Windsor Essex Guys’ Getaway
Gentlemen, start your engines. Wonders await you as you head west on the 401 to Windsor Essex. Whether for a Bachelor’s party, that overdue weekend reconnecting with friends, or to strengthen a bromance with the guy that always has your back, Windsor Essex is hot and should be on your radar for the ultimate guys’ getaway.
WHAT TO DO
You had me at beer and distilleries. The Windsor Essex Barrels Bottles & Brews Trail boasts 12 craft breweries & 2 distilleries. For only $25, your 1-day flight log includes tastings at your choice of 5 locations along the route. If you are staying for a bit longer and want to space your tastings over a few days, the 7-day flight log is only $40 and valid for 9 tastings.
Here are some of the highlights we visited!
Originally founded by Hiram Walker in 1890, this brewery is steeped in local history and Germanic influence, and the current owners have been keeping the name strong for the past 10 years. The Heritage Series includes classics that you will always find in stock, like the Honest Lager and Purity Pilsner. They also promote seasonal specials, and the 525 Series, which includes “experimental beers” that are brewed in smaller batches and allow the brewmasters to have some fun and experiment.
There is something for every taste. We loved the Smooth Sail Summer Ale, and Geronimo IPA. Try the El Dorado Pale Ale (525 Series) if available, or the Argyle Cider, which is one of the best ciders we have ever had.
Chapter Two Brewing Company opened in February of 2018 near the heart of Old Windsor. What began as a passion project among friends evolved into a hand-crafted expression of what craft brewing is all about. Cheryl Watson partnered with one of the original founders, Chris Holt, in 2020, and the two of them run the brewery today. Certified Cicerone® brewer Michael Beaudoin has created a line-up with an undeniable quality that even the most discerning beer drinkers will appreciate. The interior features an industrial-inspired all brick decor and high ceilings, including a mural from graphic artist Glen Hawk, who also designed the artwork on their cans.
Check out the Danger Bird IPA, Pura Vida, Belgian Farmhouse Ale, and Helles Hath Lager. Each beer was perfectly balanced, unique, and delicious. This was one of our favourite flights. Do not miss out on this hidden gem!
Owner of Wolfhead Distillery, Tom Manherz, was inspired by the local history of rumrunning and Prohibition after establishing a bottling operation for companies looking to produce small batch specialty lines. Tom’s inspiration soon led to the creation of his own premium craft distillery and Wolfhead was born.
A true craftsman’s operation, Wolfhead Distillery pushes the boundaries of standard Canadian Spirits using local resources to produce unique flavours. The neighbouring Amherstburg quarry supplies limestone treated water, used in the production of all Wolfhead spirits.
Their current line-up includes 10 unique whisky, vodka, and gin spirits, a ready to drink cosmo, and a collection of house-made bitters. Tastings at this location are half price with the flight log. We tried the River’s End Small Batch Gin, Cinnamon Whiskey, Grapefruit Vodka, Apple Caramel Whisky, Banana Caramel Whisky, and Coffee Whisky, which is their best seller.
If you need a bite to soak up your tastings, Wolfhead’s patio seats about 140 people, boasts a made-fresh menu incorporating spirits in several dishes, and hosts a summer concert series. Check the schedule and be sure to take in some live music while you sip and savour all that this location has to offer.
To say we fell in love with Old Sandwich Town is an understatement. It may just be one of the coolest towns off most people’s radars. It’s home to some of Ontario’s oldest and most historically important buildings, including Mackenzie Hall, built by Canada’s second Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie, and Duff Baby House, thought to be the oldest-surviving structure in all of Ontario. The town has also played a role in important historic events such as the Underground Railroad, the War of 1812, and the Upper Canada Rebellion.
It is only fitting that Sandwich Brewing Co.’s motto is “our love of old buildings is eclipsed only by our love of exceptional beer. Putting it all on the line to create something special at the confluence of the two.” Established in 2017, in a historical building that dates back to approximately 1887, the modern glass façade of the brewery is a sharp contrast to the beautiful original wood and tin décor that you find inside.
The brewery is a small batch operation that focuses on making a few signature and seasonal beers. Try the White Bronco, Ruby Sue, Prairie Sunshine, and All That Razz, paired with a delicious fresh pretzel and grainy beer mustard. If you want to get in some steps after your tasting, the community has published a self-guided tour so that visitors can explore the history and heritage of Sandwich Town.
