My primary reaction upon walking into The Good Will Social Club for the first time was confusion. Is it a coffee shop? A bar? Does pizza taste good with coffee? This was followed almost immediately by the thought that I was simply not cool enough to be there: the crowd on a Tuesday afternoon was dominated by a sea of flannel, toques and MacBooks.
At the bar, folks were enjoying beer opposite students typing notes and drinking coffee, while a meeting took place between them on a long communal table. Everyone was eating pizza. It was a vision of what you might call high tea for hipsters.
The Good Will is located near the University of Winnipeg, at 625 Portage, in the building that formerly housed Pop Soda’s Coffeehouse & Gallery, which reportedly closed after an accident in August 2012 involving a drunk driver.
The self-described dive bar has a coffee counter that sells pastries from Tall Grass Prairie Bakery alongside a bar serving craft beer, as well as a Little Pizza Heaven counter. The bar and performance space are dark and feature tall lounge tables and comfortable booths. If you’ve ever wanted to study in a bar, this place is for you.
The venue has a capacity of around 200 people. That space is adjacent to a brighter, pizza and arcade-game room. The two are connected by large wall openings that can be closed for shows.
Anthony Kowalcyzk, one of The Good Will’s nine owners, says their goal is to create a space that is open to everyone, where people can hang out, meet new people and feel as comfortable as possible. He also mentions that the performers booked at the venue won’t have any specific style in order to allow listeners to discover new sounds (in contrast with Pop Soda’s, which didn’t book hip hop and turned loud bands down - Editor).
I tried lattes of both the dairy and soy variety ($3 each, with no extra charge for soy), as well as the drip coffee ($1.50). While the price was impressive, the portion was small; none of the coffees had an especially robust flavour, but both lattes were satisfactory, with plenty of foam. I tried a cinnamon bun, a chocolate croissant and a flax and chocolate chip cookie. They were all very fresh and tasty.
The pizza was thin, garlicky and served by the slice for a bit over $3. The service was not exceptionally quick or friendly. The atmosphere was a particular kind of grunge. Let’s call it eclectic, if slightly contrived. Even the mugs and tableware were charmingly mismatched (like Monica’s dining room chairs on Friends). I was also impressed to discover gender-inclusive bathrooms, marked simply “WC” for water closet.
I suspect The Good Will will become a staple in many U of W students’ routines as a place to relax and study. It may take some time to come into its own, but The Good Will is nothing if not unique. I foresee it being an excellent addition to the growing market for live music in Winnipeg and a community hub in the West End.