With just under 10,000 people living in Selkirk, it is considered one of Manitoba’s 10 cities. Being a small city, Selkirk obviously has a much larger array of businesses, recreational activities and services than many of the smaller communities I’ve highlighted this summer. From my home in Winnipeg, I can reach Selkirk in about 30 minutes, depending on traffic. It’s close proximity makes it an attractive destination when you are looking for something to do that is close to the city.
This summer, we have made not one, but two trips to Selkirk. On our first excursion, we went with only one thing on our minds….DINNER! I had heard about Barney Gargles from a few different people and the rave reviews made it a must to check-out.
The History of Barney Gargles:
Judy Venier (Parkin) first took over the restaurant from her former partner around 1988. In 1991, Shirley Cormack joined her sister Judy, and together they became the sole owners of Barney Gargles. Over the years, Judy and Shirley’s children worked in various positions at the restaurant. Sadly, after 25 years in business, the future of this family run restaurant became uncertain, when the sisters both passed away earlier this year. Shirley’s son, Rob Cormack, had returned to the business to help out his mother in the weeks leading up to Judy’s passing and made the decision to stay on when Judy passed away in March of 2014. When Shirley passed away very suddenly just a few months later, in July, Rob, his siblings and cousins were left with many questions regarding the future of Barney Gargles. The restaurant temporarily closed its doors following Judy’s passing, but in the end it was decided, by both families, to reopen the business with Rob’s sister, Julia, as the manager. Rob continues to help-out at Barney Gargles when he is not at his full-time job. I was fortunate enough to sit down and speak with Rob for a few minutes following our meal and have since corresponded with him via email. He provided me with the history of the restaurant. He said that the decor and menu have changed over the years, but the family has always been committed to making as much of the food “in house” as possible. Rob shared that:
All of our cakes and pies are done right in the back kitchen and we still follow the fish batter recipe that came with the restaurant.
I’m sure that the decision to keep the doors of Barney Gargles open was welcome news to the community of Selkirk.
Our Experience at Barney Gargles:
First and foremost, in my experience a “line-up” is generally a good sign. We headed out for dinner on the Sunday of August long weekend and the restaurant was running a rib special. Having never been there before, I’m not sure if there is generally a wait or not, but I can honestly say it had me excited about the prospects of a great meal. We were told we’d have close to a half hour wait, but ended up getting in within 20 minutes or less. We waited out on the lovely bench outside and enjoyed the great weather. Many came and went while we waited. All those that left, seemed very satisfied with their meals and several were regulars (of course, I asked).
We had heard that Barney Gargles was best known for their battered fish and chips and desserts. We wanted to have a bit of variety, but at the same time, Tim and I both wanted the fish. Here’s what we ordered:
Every item we ordered was absolutely delicious. All of our meals came with fries and coleslaw. The fish was also served with a signature sauce that was super good. Tim requested sweet potato fries in lieu of regular and said the were very good as well. (I can’t believe I didn’t sneak one off his plate!) We really enjoyed the deep fried pickles and bruschetta appetizers that we shared, but the battered cod was superb. We were pretty much filled to the brim when we finished eating, but having passed the dessert showcase on the way in, there was no possible way we were leaving with sampling! It actually reminded me of a mini Baked Expectations, but with less selection. My guess is there were about 8 to 12 desserts to choose from and all looked incredible. I suggested sharing, but we all wanted something different, so in the end we ordered three and took the left overs home in a container. Aside from the food we ordered, Tim and Shay both had drinks. We were amazed by the very reasonable prices as our bill came to around $80 with taxes for the three of us (Eden was away at a friend’s and missed out). We really felt that both the food and value were very good. The restaurant was quite busy when we first arrived, but the service was still very good and the atmosphere was warm and comfortable. It is a great family restaurant and we’ll definitely be making the trip again soon.
Tim hadn’t sampled Shay’s chocolate cake until the next day and it was so good that he admitted he might actually be convinced to become a chocolate convert. It’s not that he doesn’t like chocolate, but when given the choice, he will almost always choose something else. This chocolate cake even had him “oohing and awing!”
Although we did not order either, when I quizzed our server up, she said that people actually travel miles for their liver & onions and veal. So, if you’re craving liver, veal, fish & chips or even a yummy piece of dessert, consider driving out to Selkirk to try something different.
Marine Museum of Manitoba:
Our second trip to Selkirk was planned to take advantage of what I hope is not the last hot day of the summer. The kids and I packed up and drove out to Selkirk for the afternoon with plans to visit the Marine Museum of Manitoba and the Selkirk Park, Pool and Splash Pad.
