Back in 2010, my other half had the good fortune to visit Calgary, Alberta for a week. He came back with memories, pictures and a strong desire to have both of us visit soon. After a year of hard work we planned a trip to Canada for a bit of business and a bit of fun. Our schedule was to spend a week in Winnipeg (to take care of business), fly to Calgary for a weekend of fun, then head back home to California.
In anticipation for our trip we posted on Reddit asking the locals to help us find restaurants worth exploring. The response was pretty overwhelming and we had more than a month’s worth of restaurants suggested to us, from high dollar suit and tie to the local hot dog stand down the street. The hardest part of the trip ended up being where to go. Tons of time was invested into the project and we began scoping out reviews and researching satisfaction responses across the web. Yelp, Urbanspoon, the restaurant menus, everything was investigated to find which of those restaurants Reddit suggested would be worth a one night stand. The only thing we knew going into the project was that we didn’t want to stick with one type of food and we wanted something we don’t see often in the desert of California.
For those who don’t know, the desert of California is exactly like it sounds. Dry and barren. You can see now why we were so excited about this trip.
Our hosts suggested we stay at the Inn at the Forks. Being that this was near the market, a large park, and a river, it would be a great sightseeing location without the need for transportation other than ones own two feet. I have stayed in hotels throughout California for work, and have frequented the nicer hotels on the Strip in Las Vegas for fun. That being said, I never found a hotel room quite as lavish as the ones we stayed at while at the Inn at the Forks. Our hotel room had a large bedroom, an extra large bathroom and an even larger living room area. So much room for activities! The staff was courteous and helpful. It’s location turned out to also be perfect just as our host had said. The picture below was shot from our room’s window and in it you can see the view of the city outside. Looking down on Manitoba Theater for Young People, Sugar Mountain Express and The Market at the Forks.
Behind the parking lot of the Inn is an expansive gorgeous park.
We wanted to spend more time in the room (we contemplated just locking ourselves inside it and lounging about the entire week), but our desire to get a taste of Winnipeg won us over. Due to our arrival time late in the day, our first meal together in Winnipeg was going to be dinner.
Most of the restaurants recommended near the Forks were of the “well, it’s not my area but I guess if you wanted to you could try.” This was not the attitude we were looking for. Dedicated recommendations were what we wanted, someone proclaiming that if it was the last thing we did we had to visit this restaurant. The only rule we had was that we wanted food that was a bit different from what we have back home: no Mexican food, no Chinese food, no hamburgers.
There were arguments about the quality of food in Winnipeg area.
“Winnipeggers, let’s pat ourselves on the backs for the things we actually excel at, not for restaurants.”
“No matter how much you preface your criticisms of Winnipeg restaurant quality, you’ll likely get downvoted for it. The problem is that it happens to be the truth.”
It became our goal to provide an outsiders view of the restaurants of Winnipeg, as well as the city itself and too see if this criticism was warranted. The only issue was, we had no idea where to start.
The only food we knew we had to have was poutine. Poutine is a French Canadain dish consisting of french fries, gravy and cheese curds. This does not exist in California. The closest thing we have to Poutine would probably be In-N-Out’s Animal Style Fries. For those who aren’t familiar with this heart attack on a plate, Animal Style Fries are fresh cut potatoes covered in American cheese (processed cheese), grilled onions, and their special sauce (which taste like 1000 island dressing). I’m pretty sure that one serving is around 2 million calories. 2 million, DELICIOUS calories I might add. If you are ever fortunate enough to find yourself anywhere near an In-N-Out burger joint I highly recommend them.
My other half’s first visit to Canada (Calgary, Alberta) back in 2010 was severely lacking in poutine, in fact he was unable to acquire any and came back home severely disappointed. “Poutines more available in Quebec”, he was told. Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, regardless of what you call it, it’s Canada and there is an unspoken law that when in Canada one should be able to find Poutine like Americans find Starbucks. On every corner. This law exist in every country except for Canada, apparently.
It had been decided that we were not going to take “no” for an answer. Even if we had to make a trip to Costco, we were going to try some poutine on our first night. For those confused why I mention Costco, it turns out that Costco was the go to restaurant for those in Winnipeg who didn’t know where else to find it.
After looking over all the suggestions a few times in the hotel room we decided on Le Garage Cafe.
Le Garage Cafe is located in the French Quarter of Winnipeg. There’s an amazing graveyard and Cathedral in the French Quarter that we spent a whole day in, but that’s a story for another time.
The atmosphere of Le Garage Cafe, was cozy, but also a bit dark inside. If there had been a band playing (which it looked like there normally was) it would of been the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing evening with some friends, brew, and live music. This was a late afternoon dinner on a Thursday, so that wasn’t going to be happening. We ordered from the menu. One large order of poutine and one order of goat cheese filo parcels with red onion compote.
At last poutine-
Poutine was, simply put, amazing. I’ve always associated french fries as a side, but poutine seemed to be a dish in itself. Something that you could eat alone without needing a hamburger or steak to go with it. The gravy was full of flavor and I was amazed at how tasty cheese curds were. Being the first time we have eaten it, it’s impossible to say that the poutine from Le Garage Cafe was the best we have ever had. For a first time though, we were glad we choose the restaurant.
The Goat Cheese Filo Parcels with Red Onion Compote dish was also an amazing dish.
Once again, goat cheese is something I’ve always had as a side to a dish, and not as the main component. The meal left us curious and excited for more.
And that was the end of our first day in Winnipeg. Kind of surprising we got through that without one hockey joke or any mention of maple syrup.