The term "breaking bread" has long been used as a euphemism for sharing and for developing and nurturing friendships.
On this night, the Toad in the Hole’s burgers, butter chicken, fish and chips and the Osborne Street pub’s namesake dish are nowhere to be seen — at least not along the bar top at this hour, where the breaking of bread is more likely to be done via a pint glass.
Manfred Keil occupies one of the seats along the Toad in the Hole’s short bar top.
Sporting a Hawaiian shirt and a booming voice, he sips a pint of Alexander Keith’s (almost certainly not his first of the night) while merrymaking and recalling good times at the Osborne Village pub.
"In the last three years I’ve met here more interesting friends than ever before," says Keil, who says he's 50, but later claims to have arrived in Winnipeg from Mannheim, Germany in February 1960.
"I have intellectual leanings, and my friends would consider me an intellectual. And just last night somebody came to me and said, ‘I remember you — you used to be friends with the great architect Carl Nelson!’ I was so fulfilled."
Bartender Cliff Warwick has developed relationships with regulars like Keil since he started pouring pints at the Toad 13 years ago.
"They’re a pretty amicable bunch," he says with a laugh. "There are still people coming here that came here in the '90s."
Warwick worked next door at the now-defunct Die Maschine Cabaret and started out as one of those early regulars, slinking over after work with co-workers such as Susan Place, his then-girlfriend who would become his wife, and then ex-wife.
Tonight, Place stands at one end of the bar — still a regular after all these years.
“I just love coming here ‐ I know all the people." –Susan Place
"I just love coming here — I know all the people," says Place.
"It’s a neighbourhood bar. You get to know the staff... they’re your friends, they almost become like your family. Just the other day one of the waitresses was going away, so we all came to see her off."
While enjoying a spiced rum and Coke, Place calls "Cliffie" over to pour her a shot. "I’m the only one who gets to call him that," she says, laughing.
And while Osborne Village stores and eateries have come and gone, the Toad remains a mainstay for Winnipeggers to break bread — figuratively and otherwise — along the strip.
"There are a few empty stores, and other areas like South Osborne and West Broadway are picking up a bit," Warwick says.
"But the Toad’s not going anywhere. We’ve still got our people who are going to come back day in and day out."
— Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson
Photography by John Woods