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New Soldotna restaurant serves up waffle creations and soda treats

Left to right: AK Big Sipper owners Audrey Slats, Unaya Slats, and Don Slats
Hunter Morrison
Left to right: AK Big Sipper owners Audrey Slats, Unaya Slats, and Don Slats

Wedged between a pull-tab shop and a nail salon in an unsuspecting strip mall is one of Soldotna’s newest restaurants. AK Big Sipper specializes in serving air-fried comfort food and dirty sodas, a type of soft drink spiked with cream and syrup flavoring.

The restaurant is the brainchild of 12-year-old Unaya Slats, who was inspired by a trip to a drive-through soda shop in the Lower 48 last year. Don Slats is one of the restaurant’s owners and father of Unaya.

“Unaya made the comment ‘Why can’t we have something like this up in Alaska?,’” he said. “I responded with ‘Why can’t we?’ That’s where the dream started.”

The family-owned and operated spot began serving the central peninsula about four months ago. Popular menu items include the “waffle-up,” a breakfast sausage encased in homemade vanilla waffle batter, as well as waffle fries and dill pickle-flavored fries. Because its food is air-fried, it serves as a healthier alternative to restaurants with similar menu options.

AK Big Sipper recently won the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce’s annual Spark Soldotna competition. Inspired by the television series “Shark Tank,” the event provides an opportunity for local up-and-coming businesses to present their ideas to a panel of judges. AK Big Sipper took home the $4,000 business scholarship.

“We did a presentation about all of our drinks and how we’re unique in all of our food,” said Unaya Slats, who spearheaded the restaurant’s presentation. “Everybody can come in from little kids to grandparents. I think that adding onto our community and having something unique and different probably was a good idea.”

The owners say the competition provided great advertising for the restaurant. Since winning, they’ve seen an increase in business.

The scholarship is allowing the team to make expansions, both to its physical and online presence. They recently acquired the adjacent property and will use it to add seating. They also plan to develop a website that would cater to online ordering.

The scholarship is also helping AK Big Sipper bring new additions to its menu. The restaurant plans to purchase an ice cream machine to serve treats like frozen custard and milkshakes. There’s also talk of incorporating Italian ice and mac and cheese bombs into its menu.

“I feel that doing this with my family is really special,” Unaya said. “You can’t really get that anywhere else.”

Throughout the process of opening and running a new restaurant, the Slats family says they have learned a lot about the business world. Their advice to up-and-coming small businesses? Push through any barriers that may get in your way.

“I would say the work is definitely worth it,” said Audrey Slats, restaurant co-owner and mother of Unaya. “It will be hard and it will be frustrating sometimes, but it’s very rewarding at the end.”

“Don’t give up, because it is really hard,” Unaya added. “Try to be unique in your own way. Just be nice and kind, and you’ll have good service.”

In partnership with Elite Real Estate Group Soldotna, AK Big Sipper will be giving away free drinks of any size and flavor this Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The restaurant is located across from Wells Fargo Bank on Warehouse Drive.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL
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