Eating in Alaska

Disclaimer: I’m not a food critic. I swear. Food critics live in New York and they get paid to write about restaurants. I’m an Alaskan home cook who gets sick of doing the dishes. Eating out in Fairbanks is sometimes more about atmosphere for me than it is about the quality of the food. Eating out is also about adventure and risk and, ideally, the occasional big payoff. I’ve decided to eat in as many local restaurants as I can (with the help of a few friends).I will leave no stone unturned, and I will live to tell the tale.

The Homegrown Market

While not a restaurant, I have to say that this place deserves special mention. The Homegrown Market here in Fairbanks is a great place to get locally raised meat and there is always a friendly person at the counter willing to tell you where your meat comes from. I’m a busy single mother and I don’t have loads of time to shop at a million different stores, but I do make a special trip to shop here.  When I make the Danish Grandmother’s Foodgasm Inducing Super Ham Balls, I get my ground ham and grass fed beef from this place.

Silver Gulch Brewery and Restaurant

Winters are long, so lots of Alaskans spend the dark nights indoors brewing beer.  Local brewing supply stores stay pretty busy, and eventually some of the brewers begin to sell their tasty beverages.  And sometimes these brewers become so popular that they go Big Time…like the Fox, Alaska based company: Silver Gulch.  Silver Gulch has a decent restaurant, but they could stand to relax their prices a bit. The menu is very Alaskan Eclectic, meaning there are plenty of choices that have the word “halibut” or “salmon” in them, along with things like Scottish Eggs on the appetizer menu. I don’t know if my visits there have been unlucky, but the food always seems a bit on the over side of cooked and the under side of hot. Which is a strange combination.

My best piece of advice for Silver Gulch: hire an expediter. Expediters make all the difference in the world; think of an expediter as the Stalin in the kitchen. He or she makes sure all the trains run on time. Servers and cooks are far too busy managing their own micro-tasks to be concerned about the overall orchestration of the restaurant. But if you have a dining room as big as that in Silver Gulch, an expediter is the best way to assure that your food is worth the price. And the trip!

The Pumphouse’s Senator Saloon

My favorite place to eat in Fairbanks is the Pumphouse’s Bar, but it’s for personal reasons rather than matters of quality.  The service is usually slow, but the bar food is always hot and delicious once it arrives.  The atmosphere in the bar is very Goldrush Saloon and there are pool tables, darts, and a shuffleboard table that I will arm wrestle you over. The deck in summer is lovely and there always seem to be handsome Russian waiters at my beck and call. Most importantly, it’s only a mile from my house, so when I’ve had one too many I can just walk home. You can see their menu here.

Alaska Coffee Roasting Company

ACRC's Deli Case

My winters, like any other Alaskan’s, are fueled by caffeine—large quantities of sunshine replacement therapy served up from one of the drive-through coffee huts found on nearly every corner of every street in Fairbanks. But if I’m lucky, I have the time and space to enjoy my coffee at the Alaska Coffee Roasting Co., known to locals as “ACRC”.  The coffee is roasted in house, and, from the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe to the Scandanavian Breakfast Blend, each cup is consistently good, and a “shot of espresso” in this place is an actual shot of thick, dark and jittery goodness. The home made flat breads and empanadas that come out of the wood fired brick oven are gorgeous and they taste as rustic and hearty as they look.  There is also a healthy selection of pastries, custards, muffins, and cookies. The cafe itself is usually packed to the gills, but, oddly enough, I’ve somehow always found a place to sit among the small, pleasantly crowded tables.  You may have to stand in a line, but regardless of the wait, the coffee and the food will be reliably delicious.  And sometimes quality requires patience.

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