Top Chef winner opening Regina restaurant after closure of 2 local eateries

Two Regina restaurants are closing their doors, making way for a new fine-dining establishment modelled after three successful locations in Saskatoon.

Malt City to be replaced by owners of Saskatoon's Ayden Kitchen & Bar

Dale MacKay, the co-owner of three restaurants in Saskatoon, was the first winner of Top Chef Canada. He plans to open a restaurant in Regina by next spring. (Facebook/Ayden Kitchen & Bar)

Two Regina restaurants are closing their doors, making way for a new fine-dining establishment modelled after three successful locations in Saskatoon.

Flip Eatery and Drink recently announced on Facebook that after 6 years of serving downtown, they have sold the restaurant.

It came on the heels of Malt City closing, another upscale restaurant owned by the same people.

Dave Straub, executive chef and co-owner of both, said Malt City wasn't paying the bills.

When it came to Flip, he said the ownership group was given an opportunity to sell and took it, in hopes of going in "a different direction."

"A lot of people are upset about it. It did definitely come as a surprise," said Straub. "I think Flip helped downtown Regina. The downtown at that time, I think, was ready to jump up.

"It was a ghost town before 2011, but there was a good surge of people coming downtown, staying downtown and I think we kind of caught that wave."
Flip Eatery and Drink has been open in Regina for six years. It will be closing its doors at the end of November. (Facebook/Flip Eatery and Drink)

Originally, Straub said he and his team considered opening a simple burger joint, but wanted to to offer something unique — something the city could be proud of.

Flip has repeatedly been voted Best Regina Restaurant by readers of Prairie Dog magazine, but will only be open for another month.

Throughout the years, Straub said Flip has faced rapid employee turnover and increased costs.

"It's a very fine line that you have to run," he said, explaining that people have to be a little crazy to open a restaurant.

Straub said Flip's closure is bittersweet but he's excited for new opportunities. He didn't say what those opportunities may be.

"I really enjoy seeing smiles on people's faces when they eat my food. It's one of the biggest reasons why I do it and why I open restaurants," he said.
Straub said he opened Flip Eatery and Drink to bring a unique experience to Regina. (Facebook/Flip Eatery and Drink)

Making way for the new

While Flip's farewell might be sad for some Regina foodies, there is some good news on the horizon.

The people responsible for some of Saskatoon's most well known fine-dining restaurants are planning on expanding to Regina.

Dale MacKay is the chef and co-owner of the Grassroots Restaurant Group, which is responsible for Ayden Kitchen and Bar, Little Grouse on the Prairie, and Sticks and Stones in Saskatoon.

The group have signed on to take over the former location of Malt City, on the corner of Cornwall Street and 11th Avenue in Regina.

After what he calls "extensive renos," they are shooting to open in early June 2018.

With experience in Japan, New York, London and Rome, MacKay — the first winner of Top Chef Canada — said he and his team are ready to take on the Queen City.

"We're not coming there to show off, we're coming there to hopefully give something that Regina doesn't already have and that's our food and our service," MacKay said. "We definitely attract a very good staff and we tend to keep our staff for long periods of time.

"We're very active partners. We work 14 hours a day, we try very hard."

MacKay said future customers can look forward to decadent dishes and a large variety of cocktails, that Regina doesn't now have.

Prior to buying, the Grassroots team took four trips up to the city, dining out at four or five different places a day as research.
McKay said Regina residents can look forward to "more refined" dining at his new restaurant. (Facebook/Ayden Kitchen & Bar)

MacKay said the landscape of dining worldwide has changed in recent years and Regina's appetite is changing too.

"They want something more refined. They want to feel cool, they want to feel sexy when they go out to eat," he said.

Grassroots will be hosting four pop-up shops in Regina in January, February and March to give locals an idea of what to expect at their future restaurant.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition