By Mike Green
Winnipeg is ripe with hidden gems that are waiting to be mined, and the great part is so many are right within walking distance of the Alt Hotel Winnipeg.
For starters, just a few steps west from the lobby up on Ellice Avenue you’ll find the West End, the city’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhood which also boast over 100 high quality hole-in-the-wall restaurants within a few dozen blocks.
One classic is Thanh Huong (534 Sargent Avenue), the city’s original Vietnamese eatery. Owners Moc and Thuyen Thai opened this place in 1987, and so many of Winnipeg’s Vietnamese chefs have cut their teeth in this kitchen before opening their own rooms (it’s now near impossible to find a bad bowl of pho or banh mi in the whole area). While their traditional pho is good, a must is the #6 satay beef rice noodle soup. It’s spicy, loaded with fresh herbs, and delivers waves of ginger, anise, cardamom, basil and cilantro. At only $8.50 for a massive bowl, the price also can’t be beat.
Along with Vietnamese, Chinese, Latin American and Korean restaurants, the West End is also where you’ll find Winnipeg’s best Ethiopian restaurants. The biggest draw is arguably Harman’s Cafe (570 Sargent Avenue), where Ethopian born and raised chef/owner Desta Worku Negatu serves up heaping plates of stewed vegetables and slow cooked meats bearing plenty of berbere which you scoop up with her thin, spongy injera. At $12 per person, it’s also an unbeatable deal.
Winnipeg’s West End Biz also offers numerous tours throughout summer that focus on its global cuisine, along with its murals and artisans.
Stepping away from food and down to The Forks (just a pleasant 15-minute walk from the Alt), one often underappreciated service you’ll find -- especially by locals -- is the Splash Dash Guided River Tours. This approximately 30-minute experience brings you around sections of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, illuminating the city’s architecture while providing verdant views around each bend in the river. The driver/guides pepper their talks with saucy anecdotes, while you’ll learn a great deal about Winnipeg’s unique and often quirky history.
One sight from the river that is sure to astonish are the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building. From the banks of the Assiniboine River you’ll spy steps that lead up past an assertive statue of Louis Riel – the Métis leader who was the founder of Manitoba – to the backside of our beaming Golden Boy statue, who stands atop of the building’s rotunda looking north.
While seeing his golden cheeks are all well and good from the water (he truly does have a fabulous physique, being an adaptation of Hermes – the patron of the freemasons), you really should see him and the rest of the Greek pantheon of gods depicted in the building’s north-facing pediment up close. The masonry and statues all along the building are staggering, having been carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, the same family who sculpted the Lincoln Memorial.
As you marvel at all these sculptures, you’ll surely find yourself wondering why sphinxes and other figures from antiquity also adorn this building. The answers to all your questions can be revealed on a Hermetic Code Tour, the best architecture tour in Canada (seriously), where Dr. Frank Albo unveils how the country’s best neoclassical building was actually built by a freemason to be a temple of hermetic knowledge.
During the tour, you’ll learn why this building is brimming with gods, gorgons, hieroglyphics, a black star, and numerous other mythological and numerological elements – including being treated to one of the trippiest acoustic experiences you’ve ever had. But don’t take my word for it, just check out the 325 five-star reviews (out of 545!) on Trip Advisor, then book your tour today.