‘We want to be unique,” said Anna Radzimirksa, co-owner of Yutopia, Whitehorse’s newest bar and grill.
Radzimirksa worked both the bar and the tables on Wednesday during the 3 p.m. doldrums.
The bar on the corner of 4th and Main has changed hands (and names) a number of times over the past few years.
It’s been known as Mama Martinis, Shenanigans and for a brief period of time was run by the owners of the Town and Mountain Hotel, while they tried to find someone to rent the space.
Anna, her sister Jo, and Len Slann opened their doors for the first time on August 1, and hoped their attention to detail would set them apart from their predecessors.
The burgers are fresh ground beef, which they make themselves.
Nearly everything is made by hand including the pizza dough, and home-cut fries.
Jo created the menu based on her years of experience working in the hospitality industry.
Her favourite dish to make is the supreme chicken salad, which is mixed greens decked out with roasted vegetables, strawberry, mandarin, roasted chicken and sweet home-style dressing.
Jo jumped for joy when the first order for the salad came in, said Anna.
Yutopia is a family run business.
The sisters painted the walls themselves, created the sign out front and had mom send the lanterns all the way from Toronto’s Chinatown.
Working 18 hours a day to set up their fledgling business, the sisters found there has been little time for sleep.
But despite the demands, Anna has found it great to work with her older sister.
“We don’t need to explain things to each other,” she said.
“In the kitchen, when it gets hectic, we can get angry and the next moment we’re fine. That’s what family is.
“I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else,” she added as she left the bar to take a plate of fries to a corner table.
The Radzimirska sisters were both born in Poland and moved to Toronto in 1985 when Anna was seven and Jo 11.
Before coming here the only knowledge that Anna had of North America was from a postcard of California that she had seen.
“I thought that there were Palm Trees everywhere and that all the water was Pacific blue,” she said.
“It was kind of odd to arrive here and to find it was quite different from what I imagined it to be.”
However Anna didn’t choose to search out her palm trees.
Instead she decided to head north.
“We would actually say, ‘One day we’ll live in the Yukon,’ and would laugh about it,” said Anna.
“We thought there was no electricity, and snow everywhere; we had no idea.”
Jo moved up to Whitehorse four and a half years ago and Anna soon followed.
Again the sisters’ preconceptions were proved wrong as they discovered that the Yukon wasn’t the dogsled filled snowfield that they had joked about as teenagers.
Working at various hotels and restaurants in the city, it was always Jo’s dream to run and own one herself, said Anna.
When she saw that the space was available at the Town and Mountain, she convinced here sister to come on board.
The name Yutopia was suggested by Jo to describe the utopian world they had discovered in the Yukon — a world where things slow down to Yukon Time and the large mountains make your problems feel small.
The name was actually decided at the flip of a coin.
The other choice was, The Phoenix which Anna had seen on several successful bars in other cities.
The name would have also gone along nicely with their attempt to rise from the ashes of the bar’s less than successful past.
Anna was unsure as to which aspect of the bar and grill — alcohol or food — this success would be based on.
“We’ll go in which ever direction it takes us. Right now it seems to be more food.
“You can’t decide who your clientele is going to be; they decide and you try to cater to those people,” she said.
The two sisters are still hard at work decorating the bar.
“We’ve picked up some artwork and we’re going to get some sheers for the windows — something in a nice warm colour,” said Anna.
They hope to combat the cold of winter with a warm environment where people can come to have a good meal and relax.
A couple came in and ordered some food and Anna had to leave the bar again to dash back into the kitchen.
She smiled excitedly at the prospect of going to cook.
“We all do everything here,” she said and rushed back to put together the meal exactly the way her older sister taught her to.