There may be no place in Canada that better defines the word community than Osborne Village. While it’s one of Winnipeg’s trendiest locales, it became a hot spot only after decades of collaboration between local store owners. It began in the 1960s, when retailer Carlo Gabrielli built residential and commercial spaces on one side of Osborne Street and long-time resident Dino Stewart built the same on the opposite side. It wasn’t out of competition – the two shared their plans so they could build their neighbourhood together. The Village has gone more upscale over the last few years, adding trendy restaurants and shops to its nearly two-kilometre strip, yet the area still retains the fiercely local spirit it was built on.
Osborne Village’s culinary culturer has matured along with the rest of the area. At one time, it was littered with dive bars and pubs; now it’s home to some of the city’s top – and tastiest – places to eat. First stop? Nuburger, a gourmet burger bar. Its Summer Breeze, topped with homemade pineapple-and-avocado salsa, was crowned best burger in Winnipeg. For dinner, try Segovia, a traditional Spanish tapas bar by renowned local chef Adam Donnelly that serves the basics (chorizo, patatas bravas) as well as his own creations (seared tuna tostada, fried cauliflower in tahini-lime dressing). Nearby Black Rabbit Bistro & Lounge only opened in April, but it’s quickly become a top Osborne eatery. Its chicken-bacon pizza and brisket sandwich are worth the visit to the Village alone.
Art spaces have come and gone, but two Osborne Village staples have remained through it all. The Gas Station Arts Centre, an artist’s “first stage,” has been putting on plays by local actors and writers since 1983 (before that it was an actual gas station). It’s also one of the main venues for the annual Winnipeg Comedy Festival – Shaun Majumder, Sean Cullen, Elvira Kurt and many others have played its stage. At the other end of the strip lies the Motor Inn, a hotel that was once owned by the Winnipeg-born K-Tel founder, Phil Kives. It’s home to Ozzy’s and the Zoo, two legendary venues that have welcomed Mick Jagger, Neil Young and Jeff Healey (as patrons, if not players) as well as countless local bands.
Osborne Village is one of the main routes into downtown Winnipeg, a fact that makes it a convenient after-work gathering place. The business crowd tends to congregate at G Martini Bar, which also houses a Japanese restaurant (its oysters – baked with Japanese mayo, sake and miso – are legendary). Another popular spot is the Cornerstone, which opened in the Village last year. The upscale pub and restaurant has 31 different beers on tap, including plenty of otherwise hard-to-find Canadian craft brews.
Indie boutiques with a DIY attitude pervade this shopping strip that is noticeably free of brand names. Music fans will love Music Trader, one of the top record stores in the city, as much for the selection as for talking rock with manager Jay Churko, who once fronted popular Winnipeg band Transistor Sound & Lighting Co. Footwear enthusiasts shop Rooster Shoes for niche finds like artfully distressed leather boots from New York’s Bed|Stü or modern clogs from Scandinavian label Swedish Hasbeens. Next door’s boutique jewellery shop, Silver Lotus, carries distinctive Canadian designs, including stackable bracelets from Edmonton’s BauXo and silver cufflinks stamped with 19th-century wax seals from Vancouver’s Pyrrha. You’ll also discover the work of Whistler’s Justine Brooks, who creates stunning rings and necklaces inspired by the flora of the Pacific Northwest. If there’s one store that’s adapted to the changing face of the Village, it’s Out of the Blue, which began 25 years ago selling consignment clothing exclusively, and now stocks a mix of new and vintage, including Judith March cocktail dresses and a house line of Prairie-inspired tees.