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Best and Most Unusual Diners in Canada: Winnipeg at The Forks

Updated on August 2, 2013

Chez Sophie Sur Le Pont at The Forks, Winnipeg; Formerly a Salisbury House

Restaurant/Commerical Plaza on the Esplanade Riel; Sxc.hu/user: cedrb.
Restaurant/Commerical Plaza on the Esplanade Riel; Sxc.hu/user: cedrb.

Cafe on the Bridge

The above photo is an excellent shot of the entrance of the commercial plaza on the Esplanade Riel before any business moved into the space above the Red River.

The foot bridge is now a postcard landmark in Downtown Winnipeg. It spans the archaeological and historical site called The Forks, full of First Nations history and culture. On the western bank of the Red River, The Forks' developed area also contains the Manitoba Children's Museum. The foot bridge is adjacent to all this and spans the Red River along Route 57 from Downtown on the west, to the St. Boniface French Quarter on the east.

The design of the bridge and commerical plaza is similar to a 1960's Space Age look, which is a lot of fun. Inside the plaza restaurant, the décor has included Rock and Roll Era memorabilia as well. Reports are that a canoe hangs from the ceiling, along with a red motor bike. These kinds of places are interesting and entertaining, even you only go in for something to drink; but the menu is huge and offers numerous selections.

Winnipeg City Skyline

Source

Chez Sophie, Formerly Salisbury House (Sals)

The Salisbury House was located in the building on the foot bridge in the center. In June 2013, the space became a Chez Sophie French bistro.
The Salisbury House was located in the building on the foot bridge in the center. In June 2013, the space became a Chez Sophie French bistro. | Source

Local Restaurants In Winnepeg

The restaurant was a Salisbury House (nicknamed Sals), one of a chain of about two dozen units founded during The Great Depression.It is now a Chez Sophie.

The dining place is open generally from March through early January, when the foot traffic all but stops in the coldest weather. Prior to that, diners can eat above the icy river as they watch people skate on the World's Longest Skating Rink (named by Guinness World Records in 2008) at The Forks. Specifically, the rink is part of the Assiniboine River's park, attached to the local zoo. I think it is a good location for a diner and I could easily spend a week in the area -- It's a Wi-Fi Hot Spot and you'd finding me there every day. A summer vacation or a Christmas or other 4th Qtr Holiday celebration would be fun here.

For us Americans, Salisbury Houses seemed a cross between Waffle Houses and Big Boy restaurants, and maybe a bit like the great Tennessee truck stops and the delicious meals I've enjoyed in them. The Sals also remind me of the old Toddle Houses we had in Ohio. I think Sals presents a good place for people from neighborhoods on opposite sides of river to meet. It's great for travelers visiting Winnipeg when they want to rest between neighborhoods on a walking tour as well. Chez Sophie is good if you enjoy French foods and atmosphere.

Esplanade Riel

The interesting footbridge itself is new since 2003 and is dedicated to pedestrian and recreational cycling, making it a green facility in that way.

The name honors Mr. Louis Riel, a Metis leader who was the founder of the Province of Manitoba. He was a vocal advocate for the rights of Canadian First Nations Métis Peoples in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

The Esplanade Riel is a member of a pair of bridges, the second one dedicated to vehicles and commuter cycling, known as the Provencher Blvd. (Rt. 57) Bridge or the new Broadway bridge. Land formerly dedicated to a third bridge here was used instead for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, which Riel would likely have welcomed.

On Google Maps, the Louis Riel Institute Adult Learning Centre is also listed in the commercial plaza on the Esplanade Riel. This may or may not be accurate, but in the USA, some McDonalds® restaurants invited adult education centers to co-locate in the restaurants a few days a week to help crew members with GED studies and English as a Second Language. There is plenty of ongoing development and activity happening at The Forks, and city government is encouraging historic preservation and community education and involvement. Meanwhile, the headquarters of the Riel Institute are not far from the bridge.

The Esplanade Riel, In the French Quarter

A markerEsplanade Riel, Winnipeg -
Esplanade Riel, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
get directions

Candian Bacon!

I remember enjoying Canadian or back bacon as a child in Ohio, but that delicacy seems harder to find here these days and it is more and more expensive. One place that always has it on hand, though, is the Salisbury House, founded in 1931 in Downtown Winnipeg. The company website tells us that it began in a small building with a red roof -- It reminds me of small US diners of the 1920s and 1930s as well.

Sals's history is somewhat like that of White Castle (founded 1921), but with a much wider range of foods and beverages. Both chains featured friendly carhops and good coffee in the early parts of the 20th Century and both chains are still operating. The theme of Sals seems one of older days and simpler times in North America, from the Great Depression through the Rock and Roll Era. I thinkj it's friendly and familiar, an anchor with a homelike quality in today's chaos.

