Skellefteå's restaurant scene is booming

The influx of new people from diverse backgrounds has introduced unfamiliar cuisines, innovative dining concepts, and an expansion of the restaurant industry. Skellefteå's growth has resulted in a thriving restaurant scene. Come with us on a tour to explore!

New flavors in Skellefteå. Abadi Ybrah opened his Eritrean restaurant in November.

New flavors in Skellefteå. Abadi Ybrah opened his Eritrean restaurant in November.

Foto: Petra Älvstrand

Norra Sverige2023-04-06 13:37

The buffet trays for today's lunch come in orange and brown, and they smell of unknown spices. Here is the beef stew Zigni, a chickpea puree called Shiro, Ades, a dish made of lentils, and Alicha, which is a vegetarian stew.

It's not easy to choose. Fortunately, you don't have to.

Buffé med touch av Afrika. Selams är en eritreansk och etiopisk restaurang.

Abadi Ybrah explains in good Swedish that all dishes should be placed on injera, a sourdough bread that resembles a gray pancake.

– I hope you will be satisfied. We have received many nice words since we opened, he says

Zigni och alicha är två av rätterna som vi testar.
"Vi har fått många fina ord sedan vi öppnade", säger Abadi Ybrah.

Abadi hails from the Eritrean capital of Asmara. His family moved to Skellefteå eleven years ago and four years later, he joined them via Italy. In November, his dream came true when he opened Selams, a restaurant serving dishes from the Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine.

The restaurant is located at the end of the restaurant and business strip Nygatan, right next to the E4 highway. It's a bit small with a beautiful wooden counter and around 15-20 seats.

– Fridays and Saturdays we have a lot of people. It will be a little easier in the summer. Then we will have an outdoor service.

Abadi Ybrah ser fram emot sommaren, då han ska ha en uteservering.

He likes what's happening in town.

– New people. Many who speak English. It's good for both the city and for business, he says.

Abadi is one of many newcomers to the restaurant scene which has  burgeoned as the city has grown. Northvolt's factory construction has been the main engine.

Allt ifrån "fine dining" till snabbmat och take away. Skellefteås restaurangliv har vuxit och förändrats efter Northvolts entré.

Statistics obtained from the municipality support the notion of a booming restaurant scene in Skellefteå. In 2013, 17 new establishments opened, but in 2018, the year after Northvolt's announcement, that number had nearly doubled to 33. The average for the past five years is 28, but the municipality estimates that 2020 and 2021 were negatively affected by the pandemic.

New kitchens are emerging, and the range of already established ones is becoming broader. Three new restaurants were added at once when Sara kulturhus opened in the autumn of 2021.

McDonald's opened its first restaurant in Skellefteå after the Northvolt announcement. Now they are planning another one. Other fast-food chains are also searching feverishly for a location. The same goes for pub chains. Lions opened in May 2020, but Brödernas and Harrys have not had the same luck yet.

Hälsobaren är ett av de ställen som tillkommit det senaste året.
En ny tapasrestaurang där restaurang Nygatan 57 tidigare huserade.

The trend towards healthy food is evident, among other places, at Hälsobaren, which opened in the city center a year ago, and Råvara in Hedensbyn.

A new tapas restaurant, Tap&, has opened, and several Asian restaurants have been added, including Miss Voon, Broo Food, and Hello Asia.

The latter took over the space in Vintergatan's mall where a Thai restaurant used to be, filling the gap left by an Indian restaurant. Owner Mohammed Mir Hossan says they have good occupancy.

Mohammed Mir Hossan runs an Indian and a sushi restaurant that are neighbors in the Vintergatan mall.

– There are many new people in town, especially from India. Many of them work at Northvolt. However, most of our customers have been Swedish, of course.

He also runs the nearby sushi restaurant and has a sushi restaurant in Boden. There are plans to expand as the industrial boom spreads further north.

Nya tider i Skellefteå. Krögaren Mikael Lundmark konstaterar att restauranglivet exploderat de senaste åren, med ett nytt och mer internationellt mönster.

Restaurant entrepreneur Mikael Lundmark has followed the development closely.

– The dining scene has been growing for a longer period, but in the last 3-4 years, it has exploded. I think the city has a wide range of everything today," he says.

He was in charge of Stadsfesten for a long time. He also ran the restaurant and club Balzac. For the past three years, however, he has been running the Italian restaurant La Cena, located near Sara kulturhus.

New concept with familiar face. Restaurant entrepreneur Mikael Lundmark has recently opened the wine bar Kork.

In late February, Lundmark opened a new concept when he premiered the wine bar Kork. It offers a place to hang out, have a glass of wine, and enjoy simple bistro-style dishes.

– Kork has had a good reception. I've been thinking about how we can develop the business for the summer. Offering lunch and outdoor seating seem like good ideas. With electric heaters in the ceiling, you can sit outside and enjoy yourself well into the fall," he says.

According to Lundmark, all of this is an example of how Skellefteå has  become more international. He attributes this to the guest workers at the battery factory, as well as new residents bringing different cultures. 

– Going out for a chat and a bite to eat after work is in their DNA. This also means that we Skellefteå residents are changing," he says.

La Cena opened three years ago.

Another factor is that newcomers are primarily in their "productive" age, he says.

– Relatively young people who like shopping, restaurants, and so on. When I ran Balzac, Fridays and Saturdays would carry the entire week. Now we have lots of bookings at La Cena on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and English is spoken as much as Swedish. You also have the boost of the new cultural center. It's immediately noticeable with table bookings when there's a conference or a bigger event.

The upswing has also reached the classic food trucks at Guldtorget. Since the beginning of  March, Marius Perju has been running the newcomer Grön Ninja, where he sells vegan and vegetarian food, with dishes like tornado potatoes and veggie burgers.

Vegan variants. Marius Perju is behind the new food cart at Guldtorget.

– I've been vegan for three years. The reason I started the food truck is that I myself have had a hard time finding vegan food in Skellefteå, says Marius, who has lived in Sweden for ten years. He started the new food truck, Grön Ninja, in March.

– The interest has been pretty good. I have also been invited to sell my food at two festivals. We'll see how it goes during the summer, says Marius Perju.

Food trucks, wine bars, Asian restaurants, fine dining, health bars - all have contributed to making Skellefteå a more attractive destination, meeting place, and event city, according to Maria Rautio, center manager at Visit Skellefteå.

Maria Rautio of Visit Skellefteå.

– All these things add up. The newcomers are a strong purchasing group that likes to go out and eat.

The interest from new restaurateurs continues to be strong, according to Maria.

– We receive a lot of inquiries and try to match them with property owners. There is clearly pressure in the industry, but it's not always easy to find a location in the city center. Another challenge that many restaurants describe is that they have difficulty finding staff. Unemployment is so low."

Annika Nordin is an actress visiting town.

At Paolos café and restaurant on the ground floor of the Sara kulturhus, actress Annika Nordin is recharging before tonight's theater performance of "Handbook for Housewives."

– I remember when I was on tour in Skellefteå in the late 1990s and the city felt...empty. The difference compared to today is huge. There are many fine restaurants and I sense a strong spirit of optimism, she says.

Annika grew up in Västernorrland but has been living in Gothenburg for a long time. During the play's run, she stays in Skellefteå.

- I have tried everything, both simple and expensive. After tonight's performance, we will try the city's new wine bar.

More and more restaurants are opening in Skellefteå since Northvolt's construction of the battery factory started.
Selams ligger efter affärs- och krogstråket Nygatan.
Selams ligger efter affärs- och krogstråket Nygatan.