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Highway grub worth pulling over for

The Alaska Highway can be one of the worst places for impromptu hunger pangs to hit. Options for food between Watson Lake and Whitehorse are limited to a handful of restaurants.

The Alaska Highway can be one of the worst places for impromptu hunger pangs to hit.

Options for food between Watson Lake and Whitehorse are limited to a handful of restaurants, most of which have shortened hours in the winter time.

But help is on the way for the hungry traveller.

Lee Willett, the owner of Burnt Toast Cafe in downtown Whitehorse, is opening a pub and restaurant at the Carcross cutoff.

Willett and her partner, Shannon Corrado, had been looking for a spot to open a second restaurant for years.

They first thought about the McRae subdivision, but their plans fell through in October last year, Willett said.

“The very same night that happened we went out for a drive and we were wondering about that place at the Carcross cutoff,” Willett said, referring to the empty two-storey building on the east side of the highway.

“The owner came out and about 10 minutes later we had a deal to lease it.”

The aptly named Cutoff Pub and Restaurant will operate upstairs in the building, with the pub opening in early April.

It’ll be run under a restaurant license so that families can bring their children, Willett added.

Offsales will be available, too, and the restaurant should open later this summer after septic work is completed in the building.

Customers familiar with Burnt Toast can expect a similar approach to cooking at the new restaurant.

That means everything will be made from scratch, Willett said.

The menu will consist of mostly pub fare, which includes pizza, brunch on Saturdays and a fixed dinner menu on Sundays, she added.

“We call it truck-stop chic,” Willett said.

“It’s the kind of food you’d expect to find along the highway. It’s home cooking but brought up a notch.”

Willett expects the new restaurant to do very well, considering there are very few places to eat in the area.

The Wolf’s Den, a Swiss/German restaurant about 1.5 kilometres down the road, is up for sale.

At the cutoff there was once a successful business, the Carcross Corner Gas Bar, but it closed in 2004 after 12 years in operation.

The population in nearby Marsh Lake has grown steadily over the years, Willett said, and people in Mary Lake, Cowley Creek and Wolf Creek are also excited about the new restaurant.

“They’re all chomping at the bit for us to open,” Willett said.

Mike Brown owns the building and is leasing the space to Willett. When he bought the property in 1999 there was nothing but weeds and trees, he said.

Brown, an entrepreneur, is following in the same footsteps as his grandfather, famed businessman T.C. Richards.

It hasn’t been easy over the years, he said, as he’s dealt with a considerable amount of red tape to get the building completed. “It’s been a grind,” he said.

Brown used Sitka spruce for the building. He’s planning on leasing the ground floor to a new business in the near future.

As a history buff, he’s decked the interior with numerous references to Yukon’s history.

The bar features old fir from U.S. Army buildings, while the tables have individual themes such as Yukon’s steamships, the Alaska Highway and Dawson City’s dance hall girls.

“I’ve worked hard all my life,” said Brown, who credits his mother, Babe Richards, as the source of his work ethic.

Contact Myles Dolphin at