Lunch with Charlie in ye olde Fairbanks

March 3, 2016 at 5:34 pm (Alaska, American) ()

It’s 2pm on Friday in downtown Fairbanks and Bill is running around like a madman, single-handedly taking orders, serving tables and topping up waters while somehow still managing to dish out straw-wand blessings to waiting diners.  All-in-all, a fairly standard lunch service at Soapy Smith’s, if not a bit busier than normal with the ice carving championships due to start soon. (By busy, I mean the restaurant is at half capacity; this is Fairbanks after all.)

Soapy Smiths

Soapy Smiths - Sign

We take a table towards the back while Charlie Cole tucks into his soup and salad.  Yep, Charles Cole, former Attorney General of Alaska.  “Celebrity-spotting”, added onto our list of reasons for visiting Fairbanks for those looking for ideas.

Soapy Smiths - Charlie

If you do decide to visit, Soapy Smith’s would be a good addition to your dining repertoire.  Named for the notorious crime boss who set up shop in Skagway during the Klondike gold rush, this pioneer restaurant is suitably styled in Old West fashion; a wood-panelled room furnished with carved timber, old saloon ceiling fans, worn metal pots and jugs stacked on sideboards and walls lined with vintage Alaskan photographs.  A neon moose deviates somewhat from the overall theme.  No gambling here though, just some puzzles in the back for entertainment.

Soapy Smiths - Wall

Soapy Smiths - Furnishing

Soapy Smiths - Games

The fare is traditional American; burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads, all hearty, generous food for the cold climate.  There are some gems to be had if you ignore the advertising.  The Alaskan crab burger, for instance, a Soapy’s exclusive but too oily with it’s deep fried crab cake.  You’d do better with one of their flame grilled burgers, quarter or half pound, good as is (a.k.a. pioneer or cheehako style), and improved with bacon and cheese.  Vegetarians (affectionately, “tree huggers”) can substitute a veggie pattie.

Soapy Smiths - Alaskan Crab Burger

Soapy Smiths - Pioneer Burger

There’s an excellent reuben, the corned beef grilled for extra crispy beef bits, with kraut and properly melted, gooey swiss cheese on generously buttered house-made bread.  The secret ingredient is a creamy, sweet-ish sauce that’s not traditional but absolutely delicious.  We opt for a green salad on the side (because that makes it so much healthier) but you may as well have a clam chowder, which is the best around according to the locals.

Soapy Smiths - Reuben

Breaded Bering cod and sticky, BBQ ribs have followings and do ask about the Homestyle Special, which may be a clam linguine.

If you still have room for dessert, a brownie sundae with Hershey’s chocolate sauce would be the pick of the bunch.  One thing we’ve discovered after moving to Alaska is that it’s never too cold for ice cream.
Soapy Smith's Pioneer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
 

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