The Forks Market
105 Waterfront Drive
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Have you ever been to Manitoba? As a Torontonian living in Montréal, I tend to hang around the central-eastern parts of my huge country. But when the opportunity arises, I like to cover untrodden regions of this 9,984,670 square kilometre nation and it’s not too often that I get to out west. When we Canadians talk about Western Canada (or way over there from where I’m from), we mean the province of Manitoba and its neighbours to its left — Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Manitoba was one of the few provinces that I had not discovered until recently when I visited the southern parts of this prairie terrain. And where’s a better place to discover Winnipeg culture than The Forks, a lovely meeting place of community and commerce for the past 6,000 years?
The Forks resides at the junction of Assiniboine River and Red River in the heart of Winnipeg, the capital city of the province. While the area was developed in the early 1900’s, the location was a meeting point first by the Aboriginal people, and then with European settlers including fur traders and railway workers. The Forks Market was created by adjoining two stables together and is not the only attraction in The Forks. The area also includes museums such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, an inn, restaurants, a theatre, and a park that connects to bike paths running through the city. During the warmer months, an outdoor Farmer’s Market is held at the lot on Sundays with local farmers, bakers, and artists participating as vendors. Today, the vicinity is still a meeting spot — it was teeming with families, couples, tourists, and shoppers, which was quite a crowd considering that the rest of the city was surprisingly deserted for a major city on a Sunday.
We landed at The Forks before the leaves started changing into autumnal colours and I headed straight for the indoor market, which is held year-round, seven days a week. The first floor shops covers all of your culinary desires — bakeries, cheese shops, and a multitude of ready-to-eat counters. We saw an array of ethnic eats and options, including Sri Lankan, Caribbean, Chilean, fish and chips, and mini donuts. I loved the rainbow of choices and representation of foods from international cultures, especially since the demographic of this city and province is not as varied as larger Canadian cities. According to a 2006 Census, more than 50% of Winnipeg’s demographic is Anglo-Saxon, and the next major countries of origin include German, Ukrainian, French and Aboriginal. Surprisingly, the Filipino community constitutes 9% of the population, the highest percentage amongst Canadian cities. Winnipeg also has the highest Aboriginal demographic amongst the major Canadian cities, both in terms of the percentage and the number in a non-reserve municipality. As typical in many Canadian markets, the upstairs area showcased the work of Aboriginal and other Canadian artisans, and the whole building was decorated with a slew of Canadian flags. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Québec anymore.
But back to the food. We were hankering for some perogies (also known as pierogis or perogys) and found Baba’s Tall Grass Pantry which specializes in Ukrainian and Eastern European fare. Two meal combos were available: a vegetarian option with a cabbage roll, three cheese and potato perogies, and salad for $8.50 CDN, and a meat option with the same items with the addition a local farmer’s sausage for two more dollars. Drinks were extra and we opted for some brands that we had never seen before, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale and Dry Soda Co.’s Wild Lime drink. While there were seats available indoors, we headed outdoors to dine on a park bench at the foot of the river bed where fearless Canadian geese were doing their thing. I could tell that our fowl friends were the arrogant type that had no problems chasing after small children, stealing your fry, then pooping all over the grass while maintaining eye contact. I tried to take pictures of these guys and their duck friends but, after showing initial interest and assessing that I had no snacks to share, they waddled away from my empty hands. This was like the duck equivalent of swiping left on Tinder.
The good eats had us in a happy mood though, and we sat around people watching and taking in the warm temperatures. Winnipeg is not a fast-paced city with eccentric characters seen in giant metropolitans like New York, but I’ve verified that there is good food and fun places to go, so it’s livable. Plus, there were so many bike paths and parks around the city, I was quite impressed. While Winnipeg has a suburban feel at times where a car is almost necessary, I noticed a lot of bikers riding against the backdrop of some beautiful historic buildings that was reminiscent of Ottawa. But I visited the city while it fostered seasonal temperatures, so I have no comment about living through Winnipeg’s famously chilling winters. Good thing The Market is located indoors.
Related Posts: Read about my runs in southern Manitoba
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