Food is usually not the first thing people think of when they hear Fairbanks, Alaska. They think of icy temperatures, the Northern Lights, and dog mushing. On a recent visit, I was surprised how much Fairbanks satisfied my taste buds, and I am here to share my favorite and, in my opinion, best restaurants in Fairbanks, Alaska, with you.
Fairbanks is the second-largest city in Alaska, yet only 32,325 people call it home. During the Alaska Gold Rush and the construction of the Alaska pipeline, Fairbanks grew as an industrial town. The food here is hearty and filling, taking advantage of Alaska’s local ingredients and specialties. Restaurants in Fairbanks reflect the local lifestyle of fishing, hunting, and subsistence farming.
Want to know the most surprising Fairbanks food fact? Thai food is big in Fairbanks. There are 24 Thai restaurants in the city – more per capita than any other city in Alaska and includes little drive-through restaurants and fine dining options. Starting in 1989 with the opening of Thai House, the Thai food craze has taken hold of Fairbanks, and I highly recommend trying it while you are there. Some say it is better than in Thailand. And if you visit in the winter, it will warm you up from the inside.
Visiting other destinations in Alaska? Check out our other guides:
- Interview with The Longest Way to Alaska: Extreme Budget Travelers
- 10 Must-Try Alaskan Dishes To Try
- 10 Best Anchorage Restaurants
11 Best Restaurants In Fairbanks
2nd Ave. # 106 // +1 (907)460-7622
This Moldovan restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Fairbanks inside the Co-Op Plaza, where you also find some art galleries, other restaurants, and the Fairbanks Dog Mushing Museum.
To be honest, I never had Moldovan food before, so I cannot attest to the authenticity at Soba. However, I can tell you that the food at Soba is delicious. The Borscht was not as beet-forward as I know it but full of flavor – perfect for warming you up on a cold Alaskan winter day.
For my main course, I picked Pelmeni – a traditional dumpling stuffed with ground beef and pork, boiled and served with sour cream. These little nuggets of joy explode with flavor in your mouth and make every bite a savory and satisfying experience.
Chowder House (Seafood)
206 Eagle Ave. // +1 (907)452-2882
Alaskan salmon is famous around the world, and rightfully so. The fatty pink fish is a real treat, and Alaskans know how to prepare it.
One of my favorite dishes on my recent trip to Fairbanks was the smoked salmon chowder at the Chowder House. The smokey flavor carried through and mixed well with the sweet corn and creamy chowder. It was a simple yet delectable twist to an old classic.
It was so good, in fact, that I doubled down and ordered the salmon sandwich with sprouts and a delicious dill ranch – a perfect combination.
Lavelle’s Bistro (American)
575 1st Ave. // +1 (907)450-0555
To be honest, I am usually not a big fan of hotel restaurants. However, Lavelle’s Bistro was recommended to us by a local shop owner, and so we decided to try it. Located in the SpringHill Suites Downtown, this restaurant offers traditional American cuisine but focuses on local ingredients.
This restaurant has it all, from duck to salmon and halibut to Alaskan king crab legs. I ordered the Alaskan halibut with a honey apple cream sauce, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. The rich sauce was cut nicely with the tart apple slices and complemented the flaky halibut perfectly.
Bahn Thai (Thai)
541 3rd Ave. // +1 (907)452-8424
As already mentioned, Thai food is trendy in Fairbanks, and Bahn Thai has some of the best ratings in the city.
I had the sizzling duck with fresh vegetables, and it was simply delicious. Served on a sizzling cast-iron skillet, the duck was juicy and the skin crispy. The veggies had the perfect bite – not too crisp and not too mushy – and were coated in a spicy and savory sauce with a hint of sweetness.
A word of warning: I love spicy food and usually order an 11 on a 1-10 scale, and even that is barely spicy for me. I ordered “Thai spicy” at Bahn Thai, and it was at my upper comfort level of spiciness. It was still terrific, and I enjoyed it a lot, but if you are sensitive to spice, order the mild version.
The Crepery (Crepes)
523 2nd Ave. // +1 (907)450-9192
When I researched where to eat in Fairbanks, EVERY article mentioned The Crepery as one of the best restaurants in Fairbanks. I just had to try for myself and see if it lived up to the hype. On my first day in Fairbanks, the line wrapped around the building (at -20F), so I gave it a pass. A few days later, I finally had the chance to try it.
