Springtime in Winnipeg can sometimes be a bit surreal. A rise from five below freezing to five above is enough to change the landscape of the entire city. The layer of dirt-covered snow melts to reveal the yellowed grass below, jeans and winter boots are left at home in favour of shorts and sandals, and restaurant patios that have lain dormant for months are suddenly teeming with customers.
We all know the popular drags; Corydon, Osborne, and Sherbrook are always reliable choices when looking for somewhere to drink and dine under the open sky. And these places are great, but to never stray from the beaten path might mean missing out on some of the city’s finest outdoor dining. Places like…
1. In Ferno’s Bistro – 312 Rue des Meurons (pictured above)
After only ten years of business, In Ferno’s Bistro in St. Boniface has already established a reputation as one of the best places in the city to take a date; most of the diverse group of entrees are in the $20 to $25 range, and the service is excellent. With room for up to 75 people, In Ferno’s has by far the highest capacity of any patio on this list. During the summer, the restaurant brings in jazz groups to perform outside, and they even throw the odd kegger so customers can save a bit of money on drinks.
Why the patio’s special: Privacy
“We have big lilac bushes along one side, so in the spring you don’t even feel like you’re along the street,” says general manager Chris Kirouac. “It’s very enclosed, which gives it a nice atmosphere.”
2. The Neighbourhood Bookstore & Cafe – 898 Westminster Avenue
Deep in the heart of Wolseley, this unassuming cafe is more than just a place to grab a book and a cup of coffee. Though the Neighbourhood Bookstore & Cafe serves staples like soup, sandwiches, and desserts, their real specialty is onigiri, rice balls filled with tuna, kelp, or pickled plum. There’s no alcohol on the menu, but you can get an Original Birch Beer, one of several cane sugar sodas the café keeps in stock. The patio, which seats between 15 and 20, operates year-round, and is often used for performances by local folk musicians during the summer months.
Why the patio’s special: Community
“It’s bracketed by these big cedars, and when people walk by on the sidewalk, you’re right there,” says owner Bill Sugler. “You’ve got this connection to the street, which I think is the lure of any patio.”
3. Deen’s Caribbean Restaurant and Patio – 205 Marion Street
One of only six Caribbean restaurants in the city, Deen’s serves up all sorts of traditional Trinidadian cuisine, including several curries and more than 20 styles of roti. What really sets this place apart, though, is the huge 50-seat patio enclosed by several walls of lush growth. Owner Ken Mungal says the restaurant has been open for almost 40 years, making his patio one of the oldest in the city.
Why the patio’s special: Music
On Fridays and Saturdays, Deen’s uses their outdoor stage to host acts that range from local English and French rock to calypso and Latin American music, sometimes letting the show run well into the night.
4. Segovia Tapas Bar and Restaurant – 484 Stradbrook Avenue
Just a 30-second walk west of Osborne, Segovia Tapas Bar and Restaurant is about as close as you can get to Winnipeg’s nightlife without having to put up with the noise and commotion of the strip. The patio, which is encompassed by rustic wooden framing, is a great place to relax with some delectable Spanish-influenced cuisine and a glass of sangria (or a pitcher, depending on how your day went).
Why the patio’s special: Location
“It’s pretty intimate and tucked away, but because we’re off Osborne you get to do a bit of people watching as well,” says owner Carolina Konrad.
5. Pasquale’s Ristorante & Pizzeria – 109 Marion Street
On the surface, Pasquale’s Ristorante & Pizzeria could be seen as just another place to get some tasty, decently-priced Italian cuisine. But in summer, the restaurant’s real draw is its semi-covered rooftop patio, which has seating for almost 50 customers. Since it’s up on the second story, the patio is able to steer clear of much of the dust and noise that can sometimes diminish the patio experience.
Why the patio’s special: Ambience
“It’s an especially great place when there’s a full moon,” says owner Joe Loschiavo. “That’s when the Sinatra’s cranked and the martinis are out.”
Mark Schram grew up on a ranch in southwestern Manitoba and now writes out of Winnipeg. If you would like to offer him a job or ask him about how to pull a calf, you can contact him at email@example.com.