Savour a City Break in Saskatoon, Canada – Saskatoon is not just some dusty Prairie city, it’s a vibrant place with great things to see, do and EAT! I spent a week at this delicious destination in June, and thoroughly enjoyed eating and drinking my way around this pretty riverside city, as well as taking several road trips to explore the surrounding area. Come with me now, as I walk you through some of the tasty, fascinating and fun attractions that Saskatoon has to offer.
A Pretty Prairie City in Saskatchewan
I have always thought that the Prairie Provinces get a bad rap in Canada, not so much by overseas visitors, but by Canadians themselves, and Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan is a point in case; however, the Prairie provinces and cities are hidden gems just waiting to be discovered, with some of the best food I’ve enjoyed in Canada, and with a multitude of interesting, fun attractions and activities to see and participate in, and I highly recommend visiting them for a truly unique Canadian holiday experience. With my interest in the Canadian Prairies still firing my imagination, I was lucky enough to travel to Saskatoon in June as part of a special Canada 150 City Bloggers Plus project in collaboration with Destination Canada, Tourism Saskatoon, Tourism Saskatchewan, Air Transat and Canadian Affair. Whilst staying in this beautiful water-side city, I discovered an extraordinarily diverse food scene of the highest quality, as well as some great outdoor activities and city walks to participate in – it was a week filled with amazing discoveries and the weather in early June was gloriously sunny too!
So how did I get to Saskatoon? I had a stress-free and very comfortable flight from London Gatwick to Toronto with Air Transat, where I had a short wait before catching a domestic internal flight to Saskatoon. Not only that, but I took advantage of Air Transat’s Option Plus service, which is only an extra £52 each way from London to Toronto; the Option Plus service allows you to choose your seat at time of booking, enjoy priority check in at a dedicated counter, as well as using the Priority queue at security checkpoints in Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver – you also have priority boarding, priority baggage handling & checked baggage is also included. A handy “comfort kit” is offered to you, which comprises blanket, inflatable neck pillow, sleep mask and headphones as well as an alcoholic beverage from the bar, and a choice of snack from the Bistro Menu. For an extra £15, you can take advantage of a gourmet meal from the Chef’s Menu by Daniel Vézina. In addition to a main dish created by the chef himself, the Chef’s Menu by Daniel Vézina offers you bread with butter, a cheese plate with crackers, a glass of wine and dessert. Flights start at £345.55 return from London Gatwick to Toronto in October 2017, and you can chat to Canadian Affair to tailor-make your Saskatoon holiday, by visiting their site here: Arrange my Saskatoon Holiday.
Now we have arrived in Saskatoon, here’s my list of the best places to eat and drink, and where to explore in the city: let’s start off where to stay, your home away from home – I had seven comfortable nights in the Delta Bessborough – one of Canada’s grand railway hotels, “The Bess” is known as the castle by the river and is surrounded by five acres of lush Elizabethan style “knot” gardens, with its central location being convenient for downtown Saskatoon. My room was large and airy with a view over the river, with plenty of hanging space, drawers and easy chairs for relaxing in; there was an en-suite bathroom and WC with all of the essential toiletries needed whilst you are away from home as well as piles of fluffy towels. I was booked in on one of the hotel’s “Club rates”, which gave me access to the Club Lounge for a buffet breakfast as well as free amuse bouche with aperitifs every evening.
Moving on from sleeps to eats! I was treated to some outstanding food whilst in Saskatoon, innovative meals that were right up there with any Michelin Star restaurant in London or elsewhere; local chefs, brewers and restaurant owners were passionate about what they prepared and cooked, with local ingredients featuring heavily in all of the places I went to, which is how it should be. The following list will help you choose where to eat and drink whilst in Saskatoon, and be warned, there are lots of great places to graze in this Prairie city!
