Not long ago, Saskatoon‘s culinary flare was limited to the plump, little-known Saskatoon berry. Locals would serve it up in the form of jam, syrup, or in its most-loved form — pie. And while eating your weight in pie isn’t the worst way to spend a vacation, the city has added a slew of other delicious reasons to visit. Over the past few years, this sunny, fast-growing city on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River has arguably become the culinary capital of the Canadian Prairies.
That’s in large part due to the return of hometown chef-hero Dale MacKay. In 2011, MacKay famously became the first winner of the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada. With an impressive background of cooking for Gordon Ramsay in London and for Daniel Boulud in Vancouver, he could have gone anywhere. Where he chose to go was back home.
In 2013, after a couple of years’ running his own restaurants in Vancouver, he opened Ayden Kitchen & Bar in Saskatoon, a relaxed space where guests can enjoy sophisticated casual fare, locally raised meat cured by in-house chef-butcher Nathan Guggenheimer, and handcrafted cocktails shaken up by bow-tied mixologist Christopher Cho. Right from the beginning, Ayden Kitchen enjoyed a prime spot on Canada’s “best of” lists.
There’s no question Ayden Kitchen has upped the game here. But it’s not the only player in town.
As its annual Folk Fest proves, Saskatoon is home to a surprisingly wide range of cultures, from Bangladeshi to Caribbean to Ukrainian, and each has brought the flavors of the world to the city’s tables.
Along 20th Street West in bustling Riversdale, for instance, you can find the popular Asian-fusion Odd Couple, the Italian-style Capanna Pizzeria, and the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Meanwhile, over on trendy Broadway, you’ll discover the vegetable-forward Nosh Eatery & Tap, as well as European-style Calories Bakery & Restaurant, which has been one of the city’s favorite spots for more than three decades.
Several exceptional craft breweries have popped up around town recently, including Paddock Wood and Prairie Sun, as well as craft distilleries like Lucky Bastard, which is known for smooth vodka, fragrant gin, and, of course, Saskatoon berry liqueur.
And if by some chance you haven’t had your fill, be sure to swing by The Berry Barn, where you can pick up Saskatoon berry tea, jam, syrup, and one last slice of Saskatoon berry pie before you go.