FAIRBANKS — On the outside it looks like a coffee hut, but the menu doesn't list bagels, breakfast burritos or even coffee.
Instead, Just the Tips owner Monica Mazakis prepares and serves fare focused around local ingredients, world cuisine and customers on specific diets such as gluten free and paleo. She offers a new special every day, often something she likes and hasn't seen elsewhere in Fairbanks, such as raw fish poke bowls.
"I do Italian dishes and Greek dishes and a lot of South African dishes. It's fascinating to me. People are just craving variety," she said. "I don't do coffee here. Everyone does coffee in huts."
Customers who want a warm drink can try tea, or the businesses' signature beverage, the Golden Heart Latte, which is a dairy free beverage made of nut or coconut milk, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon.
Originally from upstate New York, Mazakis spent two years studying to be a pastry chef in Las Vegas. She moved to Fairbanks in 2007 and has started two other businesses here. She runs Alaskan Earth Mama, an herbal body care business. When she first arrived she used to operate a jewelry business.
Mazakis also used to work at former local meat and grocery shop HomeGrown Market, which helped connect her to a pipeline of sources for local ingredients that she uses at Just the Tips.
Mazakis opened Just the Tips in a lime green hut near the Tanana Valley state Fairgrounds in July.
The food hut name is both a double entendre and a reference to spruce tips, one of the local ingredients Mazakis enjoys foraging. Mazakis picked the name because it made her laugh and because it fit with two other sexually suggestive business names nearby on College Road: Beaver Sports and Hot Licks. Desserts are listed on the menu at Just the Tips as "happy endings."
Mazakis described the decision to open the business as a kind of midlife crisis.
"I love to entertain, I love to nourish people and I just was like 'I have to do something when I turn 40, I don't know how but it's going to happen,'" she said. "I just kind of feel like it's supposed to happen."
Two month after making the decision, she opened the food hut's windows for business. Just the Tips opens at 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, and is open until 3 p.m., or until Mazakis sells out. It's hard work running the business alone, and Mazakis said she's thought about expanding to a larger location or adding staff; but she doesn't have any plans to because she likes having complete control over the quality of the food, she said.
Now that she's established, she has scaled back the hours from six days a week to five, which gives her more time outside the hut for other food-related interests including foraging for local ingredients, catering and teaching cooking classes.
One of her favorite parts of having the business is her relationship with a customer base that is similarly enthusiastic about food, she said. This week, a customer brought her some fresh turmeric root from Hawaii. Another recently called from Greece, offering to bring back spices.
"The fact that I have these regular customers that are bringing me spices and herbs that they know will really excite me from all over the world is just something I never dreamed I would ever have," she said.
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.