A European-style patio in the heart of the Exchange District in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Dinner at Bijou Patio in the Exchange District of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada was my first dinner out in six months. Although we’d had take-out food a few times, we’d not gone out to eat since the start of the pandemic. Bijou Patio turned out to be a lovely choice.
The Exchange District in central Winnipeg is a National Historic Site featuring North America’s largest and best-preserved collection of heritage buildings. Designed in architectural styles popular at the turn of the twentieth century, these stone, brick, terracotta, and Tyndall limestone buildings today house restaurants, boutique shops, art galleries, studios, and more. Old Market Square, an urban green space in the heart of the Exchange, features an outdoor stage known as the Cube and is home to a variety of festivals throughout a normal summer.
Bijou Patio is located next to the Cube. In non-pandemic summers you may find festival craft markets or other festival activities here. In the summer of 2020, the cobblestoned plaza is lined with physically distanced picnic and patio tables and offers outdoor dining and drinking.
A bar booth sells local beers, cider, wine, kombucha, and lemonade. Take-out food is available from over ten restaurants in the area. Signage on each table contains instructions on how to place your order which involves scanning the QR code on the sign with your smartphone to access delivery menus and place your order.
The food is delivered to your table by Bijou Patio “runners.” With so many participating restaurants there is a good variety of food choices: burgers, sandwiches, roti, rice bowls, kebabs, poutine, soups, salads, pasta, desserts, and more.
Face-masked patio staff were readily available to help us with the ordering system. The process isn’t difficult, but the fact that my husband and I chose to order from different restaurants complicated things. It turned out we needed to place two orders to do that. A staff member said they’re looking into ways to allow multiple restaurants in one order, but this isn’t in place yet. One of the restaurants added a small delivery fee of two dollars, the other didn’t. I received emails with confirmation of our orders and estimated delivery times of ten and twelve minutes respectively. Our food arrived slightly quicker than that.
I ordered Indonesian Mussels, listed as sweet and spicy, from Amsterdam Tea Room. I considered my first bites of mussels at the top to be fairly average, but they became tastier as I dug into the mussels underneath, especially the ones that had spent the most time in the delicious sauce. My husband ordered Pad Thai from Bodegos. It was also very tasty and a fairly large portion size. He took home enough for another meal.
Being outside on physically distanced tables with staff in face masks felt very safe. Shortly after we sat down, a Bijou staff member set a jar of spray hand sanitizer on our table for our use. As soon as people left a table, staff rushed over to spray and wipe the table.
Although the area wasn’t as lively as it might have been in a non-pandemic year, it wasn’t dead either. There were people out and about, at Bijou Patio and other restaurant patios in the area, or just walking by. As we ate in the early evening air, we listened to taped music playing from speakers at the bar booth. It would have been a lovely way to spend an evening at any time. In the middle of a pandemic after months of eating in, it was sheer delight.
Bijou Patio is open Monday to Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm. Dogs are welcome.
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