Western Living Magazine
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Resident foodie Julie Van Rosendaal shares her go-to spots in the prairies.
Saskatoon is like the Portland of the prairies, a small (but not sleepy!) creative hub with a wandering river, plenty of green space and lots of tasty places to explore, from coffee shops and bakeries to contemporary eateries, microbreweries and distilleries. Although it’s not often thought of as a Canadian food destination, it should be—here’s just a handful of places worth seeking out.
Chefs Christie Peters and Kyle Michael work with local farmers and producers, grow their own permaculture garden and do their own foraging to create dishes that evolve with the seasons; in early summer, friends and neighbours were harvesting dandelion greens to make a sublime pesto—diners (myself included) were practically licking their plates. With a menu based on “cultivated plants grown from heirloom seeds, wild-harvested leaves and mushrooms, flowers, sap and roots, local fish,” the dishes on offer are constantly changing. The basement is stacked with preserves and other culinary experiments, and the kitchen table is often occupied with a locally-raised animal they butcher themselves. With small and large plates, a tasting menu, fantastic desserts and weekend brunch, it’s a must-visit. You may also wish to stop by the team’s other restaurant, Primal, where they specialize in handmade pasta using Saskatchewan heritage grains and whole animal butchery in an equally hip setting.
Ask people in the know where to eat in Saskatoon, and inevitably Odd Couple will come up—the casual Asian eatery is family owned and operated by Andy Yuen, his wife Rachel, and parents Sam and Jane. Since immigrating to Saskatchewan from Hong Kong in 1996, the family has been connected to the restaurant industry, and their latest operation is meant to be a “fun, thoughtful expression of the union between East and West, with ingredients and cooking techniques inspired by Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Japanese cuisines.” You might get a thick slab of local bacon and a fried egg nestled atop a steaming plate of fried rice, or a share plate of maple and Thai basil Moose Jaw pork ribs. They make their own version of classic Canadian ginger beef (invented in Calgary!), and sometimes an amazing vegetarian version, made with strips of portobello mushroom. Go. Now.
If you’re in the mood for ramen, gyoza or a spicy sushi roll made with local Diefenbaker trout, the latest from the Grassroots Restaurant Group—Top Chef Canada winner Dale Mackay alongside seasoned restaurateurs and mixologist Christopher Cho and Nathan Guggenheimer—specializes in modern, innovative Japanese and Korean cuisine with a Saskatchewan slant. (It’s the group’s third restaurant—the others, Ayden Kitchen and Bar and Little Grouse on the Prairie, are worth a visit too.) Try the bison tataki, Korean fried chicken, pork belly steamed buns and the YXE roll made with smoked local trout, crispy trout skin, avocado, cucumber and Saskatchewan-grown puffed wild rice. Sticks and Stones is a great pick for a late night nosh—the kitchen is open until 1 a.m.
If you’re after good coffee, amazing bread, pastries and perhaps a savoury tart or sausage roll, pop into the Night Oven—they aim to have fresh loaves coming out of the oven at 10 a.m. Owner Bryn Rawlyk built his first wood-fired oven back in 2005, in a public park in Montreal using repurposed bricks salvaged from a dumpster; the oven at the Night Oven is even bigger, but they still make spectacular bread out of flour, water and salt, starting with grain—red fife wheat, purple wheat, spelt, dark buckwheat, khorasan, einkorn and rye—sourced from Saskatchewan farmers and stone-ground in house. They sell their flour by the bag if you want to attempt your own loaf, but you can’t not pick up one of their handmade artisan loaves, with varieties that rotate throughout the week. Buttery brioche and light, flaky pastries are equally sublime.
A Saskatoon institution, Baba’s has been hand-pinching perogies and rolling cabbage rolls for the past 30 years—and they have the only perogy drive-thru in Canada. If you’re lucky, you might witness a tractor pulling through (there’s enough room!). The menu is simple, and classic prairie—go for a super combo (5 perogies, 2 cabbage rolls and a smokie). They all include sour cream, real bacon bits and fried onions, and you can opt for a side of mushroom-dill sauce for a dollar. Of course they also have homemade pie.
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