An Afternoon On The Town

April 3rd, 2013 by Emma Durand-Wood

My best friend and former co-WoMHer Aaron came out from Alberta for a visit over the Easter weekend and despite the continued snow and wonky weather, we had a wonderful time. The highlight of his visit, for me anyway, was the afternoon we spent on the town. Since my life is more or less comprised of toddler wrangling, grocery shopping and cooking, and working part-time, I relish any chance I get to do previously “normal” things like just hanging out in the city without a specific plan. Seriously – I didn’t know how much I cherished spontaneity until it wasn’t so easy to come by!

So Aaron and I had a few child-free hours in which to do whatever we pleased, and we decided to start with lunch. Driving over the Disraeli, Aaron remarked a little wistfully, “I love Winnipeg”. I laughed and we talked about that for a bit. I told him that I don’t think I love it as much as I used to, but that’s probably just because the novelty has worn off a bit. I remember when I moved here, I used to think, “Wow, this place is awesome. It’s a major city, but you can get from one end to the other in under  30 minutes!” Nowadays, I hear that something’s in St. Vital and think “ugh, there goes my day”. Okay, I exaggerate, but not that much. Anyway, I was glad that Aaron still has such a positive impression of our fair city, even though it didn’t wind up being the right place for him to settle down.

Anyway, back to our lunch plans. Aaron’s a long-time vegetarian and I can take meat or leave it, which until about a year ago made finding a mutually agreeable restaurant a breeze. But then I went mostly gluten- and grain-free and that throws everything for a loop 🙂  Luckily, I’d been chomping at the bit to visit Shawarma Khan since they opened in January, and when we checked out their menu online and noted both vegan and gluten-free options we knew we were set.  After our quick jaunt downtown, we easily found Shawarma Khan, a bright and airy eatery with good music and super-friendly service. Aaron ordered a falafel platter and I, the chicken shawarma platter, and then we chatted with the congenial owner, Obby. Word on the street is that he’s a local football hero, though I don’t know anything about sports, so that’s sort of irrelevant for me. The real question is, how’s the food?

When our food was ready, it was the moment of truth. Let me preface this by saying that I have been dreaming of a certain chicken shawarma since leaving Vancouver coming up on five years ago. I’ve had shawarma a couple times around town but it never quite lives up to the shawarma of my glory days. Obby’s shawarma was actually quite different from what I was expecting, and no competition for my beloved manna from Falafel King, but was great despite its differences. What would definitely keep me going back was the out-of-this-world tzatziki-ish dip and hummus…. soooo good!! And the bean salad, basmati rice and roasted garlic potatoes were the perfect accompaniments. Our platters were huge and I am sad to say I even left a few morsels on my plate. The real baby in my stomach left no room for any bigger a food baby. I can’t wait to go back.

After our meal we plugged the meter and wandered over to Antiques & Funk. Aaron and I have always loved thrift shopping but thankfully over the years have become a bit more discriminating in our purchases. We poked around the store for a while, looking at the caches of old postcards and photos, admiring a surprisingly nice curling-themed china teacup and saucer, and lusting after a vintage milk bottles and an Old Holland coffee tin, made by a Winnipeg manufacturer (alas, at $95 it was just a dream). We snagged a few treasures and then drove over to Old House Revival, one of my all-time favourite Winnipeg shops, but alas, they are closed on Mondays. Then I had a brainwave… we should check out the newly opened Neechi Commons!

So, over to Main Street we went, and easily found parking. Despite reading a bunch of articles about it, I wasn’t really sure what Neechi Commons was all about; all I really knew was they they sold local stuff like wild blueberries, wild rice, bannock, and pickerel. Turns out it is actually a small but well-stocked grocery store, with lots of great-looking fresh produce at prices on par with Sobey or Superstore, along with a bakery, cafe, and community space! Aaron quickly snatched up a packet of Black Pearl “Idle No More” coffee (custom blended for Neechi) and some fresh bannock buns. I was surprised to find my favourite parchment muffin papers in their baking section and grabbed a few boxes of those. We then drooled over the menu at the quaint cafe upstairs (why hello, North End Breakfast!) and made a mental note to come back for a meal next time Aaron’s in town. And I will definitely be back to pick up some frozen wild blueberries and bulk wild rice next time I need some.

From there it was back home and back to reality, where my husband was in the midst of a nap-showdown with our feisty tot, and consequently was extra-thrilled to devour one of the bannock buns Aaron had bought. Brief as it was, I loved our afternoon on the town and was glad to check out two new businesses with such a dear (and Winnipeg-loving) friend!

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