Tag Archives: saskatoon

Best Places to Eat in Saskatoon: Top Chef Canada’s Jesse Zuber

As the protégé to Top Chef Canada’s inaugural winner Dale Mackay, (and as the co-owner and executive chef of Saskatoon’s Little Grouse on the Prairie), Jesse Zuber has definitely had some experience with what it takes to serve up a memorable dish.

Of course part of that creation process comes with eating out at some of the city’s best hot spots to become better versed in what the competition is serving up. When it comes to restaurants that inspire him—as well as joints that are just plain old delicious—here’s where Jesse loves to eat when in Saskatoon.

Related: Read Jesse Zuber’s full bio here.

Keo’s Kitchen

Feasting on the traditional Thai dishes at Keo’s is akin to travelling all the way to Thailand. With offerings like tum salad, red curry and dancing prawns, the menu features updated Thai classics to warm you up from the inside out.

“[There are] great authentic Thai flavours,” Jesse promises. “[It’s] definitely worth checking out the thom ka kai.”

classic, pad thai

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Summer Palace

If you’re in the mood for generous portion sizes with spoonfuls of heaping flavours, this Szechuan house is for you. With offerings like deep-fried diced chicken with dried chili to Szechuan stir-fried pork, this is a place for celebration big, bold flavours with a traditional flair.

“[They have a ] huge menu with some incredible authentic Szechuan choices,” says Zuber. “My personal favorite dish is the boiled beef in chili oil. It’s like fire!”

???? ???? the real deal no ???? here

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Jin Jin Cuisine Dumpling

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and so you really shouldn’t judge this dumpling house by its rough exterior. Although the façade isn’t the fanciest in the city, the food—particularly the famed dumplings, which come with a variety of fillings—are highly recommended.

“It’s not much for ambience, but the dumplings and steam buns are killer,” says Jesse.

Stick and Stones

Jesse’s fellow Top Chef Canada competitor Nathan Guggenheimer and inaugural Top Chef Canada winner Dale Mackay’s Grassroots Restaurant Group brings a blend of Japanese and Korean cuisines to the prairies with this eatery. The comprehensive menu features creative sushi rolls, steamed buns, ramen and other flavourful concoctions bound to impress palates everywhere.

“Nathan’s blending of Japanese and Korean flavours always hits the spot,” says Jesse. Plus, there’s a “great cocktail list.”

La Bamba Café

Traditional Mexican food graces the menu at this family-run restaurant, which claims to have been the first to offer such fare in all of western Canada when it opened in 2007. Traditional dishes like tacos and enchiladas that Mexican families “have been eating for ages” are both flavourful and filling.

“[It’s] fantastic Mexican cuisine,” says Jesse. “The enchilada verde is just the thing for a hangover.”

Get Chef Nathan Guggenheimer’s Top 5 Eats in Saskatoon

See Chef Jinhee Lee’s Top 5 Eats in Calgary

Best Places to Eat in Saskatoon: Top Chef Canada’s Nathan Guggenheimer

Nathan Guggenheimer knows a thing or two about what goes on in the Top Chef Canada kitchen. He is, after all, best friends with first season winner Dale Mackay and co-owns Grassroots Restaurant Group with the chef. Not only that, but Nathan has worked under the likes of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars guest judge Daniel Boulud, which means he should be up-to-speed on what it takes to win the title.

While Nathan is plenty busy as executive chef at the Saskatoon hot spot Sticks and Stones, he still takes time to eat out in the city’s thriving dining scene. Here are his picks on all the best eats Saskatoon has to offer.

Related: Read Nathan Guggenheimer’s full bio here.

Odd Couple

Cantonese, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisines are present on the Canadian menu of this family-owned and operated restaurant, making eating at this spot a truly unique experience. From bacon and eggs on barbecued pork rice to curried tomato pad Thai, there’s something for everyone here.

“[There is] great service and owners, [and the] best spring roll in the city,” says Nathan. “[I’m] never disappointed in the quality. I used to frequent there for lunch with my ex and her son, so there’s a lot of nostalgia.”

