The CutOff Restaurant & Pub has really nice customers.
On a Sunday night, looking at the crowd that has come in for the ever-changing weekly dinner special, you see a lot of long-time Yukoners. Real Yukoners who dress comfortably and laugh out loud.
This is what you get when you open a new restaurant 20 minutes from downtown at the Carcross cutoff. It is a “destination restaurant,” not just the closest restaurant that serves predictable fare alongside the latest trendy foods.
When people choose to come to a restaurant that is surrounded by junk yards – except, perhaps, the abandoned building across the street – it is because they want real food in a real atmosphere.
The CutOff is co-owned by Shannon Corrado and her partner Lee Willett, who also co-owns Burnt Toast.
“Burnt Toast is new-American cuisine,” says Willett. “It is kind of standard fare, but we change it up a little bit.
“We take things people know and we modernize them and make them hipper.
“Here, it is truck stop chic.
“It is comfort food that people expect on the highway, but brought up a level so it isn’t greasy.”
Indeed, tonight’s Sunday dinner is prime rib. There is nothing “processed” on the large and full plate. The slab of meat is joined by large cauliflower, Yorkshire pudding and mashed potatoes that, really, is just a potato that has been mashed: simple and real.
They had a year to plan the menu, as they waited for the building to be finished. It had been 15 years since the owner started working on it when he had the time and money… as a pet project.
“A lot of thought went into the menu,” Willett says. “We even watched the Food Channel and we were always going on about it.
“It is simple, just a one-cook kind of menu, basically pub food, like…”
“…Scotch eggs,” Corrado contributes.
“Yeah, Scotch eggs,” Willett says. “And an Alaska highway burger. It is one we already made for the food truck. It is on a nice ciabatta bun with ground sirloin. It is not a burger, it is something better.
“Bison, maybe, in the summer,” Willett continues. “The tourists like wild meat.
“And homemade onion rings, different kinds of sandwiches, chicken wings…”
“… a couple of salads,” Corrado adds.
“A couple of good salads,” Willett picks up. “And there will be a pizza with a cauliflower crust.”
“It’s for the paleo people,” Corrado explains.
Willett continues: “Sunday brunch will be bennies and a variety of eggs.”
As for the Sunday dinners, they will just offer one plate on the menu. There will be seafood nights, turkey dinners and ethnic meals.
“It gives us a chance to try different things,” says Corrado.
And, with that pizza oven in the kitchen, they will be offering take-out along with the off-sales part of the business.
“There are 2,000 people living at Marsh Lake, so that will be huge for us,” says Willett.
The ambience is important, too, of course. Willett and Corrado actually like the surrounding junk yards because of the character it lends.
The building itself contains a lot of reclaimed fir and industrial fittings along with vintage lighting. It would not look out of place alongside any 1940s road in the Yukon.
“The theme we have happening here is not so much the Gold Rush, but more Alaska Highway,” says Willett.
The heavy wooden tables have vintage photos imbedded that show various scenes from that era.
“The atmosphere is welcoming,” says Corrado. “Not a super party atmosphere, a family atmosphere so that people can bring their kids.”
The pub area doubles as a dining lounge until the other side is ready. Then, they will be able to serve 150 customers.
More information is available on their Facebook page. Just search “The Cut Off” (three words). Reservations for Sunday dinner can be made at 668-7800.
They close Mondays and open Tuesday and Wednesday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday they are open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Hours are subject to change as they collect feedback from customers.