Caribou Cafe at the Eskimo Inn – Inuvik, NWT

Caribou Cafe at the Eskimo Inn
133 Mackenzie Rd, Inuvik
North West Territories
(867) 777-3675

I have a confession. Im fascinated with lounges and restaurants in hotel lobbies. Typically, these paisley clad seating areas with uncomfortable seats are sparsely populated affairs, with a few lonely travelers sitting in silence, contemplating the free bar nuts, the 6th gin martini, or whether accounting will approve the 3rd order of chicken wings on expense account. Yet, somehow, they feel…real. Unpretentious. And sometimes, you even get some great food. Unless you’re on the 30 something floor of the Mandarin Oriental overlooking Columbus Circle in NYC. Then it’s pretentious 🙂

Lack of pretension is probably the most endearing trait to Inuvik. And across the street from the Mad Trapper, the infamous Inuvik bar, lies the Eskimo Inn. An unpretentious kind of place. When people talk about hotels and Inuvik, they invariably think of the Mackenzie hotel. Yet the Caribou Cafe draws a tremendous number of people for lunch from nearby government offices.  Eating options are not plentiful in Inuvik. And prices are high, due to enormous fuel costs for shipping in nearly all perishable goods.  Not usually a great combination.


Decor is pretty standard northern faux-thentic. The Eskimo Inn will never be confused with a Ritz Carlton. However, it’s clean. Service is perfunctory, yet extremely slow. They move at a different rhythm to life up here. There is no rush – there is always tomorrow.


Every day, the Caribou Cafe does a tidy lunch business. More often than not, people are ordering the daily soup and sandwich special.  On this day, the soup is potato leek, and the sandwich is roast beef. The soup, which many locals swear by, is oily beyond belief. Im not sure if they substituted butter for cream, but it leaves my skin in serious need of an oxy clean. The sandwich, is distinctly average. Bad bread. Condiments. Unremarkable roast beef. At $10, it’s a hearty serve and a good price, especially for Inuvik. But the food is distinctly mediocre.


Continuing with day 3 of the grease parade – this time, a good sampling of their burger and fries. This will easily cure my Eskimo Inn malaise I hoped! However, there is nothing redeeming about this burger (firehouse burger pictured). For $14, what is essentially a Safeway frozen burger loaded with cheap toppings and some lousy fries, i’d rather go to the grocery store and get something else to eat. Even if a big bag of chips costs $5! Or the Inuvialuit Development Corporation next door. Sometimes they have Char Chowder or other local delicacies floating around their staff kitchen. Ask nicely and you may get to try some amazing local food.

I have been expecting this to happen. After all, there must be some let downs in a town covered near in perpetual dark


ness in winter. Sadly, there was nothing enjoyable about the Caribou Cafe. Some people told me their split pea soup is amazing. Something worth trying perhaps, though i am not a huge split pea soup fan. I was hoping that the lobby characteristics of the Caribou Cafe would bring with it some charm, yet it fails to do so. And more importantly, in a town with some history and culture of local food cultivation, the lack of any local ingredients  in the food served on my plate makes it even more disappointing. Frozen food trucked up from Yellowknife is not my idea of great restaurant food. Lobby or no lobby.

11 thoughts on “Caribou Cafe at the Eskimo Inn – Inuvik, NWT

  1. This is the kind of experience I’d been expecting you to report on from the North. It reminds me of the many meals at joints like this traveling through rural Alberta towns on charter bus road trips in my youth. That soup does appear really oily just from your image, ugh! Not sure what the Mandarin Oriental overlooking Columbus Circle in NYC is like, but if its anything like the New York Grill in the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, then I can relate to your definition of high pretentiousness. 🙂

  2. Bread there is lots of. Veggies on the other hand… 🙂

    And Shokutsu, they are quite similar. Except they have free beer nuts at the Mandarin Oriental!

  3. I guess that’s why beer weas invented. To make this junk taste better and to forget the exerpience. The food prices are higher than a pothead on 4/20.

  4. After living in Inuvik for awhile the Caribou is my favourite and many will agree with me! The food is the best in town and the staff and owners are fantastic!
    Quit complaining

  5. Hey what’s up with all this negativity A? I am heading up to Inuvik for a course next month and was really looking forward. But I am fighting this to keep myself looking forward to Inuvik, because I like small towns with their own tradations oh who they do things. Thanks alot Sir.

  6. I lived there over 20 years ago. Worked at Eskimo Inn, ate at Caribou Lounge (it was called that back then also). The caribou meat is nice and most things didn’t change but the experience is next to none.

  7. Sad to see the doors close at the Caribou Cafe, but that will happen on May 28th. I really enjoyed thier food, best meal in town… the roost is a close second.

    Hope the owners set up shop in another building in town and keep serving quailty food.


  8. Well, the caribou cafe was a decent meal at a relatively decent price, and compared to the food at the Mackenzie (some of their menu items are palatable, but fear the buffet) it was grand. But it is no longer, on the bright side, the re-opened cafe gallery is serving wonderful sandwiches made with local veggies from the greenhouse when possible, and the quality is something that was foreign to Inuvik for quite some time, ohh yeah, best coffee in town too 🙂

    • Great to hear Moose, thanks for the update! Using produce from the greenhouse is a great win for everyone – helps the greenhouse, helps the community, and helps themselves. I hope they succeed with this more appealing approach!

  9. hi there. its been a long long time since my days at the eskimo inn. i was up their for grade 10 and 11, 1979-1981, as a result of my father’s cdn air force posting. well, 30 years ago today, with my mates and a ton of other kids, were sitting around chain-smoking and drinking 50 cent coffees, with unlimited refills, with table service, when 30 yearss ago today, word spread like wild-fire through the cafe, and completely changed the general, daily, buzz of this ritual, when they said john lennon had been murdered. wow. this was an elvis moment, a princess diana moment, and thats it for the three life-events i remember exactly what i was doing at that moment. peace.

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