You won’t find Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on any list of “Best Cities for Foodies”. Not yet, anyway.
There’s a group of talented and decorated culinary influencers changing the city’s reputation, one restaurant at a time.
The Grassroots Restaurant Group, led by celebrity chef Dale Mackay, just opened their latest concept, Sticks and Stones, in Saskatoon’s entertainment district. This is their third restaurant in five years.
Sticks and Stones is an upbeat restaurant that takes a playful approach to traditional Japanese and Korean fare. The menu is unusual for Saskatoon, full of modern renditions of ramen, kimchi, Korean fried chicken, sushi, sashimi, and dried squid.
The new restaurant will also sport a world-class bar program, led by bar manager Chad Coombs. The cocktail menu is inspired by the Asian fusion theme but still offers a wide selection of tastes.
“We wanted a solid selection [of drinks] that can appeal to anyone,” said Coombs, “But we often use ingredients like sake, soju, Shochu, yuzu, and matcha, so there is definitely an Asian feel to it.”
One of the bar’s Japanese-inspired cocktails is the Japanese Old Fashioned, with Nikka barrel aged whiskey, plum sake, plum bitters, Angostura, raw sugar, plum, and orange.
Coombs also drew inspiration from Indian cuisine, creating the Raita Fizz (Gin, cucumber, cilantro, yogurt, sugar, lime, tonic) and Colonel GnT (Kaffir-infused Beefeater Gin, cumin infused Campari, house tonic, lime, house star anise bitters.)
Sticks and Stones has all the right ingredients to be a blockbuster success in the eyes of the culinary world. But the city of Saskatoon faces an uphill battle in becoming a foodie destination. With a history of stifling liquor laws and a new 6% Goods and Services Tax on restaurant fare, it seems as though the Provincial government is actively fighting the hospitality industry in its largest city.
But if anyone can turn around Saskatoon’s food and drink scene, it’s the folks at Grassroots. Mackay was the 2011 champion on “Top Chef Canada”, and his partners, Christopher Cho and Nathan Guggenheimer, are decorated culinary veterans as well.
Down the ranks, Coombs and Head Chef Josh Unruh, are talented rising stars. Coombs’ is constantly evolving as a bartender and has an international following for his cocktail work. Always creating, he has already completed the restaurant’s winter cocktail menu.
The group has also shown they know how to succeed. Grassroots’ first two restaurants-- Ayden Kitchen and Bar and Little Grouse on the Prairie-- are the only 2 restaurants in the entire province to appear on Canada’s Top 100 Restaurants List.
If Grassroots can pull off another success with Sticks and Stones, they may give Saskatoon the boost it needs to break into the national food and drink scene.
“We want to help make Saskatoon a destination place for food and beverage as well as an amazing place to live for food and beverage,” said Coombs.
Sticks and Stones grand opening is Thursday, April 13. They are located at 226 2nd Avenue South, in the heart of Saskatoon’s food and entertainment district.