Drive-thru perogies (yes, really!) and other unique highlights from Saskatoon.
Yes, you read that right: Drive-thru perogies! The legendary perogy window at Baba's Homestyle Perogies, a good-food-fast restaurant and catering business in Saskatoon's north industrial area, is one-of-a-kind in the world.
"We've had everything from tractors to school buses go through," says general manager Rob Engel. "People are very excited to learn about our drive-thru perogy window."
I'm certainly smitten. In fact, I'm crushing on all of Saskatoon, one of Canada's fastest-growing cities, brimming with a chill youthful vibe, down-home hospitality, and finds like Baba's, where a largely Ukrainian staff hand-pinch between 5,000-12,000 perogies per day, cook 120L of borscht a week and hand-roll upwards of 3,000 cabbage rolls daily. A small eat-in restaurant is dwarfed by a production area triple its size.
"It was started by a baba, it's always been called Baba's, it's synonymous with perogies," says Engel whose family has for the past decade owned the business, going strong for more than 30 years. "People tell us stories about perogies their grandmother made," he says. "It's always a special moment for us when someone comes to the counter with grateful tears in their eyes thanking us for giving them this connection. It's like coming home."
Across the city, Canada's original Top Chef, Dale MacKay, literally did come home to open Ayden Kitchen and Bar (above), celebrated hub of Saskatoon dining. It's hopping on a Tuesday night as we settle into seats with direct views into an open kitchen. "It's exciting times in Saskatoon, it's growing," says co-chef and butcher Nathan Guggenheimer, delivering not-to-miss house-made cocktails and charcuterie board tableside.
Here's the thing about Saskatoon—it's a revelation. One morning, I'm marveling at intricately embroidered costumes at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, overlooking the South Saskatchewan River on Spadina Crescent East, the next I'm learning about cultural programs, tipi sleepovers, and walking in the ancient footsteps of a former buffalo jump site at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, just outside town.
For more than 6,000 years, these green and golden fields above Opimihaw Creek and the South Saskatchewan River have been a sacred gathering site for First Nations people. Reconstructing this epic story in the park is Canada's longest running archaeological dig.
Frontier fun is found at the Western Development Museum, where visitors walk into 1910 Boomtown—more than 30 donated buildings that tell how Saskatchewan towns grew almost overnight as land seekers rushed west. Wood creaks underfoot sauntering down the boardwalk. I poke into Wing Lee Laundry, hear jaunty organ music play inside St. Peter's Church, and stand stock still in period finery (no smiling, please!) at Boomtown Photo Studio.
Perhaps the best daytime exploring comes ambling around revived Riversdale, a neighbourhood that not so long ago carried a rundown and dangerous rep. Fast forward to today. Developer Curtis Olson took a chance, and local pride quickly took hold. New businesses followed: cool coffee shops, furniture stores, and vintage clothing stores, like Hazelwood where owner Michaela Michael hand-selects items that go with her style (think Canadiana, denim, wool, leather). I fall too for Village Guitar & Amp Co—a boutique guitar shop by day and concert venue come night—and Hardpressed Print Studio, rocking a cult-like following for its hometown pride and slick Saskatchewan themed silk-screened tees, sweats and bags. It's an eclectic mix of shops and cafés tucked between stalwart old-school Korean BBQ places and Chinese groceries.
After lunch at Leyda's, a whole food, gluten and nut free café founded by a community-minded physician, we end the afternoon strolling the peaceful River Landing Trail, taking a moment to reflect at Zhongshan Ting, a colourful Chinese pagoda, recognizing the contributions of the local Chinese community—one more surprise in this prairie city.
Baba's Homestyle Perogies
306-933-4280 [email protected]
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