Chances are if you are coming to Winnipeg this week for the 103rd Grey Cup, you’re going to look for some libatious places to wet your whistle.
Now, I’m not saying that all CFL fans are drinkers — indeed the 103rd Grey Cup Festival has plenty of family-friendly fare, while our own Grey Cup guide offers plenty of attractions and things to do away from the field — but that being said, Winnipeg is bubbling with both classy drinking establishments and proud dive bars that would be a shameful to miss while you’re in town for Canada’s biggest party.
Plus, they’ve extended service hours until 3 a.m. from Thursday to Sunday.
For the sake of brevity, we’ve listed just a few unique Winnipeg rooms, (not including clubs, because I’m too old for those) while there are no national chains on the list as we are all about keeping it #onlyinthepeg on Peg City Grub.
The Palm Lounge (222 Broadway, located in The Fort Garry Hotel)
With its domed ceiling, lavish draperies and gilded walls, the Fort Garry Hotel’s Palm Lounge provides a step back in time. The 102-year-old railway hotel is a grand dame of historic architecture in Winnipeg with this lounge being its social epicentre. The servers and bartenders are in dapper dress, the clientele is to refrain from wearing hats, there is frequently someone tickling the ivories on the grand piano or some live jazz trio, the cocktails are all of the classic variety while the wine and beer menu is suitable for the surroundings. What more could one ask for to start the evening off with an air of dignity?
Bailey’s (185 Lombard Avenue)
In the Exchange District you’ll find several spots of note, a great starting point of which is Bailey’s. One step inside and you’re instantly transported to an Olde World English drinking room where a massive oak bar serves as the hub for a multi-room lounge. The portraits of long-gone British aristocrats that adorn the brick walls play foil to the many screens that are tuned into sporting events. The main booze draw comes byway of an extensive scotch list – which Bailey’s insists is the biggest in the city – along with a good smattering of cognacs and wine.
Albert Street Cocktail Company (91 Albert Street)
Albert Street Cocktail Company is arguably Winnipeg’s newest and most drink-focused room. It’s a dandy of a place, with industrial-style wood tables that can be cranked to various heights, stately furniture, and an extensive cocktail menu (featuring both originals and “Vintages”) that shows what glassware your drink will come in. Their handcrafted cocktails take a bit of time to be produced but it is worth it (even at around $11 per drink). Word to the wise, don’t be a chump and order a vodka-seven; a sazerac is much more the style here.
Prairie 360 Whiskey Lounge (83 Garry Street, take the elevator to the top)
At 28 floors up in the middle of downtown, nothing beats the view inside Prairie 360’s Whiskey Lounge. This masculine room – complete with deep comfy chairs and a slightly disturbing artwork featuring Winnie the Pooh in a hunting scenario – is a great counterpoint to its sister room, the piano lounge across the hall. Lounge guests come for the view, but it’s the tipple list that keeps this downtown spot on the must-do list. The 30th floor revolving restaurant and its lounges stock an estimated 240 spirits and 200 bottles of wine. The curated whiskey and scotch menu is divided into five tasting categories: floral and fragrant; smoky and peaty; malty and dry; rich and round; and fruity and spicy.
SMITH (75 Forks Market Road)
Inside the Inn at the Forks is where you’ll find SMITH, whose rustic-chic lounge features “antler” chandeliers, Hudson Bay blanket banquettes and rough-hewn tables. SMITH’s house-made bitters and syrups are good examples of the growing trend of mixology in Winnipeg, with most of them being put to good use on a cocktail list that is a double-shot of classic and modern. They also do a nice house-cured charcuterie board to nibble at while their giant ice cubes are the height of sophistication.
Rae and Jerry’s Steak House (1405 Portage Avenue)
This legendary establishment, which has been serving it up since 1957, is just begging to be used as a set for a Quentin Tarantino movie. Rae and Jerry’s retro decor features bright red vinyl chairs set against dark panel where you swear you could squint and see Don Draper tackling a Rusty Nail in a dark corner as Roger Sterling tucks into a steak (which, I kid you not, you can order with a tin of chilled tomato juice instead of a soup course). The lounge attracts a mishmash of devoted clientele that ranges from stylish seniors, dealmakers, professionals, hipsters and the creative class.
Le Garage Cafe (166 Provencher Boulevard)
Leave it to Winnipeg’s French community to make such a fine drinking and eating establishment. Le Garage, located in belle Saint Boniface, is constantly rocking with live bands throughout the week, great food — including a much celebrated poutine, and that fine distinction of being equally popular with the University crowd as it is with older folks.
The Toad in the Hole (108 Osborne Street)
When it comes to Osborne Village, one of Winnipeg’s liveliest nighttime neighbourhoods, The Toad in the Hole Pub and Eatery is most certainly one of the picks of the pool. It houses a whisky bar – which is exclusive to a crowd 25 years old and up – that features over 160 whiskies from around the globe and a main pub area that is always hopping with locals.
Good Will Social Club (625 Portage Avenue)
The hipster capital of Winnipeg could very well be the Good Will Social Club, which recently celebrated its first full year in business. A long communal table is the main feature of one room, along with a pizza by the slice counter from A Little Pizza Heaven and a VHS player and TV (replete with a solid selection of VHS films). The other side is wide-open with a stage at the back (where some form of live music happens every night) along with a dance floor and bar that does solid cocktails and has great beers on tap. Their Instagram account is truly amazeballs if you want to get a real feel for the place before visiting.
Barley Brothers Stadium (2005 Pembina Highway)
With 156 types of draft, along with the distinction of being walkable to the stadium, you’d be a fool not to give a shout out to Barely Brothers. With the FIFA Women’s World Cup already under their belt, where they hosted hundreds of intense American Outlaw fans on a daily basis, this place is ready for (almost) anything that CFL fans can throw at them — even Roughrider fans (we love you Saskatchewan, and we can’t wait to have some pints with you folks and pretend that our seasons never panned out this way).
Glaring omissions that we simply didn’t have room for in this article (also please feel free to fill the comment section with more bars for our visiting CFL fans):
The King’s Head Pub (read about it here)
The Cornerstone (read about it here)
The Grove (read about it here)
Yellow Dog Tavern (read about it here)
Rudy’s Eat and Drink (fabulous retro interior serving classic cocktails right in the heart of downtown in the Manitoba Hydro Building)
Tavern United (several locations in the city)
Blaze Restaurant and Lounge at the Delta Hotel (read the fresh review here)
The MET (newly refurbished space downtown with a classy lounge)
Black Rabbit Bistro (for elevated bar food and craft cocktails)
The Handsome Daughter (read our fresh new review about it here)
The Merchant Kitchen in the Alt Hotel (read our fresh review here then go order the Korean fried chicken and Thai fried rice)
Corydon Avenue in general: with places like Bar Italia, Teo’s & Mano a Mano, Confusion Corner Bar and Grill, SPIN Restaurant and Martini Bar, and newbie The Roost Social House (which I’ll be writing a full article about next week), this is the spot to be in Winnipeg if you and your crew want to embark on a serious pub crawl (let this map from Corydon Avenue Biz be your guide).
And remember, please drink responsibly and call a cab:
Unicity Taxi 204.925.3131
Duffy’s Taxi 204.925.0101