Cloud 9 Cafeteria
North West Territories
Whenever I roll into a small town, the first thing I always do is ask the locals where they feel the best place to eat. With a large enough sample size, you can get some reasonable recommendations. Typically, I don’t stay that long, so i don’t like missing out on a potential great find. You can end up dining at some pretty mediocre places, and before you know it – poof! You’re gone, left with nothing but an upset stomach, some bad memories, and a few regrets of meals gone bad.
Now of course, you never know their actual reasons for why they like a place. Maybe their friend owns it. Maybe they serve free coffee. Maybe the person who owns the fancy restaurant in town is considered a “outsider” – one of the strange folk from the big city. So by no means do i suggest that this be your only method of intel gathering, but I have discovered it is a good start. So when i rolled into Inuvik, I asked. People who had grown up in the city, and moved to Inuvik all universally said one place – Cloud 9 at the Inuvik airport.
Now airport food is almost universally disparaged. At most typical airports, food is poor quality and over priced. But Inuvik does not have your typical airport, and Cloud 9 is not your typical cafeteria. From what i could observe, it was set up to feed both travellers, and locals who didnt have the time nor the inclination to drive all the way back to town in order to get lunch. The steady stream of business that entered and left spoke well of the food – or, maybe because they were the only game in town.
I won’t spend much time discussing decor. There isnt much to discuss. It’s clean. Spartan. You order from one place, and pay in another. It’s a cafeteria.
One of the benefits of the north is a local supply of protein out of the ordinary. One of the more interesting items on the menu was musk ox chili. Muskox is an arctic animal, mostly known for their prized wool. Their meat, however, is high in protein and low in fat – much leaner than chicken breast even. There is a bit of a gamey flavour, but it is quite pleasant. Tender, flavourful, it is an excellent quality meat. The chili itself was a revelation. Mildly spiced, it had excellent tomato flavour. The beans were a touch soft, but the meat was fantastic- small explosions of flavour in each bite of meat made for a great chili.
To continue on “greasy spoon” theme for this week, the prime choice of the day was musk ox burger and fries, with the fries upgraded to poutine. I didnt think the leaness of the muskox would suit itself well to a burger, which ended up being the case mostly because it was cooked to well done. It was a bit dry, though the flavour was quite nice. Cooked to medium would’ve been perfect. However, finding a decent tomato, non limp lettuce, and a decent bun was a surprise, and upgraded the burger overall to good. The poutine was covered in shredded cheese, and the largest load of gravy i’d seen north of the 49th. There was literally more gravy than fries. The fries were a bit undercooked, as i generally prefer them to be a bit crispier if they are doused in gravy, but overall, decent.
Though your typical airport serves less than stellar food, Cloud 9 Cafeteria bucks the trend. While the standard restaurant food quality in Inuvik is fairly low, i would be happy with this kind of food at any airport. Don’t get me wrong – this is not award winning stuff. But based on what i’ve eaten around town, this was really as good as it gets.