If the words “fine dining” and “Saskatchewan” don’t seem to belong in the same sentence, then it has likely been a while since you checked out the dining scene in our neighbouring province.
Regina and Saskatoon are two of the fastest growing cities in Canada and with the influx of new immigrants, the dining scenes in both cities have become more diverse than ever. In either city, you can find Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, Italian, and exotic fusion restaurants alongside traditional family-style meat-and-potatoes restaurants.
Exploring the Saskatchewan dining scene is more fun than ever and summer is a great time for a road trip. Here’s a little overview of some interesting dining stops in Saskatchewan’s two largest cities.
Merv’s Pitchfork Fondue: When I watched Merv Brandt hoist a pitchfork full of ribeye steaks into a giant vat of hot oil, I realized that I have never felt more like a redneck.
Merv has been doing what he calls “Pitchfork Fondue” from the back of a horse trailer near Regina for more than two decades.
Since a pitchfork full of 25 ribeye steaks takes less than four minutes to cook, Merv can serve groups ranging in size from 25 to 1,000 people.
The typical fare is steak and potatoes with coleslaw, buns and baked beans. Merv’s operation is portable, but he does charge mileage to get to your location and cook for group functions.
Although his cooking technique is a little unconventional, Merv’s steaks tasted pretty good, in my opinion. (www.mervspitchforkfondue.com)
Rock ‘a’ Grill: Food trucks are a hot new dining trend in many cities and Regina’s first food truck is called Rock ‘a’ Grill.
Started by Jeff and Bryan Templeton, the concept was to use fresh, organic, local ingredients to produce a small menu of wraps, burgers and other items.
To find out where the truck is parked on any given day, follow them on twitter (@rockagrill) or facebook.
Farmer’s markets: Agriculture is an important sector of the Saskatchewan economy and a visit to the local farmer’s market is the best way to sample locally produced vegetables, meats and fruits at their freshest.
You can also find home baked and canned goods. The Regina Farmer’s Market (reginafarmersmarket.ca) runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The Saskatoon Farmer’s Market (saskatoonfarmersmarket.com) operates Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The Berry Barn: If you find yourself in Saskatoon on a warm day, consider a visit to The Berry Barn.
You can pick your own berries, enjoy a meal in the restaurant, shop in the onsite giftshop or go for a walk.
If you decide to dine, expect simple prairie fare. The perogies and cabbage rolls were both good. Consider having the Saskatoon berry crisp for dessert. (www.berrybarn.ca)
Fresh & Sweet: Located next to City Hall on Victoria Avenue, Fresh & Sweet is the place to go in Regina for cupcakes, cinnamon buns, candy apples and brunch.
If red velvet is your thing, try the red velvet pancakes for breakfast or the red velvet cupcakes for dessert.
They also serve wraps, sandwiches and salads for lunch. (valleygirlscatering.ca)
Calories: Calories Bakery and Restaurant is a great place for a late-night dessert stop in Saskatoon. The wine list is extensive and the decadent dessert menu is three pages long.
If you like cheesecake, there are nine different types, including a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake and a textured toffee cheesecake that are very popular with locals. Saskatoon berry pie is one of the most popular pies on the extensive list.
The restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Crave Kitchen and Wine Bar: Located in an historic building in downtown Regina, Crave is a unique dining concept with an innovative menu.
It is an excellent spot to go for appetizers and drinks. There is a great charcuterie board menu with small decadent bites alongside an excellent selection of cheeses and Canadian wines.
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The duck confit is a specialty on the dinner menu, but the tenderloin that I tried was also excellent and well displayed. (www.cravekwb.com)
The Willow on Wascana: Arguably the most scenic dining spot in Regina, The Willow is known for its fine dining and its wonderful selection of wines.
The restaurant uses a farm-to-table concept that will give you a culinary tour of the province with the perfect wine pairing for each course. I particularly enjoyed the “land chowder” soup and the peppercorn crusted trout on the lunch menu.
If the weather is nice, it’s great to dine lakeside on the outdoor patio or to end the evening or afternoon with a walk around Wascana Lake. (www.willowonwascana.ca)
Truffles Bistro: Located in downtown Saskatoon, Truffles is one of the most upscale restaurants in the city.
Progressive French cuisine is made using primarily locally sourced ingredients. All of the pastries, breads, stocks and sauces are made in-house.
Truffles offers a set menu at 5 or 6 p.m. for early diners that is a good bargain starting at $40. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. (www.trufflesbistro.ca)
Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery
Just outside Maple Creek in the southern corner of Saskatchewan you will find the only commercial vineyard in the Prairie provinces, along with an operational winery.
When the cattle industry was hit hard with the BSE crisis of 2003, Marty and Marie Bohnet realized they needed to diversify their farming operation if they wanted to survive.
Starting a commercial vineyard in the middle of nowhere was a risky undertaking, but in Marie’s words, they didn’t let “fear or common sense hold them back.”
Opened in June 2007, the winery is a wonderful stop for visitors to the Cypress Hills area. Visitors can enjoy a wine tour — tasting up to eight wines that are all made onsite.
There is also an onsite bistro where visitors can enjoy gourmet sandwiches, salads, artisan cheese platters and homemade Saskatoon berry pie.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.