The Highwood Dining Room
By YP Contributor

Educational for Students and Patrons

The Highwood at SAIT Polytechnic presents a unique dining experience; not only does it offer five-course  dinner service, but it is also a live classroom powered entirely by students. The three learning programs that operate out of the restaurant are professional cooking, hospitality management and baking and pasty arts. At The Highwood, students provide world-class cuisine and service under the guidance of industry experts.

The Highwood dining room has been in operation for over 50 years and operates according to the school schedule, open most weekdays for lunch, and Monday to Thursday for dinner.

“We want our students out there working in the industry during the weekends," says food and beverage instructor Darwin Ens. He has been involved with the the hospitality and tourism program since 1998, and teaches students how to run a restaurant, but also that customer service really is the key to success.

“I always want to make sure to emphasize that whatever role the students fill, it’s about creating an optimal guest dining experience,” he says. “The biggest thing that scares me is when people just view us as a dining room and not a live classroom. It’s not staff, it’s students.”

I always want to make sure to emphasize that whatever role the students fill, it’s about creating an optimal guest dining experience. - Darwin Ens, instructor
Fine dining, French service, a la carte, lunch buffet, feature appetizer, feature entrée, soup of the day
The steelhead trout lunch entree is served with toasted couscous, wilted spinach, pine nuts, acorn squash and broccolini with pear and cranberry chutney. Photo by Carys Richards

Two Meals, Two Experiences

The Highwood seats up to 135 customers and has a variety of tables to accommodate groups of almost any size. However, the restaurant is rarely filled to capacity. Because it is a learning atmosphere, the program limits à la carte patrons to a maximum of 75. Thursday’s lunch buffet is the exception, when every seat is up for grabs.

The menu always features daily specials and changes at the start of every school semester. There is a constant variety of both meat dishes and vegetarian options. "During lunch, there is a feature appetizer, feature entree, a soup of the day, and the rest of the menu is static for the semester,” says Darwin.

Lunch is served à la carte, allowing workers in the area to break for a quick bite, but dinner is an all-evening affair. A five-course meal consisting of an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert for a fixed price can be enjoyed in a leisurely manner because once assigned, a table belongs to the guest for the duration of the evening. Dinner seatings can be booked for 6 pm, 6:30 pm and 7 pm.

“When I talk to the guests, they love the opportunity to come to the dining room and enjoy a two-and-a-half-hour night," says Darwin. "They enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.”

Fine dining, French service, a la carte, lunch buffet, feature appetizer, feature entrée, soup of the day
A student prepares food in a wood-fired oven in the The Highwood kitchen. Photo by Carys Richards

Reservations and Walk-ins

“There’s kind of a myth out there that we’re sold out all the time, and that’s not true,” says Darwin.

Like most restaurants, The Highwood does take reservations, which can be made either by phone or online. The dining room encourages patrons to call in advance, as planning is an important part of the learning process. However, most nights aren’t completely booked, and the restaurant has room to accommodate walk-ins.

Fine dining, French service, a la carte, lunch buffet, feature appetizer, feature entrée, soup of the day
The Highwood is located on the SAIT campus at 1301 16th Avenue Northwest. Photo by Carys Richards
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