A dining booth with a long, hot history is carved out in the curved walls of The Cave Restaurant in Saskatoon.
“We call it the ‘Fire Cave,’” explained manager George Kosmas, while squeezed inside the private alcove. “It’s a little toasty, it’s a little warm and a lot of passion comes in this spot.”
Adorned with ash and purple-coloured woven cloth, the seats have borne witness to more than 50 proposals – and countless other attractions.
“Back in the heydays of the seventies and eighties, because of the privacy, servers would have to clang dishes as they got closer because there’d be quite affectionate couples in here,” he said.
While the PDA have been tamed with technology – Kosmas credits cellphones with curtailing the “heavy petting and necking” – the Fire Cave is still used as the restaurant’s main engagement spot.
“People will call me up and say, ‘Hey, we got engaged here three, five, fifteen years ago, we would really love to have that table’ – and it gets tougher and tougher every year,” he said.
The 35-year-old manager has handled special proposal requests since starting at the front in his late teens. He’s also tried just about every method of ring delivery.
“Tucking them into desserts, hiding them in champagne glasses and big elaborate displays at the end,” he said.
The manager recalled a Valentine’s Day five years ago where several couples popped the question – leaving him to juggle a handful of rings.
“That was a stressful night!” he joked.
Kosmas estimates in the restaurant’s 43-year history, there have been around 300 engagements.
“I hear the stories all the time – ‘my mom and dad got engaged here, they started dating here.’ You don’t realize that this place holds a special spot in a lot of people’s hearts,” he said.
For Kimberlee and Tony Berg, The Cave is a Valentine’s and anniversary tradition – since both dates fall on Feb. 14.
In January 1999, the couple settled into a cozy booth by the bar when Tony proposed a Valentine’s trip either to Edmonton – or Las Vegas.
“One was just going to be a fun weekend away and the other one was going to be a little more serious – going to Vegas and getting married,” Tony said.
The answer? On Valentine’s Day 1999, Kim and Tony were married at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.
“It’s become a tradition to come to the Cave and have our Valentine’s Day meal here,” Kim said, while seated at the booth where it all started. “We always sit at the same table, we have the same meal.”
The Cave also cemented the love between a Finnish teacher and a young man from Lucky Lake.
In December 1991, Raija Johnson came to Canada for the first time with her Saskatchewan boyfriend, Maury. That Christmas Eve, the two went for dinner at The Cave.
“It was mysterious, because it has all the curves, and hidden places there.” Johnson said during a call from her hometown of Oulu, Finland.
The 53-year-old recalled sitting in a booth close to “Lost Man’s Corner” – another named area of The Cave marked on the restaurant’s iconic placemat map – and eating the seafood meal for two.
“There he revealed his secret – he proposed to me,” Johnson said.
A server took the newly-engaged couple’s photo – a picture the lovebirds have kept safe in a scrapbook along with the restaurant menu from that night.
The Johnsons make the 20-hour trip to Saskatchewan almost every two years. The couple last returned to their proposal spot at The Cave for a romantic dinner in 2015.
Raija and Maury Johnson on the night of their engagement at The Cave in Saskatoon on Dec. 24, 1991. Raija Johnson/Submitted