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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Nice Stalagmites!

Noelle Chorney
Published Thursday September 17, 04:43 pm
The Cave’s old-school vibe has become cool again

2720 8th St. E.

Gawd, has Saskatoon ever seen a restaurant boom over the last few years — awesome new places seem to pop up on a weekly basis, making for a wonderful whirlwind of discovery for foodies.

The only downside is that in the midst of trying out all these new places, it’s all too easy to forget some of the old stand-bys.

Until recently I definitely would’ve put The Cave into that category, but lately I’ve been hearing a surprising amount of buzz about the 8th St. mainstay — so I decided to do some spelunking.

For years I’ve been hearing that The Cave Lounge is a fun place to be for its old-school vibe. In fact, a friend of mine thinks it’s more than just old-school, it’s out of this world. “It feels like I just walked into a bar on Tattooine!”, he said.

He’s right — it does have a wonderfully otherworldly feel. If you’ve ever been driving by The Cave and wondered whether it’s changed since the last time you went there with your parents 20, 30 or even 40 years ago, or if you’re new to Saskatoon and you can’t get your head around what that building that looks like something out of The Flintstones might be about, it’s worth dropping by for a visit.

My return to The Cave came after my husband and I were trying to decide where to host my father-in-law’s recent birthday dinner. Our list of requirements included a place that’s kind of special but not so fancy as to make my in-laws feel uncomfortable, wheelchair accessible and featuring food that a wide mix of ages (including kids) and levels of fussiness could enjoy.

My original suggestion was a place where we could get Peking duck, a special experience that my in-laws hadn’t had before and would enjoy. But I discovered that both the Mandarin and Yip Hong, the only two restaurants that do classic Peking duck in Saskatoon, close for holidays through the entire month of July. So, no duck.

That left places like The Cave and The Granary. Because we have small children, we opted for the place that looks like, well, a cave, for the novelty factor. It was a hit, although it was also a challenge to keep our boys from climbing the stalagmites.

I’ll openly admit that due to my foodie snobbishness, I have qualified expectations of the food at The Cave. I’ve always enjoyed their pizzas, pastas and salads, but I’m not completely sold on ordering a steak or seafood there. People in our group did, and both the steak and prime rib were underdone. In my world that’s definitely preferable to overdone, but when you order something medium rare and it arrives less cooked than that, some folks might not be too pleased.

But their pizzas and baked pastas are consistently tasty — as they should be, since they’ve been refining their recipes for the last 40 years. The service is quick and respectful, and they know how to handle a wide range of ages and preferences. And if you ever have a craving for some of the classic old-school Saskatoon favourites — like frajolaki, souvlaki, cutlets with brown gravy and the classic dinner experience that comes with soup and salad and choice of potato or rice — head to The Cave and you’re definitely in the right place.

Our family dinner experience was very nice, with the gift of cheesecake for my father-in-law in honour of his birthday. (Sure, there was no moose hat or the entire service staff bursting into song, but we were exceedingly okay with that.)

The Cavern Lounge menu also has some notable specials, like calamari and Alabama slammers or wine by the glass on Sunday, beer and wings Monday, baby pizzas, Singapore slings and happy hour prices for students all night on Tuesdays, nachos, Grey Goose or Long Island iced teas Thursday, paralyzers and a Cavern Platter (chicken strips, dry ribs, calamari and shrimp, and tzatziki for dipping) on Friday night and martinis, Bacardi caesars and bruschetta on Saturdays.

No matter what night you go there, you can find a pretty decent deal on drinks and food, you can marvel at the sense that you’re on the Star Wars movie set, and you can sit in a comfy armchair (the only seating in the place) and be glad that the lighting is so low you can’t tell how worn the upholstery is.

If that kind of vibe strikes a cord with you I should warn you to go quickly, because The Cavern Lounge as we know it is about to disappear. The Cave website talks about an imminent renovation that will see some modernization (as in, a separate room for the VLTs, leather seating and maybe even some booths). What?!? No more armchairs by the fireplace?? If you want the original Cavern Lounge experience, don’t delay!

I certainly hope that the old-school vibe gets carried over to the new renovation, because that’s what makes The Cave such an institution. Sure, The Cave-like experience has something of a cheeziness factor, but in the winter, tucked up near the fireplace in an armchair, it also has a coziness factor that can be hard to come by anywhere else.

This place is packed most days, so it’s still a local favourite. And it will stay that way as long as they keep the experience what it’s always been — old-school menu, old-school service and a healthy dose of kitsch.

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