Winnipeg is known for it’s long, cold winters and because of this Winnipeggers really know how to make every ounce of summer count. Sitting on a patio on a warm day is a summer ritual we take seriously. The only downside can be that our favourite patio is full. But have no fear, more patios are popping up in prime downtown Winnipeg spots. Whether you’re looking for a place to have your coffee, lunch or after work drinks, you are sure to find it downtown (#finditdowntown). Thanks to the Downtown Winnipeg Biz, downtown restaurants are getting some help in clearing the obstacles they must go through to set up their patios. They also lend out patio chairs and tables and aid in the design of the patio space and fencing so that they meet regulations.
Their Patio Program has been such a success they’ve seen a jump from 22 patios in 2006 to 36 this year. I joined the Downtown Biz on a patio crawl last week to learn about the program and check out some of the newest to take advantage of what the program offers.
The first stop was Casa Burrito. Its location across the University of Winnipeg makes it a hot spot for students. It is the ideal location because of Portage Avenue’s wide sidewalks. Its view is picture perfect — students lounging on the beautifully landscaped grounds, a man playing catch with his dog. The food is worth a visit too of course. We sampled burritos filled with frijoles (my favourite), rice and pico de gallo, chorizo and frijoles quesadillas and curried lentil quesadillas accompanied by three sauces: a hot verde sauce made with jalapeños and cilantro, a smoky chipotle sauce and a mango sauce which is their most popular.
Fools and Horses Coffee
The next stop was Fools and Horses Coffee on Broadway. If you’re part of the bustling office life in downtown Winnipeg, this little patio offers some respite. It features Manitoba’s only Modbar coffee machine, an espresso system located below the counter which enhances customer interaction. Coffee isn’t the only thing on tap; at 11 am they open up their taps for beer from Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well as wine through their FreshTAP pouring system. This makes Fools and Horses Coffee the perfect place for a coffee meeting, lunch or after work drinks, a unique characteristic not many other places downtown offer. Besides their excellent coffee and other beverages on tap, their menu consists of locally produced products (see their menu here). Their charcuterie board won me over — it’s the best one I’ve had in a long time (and I always order the charcuterie at restaurants).
Bar Red Sea
The third stop was Bar Red Sea also located on Portage Avenue. It occupies the former Chocolate Shoppe and later Arkadash. Their patio was an example of the red tape that restaurants sometimes have to deal with; on this particular day they were waiting for a liquor license to serve which is separate from the patio licence. This is the type of issue the Downtown Biz can help restaurants out with. We sampled some of the authentic Ethiopian food the Red Sea Bar offers and that alone should be enough to lure any Ethiopian food lover.
Our last stop was at Clay Oven whose patio over looks the Manitoba Hydro Place Plaza, where on this particular day, Thursday, the Downtown Farmer’s Market takes places (also a Downtown Winnipeg Biz initiative). Following the success of its other locations throughout the city, Clay Oven recently opened downtown and has become a very popular spot for lunch and it’s no wonder. They’re open until 8 PM, which is longer than other downtown restaurants. Their menu offers chicken, lamb and seafood but does not contain any beef or pork products; it also offers an array of Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Halal and Vegan friendly dishes. It’s truly Indian food at its best and the patio’s prime location in the middle of the busy plaza cannot be beat.
Next time you’re looking for a patio, don’t think twice about heading downtown where the wide range of options are sure to please your palette! See what places others enjoy and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #FindItDowntown