The Crepery offers sweet and savory crepes, from simple to fancy. I tried the salmon crepe, and it was delectable. The crepe was thin, crispy on the outside but soft and chewy inside. I found the crepe was the perfect delivery device for the salmon spread consisting of wild Alaskan salmon “salad” with pickles, red onions, potatoes, and mayonnaise. So delicious!
Pike’s Landing (Pubfare/Seafood/Steak)
4438 Airport Way // +1 (907)479-6500
Located on the beautiful banks of the Chena River, Pike’s Landing offers traditional pub fare, fresh seafood, and steaks. We stayed at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge next door and had our welcome dinner there.
The front part of the restaurant looks like a typical American sports bar, while in the back, you have a stunning view over the river and the “Love Alaska” sign on the other side. You can even sit outside on the terrace directly over the Chena River in the summer. In the winter, you can walk over the Chena River and take pictures with the sign.
I tried the Reindeer sausage, and it reminded me of andouille sausage from Louisiana – spicy, fatty, savory, perfect. Another favorite of mine was the Halibut Fish and Chips, which were perfectly seasoned, crispy on the outside, and juicy inside.
Jazz Bistro on 4th (Cuban)
529 4th Ave. // +1 (907)328-3663
Cuban food AND Jazz? If that is not a winning combination, I don’t know what is. The menu features many Cuban classics, including Cuban sandwiches, Bistec Cubano, Pernil, and Arroz con Pollo, and of course, they offer a Cuban take on Alaskan salmon.
Wednesday through Saturday, you will be treated to live music, mellow Latin Jazz, making this a genuinely immersive dinner experience.
Pump House (American)
796 Chena Pump Rd. // +1 (907)479-8452
It doesn’t get more “Alaska” than this. The interior features a cozy rustic mountain lodge atmosphere, and the menu offers the bounties of Alaska on a plate.
You will find the freshest seafood, venison, and game meat prepared with finesse to showcase the local ingredients.
Reindeer medallions with a berry demi-glaze, elk meatloaf wrapped in bacon, and birch-syrup glazed, bacon-wrapped Alaskan scallops are some of the specialties that made my mouth water just reading the menu.
388 Old Chena Pump Rd. // +1 (907)456-2200
This restaurant features Northern Thai cuisine from Chiang Mai but it is made with local Alaskan ingredients, including fresh scallops, halibut, and, of course, salmon.
The pan-seared Halibut infused with Lemongrass sauce and the Scallops with red curry sound divine, don’t they? I only could sample some of their appetizers and enjoyed the chicken satay and crispy corn cakes with peanut dressing. I can’t wait to go back for a full dinner and eat my way through their menu.
Turtle Club (American)
2098 Old Steese Hwy. N. // +1 (907)457-3883
This Fairbanks favorite seafood and steak restaurant has been around for over 70 years. Prime rib dinners include cuts from 10-24 oz. to cover small to large appetites. If you prefer seafood, you can get your fill on Alaska King Crab, Australian lobster, and a selection of fried seafood.
At the bar, you can find traditional pub fare, but also some fancier treats, including escargots, fried asparagus, or fried clams.
East Ramp Pizza (Pizza)
3788 University Ave. S. // +1 (907)451-7492
Do you like pizza and planes? Then East Ramp Pizza will be your favorite spot in town. Located right next to the Fairbanks airport tower, you can enjoy piping hot pizzas straight from a 600°F Woodstone oven while watching the planes land and take off. Their flour is imported straight from the motherland of pizzas, and the kitchen crew takes pride in sourcing the tastiest ingredients to top their pies. Their pizzas are “build-your-own” style, so you can customize your perfect pie. It doesn’t get better than this!
Fairbanks is not a foodie-town in the traditional sense with the most modern and innovative restaurant concepts. However, what made me fall in love with these fantastic restaurants in Fairbanks is the love of the chefs for the local ingredients, and the fun ways they incorporate them into their menu. They are proud of what their land provides to them, and they turn this bounty into a fantastic culinary experience.
Disclosure: Some of the restaurants listed on this list comped my food as part of a press trip with Explore Fairbanks. However, this did not influence my opinion in writing this article.
Maria Haase is Editor-in-Chief of several online publications focused on various travel niches. A self-proclaimed serial ex-pat, blogger turned publisher, and spicy food aficionado. Maria grew up in Germany and now splits her time between the United States and Europe. You can read more of her stories on EuropeUpClose.com and SanDiegoExplorer.com.