While Fairbanks, Alaska isn’t exactly known for its quality cuisine, if you look hard enough you can find some delicious eateries tucked away like shiny little golden nuggets. Here is a list of a few of our favorites (order is not indicative of greatness, they’re all pretty great!) that aren’t the typical tourist fare, but all local flavor. You’ll want to try these on your next visit to the Golden Heart of Alaska.
1.Sipping Streams Tea Co. – Just want to relax with a nice cup of tea? Sipping Streams Tea Company is the best place in Fairbanks to do so. All the teas are hand blended and offer unique tastes for tea lovers. We recommend trying the Northern Serenity blend, a soothing tisane tea made with mint and cocoa nibs.
2. Brazen Bistro– If you want a meal that will stick to your ribs, you can’t do better than the fare at Brazen Bistro. But get there early because they can sell out of their Brazen Bowls rather quickly! The bowls are made with a potato or veggie base of your choice, followed by tasty brazed meats, topped off with fresh sauces or cheese. Outdoor seating is limited; it is best to utilize the drive up option.
3. Lemongrass– Fairbanks, oddly enough, has a high percentage of Thai restaurants, so choosing a favorite can be difficult. However, Lemongrass has been a staple in Fairbanks since the mid 90’s and their menu is nothing short of comfort. Fresh local ingredients are used when in season, and their seasonal specials are well worth it. In the autumn, they serve the much anticipated pumpkin curry and their green Thai iced tea will satisfy any sweet tooth.
4. Alaska Cheesesteak Co. – When you need something to warm up your insides and your spirit, this is the place to go! These hearty cheesesteaks will dispel any winter chill but the tiki shack themed décor will also brighten up those winter blues. The item to get on this menu is the Pineapple Teriyaki cheesesteak, a family recipe full of all sorts of goodness!
5. Pita Place– The summer in Fairbanks heralds the return of the seasonal food trucks and food stands. Pita Place is one of best seasonal food stands in Fairbanks. They offer fabulous falafel tucked away in homemade fluffy pita bread. Don’t forget to get a piece of golden sweet baklava for dessert! Seating is outdoors, but comfortably covered.
6. The Blue Loon– Located right next door to Fairbanks, in Ester, Alaska, the Blue Loon offers not only good food but also entertainment. Most nights of the week this theater pub shows movies for a nominal fee. The burgers are some of the best you’ll find in the area.
Here at Alaska Cache Box, we not only want to bring you authentic Alaskan products, but also provide a peak into what life in Alaska is like. Few things are as important to Alaskans as water. Water is something in our everyday lives that doesn’t get that much attention, but in some way, affects a lot of what we do. Humans and animals need water to survive and getting it in the remote areas of the state can be quite difficult. Alaskans have adapted to their environment and have come up with a variety of ways to meet their water needs in the arctic environment.
In Fairbanks, many people live outside of areas that have what would be considered “standard” water service. Due to cost and environment (permafrost ground), water mains and piping don’t extend to certain areas of the city. To get around this, people will often use 5-gallon jugs and fill up their water at filling stations around town. Others will put large water containers in the back of their truck and fill up at a water station to take back home. Others can subscribe to a water service, where a big truck full of water will come and fill up inside or outside tanks based on how much water one would need.
Amenities like taking a shower or using a toilet can become something to look forward to in places without access to running water. Many people will use shower facilities wherever they can find them. People will shower at paid shower facilities, at schools, at work or wherever there is an available shower. In the summer, there is a sun shower method that can used, where a bag of water is placed in the 24-hour sun. The sun warms the bag and when someone wants to shower, they clip the bag over their head and let gravity control the flow of the water while they wash.
Many homes without running water have pit toilets (outhouses) or compost toilets where people can do their business. Without the standard piping and water that many of us are used to, there is no easy way to bring waste water into or out of homes. Some homes do use leach fields and septic systems, but the cold winter months can often cause backup issues and frozen pipes. While a simple pit toilet or compost toilet might not sound that glamorous, both are very low maintenance. Water is vitally important to survival, and Alaskans have shown how people can adapt to their situation and enjoy the last frontier.
This is the first in our series spotlighting Alaskan small businesses. At Alaska Cache Box we hope that you enjoy the products we introduce you to and purchase more items directly from the businesses we partner with. ArXotica is one such business we have had the pleasure to work with. Heralding from Bethel, Alaska, a rural community 400 mile west of Anchorage with only just over 6,000 residents, the sisters of ArXotica run a thriving business offering skin care products wild sourced from the tundra surrounding their homes. They have been gracious enough to provide a little insight into their business and life off of the Alaskan road system.
Describe your business; how long have you been operating? Where is your business located? Why did you start your business?
We are triplet sisters, best friends and members of the Qissunamiut Tribe. Our name ArXotica, is an amalgam of Arctic and Exotic, we wanted our name to connote the wild, breathtaking purity and uniqueness of our wild harvest sourced materials. We’ve been around as an award winning concept and company for 10 years, based out of Bethel, the heart of the massive 44 million acre Yukon Kuskokwim Delta of Western Alaska. We started our business because the Alaska Federation of Natives wanted to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking in rural Alaska. We sisters felt that even though we had day jobs and were starting our families, we had something special enough to share with the marketplace.
