Sam's Sourdough Cafe

Sam's Sourdough Cafe, a staple Fairbanks breakfast spot, permanently closed earlier this year. 

After a history of highs and lows, longtime Fairbanks restaurant Sam’s Sourdough Café permanently closed earlier this year.

The West Fairbanks building was put on the market in mid-May, according to Re/Max Associates of Fairbanks. The family-run restaurant — also known as Sourdough Sam’s — was famous for its breakfast foods, in particular its sourdough pancakes. 

Daniel Nault, grandson of Sam’s Sourdough Café founders Sharon and Sam Nault and son of previous owner William Nault, made the decision to close the restaurant a few months ago. He explained that Sourdough Sam’s struggles began about a year ago.

Most restaurants suffered during the pandemic, but Sourdough Sam’s was hit particularly hard. The café initially closed in 2020 due to a combination of the pandemic and family issues. Nault explained that his mother, who was integral to the business, died last July. Around this time, his father broke his leg and was unable to run the restaurant. His uncle, who was also involved in the business, died a few months later.

Nault said his father was trying to sell the business but didn’t get the right price. Once he was able to walk again, William Nault reopened Sourdough Sam’s last February. However, he died shortly thereafter.

Nault said he considered taking over the business, but ultimately decided against it.

“You just have to cut your losses at some point ... [and] it just came down to that was the smarter move,” Nault said. He added that his father always told him to sell Sam’s Sourdough Cafe.

Nault’s grandparents opened the restaurant in 1987. It closed for nearly a year about a decade ago after being destroyed by an electrical fire in 2009. The restaurant reopened in a new, larger building at the same location.

Despite its challenges, Sam’s Sourdough Café also had many notable successes.

“It was all about the breakfast,” Nault said.

Fairbanksans regularly voted the café as one of the top breakfast spots in town. In 1994, the Robb Report included Sam’s Sourdough Café in a list of 24 “Best of the Best” restaurants in the entire United States. Over its 30 year tenure, the restaurant became known for their sourdough pancakes, made from a starter Nault said was nearly 100 years old. The starter was one of the few items that survived the fire. 

Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 459-7544.