Marion Street Eatery, which has a decent-size patio and large portions when it comes to breakfast and lunch (word to the wise: Get there early for breakfast, as this place gets busy fast) and Promenade Café and Wine, whose patio overlooks the Esplanade Riel and the downtown skyline. Its classic French breakfast dishes – including sweet and savoury crêpes, and an eggs Benedict that you can get with local smoked trout – are always somptueux.
In fact, St. B has so many great patios that we also have a full article on our top picks from last year, which is still applicable and can be found here.
Also in St. B is Stella’s at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain, which has the biggest and most-verdant courtyard patio in the city. Here, under umbrellas or a canopy of trees, you can enjoy breakfast through dinner in a setting that ensures you are away from the sounds of the streets, while also often providing live music to accompany your meal.
In Assiniboine Park you experience an all-day breakfast menu (or lunch) in a forested setting behind the Qualico Centre. The Park Café’s hidden patio is shrouded in lush vegetation, they make an herbed lemonade with mint, rosemary and basil that is all the rage, the vegan breakfast – composed of black bean cakes with vegetable salsa, beet ketchup and hash browns is the jam, while there is no shortage of Bennys and really nice pancakes for the kids to boot. The Café is also licensed, with a menu featuring several local craft beers in bottles along with a seasonal offering from Barn Hammer Brewing in a large format can (473 ml).
(Somewhat) hidden gems that you can’t see from the street
And Stella’s at CCFM isn’t the only place with a patio that is away from the prying eyes of the public.
In The Exchange, located right up from the Red River beside Stephen Juba Park there is Cibo, whose patio is hidden from view by the marvellous Mere Hotel. This place provides such a peachy setting that we filmed a tourism commercial here last year, while we highly recommend the pear & prosciutto pizza because we are all for white pies with a béchamel base.
In the hip hood of West Broadway Langside Grocery, that jaunty little wine/cocktail/small plates bar, has a lovely little hidden patio out back that now opens at noon. Here, you can enjoy one of the many fabulous, handcrafted drinks on offer, along with some great dishes – like beef tartare with a quail egg and Tomahawk potato chips, the new seasonal asparagus salad (the local asparagus is so good right now), or a mighty fine charcuterie board – all while sitting in a setting framed by trees and the brick facades of this heritage building.
Back to St. B, another patio that is nicely framed and hidden from the street is Resto Gare’s, which is enclosed by their historic train cart dining room and some fencing. The whole patio is awash with plenty of greenery and dotted with large trees, while chef Melissa Makarenko’s menu pays homage to French and Eastern European bistro classics.
If you are looking for a big night out in a hidden garden setting, head to the converted mansion of 529 Wellington. This place 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 all standard. On top of that, they have a lush patio that backs out toward the Assiniboine River, where we’d implore you (and your date) to tackle an onion ring tower, asparagus with hollandaise, the 529 au gratin potatoes, and a seared rib steak that will almost bring a tear to your eye. It will cost you, but it will be worth it.
As well, one other hidden patio we must mention here, which is surely the only patio in the city you’ll be comfortable dining in your bathrobe in, can be found at Thërmea by Nordik Spa Nature. Read the full article here.
Primetime people watching
In stark contrast to the hidden patios above is the area surrounding Old Market Square, where people watching is all part of the ambiance.
The OG’s in the area are The King’s Head Pub and Peasant Cookery, which stand side-by-side on King Street, offering (pretty much) unobstructed views of the Square and its Cube stage (meaning they are packed during both Fringe and Jazz Fest). Peasant is great for a glass of wine and some charcuterie, or a huge slice of tourtiere, or anything that involves pork for that matter, as they do all their own curing and most of the butchery in-house. The King’s Head has ten taps dedicated to local beer (and a fine selection at that) along with good curries and the usual suspects when it comes to British pub fare.
On the same side of King Street, but just across Bannatyne Avenue is the trio of Chosabi, Bronuts and King + Bannatyne, which share a slick sidewalk-situated patio that is busy during lunch rush and then super gorgeous at night, with string lighting overhead.
On the opposite side of Old Market Square alongside Albert Street/Letinsky Place are the dynamic duo of Amsterdam Tea Room and Cordova Tapas and Wine, both of which get bonus points for European flavour, flair and ownership.
Amsterdam Tea Room’s patio looks right out onto Old Market Square and is situated around an elm tree, making for a most-pleasing setting to enjoy Scottish co-owner Mark Turner’s mighty fine tea-based cocktails, along with the vibrant new food menu that is chockfull of flavourful small plates like the Tuna Francesco 4.0 – a medley of torched tuna with black garlic, charcoal chips, salsa verde and roe.
At Cordova, which is just an underarm’s toss from Amsterdam across Bannatyne, owners Gael Winandy (originally from Belgium) and Grégoire Stevenard (originally from France) pay respect to their European roots. They offer a menu strewn with great wines by the glass, local beers on tap alongside plenty of interesting imported bottles that range from Belgian sours to Trappist triples and quadruples to pair with their menu that features many baguette-based pintxos-type dishes.
On bustling Broadway a great place for an al fresco lunch or dinner is Capital Grill, where chef Wayne Martin’s menu of upscale-yet-unpretentious fare offers a little bit of something for everyone. For us, it’s a starter of Dungeness crab bites (Martin moved here from Vancouver), followed by the chipotle BBQ ribs served with some of the best fries in town, all washed down with a glass of Segura.
On Academy Road, you simply can’t beat Pizzeria Gusto’s patio, which is sectioned off from the sidewalk via some sleek wood fencing. The wood-fired pizzas here are fab (particularly the Lucia, if you are into pies that balance sweet and salty), while the ambiance under the bright orange umbrellas is just so chill. Order a Negroni to start and play it cool if a Winnipeg Jet (many of whom live in the neighbourhood) happens to take the table next to yours.