Where to eat and drink in Saskatoon:
This sleek and ultra cool Asian inspired restaurant only opened in April 2017; it is yet another venture from Top Chef Canada Winner Dale MacKay’s Grassroots Restaurant Group team. Sticks & Stones offers predominately Korean and Japanese cuisine, and is situated in the heart of downtown. Popular dishes include Ramen and Sushi that uses a local Saskatoon option of smoked trout, crispy trout skin, avocado, cucumber and puffed Saskatchewan wild rice. They also boast an extensive sake list, which I thoroughly enjoyed whilst I was there! I also enjoyed their Kimchi Fried Rice and Korean Fried Chicken, which was the best I’ve had outside of Asia.
THE place for a bistro style breakfast in Saskatoon…..the menu suggests “The Breakfast Plate” which comprises two eggs your way, potato croquette, a choice of farmer’s sausage, back bacon, pecan maple bacon rolls, mango and jalapeno chicken sausage or fresh asparagus served with toasted bagel or rye bread. Then there are Eggs Benedict, in many guises, crab cakes, omelettes, crepes or cinnamon bagel toast, but I chose to go “bespoke” and enjoyed Creamy cheddar baked hash browns with bacon crumbs, scrambled eggs, pecan maple bacon rolls and Parmesan pesto cherry tomatoes, which was utterly divine and a great way to start the day.
A fabulous restaurant and bakery in the uber chic part of Saskatoon known as Broadway, the executive and owner chef is a very talented lady called Remi Cousyn; all ingredients used in the meals at Calories are prepared minimally and with respect to reflect the changing seasons and their relationship with the surrounding environment, as you can see from their current menus. I was treated to a special Saskatchewan Tasting Menu which used local ingredients from the province, and comprised morels with fiddle head ferns for a starter, local Northern pike with quinoa & lentils for the main course and a delectable Saskatoon berry tart for dessert.
This Asian restaurant in Riversdale is owned and run by a father and son team Sam and Andy Yuen, who have created a mix of traditional meets modern Chinese food…and it works. They have a lot of dishes that cater to vegan or vegetarians, making this a hot-spot for all crowds. At the bar, they carry a collaboration beer from 9 Mile Legacy, that includes Asian flavours such as lemongrass, ginger and Szechuan pepper. Since immigrating to Saskatchewan from Hong Kong in 1996, the Yuen Family has been closely tied to the Chinese Canadian restaurant business in several communities across the province. Odd Couple was born out of the desire to recreate Canadian-Asian favourites in a fun, thoughtful expression of the union between East and West. Whilst I was there I enjoyed a plate of their signature Vegan Spring Rolls, their famous Ginger Beef, Tomato Pad Thai and a sharing platter of Nasi Lamek, which comprised Grilled Shrimp Skewers, Fried Chicken Thighs, Grilled Asian Sausage, Peanuts, Cucumber, Papaya Slaw, Coconut Rice and Fried Egg. Prices were very reasonable and drinks were also the cheapest I’d seen in the city.
Chef Dale Mackay’s (from Sticks and Stones , see above) other restaurant, Little Grouse on the Prairie offers mainly authentic Italian food based on prairie ingredients in relaxed surroundings. Their All Famiglia sharing menu is a great way to taste all that’s on offer in the restaurant, and seasonally, with specially selected sharing plates from their current menu, and you can add wine pairings too, which I did when I was there. The sharing experience started with a big bowl of salad and a cocktail and went on to hand dived scallops, smoked Arctic char caviar, courgettes with asparagus, ravioli with sage butter, more pasta, fish and risotto and finally a lemon polenta cake and limoncello! A sharing platter with wine is C$90 per person.
A great place to breakfast, brunch, lunch and enjoy a rooftop aperitif; the Drift Sidewalk Cafe is situated near the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market and has three separate dining areas – there’s the sidewalk cafe, the Vista lounge and the rooftop patio. I enjoyed a tasty brunch in the sidewalk cafe, where there are some amusing named crepes on offer, including LOX NESS – with smoked salmon, BOLLYWOOD – with curried chickpeas and the CREPOS RANCHEROS, which I had, and which comprised Refried Beans, Scrambled Eggs, Feta, Corn Salsa and Jalapeno Avocado Creme Fraiche. All the crepes are priced between C$11:50 and C$12:50 and are freshly made to order. There’s also a fab selection of sandwiches and salads, and tea is served in a tea pot, just the way I like it!