Una Pizza + Wine

“Una Pizza is delish and I love the wine selection,” Nathan raves about this friendly neighbourhood pizzaria featuring thin crust pizzas with Mediterranean inspired flavours. The spot was conceptualized following several trips to San Francisco, where California pizzas are practically a staple. Meanwhile, the wine selection features an array of small batch producers, guaranteeing a unique experience with every visit.

Little Grouse on the Prairie

This quaint spot is one of three restaurants opened under Nathan and Dale Mackay’s Grassroots Restaurant Group, and it features a sustainable and diverse menu of Italian-inspired favourites that are perfect for get-togethers and date nights alike. It also happens to be where Nathan’s Top Chef Canada competitor Jesse Zuber serves as executive chef.

“[I] love to sit at the pasta bar and by the time my coat is off there is a glass of wine at my seat,” Nathan said. “Jesse asks what I’m in the mood for and my meal begins.”

Let us fix you up some fresh pasta this week!

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Ayden Kitchen and Bar

Another one of Grassroots’ signature restaurants, this spot is where Nathan invokes his inner butcher background for hearty, meaty meals. The rich eatery is all about comforting classics and homegrown favourites. Sample some hand-crafted cocktails at the bar, or sit down for some locally sourced favourites any night of the week.

“[This is my] favourite spot to go on my day off and crush a charcuterie, tartar, wings, and a burger cooked rare,” Nathan says. “Then [I] feel sick from eating too much meat and go straight home to bed.”

It’s Friday! Come grab a charcuterie board!

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Keo’s Kitchen

Feasting on the traditional Thai dishes at Keo’s is akin to travelling all the way to Thailand. The menu features updated Thai classics to warm you up from the inside out, like dancing prawns, pad Thai and red curry.

“I can eat their tom ka kai soup with sticky rice and a lao sausage every day,” admits Nathan.

Read Chef Jesse Zuber’s Top 5 Eats in Saskatoon

Get Chef Nicole Gomes’s Top 10 Eats in Calgary

Borscht: ‘My Family’s Version of Chicken Soup’

By Sam Yachiw, as told to Leslie Wu

Sam Yachiw shares her love of curling with local kids through the nonprofit Curl Saskatoon. At home, this fourth-generation Ukrainian-Canadian loves sharing a hearty bowl of her baba’s borscht with family and friends. In fact, Yachiw’s favourite way to explore her heritage is to navigate her grandparents’ dinner table, where some of her fondest memories take place.

Borscht was my family’s version of chicken soup, fed to us when we were sick or sad. I’ve had it since I was a toddler, and I’ve always liked its unique taste and that warm feeling with every mouthful. It would have been my great, great-grandmother who brought the recipe over from Ukraine. The core recipe is the same, but it’s been adapted and tweaked over the years.

With my baba [grandmother] and dido [grandfather], we make a big batch of this soup once a year: about 20 single-serving jars and a whole bunch of larger jars, which are distributed among the family. On borscht cooking day, we start early in the morning with the chopping. The whole process takes about two hours, or even three, depending on how much we’ve been talking. We’re usually done by noon, then we’ll heat up some fresh borscht for lunch. For most of the afternoon, we come together as family and just talk! We’re such a close-knit family, and I love it.

We sit down to share borscht as the second course at Ukrainian Easter. This holiday is different for every family, depending on how traditional you are. For us, it’s lunch after church, which turns into about four hours of feasting, then relaxing in a comfortable chair to chat with someone you may not have seen in many years. My grandparents know so many people I’ve never met in the 27 years I’ve been alive, so there’s always someone new at the kitchen or dining table. Last year, they hosted a lady who was in their wedding party more than 60 years ago.

Borscht has brought my baba and I together. Most of my memories of her are in the kitchen; it’s part of who she is, and she’s always been like that. My grandfather, on the other hand, doesn’t really do a lot of cooking, but he helps out. Any memory I’ve had, he’s been around helping, especially if it’s a bigger meal. My baba’s a social butterfly, so she loves to cook for people. It didn’t matter if we were just visiting for a day or a weekend, there were these amazing, extravagant meals. It’s something I learned from her, and I try to continue this tradition even now with my own friends; we all get together and celebrate, even if it’s just over an everyday meal. Food is one thing that brings everybody together—it doesn’t matter what culture you’re in.