The Marine Museum of Manitoba is situated on the banks of the Red River just outside the Selkirk Park gates. The museum exhibit consists of self-guided tours of 6 of Manitoba’s historic vessels. You are free to wander the ships and explore them in their entirety, from the guest rooms, to the decks, the galley, and even the “bowels of the ships”. If that isn’t interesting enough, many of the rooms in the ships are filled with theme based marine artifacts. The ships range in age, with the oldest being a steamship that was built in 1897. The ships are all unique and different as they were all designed and built for a variety of purposes. Aside from the S.S. Keenora (steamship), there is a historic icebreaker, a passenger and freight boat, a lake and river tug boat, as well as the Joe Simpson freighter which was built in 1963. The other 4 vessels were built in 1915, 1942 and 1955. I found it interesting to note the differences in what appeared to be the quality of the materials and workmanship in the various vessels. Understandably, each served different purposes and therefore the aesthetics would not be as important in an ice breaker as in that of a passenger boat! The kids and I enjoyed exploring the different boats and I thought it was neat to experience the true size of the boats because they were sitting on the ground and the entire “body” of the vessel was visible. The ships are connected by planks, so you are easily able to go from one ship to the next. It was a very hot day and I must admit we didn’t spend much time examining the various artifacts throughout the vessels.
Selkirk Park, Pool and Splash Pad:
My cousin and her family just moved back to Selkirk in June and she told me about the pool/beach. We had planned to get together, but it just hasn’t worked out, so I decided we would head out on our own. I think what really intrigued me about the pool/beach (or as the kids and I now call it “the Peach“) was that it brought me back to the many days we used to spend at the Oasis. We had always loved the Oasis because it was super close to the city, a great beach experience and yet pretty safe because there were no currents or anything like that to be concerned with. We were so sad when it sold several years ago and went private. In the years since, I can honestly say we don’t do more than a couple of beach trips per year. However, the Selkirk “Peach” may be just what we were looking for!
The Peach (pool/beach) is a man made pool with a “pebbled” finish cement bottom and a side walk that extends around the entire circumference of the pool. The pool is 110 by 95 metres and holds 6 million litres of water! It has a gradual depth increase and in the centre of the pool there is a floating “dock” to jump from. Diving is not allowed as the depth is only 7 feet in the centre. Sitting up against the sidewalk that surrounds the pool is a nice beautiful sandy beach and then beyond that, the outer most layer of these “concentric ovals” is several feet of grass. It is truly a wonderful place. Although the water is not “blue” like a pool, it seems very clean and I love that I can experience the beach without the worry of blood suckers, fish and seaweed. I must say I can be a bit squeamish when swimming in open water. This is really the best of everything. I also love the fact that trees have been planted in the grass that grows outside the sandy ring. This allows you to choose sun or shade or even both, depending on where you set-up for the day. I also loved that I could park right up against the fence that sits outside the perimeter of the pool and not have to lug the chairs, beach bags, air mattress, etc. too far. In fact, at the end of the day, I dropped everything over the fence to Shay who was waiting on the other side to put everything in the car. The water was beautiful and it really was a great day! For all of you former Oasis lovers out there….this is it, even better.
In addition to the pool, there is also an 18 feature splash pad for smaller children and modern change rooms and washrooms. The pool is located right inside the Selkirk Park, just past the Marine Museum. The cost is $4.50 per person, but children under 3 get in free. There are also season passes available.
By the time we were ready to head back, it was late afternoon and everyone was a bit hungry. Although Selkirk has both a McDonald’s and a Dairy Queen, I really wanted to treat the kids to ice cream at a smaller privately owned business. I asked the lifeguards at the pool and they recommended the Snak Shak. It is a little drive-in style restaurant that was established in 1973. It is off the main drag, located at 545 Manitoba Avenue. You order at the window and either eat outside or in the car. At the Snak Shak, they serve both hard ice cream and 24 flavours of soft ice cream, as well as many specialty ice cream treats like sundaes, floats and banana splits. In addition, they also serve a variety of fast foods such as burgers, fries, taco in a bag, perogies, pizza pops, onion rings, etc. Although we didn’t eat, I asked our server what meals were the most popular and she immediately answered that their burgers and fries were very good. We didn’t have either, but I would love to check it out sometime.
Upper Crust Bakery:
We didn’t stop at the Upper Crust Bakery, but some of you may remember when they had a location in the city, on Pembina Highway (I think). Their bakery offers delicious baking and I especially loved their cinnamon buns. The original bakery is in Selkirk and still remains there today. I actually didn’t realize it until I did this post, but the Upper Crust Bakery does still have a Winnipeg location in Charleswood at 3416 Roblin Blvd. So, if you’re craving one of the best cinnamon buns around and can’t make it out to Selkirk, you can always pick some up in Charleswood.
If in fact you do take a drive out to Selkirk, Eveline Street runs along the river and has some beautiful old historic homes along it. It is obviously one of the older streets in the city and is lined with big beautiful mature trees as well. Enjoy your trip!