I think Salisbury House at The Forks could have been showcased on Guy Fieri’s cable TV show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. People from everywhere would have enjoyed seeing the diner on the bridge that serves huge platters of food, with a canoe hanging overhead and people below skating on an 8.5+ km long ice rink. Viewers would also enjoy the new French bistro, which still uses Canadian Bacon!

The location of the restaurant:

  • Chez Sophie on the Bridge east of The Forks, in St. Boniface, the French Quarter
  • 50 Blvd Provencher, Downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba R2H 3J2
  • See link above for additional information.

Close-Up, Esplanade Riel, Winnipeg

A markerEsplanade Riel, Winnipeg -
Esplanade Riel, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
get directions

Selected Downtown Winnipeg Attractions

show route and directions
A markerThe Forks, Winnipeg -
The Forks, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
get directions

B markerChildren's Museum, Winnipeg -
Manitoba Children's Museum, 45 Forks Market Rd, Winnipeg, MB R3C 0A2, Canada
get directions

C markerThe Winnipeg Railway Museum -
The Winnipeg Railway Museum, Winnipeg, MB R3C, Canada
get directions

D markerEsplande Riel -
Esplanade Riel, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
get directions

E markerLouis Riel Institute, Winnipeg -
Collège Louis-Riel, 585 Rue St-Jean-Baptiste, Winnipeg, MB R2H 2Y2, Canada
get directions

Menu as Thick as a Phone Book at Sals

There are still Sals restaurants around, just not on the bridge.

The Little Nipper or Little Nip is a bit like the White Castle Slyder (Hamburger), at least in size and shape. The Nip is a hamburger sandwich based on the traditional Salisbury steak. Some other unique items include sweet potato fries and a new hot dog called the WINNI or Winni (Winnipeg) Dog.

Photos of Salisbury House breakfasts are overwhelming and put most Waffle House fare to shame. One breakfast - the Hearty Breakfast Supreme - features three eggs, back bacon, side bacon (Americans think its regular bacon), AND sausage, with 3 slices of toast and a pile of hashbrowns. Alternatively, you can have a smaller breakfast, or steak and eggs, pancakes, French Toast, cinnamon rolls, or Eggs Benedict. The Sals Skillets are dinnerware skillets filled with scrambled eggs and choices of other ingredients - from vegetables to kielbasa, corned beef, or pirogies. Breakfast Nips (sandwiches), omelettes, and light breakfasts fill out other menu pages.

Actual Salisbury Steaks appear among the lunch and dinner items as well. Lunches and dinners can include fresh Ceasar, Greek, or tossed salds, fries, and/or fresh coleslaw. Aside from Salisibury-type Nips, one can order chicken, salmon or even a vegetarian pattie. A Chili Nip comes with chili inside and poured over the outside. You can have a single, double or triple Nip, triple cheese (3 types), or a two-types-of-bacon Nip. Onions on sandwiches are grilled.

Ham sandwiches, Reubens, cheese and onion melts - the menu is incredible, so look at it at the link provided. It also features wrap sandwiches and soups, hot sandwich plates, shepherd's pie, quessadillas, poutine - I think the menu is endless. And a healthier menu recommended for the over-55 bunch.

The Guess Who

Humor In Dining

People make big fun of White Castle restaurants in Ohio where the chain is headquartered and everywhere the units are located, but the same people buy gargantuan numbers of White Castle sandwiches, desserts, and coffees every year. The same seems true for Sals. Some online bulletin board posts and blog postings make fun of the food and coffee at the Sals on the bridge; but I've found many kudos as well. The same is true for reviews of Chez Sophie.

Related to the fun-making, this maps show the foot bridge as approximately 200 meters long.

The designated use of the bridge requires that restaurant ingredients and supplies be brought into this Sals on foot and its management and crew to walk into work. This makes a difficult time for on-loading large cases of foodstuffs for the menu and a problem with on-loading very much produce and keeping it fresh. Some diners come in and order fresh fruit, but there is none. So sometimes they have a salad instead - or pie and a milkshake!

If anyone out there has experiences at Sals on the Bridge, please share in Comments.

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    • profile image

      khawaja lone 4 years ago

      i want to move with my family but i am not fully aware about job opportunity and small business

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Toddle House in the late 1960's was also great. Today, Vinny's Stock Pot Diner in Bay City MI is awesome - but it does not sit on a bridge. It's 4 blocks from a bridge on the Saginaw River where you can watch the ships.

