Jul 202014
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Feast on Foot

Sampling restaurants amid the history of Winnipeg’s Exchange District

(Update: Feast on Foot tours are offered by the Winnipeg Exchange Biz every summer. The exact tours offered vary a bit from year to year. The particular tour highlighted in this post no longer exists, but it provides a good idea of what the tours are like.)

This past week I took in Afternoon Delight, one of the walking food tours offered by The Exchange BIZ in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The tour began with our guide providing information on the area.

The tour takes place in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, one of 16 neighbourhoods across Canada to be designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. The area received its designation because of its significance in the history of Canada in opening up the west and because it contains 140 heritage buildings. In Winnipeg’s boom time from the 1880s to 1920, when it was known as “Gateway to the West”, this area was the city’s centre for the grain trade, finance, and manufacturing.

Winnipeg has more restaurants per capita than any other city in Canada. There are 40 restaurants in The Exchange District’s 20 block area. The tour took us to 5 of these, with our guide providing history about the area and the buildings along the way.

The walking food tours are offered during July and August. The tours vary slightly from year to year. I took this tour in 2014. Current tours may include some of the same restaurants but not all. My experience will, however, give you a flavour of what to expect.

Feast on Foot food tour

I’m ready to start


Travellers Building

Our first stop is at Peasant Cookery, located in the Travellers Building, which was built in 1906-1907 for the North West Commercial Travellers Association. It was a hub for travelling salesmen, who picked up goods at Winnipeg’s warehouses and took them farther west to sell. It housed offices, meeting rooms, lounges, and rooms for the salesmen to stay. There was even a Turkish bath in the basement. Today Peasant Cookery occupies the main floor and the rest of the building contains condominiums.



Peasant Cookery’s tagline is “real food from the land”. They pride themselves on updating their menu with unique ingredients and staying at the forefront of the healthy food movement.

Peasant Cookery bar

We were served in the bar area of Peasant Cookery

Mussels and clams

Mussels and clams with onions and fennel in a saffron sauce at Peasant Cookery

Our next stop was at Deer + Almond on Princess Street. This street was once home to businesses supplying goods to the farming industry. The huge show room windows on many of the buildings allowed for display of tractors and other farm equipment. Deer +Almond opened in 2011 and is on the list of Canada’s Top 50 Restaurants.

Deer + Almond

Interior of Deer + Almond

Chef Mandel Hitzer talked to us about himself and his restaurant. Everything is made from scratch. They cure their own meats, bake their own bread, and work directly with farmers. Mandel Hitzer brought the term “pop-up restaurant” to Winnipeg, a concept where people make reservations at a special dinner to be served at a secret location, which is revealed just prior to the dinner. He is also responsible for Raw Almond, a pop-up restaurant that existed for three weeks in January (for the second year) in a heated tent on the frozen Red and Assiniboine Rivers.

Chef Mandel Hitzer told us about the origin of the restaurant’s name. His name, Mandel, is almond in German. When the opportunity arose to have his own restaurant, one of the first images that came to mind was that of deer running through his grandmother’s property in the Interlake area of Manitoba.

Watermelon and beet salad

Watermelon and beet salad at Deer + Almond
Salad also contains mint, onions, greens, olives, and cow feta.
Beets were salt roasted: laid on a bed of kosher salt and roasted. The salt draws out moisture and enhances sweetness.

As we made our way from restaurant to restaurant. our guide pointed out historically significant buildings. As we sat in the restaurants, she provided information about the history of the buildings and area and showed us old photographs on her tablet. A university student who had just completed a honours degree in Canadian history, her passion for the history of the area enhanced the tour.

Our third stop was Shawarma Khan at the corner of McDermot Avenue and Albert Street. This area was once known as Newspaper Row. Boys sold newspapers on the corner and yelled out news of the day. Three newspapers competed for business. The building Shawarma Khan occupies the main floor of was once the Manitoba Free Press building. The pressed tin ceiling remains in the restaurant.

Shawarma Khan

Shawarma on the spit and row of salads at Shawarma Khan

shawarma description

Description of shawarma on wall of restaurant.
Shawarma is meat sliced very thin, marinated, placed in layers on a vertical spit, and roasted slowly.

shawarma wrap

We were served half a shawarma wrap – choice of chicken or beef and lamb.
I chose beef and lamb.

Shawarma Khan was opened in 2012 by Ottawa-born Canadian Football League player Obby Khan after playing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 2006 to 2012.

Our fourth stop was at Boon Burger Café, an all-vegan café. They are well-known for their burgers based on one of four patty types: grilled mushrooms and brown rice; black beans, red beans, lentils, and brown rice; chickpeas and brown rice; tofu, brown rice, and oats. I’ve not had any of the burgers, but others on the tour had and raved about them.