Baba’s Borscht, courtesy of Sam Yachiw


Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1½ hours
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

2 tsp (10 ml) salt
4 cups (1 L) beets, peeled and shredded
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large potato, diced
? cup (75 mL) diced celery
2 tbsp (30 mL) white vinegar
1 cup (250 mL) canned diced tomatoes
1 can tomato soup
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh or frozen dill

1. Add salt to 8 cups (2 L) water. Cook peeled and shredded beets for 30 minutes.
2. Add carrots, onion, potato and celery; simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add vinegar, tomatoes, tomato soup and dill; simmer for about 15 minutes. (Add peas and/or beans, if you like.) Cook until vegetables are tender. Serve with borscht.

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Not-Too-Tart Prairie Lemon Tarts

By Kim Butcher, as told to Devon Scoble

Self-taught pastry queen Kim Butcher, the owner of a thriving Saskatoon bake shop, has spent her entire life learning to bake, often drawing on old family recipes for inspiration. Here, she tells the story behind her wildly popular lemon tart, sold daily to happy customers at her Little Bird Pâtisserie & Café.


My mom is not a great cook, and she’s especially not a baker. She always jokes that when she bakes, she makes hockey pucks—and it’s true. It was my grandmother and my mom’s sister who were the bakers in her family growing up, and fortunately, it’s something I also picked up easily.

My mom’s cookbooks are an amalgamation of recipes she’s used over the years, always with a person or story attached to them. I love when I come across a random recipe card in somebody’s handwriting that I don’t recognize, especially when I can tell it’s old from the grease spots on the paper that’s fraying around the edges. When I ask who the recipe is from, my mom will say, “Oh, that’s so-and-so from such-and-such a time, and she gave that recipe to me when this happened.”

The lemon tart I sell at my café is my own creation. I find the traditional lemon meringue–type of filling to be too sticky and too tart for my tastes. I wanted something a little more to my liking, so I experimented. I started with a lemon curd recipe that was tucked away in one of my mom’s recipe books. I added more eggs, a bit more sugar and, later, I added some butter as well. Now, the base is more like a lemon cream than a lemon curd.

For the crust—and for everything sold at Little Bird—we try to use local flours milled right here in Saskatoon. As a baker who works with flour every single day, there’s really no better place in the world to be.

I don’t like to call myself a pastry chef because I’m self-taught, which I think is nice because I’ve been able to concentrate on the things I enjoy and get really good at them.

At Little Bird, we have four bakers, including a cook, on staff, and we all work together, not only to come up with ideas but also to get these ideas into the pastry case to be sold. So everybody’s doing a bit of everything, which is the other reason why I hesitate to call myself a pastry chef, since I’ve got this team behind me. I honestly can’t do this job without them.

Little Bird Pâtisserie and Café’s Lemon Tarts, courtesy of Kim Butcher

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 13 hours (includes chilling)
Yield: 4 tarts (3¾ inches/10 cm each)
1 lb (450 g) very cold butter, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
1½ cups (375 mL) icing sugar
½ cup (125 mL) blanched whole almonds, finely ground
1 tsp (5 mL) fleur de sel, preferably Fleur de Sel de Guérande
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
4 eggs
4 cups (1 L) pastry flour

Lemon Cream
4 lemons
1½ cups (375 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
7 eggs
1 lb (450 g) cold butter, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes

1. Place butter in bowl of stand mixer. With paddle attachment, work butter until smooth.
2. Add icing sugar, ground almonds, fleur de sel, vanilla, eggs and flour, one ingredient at a time, fully incorporating each one and scraping bowl before adding the next.
3. Combine until dough comes together. Do not overwork dough.
4. Form dough into disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.
5. Roll dough to ¼-inch (5 mm) thickness and line four 3¾-inch (10 cm) tart moulds.
6. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. Line tart shells with parchment paper; fill with dried beans to blind bake shell.
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 20 to 24 minutes or until edges and bottoms are golden.

