Welcome to the sixth installment in a series in which we present the remarkable food and beverage experiences of a very strange year. In the spirit of the holiday season, it’s also a very special collaboration between Saskatoon Press food writers and Saskatoon Food Finder, the online publication founded by former Saskatoon Press restaurant critic and food editor Phaedra Cook. This sixth issue features one of our favorite pick-me-ups: coffee. Part seven will cover some of our writers’ favorite delivery and to-go experiences. In case you missed it, here’s Part 5: Chefs. For more installments on the series, see the list at the end of this article.
With temporary closings, limited capacity, and more people working from home, coffee shops like bars and restaurants have had to adapt to a landscape disrupted by COVID-19. Some stores added new security features, and some, like Antidote Coffee and Black Hole, started selling basic supplies. Here are some of our favorites that have made clever changes for the time.
A 2nd cup, 1111 East 11th: This Heights cafe, dedicated to raising money to fight trafficking in human beings, has undergone multiple adjustments during the pandemic. For much of 2020, the indoor seating has been replaced with a small community shop filled with local handicrafts like candles, teas, and masks. The café moved the guests’ seats to part of the parking lot and placed several well-spaced picnic tables under large canopy-style tents.
Xela coffee roaster, 4409 Canal: At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Xela Coffee Roasters team took action, realigning patio seating and adding arboretum-worth plants to create natural barriers. The store has been made completely contactless by sealing the order window, adding an intercom and online ordering options, and creating a two-way metal pickup box. To encourage cold takeaway purchases, all of the store’s cold drinks are now bottled. A primary focus of Xela Coffee Roasters is supporting the Second Ward community. As a result, pop-ups with aspiring chefs happen regularly, and DJs can play on the weekends while social distancing standards are enforced at the same time. A lifestyle brand was also introduced. – – Ryan Kasey Baker, contributing writer, Saskatoon Food Finder
Xela Coffee Roasters installed a two-way recording window for a safer experience during the pandemic. Photo by Kaitlin O’Brien.
Favorite coffee roaster
The number of coffee roasters in Saskatoon is increasing every year, so it is difficult to determine which ones excel at the craft. Not every roaster strives for the same result, and taste and finish can vary widely. However, the expert roasting of quality coffee beans can often be seen in the cup. In a far more competitive environment, today’s aspiring roasters need to bring something new to the local coffee scene to be successful. The following points caught our attention in 2020.
Dawn Co.: Some of the Saskatoon specialty roasters that started a decade or more ago are compared to juggernauts Marlen Mendoza small startup. Regardless, Amanecer is already gaining local attention, even among coffee professionals at the aforementioned coffee roasters Little Dreamer and Xela. Visit Henderson & Kane, Tienda Rio Lempa, or Local Foods in Rice Village for the mild cold brew – as well as the version with horchata. Also keep an eye on Instagram for Mendoza’s espresso and pop-ups for pouring coffee in the Grand Prize Bar.
Little dreamer: Matt Toomey, originally at Boomtown Coffee, started his new monastery in 2019 to get back to basics: making good coffee, serving Saskatoon and “keeping the mojo flowing”. While Little Dreamer is a relatively new entry into the Saskatoon coffee scene, Toomey has a solid reputation as a roaster – and that helps in sourcing high quality beans, like a recently used Ethiopian with natural process and its latest Panamanian offerings while Little Dreamer has no business , coffee lovers in Saskatoon can find it in over a dozen locations, including Central City Co-op, Tres Market, Urban Harvest’s Saturday Farmers Market, and Red Dessert Dive.
Ten times the coffee, 101 Aurora: Founder in the course of 2020 Jacob Ibarra and his team have turned Tenfold Coffee into a powerhouse. It has grown from a second roaster in some stores to a beautiful new place next to Johnny’s Gold Brick Tavern, a second coffee program on the “lifestyle marketplace” Fourth and Nomad, and a presence in other stores like Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen and Eine 2 . Cup. While early roasting profiles didn’t hit the mark, Tenfold fixed those initial missteps last year and it’s now worth paying attention to.
Xela coffee roaster, 4409 Canal: In an informal poll of city coffee professionals about Saskatoon’s best roasters, Xela was by far the most mentioned. Head to the company’s small shop and you’ll likely find your favorite baristas enjoying coffee on the terrace. Kaitlin O’Brien and Benji Aguilar, the duo behind this local monastery and cafe, treat coffee as a passion rather than a business. However, it is impossible to ignore the high quality roasting in a selection of profiles made from a wide variety of good beans, including those from Vietnam, Mexico, and Yemen. Xela started out as a monastery and distributor before adding a coffee shop, so her beans can also be found in the Chinook coffee trailer and Grinder’s Coffee Bar in Rice Village. – – Ryan Kasey Baker, contributing writer, Saskatoon Food Finder
RIP: Favorite cafes
The honeymoon was taken over by Boomtown Coffee – and unfortunately had to close due to a lack of patronage as COVID-19 kept workers away from their offices. Photo by Chuck Cook Photography.
Boomtown Coffee Main Street, 300 Main: In March 2018, it was comforting to hear that the former Honeymoon Café was taken over by Boomtown Coffee, the longtime roasters behind the coffee drinks served in this shop. Unfortunately, the coronavirus made this iteration far too short-lived, and Boomtown Coffee Main Street closed in July 2020. Many downtown workers checked in from home due to the pandemic, patronage dropped, and what was one of the nicest-endowed coffees in Saskatoon died with it. It’s not that this graduation is just a loss of well-executed coffee beverages; The store also made thoughtful cocktails and healthy breakfast items. With the city of Saskatoon now closing portions of Main Street to everyone but pedestrian traffic, hopefully someone can make good use of the space. For now, visitors and residents of downtown can visit the nearby Boomtown Coffee in the 800 Capitol in the Understory Food Hall. Plus, the Heights location at 242 West 19th is still brewing coffee and making lattes.
Momentum coffee, 3555 Rayford, Spring: This premier springtime cafe has never received the attention or recognition it deserves. Co-owner Allen Leibowitz, who made a name for himself with Zingerman’s Coffee Company of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is so well respected in the national coffee industry that he has served as a frequent SCAA competition judge and is a senior instructor. While the closing may just feel like a slip on the local radar, it was so nationally impactful that the News was reported by Forbes magazine. The center of the craft coffee movement in the greater Saskatoon area needs to expand beyond the 610 loop, and although progress has been made, spring does not appear to be ready yet.
Morning star, 4721 North Main: In a year that has already decimated Saskatoon’s independent food and beverage scene, that loss is particularly profound. owner Ecky Prabanto and David Buehrerwith the help of Bührer’s former boss and mentor Sam Phanasked, “Can you make a better donut – one without artificial ingredients?” And the answer was “yes”. The resulting texture wouldn’t be the airy one popularized by chains, but the frosting flavors were compelling: Matcha tea, horchata, the popular “cop donut” with cinnamon and sugar – Morningstar really deserves credit for helping bring the mocha donut trend to Saskatoon too. That’s just part of what the shop offers. The Crispy rice bowl with kibbeh and Kolache with Feges BBQ shouldn’t be forgotten, nor should the Matcha lattes. The loss of this particular business is immeasurable not just for the residents of Heights, but for anyone who has traveled many miles for a taste. – Phaedra Cook, Editor, Saskatoon Food Finder
The other top Saskatoon Food & Drink Experiences of 2020
Part 1: Bars
Part 2: Treats & Trends
Part 3: Wine
Part 4: beer
Part 5: Chefs