Best for beers (and your four-legged buds)
Quite a few of Winnipeg’s 15 breweries have patios.
We’re big fans of the artificial turf that lays the foundation for the patio at Little Brown Jug, where you enjoy their 1919 Belgian Pale Ale with your dog in tow. The north-west facing patio gets plenty of sunshine, while the seating is all modern picnic tables, making it a great spot for a group.
Large groups, dogs and Liverpool fans like us(!) can also be accommodated outdoors at Stone Angel Brewing Co.’s west-facing patio. Here, aside from Never Walking Alone or gloating about LFC’s latest Champions League title, you can sip selections like the most-excellent Luther’s Folly – a full-flavoured blonde ale that pairs well with summer sunshine, along with the Persian food you can bring in next door from Tehran Market or whatever food truck that they bring in for Friday service. Devil May Care Brewing and Kilter Brewing also brew within Stone Angel’s facility, meaning their taps showcase a vast array of local flavours including some summery numbers like DMC’s Tabula Rosa (an American wheat beer infused with hibiscus that is awesome, which they only brew for summer), and Kilter’s Juicy IPA, which balances plenty of hops with tropical fruit flavours.
Another brewery that is more than cool with you bringing in outside food on their patio is Barn Hammer Brewing Company. They too have a peachy, west-facing patio with nice wood tables and benches for seating, while their beer is top-notch, including inventive experimental seasonal brews and the Le Sneak Belgique wheat beer, which is one of our favourties in the city. To make a meal out of it, they’ll actually tell you to go get a pizza (or slice) from the brilliant new Wall Street Slice, which is just a block north. #werehereforpizzaandbeer
Winnipeg’s busiest brew pub, Brazen Hall, has a nice little patio. You should go if you are craving a really delicious burger (in fact, most of their extensive menu is really quite good, making it a great choice from groups with differing tastes) that you can enjoy with over a dozen choices from the taps.
Nonsuch Brewing Co. also features a quaint patio that's perfect for enjoying their Belgian-style bruts which are fruity, dry and refreshing all at the same time! Plus the popular spot in Winnipeg's Exchange District recently came out with a delicious taproom menu that pairs perfectly with each brew.
The old patio adage states: Rooftop patio > street side patios. While we’re not going to argue for or against this, we will implore you to look up to a few of these lofty numbers.
Our favourite tiny rooftop for drinks (which also has a street-front patio that is great for breakfast/brunch/lunch) is located at Forth. Starting at 4 p.m. this little perch, with its cute outdoor wood bar and handmade tables for two and four, simply cannot be beat for craft cocktails. Plus, it provides some stunning views of the city that you don’t often see, with the Exchange District and the handsome J.H. Ashdown Building prominently featured if you look north, while if you look south you see the set of buildings (including our office), which make up Winnipeg’s central business district that towers over Portage and Main.
Another fabulous place for cocktails and small plates is The Roost, which is perched above the Corydon strip – a place brimming with so many patios that we don’t even need to mention them here, you can just go and witness the throngs of people for yourself. The Roost is awesome because head bartender/co-owner Elsa Taylor’s drinks are outstanding, while her handprinted menus are beyond adorable and the height of fairy-dust whimsy. The food is pretty great too, while the patio itself is about twice the size of the restaurant proper, which just seats 18 people. The outdoor space features long wooden tables and birch log accents, while the drinks are artfully presented. In other words, good luck trying not to Instagram the $%#@ out of this place while you are here.
Downtown also has its fair share of rooftop patios. La Roca is a gem if you are looking to crush margaritas and tacos, all while looking up at the surrounding buildings. Tavern United at Bell MTS Place has a huge rooftop patio, with astonishing views that now showcase the curves of True North Square. The MET too has a rooftop patio overlooking Bell MTS Place, making it a primetime spot for drinks and snacks before or after a concert.
Quaint patios with sublime small plates
A few of Winnipeg’s highest-rated restaurants also have patios.
For starters there’s Segovia, which has been on the Canada’s 100 best restaurant list since its inception. Here you can enjoy chef Adam Donnelly’s fantastic takes on traditional Spanish tapas on a quaint five-table patio if you’re able to grab a coveted seat after they open at 5 p.m. (And if you can’t right away, don’t worry, they don’t take resos but they will take down your number and call you when a table is ready. Plus, they are open late ‘til 11 p.m. or midnight). Our pro tip here is to order the off-the-menu gin and tonic with lime sorbet and some croquetas to start, because this is simply the definition of al fresco awesomeness.
Then there’s Máquè, a place that has received four-stars in the Winnipeg Free Press while also making Air Canada’s enRoute guide of Canada’s best new restaurants (long list). Here, you can get dishes from chef Scott Bagshaw and his team that feature plenty of influence from Korea, Japan, China and Vietnam. The patio is composed of wood banquets with two-and four-top tables. If we may, we suggest can’t-miss dishes like the crab fried rice with Old Bay, white truffle and crisp sausage, and the crunchy, oh-so-summery cucumber, mint, kale, watercress and jicama salad with Thai dressing.
And finally, we’d be foolish not to mention Close. Co, Máquè’s neighbour. This patio, which seats 12 for 2019 (it used to seat just six), is even bigger than the restaurant proper, which seats just 10. Chef Dustin Pajak’s menu is full of delicious numbers, including the near-legendary Moroccan meatballs and torched tuna served on chips with jalapeno and black garlic. The drinks and wine list are great, while the best part about the patio is watching your drinks arrive, which happens via a porthole in the side of the building.