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Calgary, Winnipeg and in between

Just booked a flight to Calgary on Aug. 7 where I'll meet a friend who's driving back to the east coast thru Canada. We'll stay in CAL a few nites, drive and stop somewhere (Regina?) and end up in Winnipeg then I fly back to Boston. I hate asking the super general question, but can you suggest fun spots along that route? I read the thread on CAL cheap eats which mentioned schwarma. I'll keep that in mind since that's the best food in Berlin and I'll see if anyone can do it as well as they do. Also saw the post on newish lounges and would like to have one fancy cocktail. We usually hit one higher end spot but like fun "underground" places with good/decent food, drinks and good (rock) music is a plus. We've got pretty good bahn mi in Boston, anything else that's specific to Calgary/Winnipeg? Are there certain areas of those cities that are best to stay in? Are there real diners out there? Should we go to Lake Winnpeg or some other specific place in between the two cities? I appreciate your replies and if it's off the food topic, you can email joanie@wmbr.org with details. Thanks.

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  1. If you are in town on a Sunday, I'd definately make reservations for brunch at the Hotel Fort Garry. It's quite the spread.

    If you want to try some good Ukrainian food try Alycia's on McGreggor and Cathedral.

    A trip to Gunn's bakery on Selkirk ave. for Apple Jacks and egg bagels.

    Modern's chocolates on Sargent for Russain Mints.

    I'd definately hit Rae and Jerrys on Portage avenue and have a drink in the lounge. They call it "the red velvet lounge" because it looks like a time warp to the 70's. R &J's is very good for steaks/beef.

    It's actually a pretty neat trip up to Gimli on the West side of Lake Winnipeg. Gimli is one of the largest Icelandic communities outside of Iceland. It's nice to park and wander around the town. They're are a couple of decent places to eat- Kris' Fish and Chips- if you get a chance to try smoked goldeye, do. It's a local specialty.

    On the way to Gimli on #9 hwy is Lower Fort Garry, a stoned walled fort from 1860. It opperates as a "historical re-enactment " if you are in to that thing.

    Back in Winnipeg- the Forks where the two rivers meet in Winnipeg is a neat spot to go. There are nice walking paths along the river. Lots of restaurants- Sydney's and The Current are decent. The Pankcake House is good for breakfast (dutch apple pancake) The other restaurants, I'd stick to drinks as none of the food is to memorable.

    For some interesting local fare, I'd try Fude, 71/4 or Mise restaurants.

    Lots of good Vietnamese restaurants in the city.

    Salisbury House is a classic local chain- it's kinda cool to go for breakfast located at the one on the Provencher bridge.

    As for places to stay- the Greenwood Inn by the airport is OK, lots of parking, as is the Sandman by the airport (avoid the restos in either hotel though).

    Lots of places downtown but they'll be pricier and parking may become an issue- the ones above have plenty of parking.

    Winnipeg has lots of good restaurants and most in a decent price range- if you are looking for a particular type, don't hesitate to ask.

    19 Replies
    1. re: salsailsa

      Thanks for the Winnipeg info. I think Rae and Jerry's is definitely on the list, I love old places like that. Which burger place should we hit? These are ones I've read about:

      The Chocolate Shop: 268 Portage Ave, since 1918, burgers, pierogies
      Mrs. Mike's: 286 Tache Ave, king burger
      Red Top Restaurant: 219 St. Mary's Rd, burgers, 60's red booths
      VJs: 170 Main St @ Broadway, across from train station, best burger place in North America

      Is the Bridge Drive Inn only ice cream and no real food? Is the Toad in the Hole fun? Are the Wagon Wheel, Black Sheep and Wanabees real diners (proper 50's style cars)?

      I'm thinking of either staying in the Ft. Garry looks great for the historical aspect or Inn at the Forks but I know there's some really cheap places on that strip. I prefer to leave the car and walk tho.

      For a nicer meal, I thought Bistro 7 1/4, Mise and Fusion Grill looked best. Which has the most bang for the buck? I liked the regional aspect of Mise. We've only got two days so there will be a lot of little bites and splitting things to sample as much as we can.

      Calgary people, where are the cool 50's looking joints in your town?

      1. re: Joanie

        Burgers- VJ's- keep in mind that there are only picnic tables outside

        BDI is just Ice-cream and only SOFT ice cream
        I prefer going for gelato at Nucci's on Corydon.

        Toad in the Hole is fun-usually really lively on a Sunday night.

        Diners- I know the Wagon Wheel is located on the main floor of an older office building on Hargrave- It's got the old style counter with seating and booths. I can't really speak for the other two diners.

        Hotels- Fort Garry is nice but because it is an older hotel, the rooms are smaller which some people don't care for. Inn at the Forks looks very nice and has a nice spa located in the building. Certainly a lot to do around there and I believe they have guest parking.

