There’s an undeniable vibrancy abuzz in Saskatchewan’s largest city. A food and drink revolution is well underway in Saskatoon, thanks in part to the revitalized Riversdale neighbourhood, which has become a catalyst in encouraging entrepreneurs to set up shop.
When chefs and co-owners Christie Peters and Kyle Michael took over the former Golden Dragon restaurant space in 2011, they left it as is, only adding minimal touches. The result is The Hollows, with its eclectic, nostalgic and warm environment. With a sustainable approach, both Peters and Michaels forage seasonally for the best local ingredients, using everything they take in. “We have a snout-to-tail philosophy,” says Peters. Even the most overlooked sources — such as (edible) dandelions — are used to create contemporary and delightful dishes.
Ayden Kitchen & Wine Bar:
Chef Dale MacKay and his team have been instrumental in transforming the city’s food scene. The first Top Chef Canada winner returned home with colleagues (chefs Nathan Guggenheimer and Jesse Zuber, and GM/mixologist, Christopher Cho) to open Ayden Kitchen & Wine Bar in 2013. “It’s a very exciting place to be,” says MacKay. “The never-ending support (Saskatoon) has shown lets us continue to grow and change year after year.” Expect home-styled comfort dishes, such as fried chicken and waffles and house-made charcuterie.
Little Grouse on the Prairie:
Former Ayden head chef Jesse Zuber is leading the way in Ayden’s recent off-shoot venture, Little Grouse on the Prairie. Offering authentic Italian food based (mainly) on prairie ingredients, meals are a la famiglia-style and served on mix and matched china in an intimate space. The à la carte menu says Zuber, “has an interplay that is more modern and casual.” Expect beautifully plated delectable dishes that set this Italian restaurant apart in the city — and province. Try the beef carpaccio with “a grotesque amount of black truffles.”
Drift Sidewalk Café and Vista Lounge:
By day, enjoy a beachy, west-coast vibe at Drift Sidewalk Café. It’s the ideal place to satiate caffeine fixes and snack cravings (OMG, the crêpes). Airy breezes from a garage door-styled window roll in as you sip your latte, lounging in a cosy blue hammock. At night, head upstairs to Vista Lounge for shareable small and large plates, while you take in vibrant pops of colour in the funky, Moroccan-Mediterranean-styled interior.
9 Mile Legacy Brewing Co.:
The story of Western Canada’s smallest nano-brewery, 9 Mile Legacy Brewing Co., is a tale worth telling. It was founded by Shawn Moen and Garrett Pederson. Moen describes their venture as a “longstanding legacy of working together, approaching community in the same way.” For more than a century, the pair’s families lived and worked alongside each other on farms nine miles (14 kilometres) apart. Tradition continues with craft beer that is delicious and tugs at the heartstrings. Try Angus Stout and Stand-Up Brown brews, named as tribute to their grandfathers.
Lucky Bastard Distillers:
When Michael Goldney and Cary Bowman of Lucky Bastard Distillers set out in 2012, their goal was to create traditional high quality, low quantity, handcrafted spirits. Four years later, the micro-distillery produces a large variety of playful and artistic spirits, liqueurs and bitters. Try popular Gambit Gin with floral and citrus notes, or Lucky Bastard Horlika, a.k.a., “the kiss and the slap.” This Ukrainian honey peppered vodka starts out sweet but finishes with a warm kick, thanks to Mexican chili peppers.
Black Fox Farm & Distillery:
Opened in 2015 and located just outside the city in the scenic river valley is family-run, boutique distillery and U-pick flower site, Black Fox Farm & Distillery. “We grow booze and flowers,” says co-owner Barb Stefanyshyn-Côte. Quick gaining attention for their gin, production has expanded to include vodka, whisky and liqueurs, such as haskap, raspberry, honey ginger, and Crème de Cassis. Ninety-five per cent of the ingredients are grown onsite, where the family farms more than 32 hectares.
The Glen at Crossmount Cidery:
Saskatoon’s first hard cidery, Crossmount Cider Co., has a vision for growth. With 1,500 trees already planted in the six-hectare orchard, plans are in place to develop an additional 32.3 hectares to expand production from 15,000 litres to 45,000 litres. Using hybrids trees (bred at the University of Saskatchewan), head cidermaker Tyler Kaban is growing hardy apple varieties that can survive temperatures of up to -45C. The Glen at Crossmount’s tasting room currently offers three varieties of cider: crisp, dry and gold.
Disclosure: This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star. I was a guest of Tourism Saskatoon, which did not review or approve this article.