The West End has always been about diversity. The people living in the neighbourhood can trace their ancestry back to every corner of the globe. Hitting up the West End’s restaurant scene is the best way to experience its diverse heritage.
To celebrate our neighbourhood, the West End BIZ is hosting “Around the World a Few Blocks,” a series of weekly restaurant tours in the month of August. Each tour goes through a different part of the neighbourhood and involves a four-course meal. And since its launch, and due to the celebration’s popularity, tours have been extended and will be taking place on September 11, 17, 24 and October 1.
One of the restaurants on the tour is Café Dario, recently named one of the best restaurants in Winnipeg.
Dario Gutierrez opened his restaurant in 2006. After moving to Winnipeg in 1978 from Colombia to do his masters in Anthropology, he decided to stay and open his restaurant in the neighbourhood that he considers one of the friendliest.
“The West End is a [United Nations]. It is the world in one quarter of the city – where everybody seems to be able to get along and be happy,” says Gutierrez.
Gutierrez’s cuisine reflects his passion for cultural harmony. Although Latin American styles are predominant in his cooking, Gutierrez says that in his dishes it is impossible to separate out influences from across the Americas.
The West End is no stranger to new Winnipeggers. From its earliest days, the West End has been an important starting point for new migrants and immigrants to Winnipeg and Canada. Between 1900 and 1920 Winnipeg grew from 40,000 residents to 180,000. The West End was one of the neighbourhoods built to house all of these new arrivals. The West End was rapidly built up between 1900 and 1930. Major housing developments appear to have continued to take place in pockets of the West End until the 1950s.
The West End slowly changed over the years, particularly after World War II as suburban living came into fashion, but the neighbourhood remained a starting point for new immigrants to Canada. Over the years as the sources of Canada’s immigrants changed, the neighbourhood became increasingly diverse.
From Italian to Ethiopian to Lebanese, each walking tour will involve a diverse group of culinary styles. Some of the restaurants on the tour are newer while others have been going for decades.
Moc Thanh and Tsuyen Thai opened one of the first Vietnamese restaurants in Winnipeg when they started Thanh Huong 27 years ago. Homer’s, right next to the University of Winnipeg, has been serving authentic Greek cuisine for 35 years.
And then there is the Rice Bowl. Opened only eight years ago by Harry Mogatas, this little Filipino restaurant on Sargent is going strong.
“People said ‘You can’t be successful; why there?’ Almost eight years later I’m still here. If you can survive on Sargent and Ellice with all the diverse restaurants you can make it anywhere in Winnipeg,” says Mogatas, adding “It’s the most competitive restaurant environment in Winnipeg.”
Mogatas grew up in the West End and learned to cook from his grandmother. When he was just five years old he was already helping his grandmother slice onions and ginger in the kitchen.
“I’ve worked different kinds of jobs and I always come back to the kitchen. It reminds me of my family,” Mogatas says.
Today there are over one hundred restaurants in the West End. These restaurants tell a story of a neighbourhood shaped over 100 years by the arrival of new Winnipeggers.
The tour is called “Around the World in a Few Blocks” because guests will experience culinary traditions from around the world. But what’s really important is that we’re not going around the world at all – these traditions have all become part of the West End’s tradition.
Joseph Kornelsen will be leading the “Around the World in a Few Blocks” restaurant tours. Tours are in the evening on August 6, 13, 20, 28, September 11, 17, 24, and October 1. You can find more information about the tours by calling 204-954-7900 or by clicking here.