Ayden beefs up Saskatoon

Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Columnist

SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN — Give a craftsman the tools and extraordinary things can happen. That’s true whether you’re talking about architects, car designers or chefs. Dale MacKay relishes the tools he has in his 3,000-square-foot subterranean kitchen in Saskatoon. The chef and co-owner of Ayden Kitchen & Bar beams when he discusses the space and the amount of kitchen equipment, gadgets and utensils that he and his staff enjoys.

Dale MacKay ayden

Dale MacKay returned to his hometown of Saskatoon and brought several friends with him to help him create the experience at Ayden. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

It allows the Ayden brigade space to be creative and the ability to churn out dishes that would make other restaurateurs salivate. Among those decadent menu items is the  Classic Butcher Burger ($25), which includes beef brisket and Canadian prime ribeye that’s aged for two weeks before its prepared for serving. The beef patties include garlic, rosemary and bone marrow, and they’re mixed in a gleaming grinder by MacKay or Ayden’s executive chef, Nathan Guggenheimer. To top it off, a fried egg is placed on the burger. When you bite into it, the yolk drips down and into the thick, plump beef.

It’s a sensational culinary creation that just may be the best burger in Canada. And it’s one of those delicacies that you don’t mess with.

“We cook it medium rare, or not past medium. We know it’s completely safe at medium rare because we know exactly where the beef comes from. You cook it passed medium, it starts to come apart. So if someone wants it cooked any more than that, we recommend they order something else,” MacKay says.

The eight-ounce burger isn’t always on the menu at Ayden. Most often, you’ll find it at lunch. But you better be early, because it has proven incredibly popular in this small city that is growing its culinary reputation. At the moment, Ayden is one of Saskatoon’s shining stars. It ranked ninth in the 2014 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide and has become a destination restaurant in its one year of existence.

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Besides the burger, MacKay and Guggenheimer make sausages and charcuterie platters in-house and they have accomplished pastry and pasta chefs on staff, making Ayden a rare restaurant that prepares everything for its menu within its confines. The item that has received the most fanfare, however, is that butcher burger.

Given it is loaded with cholesterol as much as it is with taste, you probably shouldn’t let your dietician know you crave one. “It’s not a burger for the faint of heart, that’s for sure,” MacKay adds. “If you’re watching your weight or are concerned about your cholesterol, you should stay completely clear of it.”

Good luck, though, with your attempt to say no.

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MORE ABOUT AYDEN KITCHEN BAR

Address: 265 3rd Avenue, Saskatoon, SK (see map below)
Reservations: Telephone: 1-306-954-2590, or book online here.
Hours of Operation: Dinner 5:30-close, Monday-Saturday; Lunch: 11:30 am-2 pm, Monday-Friday.
Website: www.aydenkitchenandbar.com
Menu Price Range: Dinner entrees range from $17-$36; lunch is reasonably prices at $11-$16.

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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.