There is not doubt that Canada is a cool place, obviously some parts more than others. Unfortunately, one town that does not seem to get the praise it deserves is Winnipeg in the prairie province of Manitoba. What I find entertaining is whether on the train, in my hotel or speaking to friends, when I mentioned how excited I was to be going to Winnipeg I received looks that would typically be given to a raving mad man. This confuses me because the city has just as much charm as its metropolitan siblings of Toronto and Vancouver. With friendly people, Chicago-style architecture and an ever-increasing number of young entrepreneurs, the city’s charm is endless.
As my first trip to Winnipeg focused on general travel, I had something more creative in mind for this time around — an adventure in Winnipeg. The main focus of my most recent articles have all been a “Gentleman’s Adventure” in Canada’s major cities. These articles examine the concept of how a man can have the confidence of a “gentleman” through a good drink, good grooming and good clothes. Winnipeg had a surprising number of experiences that lend themselves a similar adventure.
Gentleman’s Guide to Grooming in Winnipeg
As mentioned in my most recent articles about Toronto and Vancouver, the barber scene in Canada is on a steady rise. Influenced heavily by style innovations in Los Angeles and a growing desire for shorter hair, men are looking for a place to meet their new social and grooming needs.
The place that best represents this Hunter & Gunn in West Broadway. Out of all the places I have been to recently, the vibe here was most eclectic. Vintage boxing posters co-exist with mounted taxidermy in a space that would best be described as every man’s dream. The unique twist that I experienced at Hunter & Gunn was that in such a male dominated industry, my barber was a woman. This is not a bad thing, but refreshing. I received a hot shave and great conversation as I expected from any other establishment. A highlight that I discovered on Foursquare about the barbershop is its washroom. I know this sounds strange, but it is actually really cool. With walls covered in old concert posters, there is even a chalkboard encouraging people to leave a message. I loved it, but please do remember to wash your hands!
Gentleman’s Guide to Drinking in Winnipeg
Winnipeg, unlike Vancouver and Toronto, seems to be still in its infancy when it comes to the craft beer scene with breweries like Half Pints Brewing Co. and Fort Garry Brewing Company running the show. This is not a bad thing, both make fantastic beer, but it’s nowhere near as developed a scene as its larger metropolitan counterparts.
From what I saw, the cocktail scene in the city was very impressive. Prairie 360 Skyline Restaurant and Lounge, the upscale revolving eatery behind the Fort Garry Hotel, has an amazing whisky bar. With taxidermic heads of deer, dark lighting and a piano player it was both elegant and eccentric. I found the bartender’s whisky sour well-balanced with splashes of red wine, rye and tartness. The signature drink is called the “Al Capone” – a pomegranate juice and whisky-based cocktail. For me, this drink was a little sweet and I found the complex flavors of the cocktail overshadowed by the pomegranate. Not a bad cocktail, but not my style. The restaurant’s homemade pickles and expert cuts of meat left little to be sad about.
With the rise of “Mad Men” and other shows showcasing the “good old days,” the popularity of the Old Fashioned and other retro cocktails seem to be on the rise. Personally, I have come to love Old Fashioned drinks and when I was told the best one could be found at Deseo Bistro, I could not resist. Perhaps coming in a half hour before they closed on a Wednesday was not the best idea, but completely worth it. For a $10 cocktail the ingredients were very high quality – right down to the cherry. Most bars use Maker’s Mark bourbon for their cocktails. Not a bad choice, but the rail choice of countless bartenders. At Deseo Bistro, they go right for the good stuff with Woodford Reserve, a fantastic and expensive product well suited for the cocktail. The cherry was not that bright red thing often found in grocery stores, but a real cherry that had been expertly prepared. It was actually one of the best old fashions I have ever had.
Now I know I said earlier that the craft beer scene in Winnipeg was limited, but this does not apply to the beer scene in general. Many of the taps in the city carry a great selection of beers. One bar stands out as king in this regard: Barley Brothers Brewery and Restaurant. With 156 beers on tap from all over the world, the possibilities are endless. The restaurant also makes its own pretzels and incorporates local meats and produce into much of the menu. While sitting with Raj, the beer manager, he exposed me to some great IPAs including one cultivated from yeast strains found on a brew-master’s beard. It was really good too! Sometimes a sports bar and other times a beer lover’s heaven, Barley Brothers fulfills a huge role in the development of any “Gentleman.”
