Rawhides isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience.
I was intrigued as I drove up the road toward the 15-metre-high, snow-dusted evergreen trees surrounding the entrance to Rawhides restaurant. Located in the village of Stenen, 70 kilometres north of Yorkton, it had been recommended to me as a must-see attraction.
What used to be an elementary school—it closed down in 1984— has been transformed into a Western-themed restaurant with world-class international chefs.
Originally from Star City, Sask., owners Doug and Brenda Will opened the place in 2012 after only three months of renovations. Spending much of their personal time traveling the world, they were influenced by the TV show ‘Rawhides’ and time spent in the southern United States. They had a perfect vision for the type of restaurant they wanted to open.
In 2013, Doug’s son Frazer became a partner in the family business. As a Canadian national competitor in Judo and a human resource manager, Frazer moved back to Saskatchewan from Montreal. He had been living and working out east for the past 12 years but decided the challenge of running the unique restaurant was a great opportunity.
The restaurant is designed to make you feel like you’re walking down the main street of a Wild West town. The saloon’s bar is made of cedar planks from reclaimed barn wood with old tractor seats for stools. The jailhouse contains clothing and merchandise for sale. One of several dining areas is a library, complete with a fireplace and stacks of books from the original school.
Outside the restaurant is an on-site campground and large outdoor patio with five natural gas fireplaces. It’s the perfect place for a warm-up stop of hot chocolate while snowmobiling in the winter or enjoying drinks during volleyball tournaments on the sand courts in the summer. There is also an outdoor stage for concerts in the warmer months. Frazer recently completed the addition of a two-story event centre behind the restaurant with space to host weddings and other group events. Rawhides hosts multiple events and parties throughout the year, seeing as many as 1,500 customers on a weekend.
The ambience, however, is just one part of it all. The food is hearty Western cuisine prepared by international chefs from around the world. Frazer’s head chef has experience cooking in five-star restaurants in Cebu City—located in his home country, the Philippines—as well as the Cayman Islands. Rawhide’s sous chef is originally from India and spent time working in top restaurants in Dubai.
I tried their signature 10-ounce rib eye with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and Café de Paris sauce with a Cajun tiger prawn skewer.
I was so full I had to take dessert to go, but the English-style sticky toffee pudding was just as good later that evening as it would have been in the restaurant.
For more information and restaurant hours, check out their website.