No guys’ getaway would be complete without a day on the links. Windsor Essex has several affordable golf courses that hit above their price point, but perhaps none better than Ambassador Golf Club. Since it opened for business in 2005, Ambassador Golf Club has been nominated as the “Best New Course” in Canada (Golf Digest) and in Ontario (OG Magazine) and is consistently considered one of the best value courses you can play in the province.
Designed by world-renowned architect Thomas McBroom, this 7,000+ yard gem is conveniently located 5 minutes from the Ambassador Bridge and a short drive from downtown Windsor hotels. This course is rewarding for a well hit game, but can be punishing if you don’t keep the ball on the fairway. This fair but challenging course is in immaculate condition.
After your round, snag a seat on the extensive clubhouse patio overlooking several holes for your post round bite and drinks. Cheering a great shot is optional. Ambassador has also partnered with local hotels, Caesars Windsor and the Holiday Inn Ambassador Bridge, to offer “Stay & Play” packages.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
After a long day of having fun and lots of laughs, it’s time to think about feeding your belly. If you plan to hit up the Casino, are craving a steak, or want a fine dining experience with some great people watching, Neros Steakhouse is the place to be. Neros delivered the trifecta of top-notch dining experience with great food, ambiance, and service. If Pete is working, make sure to ask to be seated in his section. He is one of the best servers we have come across in a long time, and his stories and personal touch made the night.
We began with a flavour bomb of jerk lobster on crostini with wakame. Any good steakhouse always has a good Caesar Salad and Neros is no exception. Their salad featured house made maple bacon lardons, with focaccia croutons and lemon garlic dressing.
For the main, we tried the certified angus ribeye with black truffle butter. With so many sides to choose from, we decided to load up on a few and share them with the table. We had a loaded baked potato with house made maple bacon, aged cheddar, and chives; grilled Mexican street corn with crumbled queso fresco, lime, chili and cilantro aioli; and an “off menu” Portuguese inspired Spicy Shrimp, which Pete had the kitchen whip up after we chatted about some of his favourite restaurants and Portuguese background.
After all that savoury food, we skipped dessert, but with options like strawberry rhubarb crumble skillet, hazelnut dacquoise, and chocolate ganache tart, you’ll have plenty of options to satiate that sweet tooth before you pop the button on your pants.
If you still want to hit up the Casino but are looking for a more casual option, Legends Sports Bar is where it’s at. Legends is a sophisticated sports bar in the heart of the casino floor, offering live sports on flatscreen and personal TVs in your booth, as well as an extensive selection of beers, paired with elevated pub fare.
From the House Favourites Menu, we recommend the lumberjack burger with Swiss cheese, sautéed forest mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon, and shoestring onions, and from the Enough for Sharing (or Not) Menu, we suggest the bang bang shrimp tacos, with warm mini tortillas, street corn slaw & candied jalapeños, which come in portions of 4 or 8.
Celebrating their 1-year anniversary in August 2022, Erie St. Gastropub is one of the new kids on the block, as the face of Little Italy continues to transform. Boasting a massive patio and indoor space, co-owner and Chef Le puts her Asian fusion twist on over 40+ dishes, providing an elevated Asian fusion pub menu that caters to all tastes. Paired with a constantly rotating beer list and elevated cocktails that change seasonally, this is a must-dine experience.
If you can’t pick just one, go with the beer flight, which includes 4×4 ounce tastings. We tried the Spearhead Stout, Black Raspberry Thunder, House Lager, and Argyle Cider. Bartender Shelby is a wealth of knowledge with all things beer and cocktails. Don’t forget to ask her about the podcast she is working on called Brew Talk. The cocktails are just as solid as the beer menu. We had the Plum Negroni, which featured plum bitters in this otherwise classic drink, as well as the perfectly executed Erie Street Manhattan.
We were able to sample several tasty dishes. Just try not to salivate! Their crispy rolls were homemade, spiral rolled, and served with a sweet chili sauce. You’ll have a hard time going back to normal spring rolls after having his delicious, chewy version. The grilled octopus was pan friend in an oyster, ginger, and sake sauce with sweet peppers. The yellow curry with shrimp, potatoes and carrots was delicate and delicious, served with organic black sticky rice. Finally, we tried the Trio Beef Ribs, fall off the bone Asian style beef ribs marinated in a sherry wine with organic sticky rice, topped with a steamed egg.
You’ll definitely want to make sure you plan at least one lunch or dinner here.
Funky Chow is another new and delicious restaurant, having been around just over one year, conveniently located next door to Walkerville Brewery. Make a reservation, as this is a hot spot with quite the scene, and was full on the night we visited. The restaurant screams hip, fun, and playful.