For those looking for a more casual experience, locals recommend the Toad in the Hole, Yellow Dog and Handsome Daughter pubs. All are great locations to grab a drink and mingle with friendly Winnipeggers.
Gentleman’s Mind in Winnipeg
Having a gentleman’s mind is both a question of education and a state of mind. The beautiful thing about Winnipeg is that it is a center of learning with cinema outlets, art galleries and interesting museums. This next part of the article will talk about how to improve a gentleman’s mind. Firstly, by gaining knowledge about the rights of our fellow man at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and secondly about how a gentleman can improve his state of mind at Thermëa Spa.
One cannot visit Winnipeg without noticing the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. In a previous article I wrote about the city, I spoke about the significance of the museum’s architecture and galleries. The fist time I visited the museum was still in its construction phase and the galleries had not been set up. On this second visit, I finally saw the finished product. Conceptually, the museum is fantastic with its large amounts of multimedia, interactive displays and striking art to get guests to interact with the wide-ranging content. I was astonished to see droves of student groups absorbed in study about various genocides and human rights law in Canada. The museum has faced criticism for its handling of Aboriginal groups, but it also seems these same groups are highly active in the day-to-day operations of the museum. I have no doubt the museum will leave a large impact on its guests, but the sheer volume of information the museum contains should be considered. Seeing it all in 1 or even 10 visits would be impossible. Find what most interests you, focus on this and you are guaranteed to learn something.
In terms of state of mind, one cannot do better then Thermëa Spa. This Nordic-style spa within the city limits is a perfect escape from the cold weather and a great place to unwind after a long and stressful week. This complex consists of a series of pools, saunas and vapor rooms. The pools vary from extremely warm to polar cold, and are meant to be a refreshing contrast from the extreme dry heat in the Finnish sauna. My favorite rooms where the vapor chambers. Here, either orange or eucalyptus scented steam clean the pores and refreshes the skin. A shower is offered in the complex with exfoliating salts as a pleasant follow-up to all that sweating. The complex also has two great lounges where after a soak you can lay down, have a tea and listen to some soothing music.
I have visited all manner of spas in Korea, Japan, Kyrgyzstan and Germany, and this was by far the most relaxing experience I have ever had. For those looking to spend the day, there is also an exclusive restaurant on site, where healthy dishes like bison barley soup and toasted seed sandwiches are served. The great selection of local and international beers helps in reaching full relaxation! Just a word of warning, the extreme heat of the pools makes for a beautiful fairy-like atmosphere, but don’t let all that steam fool you – if you don’t wear a toque your hair will turn to ice in the winter!
Gentleman’s Guide to Dress in Winnipeg
As I have mentioned on my other gentleman’s adventure articles, I never like to tell men how to dress, but know that Winnipeg has a lot going for it in terms of inspiration. The definite area for the fashionable man in the city is the Exchange District. This is the area where a gentleman can find designer shoes and accessories at Jose & Markham Footwear, fedoras and ties at Haberdashery, and sleek suits at Hanford Drewitt‘s Broadway location. Neighborhoods like Osborne and West Broadway offer a fantastic series selection of small boutiques and vintage shops. Whether exploring boutiques in the Exchange District or rummaging through the Salvation Army in West Broadway, it is not hard for a gentleman to put together that perfect outfit.
I know it might be hard to conceive that a small city like Winnipeg would offer the modern man the same quality of options as Vancouver or Toronto, but I hope this article has done a little to influence you to journey out to the Chicago of Canada. Remember the ultimate goal of becoming a gentleman is to feel more comfortable with one’s self and to function better in society. By dressing well, looking good and feeling relaxed, a man can function more effectively and be an asset to his community.
I would like to make a special thank you to Tourism Winnipeg and the Fort Garry Hotel for hosting me – for an 100-year-old hotel, it is one classy place. With free coffee delivery, custom-made biscotti, a central location and charming staff it made for a more than delightful stay! Thank you again!