“We’ve had locals say to us there are two signs of spring: one is that the river is going to break, and the second is that Klondike Kate’s is going to open,” says Josée Savard, who has operated the business with her husband, Philippe Lamarche, since 1990. “My husband was out taking the boards down off the windows, and everyone was coming up saying, ‘Welcome back. When are you opening?’ For us, that’s really satisfying.”
The couple initially started as employees of the restaurant--Savard as a server and Lamarche as a cook--but they bought the business outright in 1994 and have not stopped making improvements since. In their first year as owners, they completely rebuilt the restaurant’s foundation, renovated the kitchen, and added a large patio--construction that was completed in the dead of winter.
“One day my husband came in, and the ears had come off his hammer from the cold,” recalls Savard. “He said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ and I said, ‘If it’s too cold for the hammer, it’s too cold for you.’”
In the years following, they underwent a painstaking renovation of Klondike Kate’s original nine cabins and added six additional cabins to the property, all built in strict accordance with Dawson City’s unique building codes, which require structures to maintain the authentic gold-rush-era look and feel. In recent years, they’ve made environmental responsibility a cornerstone of their operations, installing energy-efficient fixtures, using green cleaning products, and introducing biodegradable containers for takeout orders in the restaurant.
As the pair head into their 22nd season operating Kate’s, they’re still excited about making changes. As in past years, they’ll draw inspiration from the long trips they take in the winter months to explore other cultures, but, as Savard explains, they’re increasingly interested in highlighting home-based treasures as well.
“We’re really into local products right now and focus on what’s available locally,” she says. “That’s what we’re interested in when we travel abroad. We want our menu to be focused on what’s available seasonally. We want to do our own foraging with mushroom and berries that are around, and we’re planting more herbs around the restaurant so we can use our own stuff. Using more of what’s around us is really important. For us to be able to share that with locals and tourists is exciting. We think that’s what they’re looking for. They’re also looking for a burger, but maybe it’s with some spruce tips in the sauce or some special herb that we have. You have to give people what they want, but you also want to share your passion.”