Bahay Kubo Tiki Bar In Winnipeg
A tiki-style bar and restaurant in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with a contemporary take on Filipino dishes
I recently made my first visit to Bahay Kubo, a tiki-bar-style restaurant that opened in early 2023 in the historic Exchange District of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Housed in the atrium of the Royal Albert Arms, Bahay Kubo is the creation of co-founders Allan Pineda and Eejay Chua.
The restaurant name refers to a type of stilt house indigenous to the Philippines traditionally made of wood, bamboo, and grass. Bamboo features prominently in the eatery’s décor. There are tiki masks, wooden carvings, string lights, and many plants.
The menu of small plates meant for sharing contains contemporary takes on Filipino dishes. It also pulls flavours from anywhere in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific that has a type of bamboo house similar to the bahay kubo. And, of course, there are classic tiki drinks. I tried four of the items on the menu. All were beautifully displayed and delicious.
Apparently, the panko-breaded SPAM fries are a crowd-pleaser, but I did not try them on this visit. I saw them on tables around me. They are served in a SPAM container.
The Royal Albert Arms, often referred to simply as “the Albert,” is a heritage building. It opened in 1913 as the Royal Albert with 53 rooms used by salesmen, travellers, and visitors on business in the adjacent warehouse district. Not long after opening, Winnipeg’s economy took a downturn. The hotel survived but its subsequent checkered history includes a string of changing ownership, prostitution, illicit liquor production during prohibition, crime, a hippie sub-culture, and low income housing.
The Royal Albert Arms also has a history of being one of Winnipeg’s most iconic music venues. The dingy main-floor bar was the hub of the indie and punk rock music scene from the 1980s to 2011. Bands such as Green Day, Nickelback, and Foo Fighters played there before their international success. A watermain break shut it down in 2011. It reopened in 2013, but closed again within three months amid a soap-opera-like series of events that included financial difficulties, a criminal business partner, infighting, and firing of staff. Today there is still a music venue on the main floor behind the restaurant (it re-opened in 2019), but it is not as active and iconic as it once was.
The atrium at the front of the building was added sometime in the 1990s, much to the chagrin of heritage building advocates. Despite detracting from the heritage value, the atrium makes a nice setting for the bambooed Bahay Kubo restaurant. Bahay Kubo in the Atrium is open Wednesdays through Saturdays starting at 5 pm. They have an Open Mic series that features live performances from singers, songwriters, and musicians. Check the Bahay Kubo Instagram page or its Facebook page.
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Looks like a lovely place to dine. But I might be a little wary of the SPAM fries.
Ken, next time I go to the restaurant I will try the SPAM fries. I’m not sure they’ll be a favourite with me, but I won’t know until I try.