Gourmet burgers, Louisiana-style shrimp hoagies and deep-fried ice cream and are just a few of the creative twists on comfort food bursting off the menu at Fort Smith’s newest restaurant, S&S Desirable Delicacies.
The new diner is housed at the canteen in the Rec Centre where a brand new food court setup allows people to dine in or dash with their breakfast, lunch or dinner from a rotating menu of unique daily specials, seven days a week.
Co-owner and executive chef Steve Thom decided to set up shop in the vacant space almost by accident while “passing through” on a visit to see family and friends last December.
“I was here for a month and a bit, and started cooking for people in the town and people just said they absolutely loved my cooking and I should open a restaurant,” he said. “So I checked out the demographics in the area, and basically there were really only two restaurants for a population of 3,500. It’s just a different venue – something new, something exciting, something that you don’t have up here.”
The restaurant opened last week despite significant hiccups in the food delivery process. Much of the food supply shipment was misdirected to the wrong location and, when it finally arrived, nearly all of the load consisted of the wrong food.
Thom decided to roll with the punches, donating hundreds of pounds of groceries to the local food bank, homeless shelter and women’s shelter.
“I’d rather make people happy and have good food and show them that I’m here not only to help the community, but I want people to have fun. Good food, good times – that’s what life’s about. You don’t always have to make money.”
“Chef Steve,” as he likes to be called, is originally from Toronto, but says he has successfully started up 14 restaurants across Canada. A graduate of the Cordon Bleu chef school, he has worked everywhere from chicken wing restaurants to homestyle Caribbean joints and five-star hotels.
“I worked under some really excellent European chefs,” he said. “I’ve been across Canada three times; I’ve opened 14 successful restaurants; I’ve met some great chefs along the way.”
The idea behind S&S is fusion: mixing American, European and Asian cuisines to delicious ends, where everything, from soups to sauces, comes homemade – including the chef’s own hot sauce, which he plans to market around the North.
Among the standard fare, the menu offers handmade 7-oz gourmet burgers made from ground steak and stuffed with cheese, and real American-style hoagie sandwiches loaded with hot meat, cheese and other tasty toppings.
Each day’s menu also offers a variety of sides, salads and a soup or bread bowl option, from New England chowder to chilli, lobster bisque and real Vietnamese pho.
The chef will also be dishing up snacks like real curd-topped poutine, deep-fried pickles and mushrooms, and desserts like funnel cakes, deep-fried ice cream and Mars bars.
“You’re going to have your originals for all your meat-and-potatoes types…but it’s also a really unique twist on food,” he said.
Highlights of the morning wake-up menu include breakfast burritos and sandwiches, along with triple decker monte carlos and crispy hashbrowns.
The canteen opens its gates at 6:30 a.m. for the early risers and serves food until 10:00 p.m. every weekday, opening later on Saturdays and Sundays, keeping with the Rec Centre’s hours.
Serving the community
Apart from living his passion for cooking, Chef Steve said his interest lies in giving back to the community.
While S&S is his first gig in Fort Smith, he said he has other plans up his sleeve, including a door-to-door hot meal service called Angels Catering for elders in the community.
“I’m friends with a lot of seniors. These people are your mothers, your fathers, your mentors in life. As they get older, they need help just like we did when we were infants. So it’s a great thing to be able to help them.”
S&S also has specials for students, and is available to cater weddings, meetings and other events.