We’ve launched a Regina Bites newsletter! Sign up to get bite-sized tips on where to eat in Regina, and the stories behind the city’s culinary diversity.
In July 2022, dozens of people filled the Victoria Square Shopping Centre’s food court in Regina to honour one woman: Gladys Toebs.
The longtime proprietor of Kraut Haven – a mainstay of the east end mall since it opened in 1983 – was being forced to close after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“It was such a delight coming here on the Saturday of her last day,” recalls Jordan Myers, Victoria Square’s marketing co-ordinator. “There wasn’t an empty seat in the food court. People were bringing her flowers – longtime customers. Seeing that, it really establishes the community connection that this food court has with its patrons. You’re not just a patron – you’re a friend.”
Toebs passed away the following month, but the community spirit on display at her farewell party continues at Victoria Square food court.
The mall is just off the Trans-Canada Highway, in a major commercial hub with residential neighbourhoods and seniors’ homes within walking distance.
What is most striking about this food court is the diversity of its cuisine: popular Chinese food restaurant, Supreme China Bistro; well-known local chain, Trifon’s Pizza; Laghos African Kitchenette serving up Nigerian grub; and the newest addition, a Vietnamese restaurant called Hanoi Kebab.
All are locally-owned operations – and unlike any other Regina mall food court, there isn’t a single nationwide chain vendor.
“In the glory days of the ’80s, malls were filled with neon lights and any store you could think of,” says Myers. “Now in the era of Amazon and Costco strip malls, traditional malls have had to come up with creative community efforts, like the vaccine labs we saw during COVID.”
He says Victoria Square is focused on what they’re calling “shoppertainment,” with offerings like mini golf, an arcade and a soon-to-be indoor playground.
“We want to turn malls back to the date night fun they used to have – and a great food court contributes to that, too.”
Hanoi Kebab is 24-year-old Justin Nguyen’s first restaurant. He opened it in July 2023. He chose Victoria Square Shopping Centre because it’s in a busy commercial area and he lives nearby.
“Vietnamese cuisine has many dishes, so I want to introduce these dishes to people all over the world, including here in Canada,” says Nguyen, who hails from Hanoi himself.
He went to cooking school in Vietnam before moving to Canada and working for a year at his uncle’s restaurant in Assiniboia, Sask.
“I really admire him because he works really hard in his business,” Nguyen says.
Now Nguyen is working hard to make Hanoi Kebab a success. He cooks the pork he serves in his banh mi sandwiches on a rotating kebab grill, almost like Turkish-Vietnamese fusion.
Laghos African Kitchenette
Originally from the Nigerian state of Ekiti, Adebanke Disu-Adebara moved with her family to Saskatoon in 2011. They relocated to Regina in 2012.
Laghos African Kitchenette began as a takeout business based in a commercial kitchen on Victoria Avenue. When owner Disu-Adebara was looking to upgrade, she moved into the Victoria Square food court.
“I love this location because it helps to open up your business to different people,” says Disu-Adebara. “Many people come up and say, ‘I’ve never tried African food.’ It broadened my business to different ethnic backgrounds.”
For those familiar with Nigerian swallow, which is a large, starchy, dough-like side dish, Disu-Adebara offers pounded yam, garri (made of dried, grated and fermented cassava) and amala (made from yam flour).
Rice is their most popular side dish, though, followed by fried plantains. Laghos’s jollof rice is seasoned with tomato paste, sweet pepper, garlic, ginger and onion.
“It’s kind of a party dish,” says Disu-Adebara. “My jollof rice is smoky and not spicy.”
Supreme China Bistro
The restaurant business is in Emily Liang’s blood. She worked at her sister’s China Liang Buffet nearby for five years before she bought the family’s Victoria Square location. She rebranded it as Supreme China Bistro in 2017.
The Liang family is from the Guangdong province of China, although the dishes they serve are not traditionally Cantonese; it’s Canadian Chinese food. Ginger beef, sweet and sour pork, chicken balls and spring rolls are some of their most popular items.
Sandra Cozma has been eating at Supreme China Bistro for years, even though she lives across town.
“It’s amazing food, amazing service and a generous quantity, too,” she says.
She knows she’s not the only one popping in when they’re doing errands in the east end.
“It’s never not busy. Always lined up. Doesn’t matter when we come,” she says.
Liang says operating a food court stall is more manageable than a large buffet restaurant.
And she is thankful to her many regular customers, even though she confesses to remembering them more by face than by name.
“I really like it here,” she says of Victoria Square. “I think I’ll stay here until I retire.”