FAIRBANKS — A mobile food truck with a savvy social media presence and a fresh take on a quick lunch is changing the Fairbanks summer food scene.
Alaskana Kitchen opened in late spring and was an immediate hit with food truck fans with its homemade sandwiches, salads, vegetarian, and paleo- and gluten-friendly options. Alaskana Kitchen’s owner, Jeannine Thompson, said she’s been amazed at the positive feedback.
“It’s fun to go to work every day because everyone likes what I’m doing,” she said.
Thompson spent about 15 years working various jobs in the food service industry, about 10 of those near Portland, where she grew up, and about five in Alaska. A desk job at the University of Alaska Fairbanks kept her occupied for seven years, and when that contract-based position ended, she knew she didn’t want to go back to sitting at a desk for seven more. A quick trip to Portland in the meantime reconnected her to the food truck scene, and she was inspired by what she saw there and the variety Portland had to offer. She made a pitch to her husband, Chris, to delve into the mobile food truck world. He said, “Sure.”
In spring 2013, the Thompsons purchased a mechanic’s truck and spent the next year remodeling it so it would be health- and food-regulation compliant with state standards. In the spring of this year, Alaskana Kitchen opened, and coupled with an active Facebook page and Twitter account, the mobile food truck yielded immediate positive results.
“During that year, we worked on recipes and had a couple of different ideas for the truck and went back and forth on ideas,” Thompson said, “but this was my original idea, and we came back to it and I’m happy with it.”
That idea is a unique menu of fresh sandwiches and salads coupled with some vegetarian and paleo-diet-friendly options as well as a few gluten free items. With the paleo diet becoming popular in recent years — it’s based on foods our primitive ancestors ate — Thompson opted to go the paleo route with many of her dishes. That focus will expand as summer harvests come into play.
“We want the menu to reflect what’s in season,” she said. “In a couple of weeks, we have a wholesaler in North Pole who will be delivering produce. I grew up on a small farm outside of Portland, and we raised our own produce and meat, so most of our stuff was from our home. It was a shock when I moved out on my own and ate meat from a grocery store. My husband was raised like that, too. That’s a personal goal — to harvest as much of our own food as we can.”
To help spread the word about the day’s offerings and where Alaskana Kitchen is located — the truck moves to a new spot almost every day — Thompson makes strong use of Facebook and Twitter to let fans know where she is and what’s on the menu. The idea for social media use came from her job at the university, where she performed web development and dabbled in social media.
“When I decided to do the truck, I did lots of research into what trucks were doing in other cities,” Thompson said. “I was like, OK, I want to try that here. I want to be able to move around and see what is going to happen. I got some feedback from people wanting me to stay in one location but I stood my ground and now people expect it.”
Coupled with her use of Facebook and Twitter, Thompson also uses her website, www.alaskanakitchen.com, to announce the day’s location and the menu.
In addition to an expanded menu using Alaska-grown produce, Thompson plans to start offering baked goods and desserts at Alaskana Kitchen. And like her regular menu items, they will be a combination of local grown, healthy fare ... mostly.
“Some will have gluten, some won’t,” she said. “Sometimes you just need flour.”
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.
On the menu
The menu at Alaskana Kitchen changes often and is posted on Facebook and the truck’s website. Offerings often include:
• Bahn mi — lemongrass ginger pulled pork with pickled garden vegetables
• Chipotle turkey — slow roasted pulled turkey with grilled onions and fresh basil, drizzled with chipotle mayo.
• Fried green tomato BLT
• Mediterranean couscous salad
• Bacon meatballs — half beef and pork meatballs
• Reindeer Reuben
• Coconut chicken kale salad
• Garden bowl
• A daily drink consisting of a fruit and/or mint infused water or green tea
On the Web