Hearth Restaurant finds a new home at the Remai Modern
Thayne Robstad and Beth Rogers know how lucky they are.
The couple opened Hearth Restaurant in Saskatoon’s Avalon neighbourhood in 2018, placing an emphasis on Saskatchewan-sourced cuisine featuring simple and delicious ingredients. The establishment rapidly became known as one of the city’s most exciting dining spots, thriving even through pandemic restrictions. Last year, Hearth landed a spot on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants, one of only two Saskatchewan restaurants to make the list.
Hearth recently made the leap from its Melrose Avenue location to the Remai Modern on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, placing it within one of the city’s top attractions.
When asked to speculate about the restaurant’s success, chef and co-owner Thayne Robstad is quick to answer. “At the top of the list is luck and timing. We were extremely privileged to be able to do what we did... we are very grateful and very happy for our success.”
Of course, anyone who has sampled one of Robstad’s dishes or experienced a meal at Hearth knows there is more to it than luck. The move to the Remai Modern can be seen as the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and skill.
Robstad and Rogers came up through the Saskatoon culinary scene. They met in 2008, and subsequently travelled and worked in restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto. In 2014, they moved back to Saskatoon with the goal of starting their own business.
“We had no money and no equipment and no leaseholds, so we started catering and using our friends’ kitchens to prep items and run events out of,” Robstad explained. Over time, it was like a little snowflake tumbling down a hill and gained momentum.
“And then we started to really ponder a restaurant in a brick-and-mortar location in about 2016, I believe, and in 2018, we opened Hearth on Melrose Avenue here in Saskatoon. We didn’t really know what to expect. We were hoping to serve about 30 people a day. That was the plan.”
The move to the Remai Modern came about at a time when Robstad and Rogers were becoming aware that they wanted to grow their business beyond the walls of their Melrose Avenue location. The availability of the space in the Remai Modern seemed to come along at just the right time.
“There was the idea of opening separate concepts and different food-based businesses that might be interesting to us. The other option was to just make Hearth bigger. And we had no option for that at our [Melrose Avenue] location. So, we were just kind of testing the waters a little bit, trying to imagine what that would even look like and right around that time, the request for proposals at the Remai came along. It was lightning fast. We had to make this proposal, which we had never done before, in two weeks,” Robstad explained. “But every time the two of us imagined Hearth sitting on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River looking out into this beautiful jewel box of our city, just to be right in the middle of it, it felt so right.”
On its website, Hearth describes its offerings as “ingredient-forward” cuisine, a philosophy that emphasizes simplicity and terroir. Robstad and Rogers employ Saskatchewan suppliers for many of their ingredients. They have a particular fondness for foraged chanterelle mushrooms, an ingredient so central to their menu that Hearth’s logo is a pair of delicately rendered chanterelles. Like any dedicated Saskatchewan fungus hunter, they refuse to disclose the exact location of their trove.
“[Chanterelles] are our favourite ingredient, no doubt about it,” Robstad said. “We have them heavily sprinkled across our menu. It’s on our design, our website, our shirts. Beth and I searched for the elusive chanterelle grounds in Saskatchewan for a couple of years before we figured out how to find them, and when we found our first chanterelle, we held each other and cried ‘Yeah, we did it. Oh my God.’ It was a great moment.”
Chanterelles are the centerpiece of their most popular dish, an appetizer that lets diners savour the unique taste of the mushrooms. Also popular is the Fish Fry, a plate of freshwater Saskatchewan fish that echoes the experience of a shore lunch.
“We try to be a quintessentially Saskatoon restaurant. In a day and age where you can get any products you want from any part of the world at any time and do anything with it, we try as best as we can to use Saskatchewan ingredients and cook the kind of food that our grandmas made. We want to connect with people and give a definition of what Saskatchewan food might look like. Better. Always better than the day before. That’s the goal.”
If Hearth stays on its path to success, restaurant-goers will be lucky to land a reservation on Friday nights.
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