Eat Your Way Through Canada's Latest Up-and-Coming City
Ever since Dale MacKay, the first Top Chef Canada winner, opened a restaurant in his hometown of Saskatoon in 2013, the city has quickly developed into a food mecca. Now with an empire three restaurants strong, MacKay has inspired talented colleagues in cities like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto to relocate to the midwestern province—known as "Paris on the Prairie"– where available space and low overheads allow young entrepreneurs to open their dream spots. Located six hours north of the Montana border, Saskatoon might not be the easiest Canadian city to reach, but it's worth the journey, especially with these restaurants on your radar.
After working for Gordon Ramsay in London and Daniel Boulud in New York, Dale MacKay went on to become Top Chef Canada's inaugural winner before opening Ayden Kitchen & Bar in 2013, bringing "lake to plate" dining to downtown Saskatoon. The unpretentious, art-filled space serves globally-inspired comfort food (think Thai wings, seasonal sausages, aged steaks and pierogies) and a menu of creative cocktails to match.
Last year, MacKay's right-hand man Jesse Zuber took the helm as executive chef at Little Grouse on the Prairie, where he's translating his experience at the Michelin-starred Guido (in Alba, Italy) into delicate fresh pasta and risotto, plus entrées like veal scallopini and due of lamb (slow-braised shank and roasted rack). Though plates are available à la carte, the wine-paired menu is best alla famiglia, enjoyed family-style, in the intimate dining room.
Tuck into a booth to feast from chef Nathan Guggenheimer's playful Japanese-Korean menu, which spans from ramen and sushi to steamed buns and bibimbap, or come for the cocktails and the hip hop-infused soundtrack. If you're lucky, you'll get your hands on one of the few keys to a treasure chest containing a secret cocktail menu written in riddle.
Christie Peters and Kyle Michael cooked around the world, in acclaimed kitchens like Coi in San Francisco and De Kas in Amsterdam, before returning to Saskatoon to open this kitschy fine dining concept. The menu (which is offered à la carte or as a tasting menu) utilizes fruits and vegetables grown in their own garden from heirloom seeds, plus local fish and sustainably raised and pastured meat and eggs.
Peters and Michael opened their second restaurant, Primal, right around the corner from their first, this time focusing on pasta made using Saskatchewan heritage grains and whole animal butchery. Be sure to start with the house-made buffalo mozzarella, salumi and fried bread, and end with a selection of amaro —or perhaps a fernet float with fennel ice cream.
For over thirty years, Baba's has been producing handmade Ukrainian-style pierogies (churning out 12,000 to 15,000 a day), cabbage rolls stewed in savory tomato sauce and beet borscht. Not only that, but it's the site of the world's only pierogi drive-through window, making it even easier to get a heaping plate of these homestyle dumplings topped with bacon crumbles, onion, sour cream and mushroom dill sauce.
Andy and Rachel Yuen run this popular Riversdale restaurant which uses Cantonese, Vietnamese and Japanese cooking techniques with fresh, local Saskatchewan ingredients to create dishes like maple Thai basil pork ribs and Asian pork sausages with potsticker pierogies.
After living in Montreal and Vancouver, baker Bryn Rawlyk decided to return with his family to Saskatoon and start a bakery aimed at ensuring some of the area's grain (historically exported worldwide) stays in the local diet and economy. At The Night Oven, he mills his own emmer, fife and rye to make bread and pastries using native grains.
Saskatchewan may be far from the beach, but it doesn't feel like it at this surf-inspired café offering many different ways to lounge: downstairs with a maple latte and a crepe, overlooking the farmers' market with tapas in the Vista Lounge or, during warmer months, with a cocktail in hand on the rooftop patio.
You won't even miss the meat at this mainly vegan and vegetarian restaurant with creative dishes like sweet pea pancakes and curried yam and lentil burgers—plus fresh-squeezed cocktails and local brews.
This modern diner, located in the hip Riversdale neighborhood, serves breakfast and lunch until 4 p.m. each day, featuring classics like eggs Benedict and huevos rancheros done right, plus indulgent treats like s'mores doughnuts and banana Nutella sourdough French toast.
Veronica Meewes is an Austin-based food and travel writer. Follow her adventures on Instagram @wellfedlife.
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