A picturesque city in Canada’s heartland, Saskatoon is situated along the South Saskatchewan River with a skyline that can be viewed from the eight bridges that stretch across the waterway. As the largest town in Saskatchewan, it is emerging as a dynamic and creative culinary destination.
Saskatchewan’s nickname, the “breadbasket of Canada,” reflects the abundance of wheat fields as well as diverse regional produce that can be found here. With over 40 per cent of Canadian farmland located in Saskatchewan, it’s no wonder that inventive chefs, brewers, and distillers are enhancing Saskatoon’s food community by utilizing the variety of locally-grown fruits, grains, and vegetables. They are also incorporating a wide array of artisanal cheeses, farm-raised meats, and other items from the region.
Canada is the world’s largest exporter of pulses, such as lentils, beans, sunflowers, chickpeas, and buckwheat—and Saskatchewan is the nation’s number-one producer of those crops. Some mustard seeds grown here are event exported to Dijon, France. All of this leads to a food and drink scene in Saskatoon—named after the region’s ubiquitous bright red berry—that is on the brink of something truly fabulous.
Where to Eat
Several new restaurants and establishments have opened recently, each with its own distinct ambiance, sensibility, and style. Notable is Little Grouse on the Prairie, owned by Dale MacKay, winner of Top Chef Canada in season one, along with mixologist Christopher Cho and chef Nathan Guggenheimer. The menu features an array of homemade pastas and other specialties using local ingredients. With an upbeat atmosphere, the restaurant encourages family-style dining, allowing guests to experience multiple plates.
This team also owns other downtown hotspots, including Ayden Kitchen and Bar, which has been a fan favourite for several years. It offers a menu of various meat and seafood entrees, along with more casual bites that include burgers and a charcuterie board. Then there is Sticks and Stones, their new Japanese-Korean eatery that opened its doors in April 2017, which presents a robust variety of imaginative ramen and sushi specialties that often include fresh and smoked trout (beloved by locals). The menu inspires foodies to explore Asian flavours with zesty dishes like seafood and kimchi pancakes, and bison and tuna tataki.
In the revitalized Riversdale neighbourhood, Drift Sidewalk Café invites guests to hang out in swinging hammocks while sipping cappuccinos. This family-owned coffee shop emits a relaxed vibe and also features Vista Lounge, a second floor where tapas and cocktails are served. And the rooftop has been converted to a patio that is buzzing year-round.
For baked goods, The Night Oven incorporates organic and seasonal grains and other ingredients from local producers into its handmade breads and pastries. Owner Bryn Rawlyk personally built the mill and brick oven himself. And for a hands-on experience, The Local Kitchen provides a new kind of culinary adventure. Opened in January 2017, this co-working concept was the brainchild of three entrepreneurs. The Local Kitchen offers cooking classes and demos with a number of Saskatoon chefs, while also providing professional space for food entrepreneurs to create and test their own recipes.
Where to Drink
Juice-lovers flock to Thrive, a corner cold-pressed juice bar that supports organic and sustainable farming. It was started by business partners Maile Crowe and Danica Slattery, who are committed to introducing customers to healthy fruit and vegetable blends. Brimming with delightful combinations, a few tasty concoctions include: True Tang (carrot, pineapple, orange, and turmeric); Matcha Mylk (almonds, honey, dates, and vanilla); and the aptly-named Local, made with saskatoon and haskap berries.
Not surprisingly considering the grains grown here, the city’s craft breweries are flourishing. The popular 9 Mile Legacy recently moved from a tiny nano-brewery to a larger brewpub that is located along the main drag in Riversdale. Owners Shawn Moen and Garrett Pederson’s popular ales and stouts still honour their family farms (they have been nine miles apart from each other in Saskatchewan for over a century). In addition, Lucky Bastard Distillery has expanded from approximately 3,000 to 14,000 square-feet. The award-winning barrel-aged whisky is now released in batches via a lottery to accommodate the large number of avid fans. And the newest distillery in town is Black Fox, which features locally-grown “farm-to-still” ingredients, including honey, haskap berries, and pumpkin flowers.
For dining enthusiasts, there is much to discover in this unassuming yet vibrant city.