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Pacific Northwest Alaska Trip Report Fairbanks

Fairbanks and North - A Trip Report - Long

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Restaurants & Bars

Fairbanks and North - A Trip Report - Long

estone888 | Feb 28, 2012 02:10 PM

I just got back from a week long trip to Fairbanks, then up to Coldfoot and a couple of days at Chena Hot Springs. Thanks to you local Chowhounds for your recommendations. Here's what we (4 of us) ate:

Dinner the first night was a lazy stroll from our hotel - Pike's - to Pike's Landing. (We were all tired.) It was pretty much what you'd expect in the way of bar food. The steamed clams were good - garlicky broth, though about 1/4 of them hadn't opened. The halibut burger was okay but seemed like something of a waste of a nice piece of halibut. The halibut fish and chips were also merely okay - the frying could have been a bit crisper. The french fries were good, though. The draft beers were excellent.

For breakfast we went to Alaska Coffee Roasters and it was great. Really world class espresso and latte, great baked goods. I wish there was somewhere just like it near my house in Los Angeles.

Lunch was at the Chowder House which was local and amusing if not a whole lot more. The smoked salmon chowder was good, the clam chowder merely okay, the fresh baked bread was sort of a fresh baked small loaf of Wonder Bread but what the heck. The place did have a nice atmosphere and if I lived in Fairbanks I'd probably go there from time to time.

Dinner the second night was at Gambardella's. Sure is a big place. It's pretty much standard issue red sauce Italian and was fine. If it was nearby where I live I might go there from time to time, but it's not worth going out of your way for. (Maybe in Fairbanks it is, I don't know.) The eggplant parmigiana was the stand out of all of our dishes - surprisingly light and fresh tasting. The salads were good, though near drowning in dressing.

We then went up to Coldfoot at the base of the Brooks Range for several days of aurora viewing and general exploration. The food at the truckstop at Coldfoot Camp was surprisingly better than it had to be - considering it's the only dining option for perhaps 125 miles or so in any direction. Great onion rings, excellent breakfasts (especially pancakes and reindeer sausage,) huge tasty sandwiches - especially the blt. Very good soups. (Though the chili was too bland.) Excellent pies. Nothing more in the way of variety than you'd expect from a truck stop, but good.

Back to Fairbanks way late at night and the only thing open that wasn't a chain - major criteria for me - was the Family Restaurant on Airport Way. Pretty good fried chicken, actually. Nearly inedible meatloaf, very overcooked porkchops. My sister's grilled cheese was a regular old white bread American slices grilled cheese.

Then it was up to Chena Hot Springs resort. The restaurant there is good, not great, but good. Standouts were the tomato basil soup - made from tomatoes and basil grown in their own greenhouse, which is an interesting thing to visit on the "Geothermal tour." The halibut for dinner was excellent, very nicely cooked and served with good fresh vegetables from their greenhouse, and the clam chowder was excellent, though a bit saltier and creamier than I tend to like it, lots of clams. The "famous" blueberry pancakes were okay but I can't imagine why they'd be famous.

Back to Fairbanks and we were utterly wiped out exhausted. We thought about going to Lemongrass Thai - even though it seems odd to be coming from Los Angeles (home of the world's largest Thai community outside of Thailand) and going to a Thai restaurant. But we were all too tired so we trudged back across the parking lot to Pike's Landing again. The King Crab legs were good. The Killer Shrimp were good, garlickly, a bit spicy, buttery but what is it with all that salt? Do people in Alaska have a low blood pressure problem or something? Again, excellent draft beers.

My flight left too early for any more meals but my sister, who lives in Chicago, did go to Lemongrass Thai that evening before her flight and liked it a lot. She had a halibut dish that she said was excellent. I asked her how they managed to get any fresh Thai ingredients in Fairbanks in February and she concluded, from looking around, that they must stick to dishes that they can cook with what they can get seasonally - as her halibut didn't seem to have any fresh Thai ingredients that might have been a problem. But she is very familiar with Thai food and said it was excellent.

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