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Red River Ex – A Mouthwatering Midway

The Red River Exhibition is another place where I’ve made multiple trips and written multiple posts. I’m bringing them all under one post.
Evolving Midway Midway Memories
*Earlier this week I was invited by the Red River Ex to come out and try some of the food that is on offer at this years edition.  While the food was provided gratis by the vendors, no obligation was put on my to write a positive review.  The opinions that follow are mine alone.

Midway indoor attractions
The Entrance to the indoor exhibits at the Red River Ex
Yakimix at SM Masinag | Eat, drink ...
Yakimix at SM Masinag | Eat, drink and grill all you can (buffet) | Michael's Hut

It’s been a few years since I have been to the Red River Ex. So, on Friday, I decided to try and dodge the inevitable opening night rain drops and check things out.  All I can say is that the Ex has changed quite a lot since I last went.  Many things have changed since the last time I was here, but nothing has changed more since then than the food.
I started my evening on the bus, taking the Red River Ex express out to the site.  Unlike the fans for the Bomber game last week, Winnipeg Transit seems to have got the Ex express working well.  I was able to get from downtown to the Ex in about half an hour.  After picking up my tickets and food coupons.  I entered the site and was immediately confronted by the building in the photo above.  This is sort of late night shopping channel come to life with a dose of local arts and community groups thrown in.
After a quick tour of the building I went out to the midway itself to see what food booths were available.   I didn’t grow up in Winnipeg, so my first examples of exhibitions were on a much smaller scale, and my food memories consist of fries, cotton candy, corn dogs, and mini donuts.  Not so, at the Red River Ex.  These are all there, but there are so many other choices here, one doesn’t no where to start.
I eventually decided to start at The Poutine King, one of the vendors located in the covered thoroughfare in the middle of the midway.  This is a local food truck, that so far has only been working fair and festivals in Winnipeg.  I went with the poutine with wieners, one of the several selections of offer.  This made for a real good poutine.  Rich, dark gravy.  Heaps of cheese curds and well-done fries.  I told the owner if he ever does hit the streets, to hit Broadway (where I work).  Then I went and got a soft serve ice cream cone.  I went with the chocolate, vanilla twist, and managed to get through while only spilling a little bit on my shirt.
After finishing this, the rain hit, and so I ducked into the Shopper’s market to watch a cooking and jam making demo by Getty Stewart.  The demo included Saskatoon Berry biscuits and Strawberry Jam, both of which we got to sample at the end of the demo.
Having dodged the rain I headed back out to the midway where I went on to try the Rib Ends from Danny’s Whole Hog.  This consisted of rib ends, fries, and coleslaw.  The pork was tender and the fries crisp, although I tried the horse radish b-b-q sauce on the fries, and found it lacking in kick.  Having done main course I went off to add dessert, again.
I decided to try the deep fried pie.  This truck which is doing the ex circuit, but operates out of Chilliwack B.C. serve a selection of pies that are deep-fried and then are served either plain or with ice cream.  This one was a bit of a mixed bag.  I liked the pastry, but the filling was very thin, and at points non-existent(it’s a big pie).  Perhaps I just got one that had little filling.
Finally,. I needed something to drink so I finished my evening off with lemonade from one of the stands.  This wasn’t quite as good as the gold standard lemonade from Stella’s, but still made for a refreshing finish to the day.
What’s amazing about my evening is that I only made a small dent into the various foods available.  Other food places I missed were. Little Bones Wingery, Healthy Eats, and Fro-Yo-Licious Yogourt to name just three.  Not only are there lots of places to eat, the prices are in keeping with the food trucks I visit regularly, and the portions are generous.
If your someone who’s going to make multiple visits to the Red River Ex, you can make them assured that you will never have to worried about being bored with the food choices.  There are plenty of good choices to go around, I’ve only scratched the surface.  Just be careful how much you eat or you may end up like Mr. Creosote of Monty Python fame, (not for the squeamish).
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Midway Food Evolving:

Midway sign for the farmers' market
A sign advertising the summer farmers markets held at the Exhibition grounds

Having done it once before I wondered if there would be enough variety to try it again.  No fear.  I tried three new places this year, and there were a few more that I will mention that I didn’t get around to trying.

Midway entreance
Entrance to the Red River Exhibition and the midway

Most of the best are located in the Expressway, but keep your eyes open as you go along the midway for places like Extreme Fries aka Lorrie’s Lunchbox.  Extreme Fries sister truck, BBK is in the Expressway. If you are a fan of the Half Moon, they are new as well. There are other places out on the midway that are worth a second look as well.
One of the ways that the Expressway is changing is that the food available is more representative of Manitoba’s cultural diversity.  The first food I ordered was from a truck specializing in Portuguese cuisine. I thought I had taken a picture of the truck but I didn’t.
I spoke with the operators and they said they may try and hit the downtown streets for a bit once the Ex was over. This would be appropriate as Broadway seems to be becoming a sort of food truck midway downtown.
I tried a macaroni dish, that included beans, sausage, potato and little bit of spicy pepper flake.  Overall the taste quite good, but the macaroni didn’t seem to have been drained quite well enough and was a little soggy.  The portion size was quite large.  So, give this truck a try either at the Ex or on the street.  If for no other reason than for the bun that comes with the meal.  It was large, light and flaky.

Macaroni on the midway.
My macaroni dish from the midway.

