The city once derided as Regina’s gloomy sister has become Saskatchewan’s up-and-coming destination with a little help from a new generation of restaurants, breweries, boutiques and cultural boosters.
Where to Eat
Avalon isn’t known for destination dining but the southside neighbourhood now has a restaurant worth the drive. The menu at Hearth comes courtesy of husband-and-wife team Becky Rogers and Thane Robstad, known for their deft seasonal dishes. In a typical meal, a melty cheese dip topped with chanterelles gives way to small plate of pan-fried lake fish that pleasantly falls apart on contact, followed by crispy chicken served with a delicate pressed potato and salsa verde. No wonder this place has been packed ever since it opened its doors.
In assessing Saskatoon’s rise as a serious food city, it’s hard not to understate the impact of Dale MacKay, Nathan Guggenheimer and Christopher Cho. Sticks and Stones is the trio’s third outpost and puts a Saskatchewan spin on Korean and Japanese cuisine. Smoked trout sushi rolls sprinkled with puffed wild rice share the menu with mains like bibimbap and hearty ramen bowls. At night, the best seat in the house is at the back of the restaurant where you can watch brilliant bartenders mix timeless classics and knockout cocktails.
If delightful and approachable dining is what you’re looking for, you really ought to visit Drift located across from the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. There, you’ll find many ways to feed your hunger at this multi-level restaurant. Grab soup and a sandwich from the Sidewalk Cafe on the main floor, or head upstairs to Vista Lounge where the dinner menu features the likes of campfire burgers, grilled Lake Diefenbaker trout, and grilled sirloin served with a savoury dollop of chimichurri. The only bad thing about Drift is deciding which restaurant you want to dine at and what to order.
What to Do
Everything you’ll love about Saskatoon – an accessible river valley, an enviable arts scene and a can-do spirt – can be seen in about an hour walk along the South Saskatchewan River. Start from the trail behind the Bessborough Hotel and head east to Joni Mitchell Promenade, a section of the trail named after the folk singer who called Saskatoon home for many years and sang her first paid gig here at a coffee shop on Broadway Avenue. Continue east to River Landing district, passing the Prairie Winds landmark, the Remai Modern, zhongshan ting (Chinese pagoda) and an outdoor gym, before ending at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.
In Saskatoon, you’re never far from amazing arts and culture, but shortcut it to the newest stuff by heading straight to Remai Modern. Opened winter 2017, the modern and contemporary art space has the world’s largest collections of Picasso linocuts. Twice a year or so, the Picasso exhibition changes, allowing the Remai to display different artwork from its vast collection. The three-storey building is a piece of artwork in its own right and certainly worth a visit for an Instagram photos. The main floor is free to the public and displays rotating large art installations. Make a half-day of the experience and dine at Shift, operated by Toronto-based restaurant group Oliver & Bonacini.
Where to Shop
When it comes to the ultimate Saskatchewan souvenir, forget the keychains and collector spoons and pick up something more practical at Hardpressed. Stock for this T-shirt boutique are printed with iconic Saskatchewan symbols, wheat shafts, grain elevators, western red lilies and the likes. Hardpressed is also bursting at the seams with apparel from Naked & Famous, Cheap Monday and Nudie Jeans Co.
This downtown liquor store tends to attract a crowd that’s inclined to nerd out over craft brewing and distilling. Why? Silver’s Local Market carries only Saskatchewan-made beers, spirits and wine. And with just over 20 small breweries in Saskatchewan right now, there’s much to choose from. Pick up some lentil cream ale brewed by Rebellion Brewing or fill up your growler from the dozen rotating taps.
One of the pioneers of eco-friendly shopping in Saskatoon, The Better Good has done an admirable job of being the go-to place for organic and fair-trade items – clothing, home accessories, shoes and beauty products. Come here for a variety of shoes from well-known ethical brands like Veja, Indosole and Last Shoes. Jewellery made from recycled and reused metals are hot sellers, along with backpacks and totes. The Better Good is more than just a boutique though, it’s a caring community, gathering spot and resource for all things good.
Where to Drink
For a province with just over 1 million residents, Saskatchewan’s craft beer scene has grown at an astonishing rate. One of the first out of the gates was 9 Mile Legacy and the best place to take a break from being a tourist. The brewery is aptly named for the nine miles that separate the owners’ family farms located northwest of Swift Current. The taproom serves nine beautiful beers ranging from kettle sours to IPAs to stout. The vibe is chill and expect to hear Johnny Cash or Tom Jones playing on the record player.
Saskatoon has a great food scene, but it’s also an even better place to try great local vodka, gins and liqueurs. Head straight to the source at Black Fox Farm & Distillery. As the name suggest, it’s part farm part distillery. In 2015, third-generation farmers John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote realized that they could make great boozy products with 90% of grains, fruits and vegetables that they grow right on their land. Visit the taproom for a taste of cucumber gin, cherry liqueur and their award-winning casked gin. In the summer, it’s u-pick flower season at the farm. For a flat-fee, fill a bucket with as many gladiolus, sunflowers and lilies that you can fit.