I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
Sassafras Savouries claims itself a cafe, but resembles an avant-garde diner where I’d expect free-verse poets and beatniks to gather on the weekend. Beatniks? I actually said beatniks. In defense, the waiter that greeted me was one black beret away from being an elongated Andy Warhol. I followed his direction to my table as catchy ethnic drums and bells clanged from nearby speakers. There should be a stage where Lennon-shades-wearing turtlenecks beat out a spoken word song in Iambic pentameter. That may seem a satirical comment, but these places exist in town.
Sassafras Savouries does have a cafe pastry counter and a blackboard of specials etched in stylistic colorful chalk. The coffee mugs remind me of those offered by my sister when I visit—wide top with pastel colours and a capacity to create an undertow if jostled. Savouries’ decor is way above average for a cafe, with upholstered stalls and matching chairs. The ceiling office tiles were painted burgundy (after they were placed in position, meaning cracks of white still show). This was a great looking place, right down to the rustic and reserved lamps hanging above.
The waitress recommended the pierogi over the vegetarian calzones. I also opted for Hungarian mushroom soup as a starter. The delivered bowl came flanked with herb encrusted warm bread. Sapping up the soup with the bread was as close to a gastronomic orgasm as I’ve had in months. The soup was obviously poured from a fresh batch simmering from an oven top. The service was great between dishes. The waitress offered extra napkins even though I sat alone. My water only had one ice cube (I hate it when my water is mostly ice).
The pierogies which followed were photo-worthy (alas no camera). Slightly fried, served with sausage, peppers, and sautéed onions which carried a distinctive sweet taste, I’ve never had a plate of customarily bland food made this well before. There was thought and attention in the preparation. I never would have believed pierogies could be that good. I can’t see ever buying the four dollar Superstore No Name variety again. And using sausage instead of bacon was brilliant. If there was any criticism, I would say the dollop of sour cream could have been larger. But this doesn’t feel like cafe food, certainly not one when levied against last week’s insipid example.
How did I miss this place?
I was sure that after over a year of doing these reviews, down to my last few restaurants, that I’d seen all that I could in regards to quality. And yet once again this blog proves its worth, at least for its writer, finding a place I would’ve previously ignored. Sassafras is the culinary definition of a hidden gem; a location only a few know of, keeping it a secret from the burger and cod loin eaters preferring the likes of Denny’s and Denny’s wannabes. With amazing service, great food, I’m proud to say I can still be surprised. I just wished it was closer. Wedged in a corner across from a large hotel, I can see where business comes from, but outside of walking distance from the city core, and beyond reasonably driving distance to any center of education, Sassafras won’t benefit from the kind of people that can truly appreciate it.
It’s too bad it’s not located next to a book store or inside some civic event complex. Instead, it must rely on the success of word of mouth, like my extremely satisfied mouth, now craving sweetened sautéed onions with spiced smokies and pierogies. If I worked or lived even close to Sassafras, eating here would become a tradition. It’s unfortunate that so many cafes don’t escalate to a full-bore restaurant in the evenings. Despite outward appearances, their dishes are not easy to replicate. I applaud their menu variety. I’m interested in returning to try that vegetarian calzone. Even though I felt my stomach waving a little white flag, my old fat side wanted another serving, despite my desire to trim 20 lbs by the summer. Those of you who don’t suffer from such limitations are sure to get soup and a main; the $17 will be worth it.
Not good at poetry. Alas, Sassafras Savouries isn’t five syllables.
I found a new place
It’s Sassafras Savouries
You should eat there now
693 Brunswick street
Prince George, BC V2L2C2