    • writeonbro profile image

      writeonbro 5 years ago from H-town

      At the mention of the names of old-school restaurants like Waffle House, Big Boy and Toddle house a flood of delicious memories bathed my brain.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      The door was frozen shut?! Now that's really cold.

      Our diners here just don't have as many menu items or the great décor - or the river.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      Patty, I was surprised to see my city on your hub. Yes,I have been to that restaurant, a couple of years ago. It was one of the coldest days of the year. My husband and I met some friends there for a late breakfast on one of the coldest days of the year. It was freezing and icy! In fact, at first we thought the restaurant was closed because the door was frozen shut from the cold. It is a very cool place and it was fun to look out over the river.

      Great hub, Patty!

    • profile image

      Carl M.Schmidli 6 years ago

      Back in 1946, when I was 10 years old, my mother bought me a Salmon Nip Sandwich while shopping in a store in Winnipeg Manitoba. I never forgot the tast. Also I have never been able to find the recipe for making them. If anyone knows how or has information on this nugget, please let me know.

      Carl

    • profile image

      Johannim 6 years ago

      A long time Southern California resident, but damn it a Winnipeg Northender at heart (a real northender born on Jarvis & Atkins, the wrong side of the tracks). And yup damn it I miss that Red River Valley Northern comfort food. I miss Sal's nips & chips,Potine with old cheddar, Jewish cornbeef from the corner store not to mention blintzes, knishes, hallah from Gunn's bakery . I miss Kilickis (spelling it wrong and Smitty's on main St (if it's still there). St. Boniface pea soup and pork. Can't forget perogies Ukrainian, Polish and Jewish style, Ukrainian borsht Ukrainian cabbage rollers. Can't get better Yorkshire pudding,beef Wellington bangers & mashbetter anywhere in the World (outside England) than in a Winnipeg pub. Do I really have to mention Mennonite (German) cooking I would kill for it. Should I go on, oh shit forgot to mention Goldeye, that i would surely kill for. On and on and on ,Hell for cuisine you Winnipeger's don't realize how good you've got it, ur spoilt. After the new HR museum is open, I plan a trip HOME, try the water taxis and check out my olde hauntes in supernatural Manitoba, might even bring a few thousand California's with me, let them try REAL Northern Comfort Food. Shalom---PS the trip home will be in the summer i can deal with the mosquitos not - 150 below

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      This is so beautiful, Patty. I am glad to know this information. Good work. Thank you very much for showing this information. Take care!

      Blessing,

    • flinsura profile image

      flinsura 6 years ago

      I hope I can see this place personally, nice hub...Thanks for the pictures here....

    • nikitha p profile image

      nikitha p 6 years ago from India

      Thanks for a great hub.

    • giwrgos12 profile image

      giwrgos12 6 years ago from San Diego

      Great hub thanks for sharing!!

    • stephanieculkins profile image

      stephanieculkins 6 years ago from El Cajon CA

      I have never been to Winnipeg but I always want to visit it with my friends, love the photos you posted great hub

    • muriahgorde profile image

      muriahgorde 6 years ago from New York

      This hub is a great help if we visit Winnipeg. Thank you!

    • sambaran08 profile image

      sambaran08 6 years ago from India

      nice hub,

      plz visit my hub 2...

    • bojanglesk8 profile image

      bojanglesk8 6 years ago

      Good info.

    • profile image

      madz 59 6 years ago

      hey im doin a project on ireland souds like a place id like to go

    • pylos26 profile image

      pylos26 6 years ago from America

      Hi Patty...your story of adventures in Winnipeg was fun to read.

    • Alternative Prime profile image

      Alternative Prime 6 years ago from > California

      Hi Patty,

      Winnipeg is one place I've never visited but plans are in the works for a trip hopefully soon, maybe next summer.

      Just wanted to stop by and say thanks for a fantastic guide & some very usful info which will certainly be integrated as I map out my schedule.

      Alternative Prime

    • gr82bme profile image

      gr82bme 6 years ago from USA

      Well done. The pictures are a plus.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California

      Hi Patty,

      It makes me want to go to Winnipeg with all the beautiful pictures you posted. Thanks for the dining recommendations too.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 7 years ago from Northern, California

      I really enjoy diners. I ahven't been to Winnipeg, but looks like The Guess Who have given me a reason to try it. As always really good information.

      K9

    • brandrocker profile image

      brandrocker 7 years ago

      Awesome! A quick look through the Winnipeg delicacies.... Thanks.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      You wrote a wonderful description of Winnipeg and the diners. I found it a fascinating read. Thank you.

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      Great hub, now I know where to eat in Winnipeg.