A whole food, gluten and nut-free café but so much more: delicious home cooked meals using as much organic, local and seasonal produce as possible, as well as carefully sourced meat and seafood, with vegetarian and vegan options. The lunch menu offered “Opening Bites” such as Hummus and GF Pita Bread, Coconut Green Curry Mussels, Leyda’s Nachos and Leyda’s Ayruvedic Soup Bowl; there was a fabulous selection of salads and some innovative sandwiches, pizzas and entrees, including the Mexican Bison Empanadas that I chose. The cafe is the brain child of the dynamic Dr Dee Dee Maltman, who wanted to offer a whole food, gluten-free and nut free eatery after one of her daughters was diagnosed with celiac disease. The choice of all of the “free from” dishes on the menu is vast, with no need for people with allergies to feel left out! They also have a dairy free range too.
9 Mile Legacy started as a very small brewery (about a 10th the size of a typical “microbrewery”) and has since grown into a less small brewery, designing and making their beers and ales using high-quality and unique ingredients to produce a well-balanced and original drinking experience. You can try out 4 different types of their beers in a “flight”, with Scuffbag Brown Ale (North Eastern English brown ale) being a favourite of mine as well as Cherry Bitter, IPA Revisited and Saskatoon Berry Blonde coming in very close second favourites. Located on 229 20th Street West. Their very pleasant taproom is a place where you can come in, have a glass of beer or a taster flight and fill up your growler. NB: 9 Mile Legacy Brewing is a story of collaboration, growth and good neighbours. It is about celebrating good times together and weathering hard times together. It is a story often told in places like Saskatchewan.
Chefs Christie Peters and Kyle Michael are two young chefs dedicated to serving contemporary food focused on natural and seasonal products. Food made with the best ingredients found in the area: cultivated plants grown from heirloom seeds, wild-harvested leaves and mushrooms, flowers, sap and roots, local fish all find their way into their delicious meals— sustainable raised, pastured meat, poultry and eggs from small farmers are also used in all the meals that are served in this quirky and comfortable restaurant. MUST TRY evening meal dishes are: Roasted BONE MARROW with pain Viennois, horseradish, bread crumbs, sage salt and lemon; Saskatchewan PICKEREL with caviar beurre blanc, lentils, spruce tips and wood sorrel as well as Strawberry RHUBARB and Lavender Cake with vanilla custard. They also do a fabulous brunch, with dishes such as Breakfast Poutine (made with Québec curds, naturally pastured chicken gravy, poached farm egg, bacon lardons) and Pannekoeken (a Dutch pancake, bacon, two sunny eggs, smoked Gouda, local apples, real maple syrup) which instantly jumped out when I looked at the menu!
A Saskatchewan institution, Baba’s Perogies is Canada’s only drive-thru perogie restaurant. A family-owned restaurant, Baba’s has a largely Ukrainian kitchen staff that hand makes as many as 10,000 perogies, 120 litres of borscht and 3,000 cabbage rolls every day! They have been making homemade quality products for over 30 years, this includes their hand-pinched perogies, cabbage rolls and homemade beet borscht. Their Super Combo plate comprises 5 perogies, 2 cabbage rolls and 1 smokie (smoked sausage) for only C$8.99, which is what I enjoyed and represents amazing value for money.
Chef Dale MacKay along with Co-Chef & Butcher Nathan Guggenheimer, GM & Mixologist Christopher Cho, Head Chef Benet Hunt, create homegrown and globally inspired comfort food, paired with beautifully hand-crafted cocktails, and wines, in a relaxed and inviting setting that evokes rich dark woods and antique curiosities. Whether you are going in for a full dining experience, an after-work cocktail, or a night-cap, Ayden Kitchen & Bar delivers you with warmth and comfort with each experience, and was one of my favourite eateries in Saskatoon. Must try main dishes: Charcuterie Board with Pickles, Grilled Rib Eye Steak and Smoked Chicken Breast.
