I thought we could not improve upon our initial dinner at Silver Gulch, and perhaps from the perspective of uptown, modern cuisine, we did not. But since AK Fam is indeed a family with a small and often-picky young son, most of our meals need to be eaten at establishments that cater to child-sized palates while on vacation. We found them everywhere in Fairbanks.
Our host hotel, Hampton Inn and Suites, thoughtfully provided a full breakfast each morning of our stay, perfect for AK Kid to dive into waffles, yogurt, Froot Loops, and the like. I am a fan of hotel-sponsored breakfast. It’s affordable, filling, and exciting for kids who enjoy making their own waffles or toasting their own bagels. AK Kid likes nothing more than to be in charge of his world, and this gives him the perfect opportunity to choose and create his own morning masterpiece.
Since our Saturday was spent at Chena Hot Springs (where a restaurant also provided a nice assortment of menu items to please, with grilled cheese, burgers, and hot dogs on the Kids’ Menu), by Saturday night we wanted to experience some Fairbanks eateries in our remaining 24 hours. We drove along College Road and ended up at the entrance to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Sam’s Sourdough Cafe at 3702 Cameron St. We’d heard about Sam’s; seems a fire took out the place over a year ago and residents were understandably crushed. It’s back, though, and with charm and ambiance that made us feel right at home. Sam’s is open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. every day, and breakfast is served “just anytime”, according to our salt-of-the-earth waitress. Good enough. AK Kid had waffles for dinner, along with the soda crackers from my iceberg lettuce and Thousand Island-dressed salad. Nice. I also had a bowl of their homemade chili, which reminded me of my grandfather’s Montana chili; thick, hearty, and just a little heated. Dad ate his way through the dinner special of a veal cutlet, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables. Not fancy, but filling and appealing for my meat n’ potatoes husband. Oh, and we also split a chocolate malt, so good I thought maybe I was at a drive-in of Middle America, U.S.A. We were smiled upon, catered to, and called “honey”. I like that place. I’ll go back for breakfast next time, since that’s where Sam’s really shines, with a long-standing sourdough starter that survived the fire. Whew.
On Sunday we tried another Fairbanks treasure, the Cookie Jar. Hidden away on Danby Street next to an auto dealership, the Cookie Jar was full of Sunday post-church diners, military families, and young couples reading the newspaper while snacking on a homemade cinnamon roll. The Kids’ Menu was adequate, offering everything from “Pasketti” to PB & J, obviously knowing that kids sometimes make strange choices when dining out. AK Kid dug into his noodles and rich tomato sauce with gusto, claiming it to be as good as mine. Thank goodness. Dad and I had salads made with fresh greens and he tried a teriyaki chicken burger and I a halibut wrap. Both were freshly made and carefully constructed. We enjoyed the service and atmosphere, and the bakery bar at the front of the building made it easy to choose some homemade chocolate-chip cookies for an afternoon snack. Breakfast is huge at the Cookie Jar; their toast slices are thick and homemade, bacon servings are huge (like five pieces), and their Cinnamon Roll French Toast looked so good I wanted to snatch it off a neighboring table.
Clearly AK Fam will need to revisit these and more Fairbanks restaurants when we head back in August. Until then, I’ll just dream about puffy cinnamon rolls and warm soup and biscuits and gravy. Me and my extra ten pounds.