Food & Drink

Safi: your neighbourhood grocery, butcher, take-out, caterer…and more

Desserts are conveniently (temptingly?) placed by the cash. The soft Maamoul cookies are made in Montreal. A Sandy Hill resident makes Algerian-style cannoli from semolina and orange blossom water pastry, filled with cream, pistachios and other delicious ingredients. Photo Betsy Mann

Betsy Mann

From a grilled smoked turkey sandwich with the trimmings to a whole roast lamb, marinated and stuffed with rice (order ahead), Safi Fine Foods can satisfy your appetite…and that of many guests! Located on Somerset at the corner of Blackburn, it is well situated to serve hungry students in the neighbourhood. As one such student told me while he waited for his sandwich to be grilled, he can come in for eggs and yogurt and pick up a sandwich with fresher bread, lettuce and tomato than he might find in his own refrigerator.

It’s not only students who love shopping here. Also waiting at the counter when I was there recently were two women from Saskatchewan, staying with a friend up the street while in town for the Grey Cup. “We have nothing like this in Regina,” one said. “I like to support local business; I’d be shopping here every day if I lived here. They have an amazing variety! We’ve discovered food from Africa, the Mideast, Asia and Europe, as well as local and organic dairy and cheese.” Their choice for an evening meal with their friend involved containers of rice with chicken drumsticks that had been marinated and cooked in a special tandoori sauce. Whole chickens, prepared in the same sauce and roasted with a whole lemon inside, are also available for takeout; as easy as your supermarket barbecue chicken, but much tastier. “The sauce is a family recipe,” Walid, one of the owners, told me from behind the counter. His co-owner Mo chimed in: “It’s not like Indian tandoori; it’s a mix from lots of different places, mostly East Africa.” Evidently a family secret, just like the special marinade Walid makes for the fajita chicken that you can buy and take home to cook yourself.

If you’re looking for a quick snack or a lighter meal, the samosas (beef, chicken or vegetable) come highly recommended. A regular customer praises their generous, tasty filling and the crisp, not soggy, pastry. Other customers come back often for the hummus, tabbouleh and cardamom-spiced lentil soup, among other dishes in the refrigerated display. All this food is prepared in the commercial kitchen at the back of the store, a facility that also serves when Safi’s does catering, for small to large groups. (Think of that whole roast stuffed lamb.)

If you’re more into cooking for yourself, you can find a good selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, baking supplies, dry goods and meat, packaged in small or larger portions to suit your household. Mo is the in-house butcher and will be pleased to prepare cuts to order; beef, chicken, lamb and goat are on offer. In fact, if you want something that you don’t see, just ask. They may be able to order it for you. Get to know your neighbourhood store; Walid and Mo will be happy to meet you.