Lemon Cream
1. Zest and juice lemons; discard seeds.
2. In large saucepan, combine granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch and eggs.
3. Cook slowly over medium-low heat until mixture starts to bubble. Stir frequently; do not allow to scorch.
4. Remove from heat; add butter.
5. Using whisk or immersion blender, fully combine butter.
6. Fill tarts immediately; refrigerate until completely set, about 4 hours.
7. Optional: Once tarts are set, brush with glaze and garnish as desired. To make glaze, heat a little apricot or apple jelly until liquid and brush on tarts.

Click here to print, save or share this Lemon Tart recipe.

Do you have a delicious dish to share with the rest of Canada? Submit your recipe for a chance to be featured on Great Canadian Cookbook and Food Network Canada!

The Panfried Pickerel That’s so Canadian

By Patrick Hearn, as told to Devon Scoble

Patrick Hearn and Kent Rumpel live in Saskatoon’s Riversdale neighbourhood and co-own the Park Cafe and Diner, which has been credited with revitalizing the once-rundown area. One of their most popular weekend dishes is panfried pickerel, something Patrick remembers eating on fishing trips with his dad in northwestern Ontario. While it was Kent who tweaked and perfected the recipe for the diner’s customers, the dish is still made in Patrick’s grandmother’s cast-iron pan.


Between the ages of seven and 17, I lived in a small mining town in northwestern Ontario. My mum had taken a millwright maintenance course for mechanical at the mine; she was one of the first women in Canada to be a millwright maintenance mechanic—all while raising seven children! So my dad did all the cooking throughout the week, then on weekends, my mum would do all the baking and all the stuff for our lunches.

My mum was pretty creative as a cook, often using cheaper cuts of meat to make stuff go farther. She has an English background, so we’d have pigs in a blanket, Swiss steak and steak-and-kidney pies. My dad was a pretty good cook, too, but he was more of a meat-loaf-and-mushroom-gravy or spaghetti-and-sauce kind of guy. He learned what he knew from his mother, my Grandma Hearn, who was also an excellent cook.

My dad made panfried pickerel for us kids as a shore lunch when we were fishing. He’d heat up potatoes left over from last night’s dinner and fry up a few eggs. He’d catch fresh pickerel from the lake, clean it lakeside, then panfry it with the eggs and potatoes for a delicious lunch.

The fried pickerel recipe we use at the Park Cafe is actually Kent’s. It’s something we’d done one weekend that people really enjoyed. The fish is seasoned and floured on both sides, then panfried in my Grandma Hearn’s cast-iron pan and served with eggs, hash browns and toast. This cast-iron frying pan is something we’ve used in countless ways my whole life. I’ve even turned it into a running joke over the years: “101 uses for Grandma’s frying pan!” Through the week, the panfried pickerel isn’t a big seller, but on Sundays, it just goes.

Growing up, we ate meals accompanied by lots of gravies and sauces and pastas—comfort food, I would call it. And home-cooked comfort food is what the Park Cafe is about. It kept Grandma Hearn alive until 92, so hopefully by eating the way she did, I’m going to be around for a long time!

Park Cafe and Diner’s Panfried Pickerel, courtesy of Kent Rumpel

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 serving

6 to 8 oz (170 to 225 g) pickerel fillet
pinch sea salt
pinch freshly ground pepper
? cup (75 mL) (approx.) flour
1½ tbsp (20 mL) clarified butter
lemon wedges

1. Lightly season fillet with salt and pepper.
2. Cover a plate with flour; dredge each side of fillet to lightly coat.
3. Melt clarified butter in cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; panfry fillet for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Flip and fry on other side until golden brown and fish flakes easily.
5. Top with freshly squeezed lemon, or try it with hollandaise sauce. Serve for breakfast with eggs, hash browns and toast.

Click here to print, save or share this Panfried Pickerel recipe.

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