        Fusion Grill is hit and miss. My parents went there and hated it. Not the best bang for the buck and the atmosphere is not great.

        I haven't been to Mise but I have only heard good things about it. 71/4 is supposed to be quite good. I have heard more feedback about Mise.

        1. re: salsailsa

          The Fort Garry has smallish rooms but very nice. Ten spa is one of the best in the country and a real 'must do'.

        2. re: Joanie

          "Calgary people, where are the cool 50's looking joints in your town?"

          Diner Deluxe on Edmonton Trail and Galaxy Diner on 11 st and 17 ave SW are the 2 that spring to mind.

          1. re: Joanie

            I'd skip BDI. The ice cream isn't that great, but people are lured in by nostalgia.

            I prefer Eva's to Nucci's (also on Corydon, near Stafford--Eva's is Argentinean-style gelato and Nucci's is Italian-style), but the last couple of times I've been to Eva's, I was disappointed with the flavours I tried (the halvah is really good still, though).

            Bistro 7 1/4, Mise, and Fusion Grill are all great in terms of food. I feel Bistro 7 1/4 is the most casual of the bunch (though not in a bad way). I haven't been to Mise since they moved to Corydon, so I don't know what their new space is like. If you really want to walk rather than drive, I'd go to Mise so you can walk to either Eva's or Nucci's for gelati after. Corydon is also a much more interesting walking street in the evening than the areas around Bistro 7 1/4 and Fusion Grill. I don't know if they still have it, but Mise had a late-night menu composed of dishes from the appetizer-side of their menu. If you are a big eater, you could do a burger at Daly's, then walk slowly down the street stopping at different places along the way to Mise (Nucci's is along the path). Then have appetizers at Mise. Then if you still have room, walk a little further to Eva's.

            I'd check parking prices at both the Hotel Fort Garry and Inn at the Forks. If you don't mind cheap and generic, a place like Queen Bee Hotel is good--free parking, free internet, clean, etc. It seems far from anything, but it's so easy to drive in Winnipeg. During non-rush hour periods, it will probably only take 10-15 minutes to get to Corydon or downtown.

            AFAIK, there are no "read diners" in Winnipeg if you define them by being housed in 50's style cars. Wagon Wheel is over-rated, in my opinion, but I've not been to Black Sheep or Wannabees yet.

            BTW, in my experience, Boston Chinese food sucks, and Winnipeg's is vastly superior. Consider doing either dim sum (Kum Koon Garden, Victoria Seafood) or some other Cantonese-style meal (if you decide to stay at Queen Bee, North Garden and Sun Fortune are excellent Cantonese-style restaurants in the south end).

            1. re: prasantrin

              I ate at 7 1/4 last September and found it disappointing, although very busy.

              1. re: sarah galvin

                Good to know because I've only heard about it and never been.

                1. re: sarah galvin

                  What were the problems?

                  FWIW, I pretty much always get the moules et frites (excellent value, and always good), but a dining companion once had the roast chicken and it was quite good, as well. Other menu items I've tried have been less successful in my experience--not bad, but not great, either. But I can say that about Mise (mains are so-so, appetizers are excellent), too. I haven't been to Fusion Grill in several years, so it would not be fair of me to comment on their food.

                  Actually, I can say that about pretty much every "high-end" restaurant in Winnipeg. There are no true high-end restaurants, and those that have pretensions to that degree fall far from the mark.

                  1. re: prasantrin

                    I would disagree.....519 springs to mind. The service is extremely attentive, the meat cart they bring around is a great touch. The food was also top notch.

                    1. re: RodVito

                      I see 519 as a steak house. Just because a place is expensive does not automatically deem it high-end. YMMV.

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        And showing raw meat isn't necessarily a selling point.

                        I know it's been a while since everyone's been to the three nicer restaurants I'm considering (Fusion, Mise, Bistro 7 1/4) but which (if any) of those has a bar area and has the most "buzz". Not looking for a sedate meal. Thanks.

                        1. re: Joanie

                          None of them are particularly lively (scene-wise), but Bistro 7 1/4 is probably the liveliest of the 3 (noise-wise). I don't know about the new Mise, but none of the have a bar area, at least not the kind your probably thinking of.

                          Bistro 7 1/4 has an open kitchen with a counter surrounding it at which you can eat. The "bar" is just a little bar at the far end of the restaurant. I don't think you can sit and eat there (and the restaurant is pretty small, so you wouldn't be able to stand around with your drink).

                          If you want a restaurant with a bar with a buzz, you'll end up at somewhere like Pink Taco, Earl's, etc. i.e. a place with lousy or mediocre food.

                          This is Winnipeg, after all. However large the population gets, it will always be a small town at heart. (Lots of pretension around, though, if you're looking for that, too.)

                    2. re: prasantrin

                      You know, it was last September so I don't remember the details. I only remember it was very mediocre food and not great wine by the glass choices.

