One of my favourite food vendors from the Sturgeon County Bounty Culinary Cookout festival last summer was Saviour’s Cafe & Bistro. They were in a super unassuming tent serving up a real delicious beef and vegetable stew. I remember it being packed with a ton of flavour, and just feeling like it was a surprise hit because I hadn’t heard of them before, and the unassuming tent didn’t make you think it was going to be a really stand-out dish (but it was!)
Ever since that festival, I’d been meaning to visit Saviour’s Cafe & Bistro’s permanent location at 24 Perron Street in downtown St. Albert.
I finally stopped by this weekend with my friend Taylor and am happy to say I had a similarly delicious experience in their restaurant as I had with them at the Sturgeon County Bounty festival.
Saviour’s Cafe & Bistro, although on a pretty main road just steps away from St. Albert’s City Hall and Library, is kind of hidden. I’d say it’s more on St. Anne St., going west, than it is on Perron St., and its sign is hard to see from the road.
Inside, there are about 30 seats, with a few more seats on the patio patio that overlooks the river. Unusable during winter but I can imagine that being a really lovely spot to sip and savour Saviour’s food in the summer time.
Saviour’s Cafe & Bistro has a small menu, and one that’s partially Ethiopian and partially Italian. There’s some pizzas, some sandwiches, some traditional Ethiopian dishes, and a page of drinks. The sole server, who was also chef and owner, was very friendly and eager to give us menu recommendations. He was particularly excited to get us to try the Ethiopian dishes (which we happily obliged).
Taylor had never eaten Ethiopian cuisine before but I have (and love it!) For those who haven’t, Ethiopian food is generally eaten in a very hands-on fashion. You order vegetables and meats and it comes on a platter with bread called “injera.” Injera is an Ethiopian sourdough flatbread that’s kind of sponge-like. It’s sponge-like quality is great in holding and soaking up flavours of the vegetables and meat you wrap in it.
I haven’t had an Ethiopian meal I didn’t like and Saviour’s was no exception!
Taylor and I shared Saviour’s Vegetarian Platter, which was a platter of spinach, chickpeas, red lentils, cabbage, salad and beets on top of a layer of injera (with an accompanying plate of injera for wrapping/scooping the veg) – $17.99 as well as Saviour’s Spinach and Chicken dish, which is mixed with caramelized onions, garlic, black pepper, oregano, romain salad, and injera ($17.99).
I’ve been to Ethiopian restaurants before where they don’t give you cutlery and you literally go all hands-in to the platter, ripping off injera bread and using it to scoop the meats and vegetables. Here at Saviour’s, you get the option of cutlery if you wish (so that’s nice for the germaphobes out there! lol) but I still recommend digging in with your hands. It just gives the experience a whole other vibe (you’re super connected to your food when you’re eating with your hands).
Our colourful and flavourful food made for a great lunch. The spinach and chicken dish in particular – packed with flavour and spices. But honestly, Ethiopian cuisine is one where I’m all over the vegetables because they always taste so good. There was one other table that was in the restaurant while we were and they ordered one of the beef dishes that just filled the room with a delicious aroma when the server brought the dish out.
We also got their chicken soup (which is their only appetizer, and is like an amazing chicken stew – $6.50) and we tried their Ethiopian / Eritrean Organic Coffee which is served in a very specific (ritual) way.
The coffee is served in a clay pot, which keeps the drink hot. They also make it so that each cup you pour you get a slightly different flavour – the first pour is like an Espresso, the second like an Americano, and the third, more like a regular coffee. The coffee is also served with incense (more for initial aroma and effect, because it gets super smoky!) and a bowl of popcorn (kind of like a dessert). Typically, they serve the coffee either before or after a meal (not during).
Overall, our meal at Saviour’s was lovely!
When Taylor and I went, we were the first customers for the day. In our 1.5 hour stay, two people came in to order take-out sandwiches and grab coffee, and there was a table of three (who got the wicked-smelling beef dish). Since our server was also the chef, there started to be a bit of wait for things once additional customers started coming in. But our food came out quite quickly.
The general atmosphere of the place was quiet, and the owner later shared that business had been a lot slower lately, which activated in me the desire to quickly write something up on my blog in the hopes that more people will discover and enjoy this lovely little, family-run Ethiopian restaurant.
All of Saviour’s main Ethiopian dishes are $17.99. They also have shrimp “tibs” or beef “tibs” or chacha – which is basically an Ethiopian stir-fry/stew dish with shrimp or beef.
Compared to my other Ethiopian restaurant experiences, Saviour’s selection is actually pretty small but I’ve always been a fan of smaller, more focused menus where you’re guaranteed deliciousness (versus the Gordon Ramsay-hated jillion of pages and options menus lol). Though I did think the non-Ethiopian options were a bit unusual, I can understand that they’re likely trying to ensure they can appeal to a wider group of people (but you should definitely try their Ethiopian dishes!!)
Saviour’s Cafe and Bistro’s decor and presentation is also not as vibrant necessarily as some of the other spots I’ve been to, which is not a bad thing – it’s not fussy, and more straight to it (get to the delicious food without fluff around it).
Here you get great, authentic Ethiopian food (though I’d be curious to try their pizza/sandwiches too.)
The portions are solid.
The prices are pretty good.
And the owner just gives off a very kind and genuine feel that makes you quite happy and eager to support him.
Taylor was really impressed with his first foray into Ethiopian cuisine. He actually lives in St. Albert so was pretty excited to find a new place for coffee and food. I don’t know if this place would qualify as a “hidden” gem in St. Albert because it is on a pretty major main road, but the sign is hard to see.
Don’t let that stop you from discovering and supporting this lovely, local gem.
We’ll be back!!