While I was finishing off the bun, I wandered over and had a chat with Derek, the owner of Poutine King.  It was at last year’s Ex that I discovered this truck and he’s back again this year. Poutine seems to be the ideal food to eat while wandering the midway. Thankfully Poutine King makes poutine that’s ideal.
Another new truck is Simba Safari Grill.  This truck specializes in authentic African cuisine, and the owners are from Kenya.  I had the Jambo beef curry.  Nicely spiced.  Tender beef and potatoes that weren’t mushy.  This truck is going to be out at the Tuxedo Industrial Park later in the summer.  Do yourself a favour and head out to the Ex to catch them before then.

Finally I tried some wings from the Wing King.  Like the other two trucks he’s just starting out.  I tried the hot mango wings, and I would say, don’t worry he’s doing just fine.  Nice and crisp with a balance of sweet and heat.

If you’re worried about the toll this may be taking on your body.  Just stop inside the main exhibit hall, and have a chat with a registered dietitian.  You’ll learn something and might even get some healthy fruit to go along with it.

New Midway enhances Old Midway

Getting back to more traditional midway fare. You may be wondering about the corn dogs, the mini doughnuts, the caramel apples, shaved ice, etc.  Don’t worry there all there.  The new foods aren’t here to replace the old ones.  We just get to take advantage of the cooking skills that new members of our communities bring to us. This is the definition of win-win.  Now if only the midway games were all win-win. hmmm.
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Midway Memories

I got an email invitation from Ron Cantiveros of the Filipino Journal to check out some of the new food offerings at the Red River Ex this week.  I’ve done this before, and it always makes for a good afternoon. Exhibitions are places of childhood memories. They are places where families go to have a good time together.
It was raining when I first got to the Ex, so rather than heading out to get something to eat right away, I hit the Exhibition Hall. Among the first things that caught my attention was a model railway set up. I went over and started watching the trains go around. As I did I found myself thinking about my dad.

Red River trains by the midway.
Part of the train set up at the Red River Ex.
Red river train and train track on the midway.
The train exhibit with a train on the trains. Model trains were one of my dad’s favourite hobbies and they always make me think of him, and miss him.

Sunday is Father’s Day. It’s been close to six years since my dad died. Trains always held a great fascination for my dad. Especially model trains. He possessed many different models over the years. In his last years his train set was a Z Gauge unit that fit into a small wooden suitcase. Even as children, if we ever got separated from dad and there were trains around, we’d know where we could find him.  It was nice recalling some pleasant memories of my dad while enjoying the model railway setup.

Red River Ex stage
One of the outdoor stages at the Red Rive Ex

When I was a child though, there weren’t a lot of food offerings at the Ex. I spent my elementary school days in Prince Albert Sask, and that was where my first exhibition memories were formed. These two also involved my dad. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club that ran a small Candy Floss stand every year. Candy Floss was one of those things, that like the Ex only came around once a year.
Even when I moved to Winnipeg in my high school days, the Midway food seemed to be all Fries, Candy Floss, and Mini Donuts. I think if I could sum up my memories of the food in those days it would largely be sugar and more sugar, with a side of sugar.
When it come to food, just remember you might want to eat after the riding the Mega Drop rather than before.

Thanks for the Memories, but…

While I think back fondly on those days, I do find that my tastes have changed, and I’m grateful for the new food options that are available. I really like finding things that I didn’t get to try the previous year.
A new truck at the Red River Ex this year is Northern Snow. They could best be described as having an Asian fusion style. I tried there Dragon Balls, served on a skewer with a roasted cherry tomato, along with homemade BBQ sauce and Sweet Chili sauce. Quite tasty. They also carried something I found a little surprising. Cream of Chicken and vegetable soup. As the day was a little damp and cool this made for a nice little warmup.

Red River Chicken soup on the midway.
Cream of chicken and vegetable soup from the Northern Snow truck.

I wandered the midway for a little while. Given the weather it was not all that busy. However, it actually helped make the afternoon very pleasant and relaxing.
When I was in the mood for a little more to eat, I stop by Wok this Way. I can’t help, but I can’t say the name without mentally singing it in Steve Tyler’s voice. This time I stopped and had the fried noodles. This order was noodles with bits of cabbage in it. I really enjoyed the flavour and texture of the noodles. I also piled on the Sriracha sauce to give them some kick.

Midway truck food menu
Menu from Wok this Way truck at the Red River Ex.

Beyond the rides and the games there are many other attractions to visit. After the trains my favourite was Meet the Breeds. Various dog owners and breeders bring their dogs with them to the Ex. You can go into the little booth and ask questions about the various breeds of dogs and of course, pet them, if they’re in the mood. There’s nothing like having a dog around to pet to relax you even more on a relaxed, casual day.

Red River Ex noodle order
An order of noodles from the Red River Ex – Wok this way truck

As I was winding up my day I decided I wanted something a little sweet, so I stopped by Slushie King. Slushie King is a new truck from Derek Collins owner of Poutine King. There are six flavours available. I made a mix and match of Orange, Lemonade, and Blue Raspberry. Which as you can see from the picture below actually turned out quite attractive looking as well as good tasting. One thing I like about these slushies is that there is plenty of flavour from the first sip to the last.

It's always good to find a Slushie King slushie on the midway.
Three flavoured slushie from the Slushie King, a new truck from the owner of The Poutine King.

The Red River Ex is in it’s final weekend. Today or tomorrow would be a great opportunity to go and create some new memories. Since it’s Father’s Day tomorrow, if you have a dad around, you can go with him and make some lasting memories.
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By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.