                  2. re: prasantrin

                    I had gelato at Eva's tonight and it was possibly the best I have ever had. Fabulous. I had hazelnut and it was perfection.

                    1. re: sarah galvin

                      If you like halvah, try their halvah. It tastes like the real thing! I've had some other flavours that tasted a bit medicinal (I think hazelnut was one of them), but it could have just been the batch I tried.

                      In less than 72 hours and I'll be in Winnipeg! It'll be too late to eat anything good, but we're going for dim sum bright and early on Sunday (probably Kum Koon)!

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        Was at Eva's today. Dulce de leche and pistachio make an excellent double-scoop combination!

                        1. re: prasantrin

                          I can't imagine a double scoop! Served her lemon sorbetto with wild blueberries tonight. Was divine.

                          1. re: sarah galvin

                            we always get a double scoop and share. Cheaper than getting two singles. :-)

              2. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/613948

                Here's a link to a discussion on Winnipeg restaurants to visit, hope it helps!

                  1. re: worldwidestuff

                    I don't know why ginger beef is so popular here (I'm from Calgary), but everyone from out of town is always amazed with our ginger beef. And yet, it's not really chinese food.

                    1. re: p.dinh

                      It tastes good, and nobody claims that it's "real" chinese. It's popular here because it was invented here.

                  2. Oh, Winnipeg has excellent bubble tea--the one at either Asia City (on the corner of Sargent and Young) or at Vi-Ann in Osborne Village. Try the young coconut at either place--it's super rich and creamy. I know at Asia City, if you're not a fan of tapioca, you can get it without the bubbles.

                    Someone else mentioned Gunn's--I think their applejacks of lessened in quality, but their pizza bagels are still excellent (as are their florentine cookies). Their knishes are good when fresh, too.

                    It's lunchtime only, but "Underground Cafe" in the Exchange District has really good sunburgers (veggie burger), and it has an "underground" vibe to it. A lot of restaurants in the exchange district are like that--Mondragon, etc. but they don't all have good food.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: prasantrin

                      The old Sheraton hotel in downtown Winnipeg is being converted to condos and a new restuarant has opened on the main floor - The Lobby. Was there a couple of weeks ago for dinner with friends. The chef used to be at Tavern in the Park. I had excellent crab cakes for app, followed by wiener schnitzel with spaetzle and a brioche cinnamon donut for dessert. All the food was amazing. Sampled my friends pickerel in panko (amazingly light and delicious) and mac and cheese (yummy but could have used some nutmeg or something to liven it up). There is also sushi on a separate menu. Large lounge area looks like it is planned as an annex to the resto maybe 'sushi bar' style. The space is nice but I could see it getting quite loud on a busy night.
                      Don't let the outside of the building keep you away, it's worth a try!

                      I can only surmise that the references above to '519' actually mean '529'. STAY AWAY!!!

                      I second the opinion of the earlier poster about the brunch at the Hotel Fort Garry. If you stay there, have a cocktail or two at the lounge on the main floor - an elegant room that has always given me the feeling of being on the set of an old Hollywood movie.
                      Bistro 7 1/4 was a huge disapppointment to me when I was there. Despite having a reservation I was informed on arrival that we would have to vacate our table in one hour 15 minutes as it was booked again. Not impressed. The food was okay, but there is no burning desire to return.
                      Fude in Osborne Village is still terrific. We hadn't been there for a couple of years but recently when we entertained out-of-towners we lucked out with a last minute res. Our friend from Montreal was impressed. The next night we all went to Rae & Jerry's for a real retro experience.
                      If I may weigh in on the gelati issue, I would go to Nucci's or Mercato (confusion corner).
                      You should have no trouble eating well while you're here!!

                      1. re: emeraldeyes

                        Glad to hear you and your Montreal guests enjoyed your stay at Fude!
                        chef@fude

                        1. re: sarah galvin

                          Pastry filled with apple filling, rolled, then coated in cinnamon sugar and baked.

                          1. re: prasantrin

                            also shots with jack daniels and apple juice, or apple liquer of some kind

                            1. re: abadman

                              Yes, but we're talking specifically about applejacks as sold at Gunn's Bakery in Winnipeg. Those are pastry filled with apple filling, rolled, then coated in cinnamon sugar and baked.

                      2. There is also a great little restaurant on Corydon at about Ash in a little strip centre. Can't remember the name but I thought it was delightful. Anyone know this place?

                        3 Replies
                          1. re: salsailsa

                            Yes, Bonfire Bistro. I'm in Wpg now and just drove by it. Loved it.

                            1. re: sarah galvin

                              I've only been there once, and had the most overcooked pizza I've ever had from a restaurant (what a waste of a wood-burning oven) coupled with mediocre service. That experience completely turned me off the place, but if other menu items are good, I'd consider returning to try other things.