Commonwealth Kitchen + Bar is a love letter to Winnipeg

This dinner club style eatery brings fresh energy to the Exchange District

Commonwealth Kitchen + Bar is breathing new life into the historic Bank of Toronto building between McDermot and Bannatyne. Since 1905, the building has stood as a cornerstone of Winnipeg’s Bankers Row, and now it’s become a vibrant hub for the city’s culinary scene.

Co-owner and managing partner Nikola Maharajh is no stranger to the hospitality scene, with over 16 years of industry experience. He began his career as a bar manager before starting his own promotions company. Along the way, he’s been a bartender, restaurant marketing consultant, and co-owner at 441 Main Street. Nik’s passion for hospitality eventually led him to pursue his goal of opening a restaurant in Winnipeg alongside business partner Stephen Hua.

“We are always waiting for the right spot for each concept we have,” says Nik, who usually has quite a few business ideas on the go. When a friend bought the space at 456 Main Street and asked for help leasing it, Nik and Stephen hit the jackpot. They went to show it to a potential renter and instead, found it was the perfect place for a dinner club restaurant they had been dreaming up. “The room suited it perfectly with the marble walls and floors built in 1905 and the stonework outside,” says Nik. The building had fantastic bones, with high ceilings and natural lighting, and their team set to elevate it and add the Commonwealth touch. They designed the space with warm lighting, lots of flowers and plants from House of Silk, and artwork from Pedro Reis to add pops of colour. The intention is to balance the masculine aspects of the building itself with feminine accents, creating an interior space where everyone can feel welcome.

“A Commonwealth is a combination of republics, and the menu reflects that, serving as a combination of different things we like in the city,”

Nikola Mharajh, Co-owner and Managing Partner of Commonwealth Kitchen + Bar

Commonwealth draws inspiration from the concept of a dinner club, which sees patrons enjoying food and beverages in unique, upscale environments, often with entertainment. During Nik’s travels to cities like New York, Montreal, Toronto, and Chicago, he was inspired by the restaurants that had embraced the dinner club atmosphere. These restaurants offered the whole package- delicious food, a vibrant atmosphere, excellent cocktails, and entertainment. The dinner experience is transformed to a social event and offers an alternative to the nightclub scene. “It was time for the city to have something like this. It’s good for people who are 30+ and don’t really have a spot to go out right now. That’s the gap we are trying to fill,” explains Nik.

Like traditional dinner clubs, Commonwealth is elevated by the intentionality of the menu. “A Commonwealth is a combination of republics, and the menu reflects that, serving as a combination of different things we like in the city,” says Nik. The menu is a love letter to their favourite spots in Winnipeg, with coffee from Colosimo, gelato from Nucci’s, and beer on tap from Little Brown Jug, Torque, and Kilter. They sought out their favourite chefs to create the dishes, with contributions from Mandel Hitzer from Deer + Almond and Calvin Truong from Kyu Grill.

The menu is designed for sharing, so bring some friends to try as many dishes as possible. So far, their best-seller is the Motoyaki Oyster created by Mandel, a large baked oyster topped with house-made sauce and green onions and finished with a blow torch. Another crowd favourite are the Medjool dates stuffed with brie cheese, wrapped in bacon, and topped with pistachios. Nik recommends Calvin’s Black Sesame Seared Tuna, topped with pea puree, red onions, microgreens, and a thickened ponzu sauce. Or the adventurous can try the Oxtail Tagliatelle, which features Jamaican oxtail and beef in a truffle butter confit. If you’re thirsty, Commonwealth offers a well-balanced drink menu that includes wine, beer, cocktails, and mocktails. Try some of their classic cocktails with a twist, like their Caesar with torched rosemary or the rosé sangria.

At Commonwealth, it’s not just about the menu — it’s the entertainment that truly sets the place apart. Drawing from the playbook of a dinner club, they’ve built in experiential aspects to the restaurant to elevate the experience. Wednesdays bring live music and whiskey specials, while Thursdays offer live tunes paired with karaoke, complete with a piano and drummer. On Friday and Saturday nights, the 25+ crowd can dance to DJs spinning 80s and 90s hits. And for a perfect end to the week, don’t miss their Sunday oyster night, where you can enjoy $1.50 a shuck!

Commonwealth truly is a collection of the owner’s favourite things about Winnipeg, and its location in the Exchange is included. Nik has a soft spot for the Exchange, where he has fond memories and previous ownership experience at 441 Main. He loves the atmosphere and aliveness of the neighbourhood, where you can hop between bars, cocktail spots, and shops all within a few blocks. By opening Commonwealth in the Exchange District, Nik aims to contribute to a neighbourhood he deeply loves. “The goal is to get more people downtown and get more people in the neighbourhood,” he shares.

Commonwealth has more in store, including a patio launch and seasonal updates to the food and beverage menu. Stay tuned for more updates from Nik, an entrepreneur at heart who would love to open more thriving businesses in the Exchange and beyond. 

Check out Commonwealth Kitchen + Bar at 456 Main Street in the Exchange. To make reservations, peruse the menu, or learn more:

Instagram: @commonwealthwpg