The building Boon Burger Café occupies was once a covered alley between two buildings where horses pulled drays with goods to the spur railway lines on the street. The brick walls on the side of the cafe are the outside walls of former warehouses. 

Sesame potato fries

Sesame-potato fries at Boon Burger Café
Potatoes are hand-cut, drizzled with sunflower oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper,
tossed with toasted sesame seeds, and baked. Comes with vegetable gravy.

Don Pedros Mexican Kitchen and Cantino

Don Pedro’s Mexican Kitchen and Cantina patio and interior

Our fifth and final stop was at Don Pedros Mexican Kitchen and Cantina. The owner was from Columbia and trained in Argentina.(Update: this restaurant is no longer open.)

Sample plate

Sample plate at Don Pedro’s Don Pedro’s
Fried crispy pork belly pieces, plantain chips, Argentinean chorizo,
Carne Asada steak slices, and breaded, deep-fried jalapenos

There were 11 of us in the tour group, 10 locals and 1 person who grew up in Winnipeg and was now back visiting family and friends. Our tour guide said the patrons of the Exchange District food tours are 75% local, 25% tourists. Often, locals bring out-of-town guests. One person in our group had taken the afternoon tour the previous year. Same restaurants, different menu.

Just before the tour ended, our guide had one last surprise for use. She handed us each a packet containing two sweets from Cake-ology, a bakery in the district.

cakette and imperial cookie

Cakette and Imperial cookie with saskatoon berry filling from Cake-ology
Cakettes are cake, mixed with butter cream, and dipped in white or milk chocolate.
Imperial cookies are sugar cookies sandwiched with jam and topped with a royal icing.

The tour was a fun way to spend an afternoon, experience some new restaurants, and learn a little history. All the food was delicious. There are also two types of evening tours available. Each tour is a little different. The tours run June through August. Contact Exchange District Biz Walking Tours. Reservations are required.

One of the women on our tour worked for the West End Biz, a non-profit organization committed to building a strong community in Winnipeg’s West End, an ethnically diverse neighbourhood just west of downtown. They were about to launch their own food tours. For information on those tours, check out West End Tours.

Do you have a favourite food tour?

This post is part of Travel Photo Mondays on Travel Photo Discovery.

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  69 Responses to “Feast on Foot in Historic Winnipeg”

  1. Didn’t know that Winnipeg has more restaurants per capita than any other city in Canada! It certainly looks like the restaurants are serving some tempting dishes :-). We’d like to bite into those pink Saskatoon berry cookies…

    • This wasn’t the first time I’d heard the bit about Winnipeg having more restaurants per capita than other cities in Canada. There are a lot of good ones. The Imperial cookies were delicious.

  2. What a fun thing to do! And I love that these restaurants are invested in local food. The pictures looked great. I have never heard of a pop-up restaurant but I love the whole idea. Who knew that Winnipeg had so many dining choices!

  3. Very cool idea and what a great way to get another perspective on a city you may have seen already from a bunch of other perspectives. The buildings in that part of town are gorgeous and seem perfectly suited to restaurants as they already ooze charm.

  4. Hello; this tour sounds awesome. I didn’t realize that cities offered these. You have me wanting to find out if they offer anything like this in the houston area. Nothing better for promoting history than giving people good food to help them remember it. looking forward to your next post, max

  5. Hi Donna,
    I think it’s a boon for tourism when a city can offer a food feast with a side order of history. The beet salad and the shawarma look appetizing.
    Have a great week!

    • I found it interesting that it is mostly locals taking in these tours. This is only the second summer the food tours have been offered. The salad and the shawarma were both delicious.

  6. Sounds interesting. Never heard of such tour before.

  7. Donna, what an interesting life you lead and look at the side benefits – those restaurants all looked good – The sesame potato fries and the shawarma wrap were my two favourites – I may try playing around with the sesame potato fries and see if I can come up with something edible.

  8. I remember as a child that my parents traveled alot and the only thing that they talked about is where they ate. A food tour is a great idea. Your photos are wonderful and make you want to take them right off of the computer.

  9. Sounds like a great food tour! What fun!

  10. Your pictures are making me hungry to visit Winnipeg.

  11. My sister went to Winnipeg and loved it! The restaurants look so good and inviting, I think a food tour is a good idea and your photos make the place look fun and friendly

  12. I love the idea of how this could give you a great perspective of a city that you know. From what you’ve shown us, I love the charm of Winnipeg. It is now another place I would love to visit. Sigh, so many great places and so little time (and money)… LOL.

  13. Hmmm. The shawarma wrap would be at the top of my list! My husband and I have been to Montreal, Vancouver, but never Winnipeg. Gosh, your native country is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for giving so many other places to consider traveling too.

    • Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto are the most common known cities for people outside of Canada to visit. But there are a lot of other wonderful spots, including Winnipeg.

  14. I’m getting hungry! This food tour along with history looks like a good idea.

  15. Aloha Donna – What a fun tour. We’ve not spent much time in Winnipeg, but when we return to North America, we will remedy this! 🙂

  16. What a wonderful afternoon. My guess is that you were grateful to be walking in order to walk off all of the tasty food! All of the food sounded and looked delicious. Thank you for the title explanation. That was my first thought… Deer + Almond?

  17. A food tour! Now that’s the right way to experience a city! It all looks delicious, especially the desserts.

  18. I. Am. So. Jealous. I have yet to give a walking tour a try. My husband and I came close on our trip to Chicago a few years ago, but waited to long to make the reservation and the tour was all booked. Your post makes me want to give such a tour a try sooner than later because I know it would be right up my alley.

  19. Winnipeg looks so vibrant and I would love to do a food and walking tour around the streets. I’m especially intrigued by the watermelon and beet salad pictured. I love the unusual combination of ingredients.

    • The combination of ingredients in the salad was unusual but it worked wonderfully. I don’t think there was any dressing on the salad. If there was it was very little and subtle. It wasn’t needed.

  20. What an awesome experience! The food looks amazing. My husband is a self-proclaimed “foodie” so he would really enjoy this post. He has a long list of restaurants on his dream list that he wants to visit. Maybe one day if we strike it rich we can go on a food tour across the world. : )

  21. Donna it is criminal to show such beautiful photos which one cannot savour and devour. Those chips and pork are divine. Did you not just indulge?

  22. Oh yum! Good thing our dinner is almost ready! My fav might be the mussels and clams with fennel and onions in saffron sauce. I’m drooling now; no not really. I will remember this when I visit Winnipeg!

  23. This made me hungry! What a great foodie tour and such a wonderful way to spend a few hours. I liked that they gave you a little bit of variety for the restaurants.

  24. We sometimes think of history are just stories, or associated to locations. It is nice to see history being related to food and restaurants. I want to get one of those imperial cookies.

  25. My immediate reaction to reading this post is to head over to Expedia to see what flights to Winnepeg are like.

  26. Donna, I have been to Winnipeg many times. There is so much to do and see there, that I really enjoyed this post about your experiences. You spoke of food so much that I have to share one of my best – if not THE best – experiences with Caesar salad came from the restaurant in the St. James Hotel. They make their own croutons there, and they are out of this world!

    Hmm. Now I want to go to Winnipeg again.

  27. When I read Deer + Almond, I thought, “I wonder what the meaning comes from”, so I was glad to see you found out 🙂

    • I’m glad he explained it too. I was so focused on the food and the history at the time, I don’t know if I would have thought to ask, but I would have wondered later.

  28. The food tour looks very interesting. I’m adventurous so I would probably try all of those meals.

  29. True confession: I’d go straight for the dessert! Seriously, all very tempting.

  30. That REALLY sounds like a food tour. Interesting that there are just 16 places designated as historic neighborhoods. Is it crazy for me to think that’s a small number? Anyway, I really enjoyed your shots and words. You’re giving me more places to visit when I finally make it to our northern neighbor someday.

    • There are more than 950 national historic sites in Canada, but only 16 neighbourhoods with that designation. I’m not sure what all the criteria are, but for sure the neighbourhood would have to have played a significant role in the history of all of Canada.

  31. My stomach is growling and I’ve just eaten! Those sesame fries did me in!!! Great food tour you gave us. I really should try one of those sometime!

  32. How amazing! I would love to go on a food tour. It is always interesting to find out what drives the chefs to make a certain type of food. Everything looks so good.

  33. This place looks like a foodies heaven. I didn’t even know that such tours existed!! Was there a good selection of vegetarian food on your tour?

  34. I love food tours! The first one I took was in the Dupont Circle area of Washington D.C. and the second was in Napa, CA. They are such fun way to explore an area, learn about the history and delight in tasty delectables! Canada is on my list of place to visit and Winnipeg looks like a great city to explore! Plus the food you got to taste looked great!

  35. What a fun adventure. Food, and history in one fell swoop! Your photos made me hungry. This reminds me a bit of the progressive bicycle dinners I used to participate in where we ride bikes to different people’s homes where each host has prepared a different part of a meal. The first destination was a stop for appetizers, the next for salad, etc. all the through to dessert and usually a Jacuzzi soak to go with it. Great fun and in your case, a chance to decide which restaurants to return to in the future. PS – You might add a caveat at the beginning of your post. Warning: this post WILL make you hungry!

    • It was a fun adventure. I, too, remember progressive dinners I attended many years ago. In my case, there were with neighbours, so we only needed to walk down the street.

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