Eating Out(SIDE) in Winnipeg

June 23rd, 2009 by Emma Durand-Wood

Recently, Aaron and I were asked by CBC Information Radio to visit and rate various patios around Winnipeg (Laurel was invited too, of course, but was out of town). The initial list of “must visit” patios was compiled by InfoRad staff following an appeal for submissions of what Winnipeggers consider to be the best patios in the city. Guidelines for reviewing each patio include its view, likelihood of people-watching, comfort, service, signature food & drink, protection from the elements, and either “party” or “romance” atmosphere. Each aspect of the patio was rated out of a possible 5 drink umbrellas, yet listed below are simply the highlights from each stop. This morning we sat down in the studio with Terry and Marcy to discuss the results of all that sipping, tasting, and reviewing. It was a tough job, of course, but Wo’MHers are always up for a challenge (that involves food and drink)!

5. Saffron’s (Corydon): We went for a weekday lunch and hoped Saffron’s would deliver in all aspects – a great patio with an excellent view of the street, therefore good people-watching. But our experience was that the view was the best thing we could say about it. Our coffee was cold, and the 10″ pizza was grossly overpriced. We really wanted to like it, but would not go back. The highest rating we gave Saffron’s was 4 out of 5 umbrellas for each of the view, people-watching, and comfort. Sadly it failed on all other accounts.

4. Cousin’s (Sherbrooke): We were intrigued by this one, never having heard of it and not knowing what to expect. The patio is on the corner of Sherbrooke and as such there’s lots of foot and vehicle traffic. The patio itself is nothing special and seems to have been added just because there was room to do it, but this was made up for by the knowledgable and friendly waitress who recommended the veggie burger. It didn’t disappoint and we’d definitely go back. Great place for a quick lunch, but nothing in the way of atmosphere. We scored Cousin’s with a full 5 drink umbrellas for their delicious veggie burger and great selection of beer for such a small spot.

3. Bar Italia, a.k.a. “Bar I” (Corydon): We came here on a Sunday evening and quickly realised that this place appeals to certain demographic (which we find ourselves rapidly outgrowing!). The Bar I patio is perfect for people-watching, and seems to be as much about being watched as it is about doing the watching! Our food was okay; our coffee-based drinks were good. Bar I’s large patio can accommodate a lot of diners (a plus) and smokers (a negative). All in all, a good place to come with a pack of friends (to nurse a hangover, maybe?) but not romantic at all, and not the sort of place you’d want to bring your parents. Bar I receives top marks for  its party atmosphere and ranks high for service. Definitely a patio you’d hit for drinks after work on a Friday…or a Monday for that matter.

2. Confusion Corner (where else?): We came here for brunch on a Saturday and had the rooftop patio to ourselves. We loved the comfy, cabana feel of it and pretty much had a dedicated waitress. While there was no view to speak of (couldn’t see the namesake confusion corner) and therefore no people-watching, it was sheltered from the elements and had a cozy feel. Our food and drinks were great and we enjoyed our visit. A good place for a date, brunch with the folks, or a large group meal. Great atmosphere. For the service, party atmosphere, and protection from the elements Confusion Corner rates high in our books. This spot, despite a view of the parking lot, also offers comfortable seating and fantastic ambience.

1. Inferno’s Bistro (St. Boniface): We truly saved the best for last. We had a light dinner and drink on a weeknight, and from the moment we came into the patio, knew we had found our winner. The patio is secluded and cozy, and the food and drink were delicious. Service was a bit slow, but it’s not really the kind of place you come to in a hurry anyway. We thought it would be the perfect place to have a long, lazy dinner and drinks – either for a romantic date or as a group of friends. Definitely would be a classy place to bring visiting relatives. Awarding Inferno’s 5 drink umbrellas for their fantastic food and intimate, romantic atmosphere was easy.

Conclusion: It was hard to pick a winner; all these places were vastly different from each other. The appeal of Bar I is the complete opposite of the appeal of Inferno’s, but they both ranked well for us in different regards. Confusion Corner was a positive experience, too. We’d go to Cousin’s again for the food, but not the atmosphere. Saffron’s is out totally for us, which is too bad, because it is a great location and has potential.

