Winnipeg Neighbourhood Post 2: St Boniface/Norwood Grove

My hopes are set so high for the St. Boniface and Norwood Grove area. With the Esplanade Riel, the brand spankin' new Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Cathedral ruins clustered together, it's the most popular fodder for tourist-y skyline shots; yet there are dilapidated pockets with occasionally downright bizarre businesses dotting the area. It lies so close to some high traffic tourist areas, but there are only a few truly good restaurants to choose from. Yet, with some new and exciting businesses moving into the area in the last year or so, together with its growing popularity in the housing market, I have real hopes for its continued improvement.

As before, each category is arranged from most to least highly recommended. I've selected the spots that I think exemplify some of the best Winnipeg has to offer, but if you ever think I've missed something great, please, let me know!

EAT
Resto Gare
A railway station building and an attached observation car transformed into a bistro and bar, this is a truly unique Winnipeg institution. Dishes are high quality and flavour packed with often locally sourced ingredients, and the service is impeccable. For a romantic and splurgy treat, try one of the Dîners pour Deux.

Marion Street Eatery
This little restaurant is in the same vein of the previously mentioned Village Cafe - a charming eatery tucked inside a fairly sketchy hotel/bar. Gourmet twists on tradition North American comfort food plus lovely minimalist yet cozy decor make this an exciting new spot in Winnipeg.

In Ferno's Bistro
With a cozy ambience, well-made dishes and a rotating specials list as long as my arm, Inferno's Bistro is an old date night spot for Chris and I. The patio is particularly lovely.

DRINK
Cafe Postal
This cozy little specialty coffee shop is among my favourite spots in the city. They have the wildest cold brew contraption I've ever seen, their drinks are lovely, and all the natural wood is to die for. There are only a handful of spots to sit inside, but I've always found a place to perch.

INDULGE
Chocolatier Constance Popp
Head chocolatier Constance is among the best in Manitoba and her passion and attention to detail show in the chocolate she makes. Each bon bon is a delectable work of art that tastes just as good as it looks, and her chocolates are free of preservatives or artificial flavours.

The shop also serves coffee, pastries from A l'Epi de Ble (one of the best little French bakeries in Winnipeg), as well as specialty items like chocolate sculptures. For a unique Manitoba treat, try the Manitobar - rich dark chocolate paired with locally-sourced seeds in the shape of the province of Manitoba.

Le Croissant
Le Croissant makes some of the best fruit bread I've ever had the pleasure of slathering with butter. Their selection rotates regularly, so what's available depends on the day and time you get there (HINT: the earlier, the better). Their croissants have a bit more of a bread-like sponginess to them than, say, the buttery flakiness of Tall Grass Prairie at the Forks, but they're delightful.
SHOP
À la Page
The teensiest bit run down (but hopefully some renovations coming soon?), À la Page is an excellent resource for your French literature needs. They also boast a small English lit section, but it's mostly tattered classics, and really, nothing to write home about. The French section on the other hand has a great mix of new and used, and the staff here are completely lovely.

Jardins St-Leon
I know I'm pushing the boundaries of Norwood Grove a bit with this one, but I admire Jardins St-Leon too much NOT to include it. The cutest little outdoor market runs daily across the summer months, and serves up a bevy of "real" produce ("real" meaning grown in Manitoba) and other fresh, Canadian foods.

Admirably, the owners hire almost exclusively local, French-speaking youth and also offer yard cleaning services to help you get your garden ready for the summer months.

La Boutique du Livre
If you're in the market for French books and games for children, this is your place. The atmosphere is airy and welcoming, and they offer a great selection.

SEE
Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface
A fascinating and beautiful reminder of our French history and the site of Louis Riel's grave: the ruined cathedral is eerily beautiful and completely free to visit. Grab some bread and coffee and enjoy them on the stone steps (which is precisely what I did with my dear friend Carly this past weekend).

Esplanade Riel
Penis jokes aside, this iconic pedestrian bridge is a great spot for photos and sports some pretty fabulous views. Enjoying gourmet dining on this bridge during Table for 1200 was an absolute dream. I've also heard good things about bridge restaurant Chez Sophie's private dining area for special events.

Fort Gibraltar
Open year-round, but a special treat during Festival du Voyageur, come watch blacksmiths, carpenters, weavers and more working in the style of the French-Canadian settlers. For more info on Festival, see my full post here.

Le Musée de St. Boniface Museum
Learn about the fascinating history of French settlement and French-Canadian and Metis culture in Western Canada in the former home of the Grey Nuns. Collections range from artifacts concerning the establishment of St. Boniface to the ambitions of Louis Riel and on. The artifacts are well curated, preserved and annotated and the staff is enthusiastic and welcoming.

Tourisme Riel
Located in the former City Hall Building of St. Boniface, this is where to find information about the area, peruse brochures and magazines about Winnipeg, and use free internet if you're visiting from away.