The architecturally stunning Canadian Human Rights Museum may have just opened in Winnipeg, but indie rockers Royal Canoe have a fondness for the city's rougher side.
When the Juno-nominated band shot the video for Exodus of the Year, the homage to workaday Winnipeg could have been called the alternative-tourism campaign reel. "This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but also a sincere take on the real Winnipeg," says Royal Canoe frontman Matt Peters. "We don't have nice things in the way that Toronto or Montreal do, or even a city like Calgary that has so much money. You have to really look for it. But the things that are nice – we're really proud and we really support them."
Here, Peters, who is touring with the band this fall, shares five of his favourite places in the 'Peg. Some are gritty, some are fancy, but all worth seeking out.
Good coffee shops
"In the last five years, there has been this influx of boutique hipster coffee shops, for a lack of a better term. There's just a really great scene for that here. There's Parlour, Little Sister, Thom Bargen and a bunch of other ones. It started with Parlour downtown on Main Street in the Exchange District, one of the nicer early 20th-century architecture areas. That's something that's encouraging, too, because Winnipeg has always struggled with trying to generate enthusiasm from the population, getting them to come downtown." 468 Main St., parlourcoffee.ca
Deer + Almond
"One of the really nice places in the city is a restaurant called Deer + Almond. The guy who runs it is chef Mandel Hitzer. It's in a small building that used to be an old diner downtown. It's your modern cuisine and they have wonderful cocktails. They also set up a pop-up restaurant in the middle of the winter on the river, called Raw/Almond. It's 30 below outside but Mandel and a number of other chefs come together and make this a thing to do." 85 Princess St., deerandalmond.com
"One thing that we do very well [in Winnipeg] is incredible Vietnamese and Thai food. There's a place called Nhu Quynh: it's a small place. My favourite dish there is the No. 23 – the beef vermicelli soup. It's spicy, sweet and kind of salty all at the same time. I've never had anything like it. It's in the West End. And then I would recommend Thida's. Coincidentally the No. 23 at Thida's is also the thing to get. It's a green curry coconut soup. It's not a fine dining experience but the food is excellent." Nhu Quynh: 609 Ellice Ave.; Thida's: 78 Donald St.
The Good Will
"If you're talking about the Winnipeg music scene, the worst thing would be to go to MTS Centre – that's not experiencing the city. That's like entering an arena like you would anywhere else. Nightlife here can be a challenging experience, so there's a big house party scene. In October, a new venue is opening up directly beneath our practice space called the Good Will. It's going to be part bar and venue, part coffee shop, part pizza joint. And there's another one called the Handsome Daughter. Both are opening up around the same time." The Good Will: 625 Portage Ave.; Handsome Daughter: 61 Sherbrook St.
Rainbow Trout Music Festival
"Rainbow Trout Music Festival organizes these enormous bike rallies in Winnipeg where [sometimes] hundreds of people show up. There are usually a couple of low-riding bikes that are dragging along little carts with PA speakers. Then you intermittently stop for a dance party. The music festival itself takes place in the middle of August, 45 minutes south of the city. It's local music. There's no corporate influence. It's at a campground on the Rosseau River. During the day, people are sprawling over these giant inflatable boats in the river and basking in the sun. It's just so nice." Rainbowtroutmusicfestival.com
This interview has been edited and condensed.