Throughout the week, we had a lot of people ask, why didn’t you go to [such and such a place]? We were surprised that no one suggested (to the CBC) the rooftop at Tavern United. Also recommended was Pasquale’s, Pony Corral on Pembina (where the patio is right on the river), and the Red Cactus (on Corydon). These are the places we’re looking forward to checking out later this summer; however, where would you say has the best patio in the city, and why? Keeping in mind aspects such as view, atmosphere, food, drink, and comfort – where else should we visit during the next few months? Have you had a particularly bad or good experience on a Winnipeg patio, or do you lament a Winnipeg patio of the past? We’d love to hear all about it! Ahh, summer…

23 Responses to “Eating Out(SIDE) in Winnipeg”

  1. The locations on Corydon are great, as you say, for people watching and rooftop patios have a certain appeal. However, my vote would be for you to try The King’s Head Pub on King Street near Bannatyne Ave. The patio is large (recently expanded) and always busy. During the Fringe and Jazz Fests, if you can get a seat, it is THE place to be.

  2. Laurel says:

    I still can’t believe I was out of town for this very important research project! 😉

  3. Aaron says:

    Thanks for suggestion Deborah! We’ve all been to The King’s Head Pub (most recently with a large group of friends to see the Justin Lacroix Band!), but I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the patio…only walked past it. Sounds like a good reason to return!

  4. nw says:

    have you been to Cousin’s on a warm friday or saturday night? the atmosphere is unlike anything else in the city — there are few places where you’ll find as many different types of people engaged with themselves and, importantly, with each other. it’s a neighbourhood spot with more regulars than most, but is great fun to people watch.

  5. Emili says:

    Tavern on Hargrave/Main is a definate 5 umbrellas for party atmoshphere and comfort. Great view of the MTS centre and surrounding area and great people watching on the roof-top. Downers: Limited items on the patio food menu, drinks are a bit on the expensive side (6$ for a shot of Jack??) and it’s always a little bit chillier up there, especially now that the new Hydro building blocks the sun early in the day. Well worth the visit on warm summer evenings.

    I also enjoy the Carlo’s & Murphy patio on Osbourne for after-work-food-&-drinks.

    Inferno’s is my St.B fav as well, they have awesome lunch specials, best moules&frites around and lovely crème brulées. I’m salivating just thinking about it…

    Great post you guys!

  6. Chris D. says:

    You can’t go wrong with any eatery on Corydon from my experience. Bar I and Saffron’s are definitely my favourites, as you listed above. Nothing beats hanging out on a patio once the nice weather hits.

    We Winnipeggers need to take advantage of it as much as possible.

  7. Brenda says:

    Been to Tavern United on hot summer day pre MB Hydro building. It was fun. Very quiet and our own private patio! I liked being away from road traffic.

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  9. Angie says:

    I love patio season in Winnipeg and one that I enjoyed for the first time recently was Beachcombers at the Forks (formerly Brannigans). Huge patio, lots of summery drink options, and excellent for people-watching. We were there on a Sunday afternoon and there was a constant stream of people going by. It was moderately busy on the patio and we could have our choice of an umbrella or not, depending on how much sun we wanted to catch. Food option were decent (not much selection if you’re vegetarian) and the service was good. I’ll definitely go back!

  10. Vanessa says:

    There is nothing better than a patio on a hot summer day! I’ve never heard of Cousin’s before…will have to check it out.

  11. cherenkov says:

    The Pony Corral on Pembina does have a nice patio. There are little tiki huts, and tables with their own personal fire pits. As for food, all I’ve had are nachos and wings (I go there after ball) so I can’t comment too much on that.

    The Tap and Grill in the Village used to have a really nice patio in behind the building. Haven’t been there in a while. Hope it’s still there. No people watching at all, but the atmosphere was nice.

  12. EB says:

    The Current has a nice little patio (at the Forks)…great view of the city, excellent people watching and fine beverage menu. Their food menu usually has tonnes of local fare and since it’s made from scratch I’m okay with paying more.

    I’ve found Confusion Corner grill’s patio to be lovely…glad you had a good experience too.

  13. TG says:

    I second the earlier post about Cousin’s atmosphere – it’s all about the people there, not how it looks inside or out. Great music, great staff – always enjoy myself there.it’s a great place with an authenticity unmatched by many other watering holes in the Peg.

