My first home in Winnipeg was in St. Boniface, near Marion and Archibald, where I lived with friends when I arrived in the ‘Peg. St. Boniface was definitely a neighbourhood I’d heard of before I moved here, and not just because I had friends there. I liked the neighbourhood a lot: it was nice to walk around in, had a good mix of ages, and was on a good, fast bus route to downtown.
But my next move was to…drumroll please…. Elmwood! Yep, I learned pretty quickly what people think of this neighbourhood. Before long, I was ambiguously saying “East Kildonan” (or “EK” if I was feeling particularly cool) when asked where I was living… it meant I didn’t have to follow up with defences like “it’s not so bad, really!” or “but our street isn’t one of the really sketchy ones!” I didn’t grow up in Winnipeg, and therefore didn’t have any preconceived notions of this neighbourhood, but I had to admit, there are definitely certain pockets of fairly undesirable-looking houses! And I definitely don’t feel quite at ease here when I’m out by myself at night.
It’s been pleasant, though, the increasing frequency at which I hear “I live in that neighbourhood, too” or “We just bought a place not too far from you”. In my experience so far, it’s a place where houses are pretty reasonably priced and some great fixer-upper deals can be found. I find this part of town to be very convenient – getting downtown is only a quick 10-minute bus or car ride away.
I recently came across a really neat section of the CBC Manitoba website. It’s called “Urban Myths: Think you know Winnipeg? Think Again“. I’m not sure where the name came from, but the content is fascinating: 19 neighbourhood profiles from Centennial to Wolseley. The Elmwood profile seems spot-on to me.
“A lack of banks in the area gave boom to moneylenders and payday loan businesses”
And how! There are at least three nearby that I can think of off the top of my head. That, and locksmiths….hmmm….
“It also has had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the province.”
This is not surprising to me, either. I take the bus home from work downtown almost every day, and there are always, always young women with strollers on the bus headed this direction. Many more than when I took the 19 from downtown to St. B at the same time of the day.
Elmwood does have its redeeming qualities, though:
“Still, Elmwood is a tight-knit community with a great network of schools and churches.”
Last summer, the Free Press ran a great series of articles called “Winnipeg from A to Z”, and it provided a great initial orientation to some of the city’s insider knowledge. E was for Elmwood, and indeed, Joe Paraskevas uncovered a close group of long-time Elmwood residents. One of them, Rob Knight, told him, ““Elmwood people who still hang out together, went to school together, and they’re my age, which is the mid-60s. They’re still all friends with one another. They go down to Palm Springs together. They camp together. They all go out for dinners together. I’m not saying that that doesn’t happen in other areas of the city … But I certainly feel it’s more profound in Elmwood.””
Anyway, now that the weather is progressively getting a little nicer, I’ve been exploring some of the local businesses in my ‘hood, and I thought I’d share some of my favourite spots with you!
- Big Rick’s Hot Rod Diner (379 Henderson at Larsen; open 8-3 Monday to Friday, 9 to 3 Saturday, 9 to 2 Sunday) is the place I consider my “breakfast local”. It’s close, cheap, and we’ve never had to wait for a table. The food is consistently good diner fare, and there’s tons to look at while you wait for your meal. A perfect spot to do the crossword on the weekend, or meet friends for late breakfast. Breakfast Winnipeg didn’t love it, but conceded “Great value for your money“. I have to agree. It’s definitely not the sort of place I’d bring my mum, but for a greasy spoon, it’s perfect. We’ve never struck up conversation with fellow diners, but I get the impression that there’s a real community there. (And the place has a great story, too.)
- With a huge selection of beautiful and reasonably priced treasures, Vintage Veruca’s (241 Henderson; open 12-5 Monday to Saturday) is a quaint little antique shop right on the corner of Henderson and Johnson (and there’s a bus-stop right in front of it). I love popping in here every now and then to see what’s new. There’s a great selection of gorgeous teacups, Depression glass in many colours, pretty Jadite and milk glass items, and much more. A fantastic place to find a unique gift at a decent price.
- Mercadito Latino (219 Henderson; open noon to 6 Monday to Friday; 11 to 6:30 Saturdays) is my most recent discovery. Presuming it was an ethnic foods store, we recently popped in to see what kind of items they carried – but quickly realised they’ve got a little restaurant in the back, too! We enjoyed delicious and authentic El Salvadorian pupusas (sort of like a pancake with bean, pork, and cheese stuffing) and quesadilla (different from the sort I was familiar with, Salvadorian quesadilla is a mild, sweet bread) and tried a tasty pink beverage called horchata. Our hostess was very friendly, and the man running the till told us they’d been a coffee shop for several years but only recently opened the cafe portion. We can’t wait to go back – both to purchase ingredients for a delicious home-cooked feast, and for more of the restaurant’s mouth-watering meals.
- As Laurel described in her last post, there are certain places you have to scope out when you move to a new ‘hood. Aside from a local pub (and a breakfast local, we concurred), another essential place to seek out is your nearest coffeeshop (Tim’s and Starbucks don’t really count). Outside of downtown, the only one that I’ve been to is Mountain Bean (wayyyyyy up north on Henderson) and Finale’s (nowhere near). I need a place closer to home, preferably within walking distance. And while I haven’t had a chance to visit it yet, I think Sam’s Place ( 159 Henderson; open 10-10 Monday to Saturday) might be my closest coffeeshop. An MCC initiative, Sam’s Place is a used bookstore, a coffeeshop, and a place where emerging artists can perform. Our neighbours report that they’ve been and it’s lovely. I can’t wait to check it out, too.
- And of course, there’s always Roxy Lanes (385 Henderson). Not the most modern bowling alley (is there any such thing, anyway?), good times-a-plenty can be had for reasonable prices – I think it’s $7 for two games, including shoes. How can you go wrong with that?
In August, we’ll move just across Henderson Highway to the adjoining Glenelm area (which, according to the CBC profile is known as the “Wolseley of Elmwood”). It’s funny: it’s only a five minute walk from our current house, but it’s like another world completely. Bigger trees, better maintained houses, more chalk on the sidewalks… just a nicer aesthetic appeal and honestly, a neighbourhood that I think I’ll feel a little safer in, especially at night. Fortunately, it’s so close to where I live now, that I’ll be able to continue enjoying all these businesses I’ve discovered so far.
Do you know of any hidden Elmwood gems? Do share!