A local favourite “greasy spoon”, Park Café’s focus is on home-cooked comfort food and is dedicated to using local fresh ingredients, such as Saskatchewan beef, in-house smoked meats, hand-battered fish, and onion rings. Their breakfasts are legendary and must try dishes for breakfast or brunch are The Bridge Party (French toast, hash browns and bacon, ham or sausage), Benny, Murphy and the Boys (Eggs Benedict with Canadian back bacon and hash browns), The Homesteader (Pancakes with bacon, ham or sausage) and Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwich (Breakfast patty, fried egg and cheese served in a Kaiser Roll with hash browns) Located in the heart of Riversdale, Park Cafe has been serving Saskatoon the finest locally sourced food since December 2005, and I do love a good old diner!
Night Oven is a local bakery that has a simple approach. They start with organic and seasonal ingredients from local producers, then craft all their breads and pastries by hand. Bryn Rawlyk built the huge mill himself, as well as the brick oven used to bake their products. They like to show off a variety of heritage grains, probably most popular being red fife wheat. They only make bread that is made by hand using basic and the most fresh ingredients possible. Our bread begins with flour, water, and salt. The dough is then proofed for upwards of 24hrs allowing for a deep richness of flavour. It is then shaped and baked in a hot wood fired oven. They also make French style pastries, scones and cakes. Bread is available everyday after 10am, depending on the oven. See menu for which breads are made which days.
Enjoy a cooking class with a Saskatchewan twist – The Local Kitchen is a large, collaborative kitchen. Designed specifically to bring participants together to cook, create, and collaborate. It was created as a sort of clubhouse for people who love food. A place to be creative and try new things. A space to start your dream job. To learn from some of the best chefs in Saskatoon and bring those lessons home to friends and family. Support for food businesses to solve problems and hurdles that seemed impossible so they can achieve their full potential.
Lucky Bastard Distillery aims to create traditional high quality, low quantity, handcrafted spirits. They produce a large variety of playful and artistic spirits, liqueurs and bitters. Try popular Gambit Gin with floral and citrus notes, or Lucky Bastard Horlika, also known as the “the kiss and the slap.” This Ukrainian honey peppered vodka starts out sweet but finishes with a warm kick, thanks to Mexican chilli peppers! It’s in the Distillery Bar that I was “SASKATOON’ED”! See the poster below for the whole procedure……
The second restaurant opened by Chefs Christie Peters and Kyle Michael who own and run The Hollows, Primal aims to create time-honoured Italian food & handmade pasta using Saskatchewan heritage grains & whole animal butchery. The menu is simple but innovative, with dishes such as house made fried bread, elk carpaccio with pickled walnuts, fried artichokes & garlic mayo, pork cotechino with lentils, sauerkraut & mustard as well as their signature dish of marrow bone luge being hugely popular. You can also get a Family Style shared 4 course chef’s choice menu for C$55 per person, which comprises antipasto with bread & snacks, primo – handmade pasta, secondo – feature entrée and dolce – dessert.
As you can see, there is a wealth of amazing eateries and places to sip a pint or a glass of wine in Saskatoon, and the city is a real hub for serious foodies, as well as those who just want to grab a quick bite to go. Join me in a few weeks time, when I’ll be back to share where you can go outside the city, and all in a day with no need to book any accommodation. Don’t forget, if you want to plan a bespoke holiday to Saskatoon, you can chat to Canadian Affair to tailor-make your Saskatoon holiday, by visiting their site here: Arrange my Saskatoon Holiday.
With thanks to all the people, who made this happen, especially Jodie, Aviva, Nim and Michael and all of the establishments as mentioned above who made me feel so welcome and fed me so well!
Disclaimer: This was a sponsored collaborative press trip with Destination Canada, Air Transat, Canadian Affair, Tourism Saskatchewan and Tourism Saskatoon.
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