    Also, as a side note – it’s affectionately called “Scuzzins” by the regulars.

  14. JB says:

    I lament the loss of the patio at Basil’s (formerly Tap and Grill) in Osborne Village. It was tucked away in a court-yard style space behind the restaurant and not on the street. This might have been a draw-back when considering people-watching, but the patrons were diverse and interesting enough for some visual entertainment. They had plenty of trees back there to provide some luscious mottled shade, and the environment overall was very comfortable and intimate. Where I really judge the value of a good patio is on the quality of its sangria – a cold glass on a patio matches perfectly with summer. Basil’s did have a satisfying sangria.

    Does anyone else have a recommendation as to where to find good sangria?

    I went to Saffron’s recently, and the sangria (and by extension the patio) lacked character.

  15. Ryan says:

    One thing I find our patios lack in Winnipeg are TVs. On a warm summer night I would love to sit on a patio, enjoy the warm weather, and watch the Blue Bombers on TV.

  16. Aaron says:

    Ryan – TVs are something we didn’t consider on our patio reviewing visits. Another factor we didn’t rate was music…and come to think of it nowhere stood out as having either really good or really terrible music playing on the patio. I’m not a football fan, and although I do like watching hockey you probably wouldn’t do this on a patio in Winnipeg! 😛

    JB – I lament the loss of Basil’s, too. I had the great fortune of eating there years and years ago, and I have a personal family connection to the restaurant as well. It’s a beautiful spot that had a magical ambience. Certainly would have made it to the top of our list had the restaurant still been open. Also…thanks for the information regarding their satisfying sangria – it gives me a great idea!

  17. mrchristian says:

    A patio I just discovered: Deen’s on Marion. It’s very casual, more like being at a bbq in someone’s back yard ! Live music, fire pit and good eats !

  18. Heather says:

    The best kept patio secret is Terrace 55 at Assiniboine Park. It is quiet, beautiful, easy to park near, the service and food are wonderful. Don’t think that you have to spend a lot of money to enjoy this amazing space. Have a glass of Sangria, try the wonderful spinach and chickpea salad salad or the corn chowder with seafood. Non drinkers try the prickly pear tea – so good. It doesn’t get any better than this.

  19. Aaron says:

    Ooh, Heather – Terrace 55 does sound good! I think the spinach and chickpea salad would be amazing. And you said the magic word: Sangria! Awesome.

  20. ryan s says:

    Hilarious that you included Cousins on a PATIO list. My favorite place to enjoy a glass or two, certainly, but probably the worst patio of all time: the rickety plastic tables not only encourage, but guarantee your beer will end up all over said tables. However, this is part of the appeal (as well as the rush of drinking on what is essentially a cordoned-off sidewalk, rubbing shoulders with pedestrians and local stray dogs alike, all included for free!), its obscurity the reason it is full most nights of the week.

  21. Emma says:

    Ryan, we were surprised when the CBC sent us there, too! You’re absolutely right, Cousins is definitely not the first place we think of for patios, now that we’ve been there. But we’ve been dreaming about the veggie burger ever since, so we’ll have to make a night of it sometime while it’s still summer-ish.

  22. charly says:

    Your reviews and comments posted are ok, but where is the food??!!! Cookers??!!! Chefs???!!! You can count with one hand places where you can eat an average meal, Tomato Pie & Co, Homers, a grill on Pembina, what else? Ah, that old restaurant in the 5th floor of The Bay.All the other places serve industrial food tossed with lettuce, c’mon. Winnipegers don’t have palate/taste, they eat whatever you put on the table, don’t care and don’t demand better quality. Burgers and fries, simple salads, chip & fish, those are not meals to eat in a restaurant.And the Italians!!! All the sauces taste the same, the one on the pizza, with caneloni, ravioli, all same taste, all come from the same industrial-prepared sauce can!!! The other thing is the closing time. What on earth are the owners thinking when they close the venue at 10:00 PM !!!! You wanders on Osborne after 9:00 and is more likely that you cannot find anything open. and one last thing, don’t you feel incarcerated when you enter those places without a window? Or those places where the better view is a parking lot? Like Macnally at Polo Park.

  23. teri says:

    I heard on the news, that The Met has a great roof top patio. If anyone knows about this, please fill me in.

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