The Smoke Shack - Seward, Alaska
Located in the “Train Wreck” (Corner of 4th and Port) in the Historic WWII Railcar
We had been up long before the rooster crowed for the long journey south to Seward to catch the MV Glacier Explorer, a tour boat out into Resurrection Bay, Kenai Fjords and a stop in front of majestic Aialik Glacier. We encountered no accidents, avalanches or road construction along the way and arrived with about an hour to spare. Nephew Ron was driving and he pulled smartly into the parking lot in front of the Smoke Shack. A collection of retired Alaska Railroad cars, they have history dating back to carrying troops during the Second World War. One of the cars is the diner, the Smoke Shack, and the others have been converted to motel rooms for a unique over-nighter.
When one thinks of rail dining the thoughts turn to linen napkins, silver plate, crystal glassware and fine chine dishes. That is not exactly the case with the Smoke Shack. The tables and booths are of angular plywood construction devoid of cushions. Surprisingly, they are quite comfortable but considering the width of the rail car, four persons fill the booth. For climate weather, there are several umbrelled tables outside for alfresco dining. One end of the car accommodates the kitchen, open to public view; no secrets there. The opposite end of the car has rest rooms in the Pullman-style; antiquated but clean and serviceable.
There is one aspect of dining anywhere in Seward that takes a bit of getting used to; sticker shock. Seward is located at the end of the road, the tourist season is short and he idle winters very long and dark. But, you take a big breath of air, ignore the price and place your order. That is also true of the menu at the Smoke Shack. The menu features breakfast and lunch items. Perhaps there is a dinner menu; I don’t know.
We started off with coffee ($2.00) while we perused the menu. At long last we were ready to order. Sister Pattie Sue chose the Two Egg Breakfast ($7.00 Eggs any style, homefries and toast, eggs over medium). Nephew Ron selected a half order of Buttermilk Pancakes ($4.00). I thought about it for awhile but finally chose something I don’t often have, biscuits and gravy. For a moment I remembered flying from Van Nuys Airport on Sundays to Santa Paula where the little, on the airfield restaurant served the most wonderful biscuits and gravy. But that is a story for another time. This day I selected the half order of Biscuits and Gravy ($6.00 We make them from scratch).
Pattie Sue’s eggs were cooked to order, over medium. The homefries were crudely cut into pieces of varying sizes. When cooked, there were some that were very much overdone and some of the larger pieces had a bit of a raw taste. They were acceptable but they would have been so much better if more care had been taken in cutting the potatoes making them more uniform in size. The toast was lightly toasted which made for a bit of sogginess in the middle when buttered; a bit more time in the toaster would have made it ju
st about perfect.
Ron’s order was a stack of two large pancakes. He said they tasted good but perhaps were a bit dense. However, he had no trouble finishing his meal that was served with adequate butter and syrup.
My order was a large biscuit, split and covered with a generous portion of gravy. There were lots of little sausage bits in the gravy that was liberally seasoned with black ground pepper. Did I mention that they gravy was highly seasoned with pepper? Luckily pepper doesn’t linger like capsatian and by the time I had finished half I was almost used to it. Perhaps the local taste runs to heavily peppered gravy but it was more than I would have used were I making the dish at home. Other than the heavily peppered spiciness, it tasted good
and I finished the meal to gird me for the sea voyage ahead.
The Smoke Shack has been in Seward for quite awhile and the deficits we noted are more like teething problems in a start-up café. One would have thought they would have smoothed off all the rough edges by this time. Perhaps it was just the hectic nature of the busy morning breakfast trade… The server was always about bringing requested items in a timely manner exhibiting courtesy and good humor. In spite of the deficits we enjoyed our meal, lingering over coffee, as we talked about the day’s adventure to come.
Labels: Alaska, bicuits and gravey, eggs, housefries, pancakes, railroad, Seward, Smoke Shack, WWII