John Parker stands in front of Cafe 47. Photo: Chas Hundley

BANKS - The Trailhead Cafe closed abruptly in January, leaving a cafe-size hole in the dining scene in the city of Banks. Now, a new cafe in the same spot is being opened by restaurateur John Parker and his wife, Janet Hickok, Gales Creek residents recently of Anchorage, Alaska.

Both Parker and Hickok, married 6 and a half years, have decades of cooking and management experience, each having owned restaurants in the past.

With a menu ranging from soups, sandwiches and quiche to burgers, barbecue, and espresso drinks, Parker says the focus is American style food, made from scratch. Cafe 47, named for the highway that runs in front of the eatery, will have a soft opening on April 1 and 2, with regular hours from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Cafe 47 will not be open Mondays or Tuesdays (other than on opening week), though that could change depending on demand.

“If you’re going to come in, you have to understand that we’re still working through kinks. We want feedback,” said Hickok.

In an in-person interview with the Banks Post, John Parker and his wife, Janet Hickok talked about their plans for the cafe, and their background and prior food experience.

“We crack every egg, cut every onion, make the crusts for our quiche, we’ll be making our own cookies, cinnamon rolls, different sweets…” Hickok rattled off more items, including sauces and granola.

Some of their items will be gluten-free, with vegetarian options as well, though they caution that the kitchen everything is cooked in may have cross contamination with gluten items.

Hickok has written two cookbooks, one focused on her time at the sport fishing lodge, the other developed from recipes at their cafe in Alaska, Doriola’s.

Parker says he grew up traveling as a child, moving wherever his Navy father was stationed. As an adult, he settled in Florida until 2000, when he decided he’d had enough of the traffic and lack of snow, heading to Alaska.

“Sight unseen, never been there. Just packed up my stuff, sold my trailer and was gone,” said Parker.

Parker lived there from 2000 to November 2018, when he moved from Anchorage to Gales Creek.

He found work at The Trailhead Cafe, where he says he worked for 18 days before it abruptly closed.

He’s now leasing the building where Cafe 47 is located.

Parker got his start in the food industry at age 12, washing dishes for his uncle, a chef for Holiday Inn and Callaway Gardens in Georgia. He made his way up from there, learning how to cook after his uncle opened his own eatery.

He worked under various chefs during his career, including running his own barbecue catering business in Florida, before moving to Alaska.

Janet Hickok, born and raised in South Dakota, grew up in a large family and said that her mother taught her the basics of cooking.  She owned a small restaurant in her early twenties for more than two years in her hometown, eventually selling it.

“I was too young to be tied down that much,” she said of the restaurant. She also worked in the newspaper industry, in South Dakota, and locally for the now-defunct Hillsboro Argus.

Eventually, Hickok got a job in Southeast Alaska as a chef at a fly-in sport fishing lodge in the small town of Nondalton in Southwest Alaska, working there seasonally for 18 years.

Parker and Hickok met through an online dating service, and have been married for six and a half years.

They ended up with their own cafe, Doriola's, with Hickok running it from 2005 to 2018, joined by her husband when the two married.

The cafe was a well-liked lunch spot, garnering positive reviews from the Anchorage Daily News, where one food critic named their soups the best in Anchorage.

For John, who worked for just a few days at the former cafe in the spot where Cafe 47 will be, he just couldn't pass up the opportunity the space provided.

“When this became available, I just looked at the wife and said ‘how can I not do something this nice, this much fun?’ It was not in the plans whatsoever - I even told the landlord, I can’t believe someone doesn’t want to open this back up for the community. He hadn’t had any takers, so I just decided that this was just too much fun and too nice of a place not to do business," he said.

For more information, visit Cafe 47’s Facebook page. Cafe 47 is located at 13847 NW Main Street in Banks.