The menu is Asian inspired, drawing from Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Chinese dishes. We enjoyed the Karaage (fried chicken) with Japanese mayo and the Bao (two different ways, with crispy pork belly with pickled shiitake, scallion, and sesame, or fried tempeh with ssamjang, scallion, and sesame). Other highlights included the dumplings with mushroom and coconut and the “Johnny Roll” with yellowtail, cucumber, scallion, avocado, topped w/ serrano + kabayaki sauce. But for a truly instagrammable dish, try the Asian style bone marrow with picked greens, roasted edamame, and fried bao.
Drinks were equally creative. The Campfire Shandy was a smoky and slightly spicy option with Sapporo Japanese beer, yuzu juice, ginger beer and table side smoke. For the refined palate, try the Voltaire No. 6, featuring Roku gin, St. Germain, chili-lychee, lime, and chili stardust. For the more adventurous imbiber, we recommend Angelic Rain, with HvO Vodka, calamansi, Disarrono foam, and lime.
For modern taste of Asia without losing your luggage, visit Funky Chow.
We have a new contender in our list of the best cocktail bars we have ever visited. From the second you step into Maiden Lane, you know something special is happening. Although relatively new on the scene, the people behind Maiden Lane are serious about their libations. Mark Dutka, a 3rd generation bartender, and Sarah Dewar, a 20 year veteran of the wine industry opened the doors in June of 2019. Their offerings are based on what they personally want to drink – expertly mixed cocktails, unique wines, craft beers, and ciders, paired with quality snacks, a stellar playlist, and chill vibes.
The passion of our bartender, Mackenzie, implementing seasonal and foraged ingredients in the cocktails, was palpable. After discovering some local magnolia, he created one of the best cocktails we ever tried, the Ever Young: Aviation Gin, Martini Bianco, Luxardo Maraschino, local magnolia cordial, and rose orgeat, served on the rocks. Mackenzie also visited a producer of haskap berries in Niagara and plans to implement it into a summer cocktail. We’ll definitely be back to give his creation a try.
Another drink to offer a flavour punch is the Pigeon Nail, created by co-owner Mark: Espolon Blanco Tequila, Select Aperitivo, passion fruit, orange, lime, black lava salt, served on the rocks.
Let’s chat a bit about the wine, a true star in the bar! Sarah’s wine list is extensive and unique, with a focus on bio-dynamic wines. Using a Coravin system allows them to serve many unique wines by the glass. We tried a glass of Sumoll, a black grape native to Catalonia, which produced flavour notes of cranberry and pink peppercorn, with minerality and freshness. It was a delight to the mouth.
Maiden Lane has attracted a local crowd and integrated wonderfully into the community. When we were there, most people were greeted by name when they entered. Before dinner, after dinner, or anytime you need a drink, visit Maiden Lane, and visit it often.
WHERE TO STAY
If you are looking for luxury, Caesars Windsor is your place to stay. Divided into 2 towers, spectacular indulgence awaits you at the 27-story Augustus Tower, where we stayed, and the 22-story adult only Forum tower. Our room had a wonderful view of the Detroit River and Ambassador Bridge. The rooms come with pillow top mattresses, full baths with a separate bathtub and step-in shower, a couch, and a large desk. Combined, the hotel houses 758 luxurious rooms. Enjoy complimentary valet service, room service, concierge attention, an indoor pool, health club, fitness centre and wireless high-speed service, not to mention 8 restaurants, including Neros Steakhouse and Legends, which we highlighted above. Combining dining, entertainment and relaxation under one sumptuous roof, Caesars Windsor caters to those with the most exacting taste.
The Holiday Inn Express Windsor Waterfront Hotel is a fresh, dynamic and friendly hotel right on Windsor’s Riverside Drive, walking distance from Caesars Windsor Casino and steps from many key downtown facilities along with an extensive choice of restaurant options. Start your day with a free express star breakfast bar including eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, cereal, fruit and cinnamon rolls.
Amenities include a heated indoor pool and fully equipped fitness centre. Stay connected with fast and reliable Wi-Fi throughout plus a modern 24-hour business centre. The on-site market is available to pick up a favorite snack or beverage.
Rooms include a lounge chair and ottoman, 40” flat-screen TV, a fridge, microwave, Keurig and large work desk. Featuring the latest award-winning Formula Blue design, many of the 156 guestrooms and suites overlook the spectacular Detroit River skyline. We definitely recommend the upgrade to a river view room.