Soldotna’s newest restaurant, Addie Camp Train Car Eatery and Wine Bar, is having its grand opening today.
Local cookbook author Maya Wilson is the restaurant’s chef. Elements from her popular cookbook, Alaska from Scratch, can be seen throughout the menu, whether it’s the black cod, udon noodle soup or the butterscotch bread pudding.
Wilson said she wanted to develop all-new recipes for the restaurant, but wanted to give a nod to fans of her cookbook.
“There are a couple of familiar things for fans of mine,” Wilson said. “I do adapt them a bit and make them a little chef-ier, a little more upscale from the cookbook, even if they are basically drawn from there.”
For diners who are new to Wilson’s cookbook, signed copies are for sale at the restaurant.
To prepare for the grand opening, the restaurant hosted three soft openings, which Wilson said went great.
“There’s always things that you need to adjust or you discover once you get in the swing of things that aren’t going to work,” Wilson said, “Overall, the reception has been really positive and it’s been very exciting to finally be able to open the doors.”
The menu isn’t set in stone. Wilson said as local food becomes in season and more available, the menu will change to reflect what’s most fresh. Wilson tries to incorporate some element of local food in her menu items, especially the greens and herbs grown in the restaurant’s hydroponic farm, Fresh 365.
“The menu will change seasonally,” Wilson said. “In the summer (local food) will increase because the farms will be open. We’ll also have halibut and salmon and stuff like that.”
Wilson said diners can find greens from the hydroponic farm in almost every dish, even on the dessert menu.
“We have our fresh mint cheesecake, where we steep a ton of that fresh mint into the cream and bake it into the cake,” Wilson said. “I try to incorporate the greens as much as possible.”
All of the beer Addie Camp Eatery offers are from local breweries. Even Anchorage-based coffee roaster SteamDot finds its way onto the rub of the restaurant’s rib-eye.
Products from the Kenai Peninsula have found their way on to the menu, like the local seafood. The oysters come from Jackalof Bay. The charcuterie board features cheeses from Soldotna’s Lucy’s Market and pickles made by Joe Spady of Joe’s Meatball Shoppe. Wilson said they plan to use Alaska Berries haskap jelly and syrup during their Sunday brunch.
One unique ingredient Addie Camp has incorporated into their dishes is a historic sourdough starter. The starter comes from one of the restaurant’s cooks, Kiel Nichols, who received the starter from his mom, who got it from a friend of hers, who knew a homesteader named Dick Proenneke from Twin Lakes in Lake Clark National Park. Proenneke was born in 1916, and lived alone for more than 30 years in his cabin on the shores of Twin Lakes. Proenneke’s homestead has since been preserved as a museum and was added to the National Register of Historic Places. His experience has been adapted into a book and into a movie, both titled “Alone in the Wilderness.”
“(Proenneke) … walked out and built his own cabin, built all his own tools,” Nichols said. “My mom ended up with it from her friend that knew him and now it’s passed down to me, and now (Addie Camp Eatery).”
The sourdough starter will be used to make a German apple pancake and toast featured on the brunch menu.
So far, the restaurant is only offering dinner service. Wilson said Sunday brunch will start soon.
This is Wilson’s first experience as a chef and opening a restaurant. She said the experience thus far has been a whirlwind. Her biggest surprise so far has been just how little she actually gets to cook.
“As a head chef I’m not able to cook as much as I used to because I’m doing so much other administrative stuff and I’m teaching my cooks how to make my food,” Wilson said. “I’m not in there cooking as much as I thought I would be.”
She said the most rewarding part so far has been the feedback she’s getting.
“(Seeing) smiling faces, clean plates coming in through the kitchen and seeing people are really enjoying the food and atmosphere… that’s what all this work has been for, for people to sit down at a plate of food and enjoy it and want to come back for more,” Wilson said.
The restaurant is owned by Mary and Henry Krull, who opened Brew@602 in a neighboring train car last year. The restaurant is a two-story building featuring large picture windows with views of Soldotna and the Kenai Mountains, two outdoor decks, a bar and plenty of inspiration from the railroad industry, including rail-tie siding from the Alaska Railroad, telegraph insulator chandeliers, a train bell that alerts staff when an order is up and, of course, the train car that will accommodate a more intimate dining experience.
The 1913 rail car, named Addie Camp, came from Addie Mine in Hill City, South Dakota. Wilson said the owners plan to preserve as much of the car’s original detail as possible. The Krulls rode in the car many times over the years before it was taken out of service in 2008. It was part of a tourist excursion in South Dakota.
Right now, the restaurant can seat around 80 people, but as the weather gets warmer the deck will open up and the restaurant will accommodate closer to 100 people.
Wilson said she anticipates Thursday’s grand opening to be quite busy, and encourages people to make reservations or grab a beer at the bar while they wait for an open table.
Right now, the restaurant will be open 5-9 p.m. on Thursday and 5-10 p.m. on Friday. When brunch service is ready, it will be from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant is located at 43550 Whistle Hill Loop, Soldotna, and can be reached by (907) 262-0602.