What is unique about your product?
Each of us brings a talent and skill set to the table. Luckily for us, Cika is an Art Director and graphic artist. Every image you see that represents our botanicals, identity, collateral, is purely through her artistry. The logo itself is literally the Fireweed Blossom, but shaped to make the A for our name, and neutralized in color so the bold fuchsia wouldn’t turn away male shoppers for themselves. Cika, for all her work around the country for agencies and organizations, has been able to convey the importance of cultural representation, in a universally appealing way. We were inspired by our culture and our land and waters to incorporate, and we feel a de facto responsibility and ambassadorship to best represent and honor what is given to us through the richness of it all.
What product would you recommend as the best gift for the holidays?
We constantly offer gift sets for the season, and any of them that has a sampling or full bottle of our Quyung-lii Anti-Aging Skin Serum is imperative to gift to yourself or your loved ones. With a powerful blend of mid-night sun powered tundra antioxidants, naturally ionized glacier water, and extra-virgin, cold-pressed wild salmon oil, it’s the best of Alaska in a bottle, with no parabans, mineral oil, added colorants or fragrance. It’s the best thing to gift your skin.
If a first time visitor to Alaska could only visit one place in the state, where would you recommend they visit?
The Yukon Kuskokwim Delta alone is the size of Illinois, but imagine that there are no roads leading to Chicago. You have to fly an hour from Anchorage to get to Bethel, and take any number of commuter planes to any of the sixty-one villages in our region. There’s not much infrastructure beyond schools and private homes to visit in a conventional tourist fashion. There is a lot of cottage industry so arts and crafts are plentiful, but unless you are a fisherman, hunter or birder, there are very little services to cater to your off-the-beaten path adventure. We are not conventionally beautiful in the Alaska post-card sense, but we do have uncultivated, breathtaking scenery from the heights of our headwater mountains, to the prime migratory waterfowl habitat toward the Bering Sea, far from industrial ills.
What do you love most about Alaska?
It’s different. It’s unique. We have to depend on each other because there is very little public works or safety infrastructure to assist us in our daily lives. We hunt, fish and gather for our kitchen table, not as a novelty, but as our daily bread. We police ourselves, are civic, patriotic, give thanks, we share, we are tough, kind, humorous and generous. We are still here despite a millennia of extreme environment and harsh and expensive supply chain challenges. We make due and are resourceful. We love who we are, and where we are, and welcome strangers to our far off land.
Anything more you’d like to add?
We’ve sold to all fifty states and one territory. We’ve sold product in 71 countries, and we are a three-person company that has experienced enormous reach, but count every sale, no matter how small, as important. We need you as much as you need us, and when you are nearly out of your serum, lotion or soap at three a.m., we understand the urgency, and are here for you. We’d like our customer base to think bigger. Think group orders and company gifts, events like weddings and banquets. We will work with your vision and budget. Let us grow through your life occasions.
Fall is still in the air in many places around the USA, but for Alaska winter is quickly approaching. As Alaskans are pondering the day when the snow will fly and stick for the next nine months, you can take a look at what Alaska Cache Box brought to your doorstep for the fall quarter.
True North Project – Glenna Merket of Soldotna, Alaska creates an array of jewelry based off an Alaskan theme. Each piece and saying included on the accompanying card embodies a positive essence of Alaska. For many, the autumn time in the North is heralded by the ripening of low bush cranberries. The season is short and winter is never far from enveloping the land. Perhaps this is why picking these tart fruits is so cherished; one last foray into the land before it is frozen. Luckily these cranberry earrings can be enjoyed all year long.
Alaskan Soaps & Scents – From Wasilla, Alaska, Alaskan Soaps & Scents offers a wide array of beautifully smelling locally made goat milk soaps. These soaps are gentle on your skin but smell amazing. Branching off from the typical flowery perfumes, they also offer unique scents like oak & moss, harvest spice, and cedar & saffron.
907 Clothing Company – Two sisters, Melissa and Kaitlin, run their clothing business out of Haines, Alaska. They offer clothing and accessories featuring Kaitlin’s original artwork. Incorporating the Alaskan area code, 907, the pieces they offer speak to the fun and whimsical nature of Alaska, both terrestrial and nautical.
Paint Alaska – Kristen Hendricks illustrations embody the grand expanse and beautiful colors the landscapes of Alaska have to offer. Kristen lives in Fairbanks, Alaska and has a formal education in Fine Art and Medical Illustration. Her work has been shown at galleries in New York, Connecticut and Fairbanks. Her works are firmly grounded in reality, but owing to the whimsical, playful nature of the medium, often exaggerate or emphasis certain colors or compositions to capture the feeling of the hour or season. Prints of her works can be purchased from her Etsy shop.