Even as a 15-year-old in the Peruvian countryside, Julia Felix’s cooking was renowned.
Neighbors and friends in her small village would ask her to cook for them, and she’d gladly do it. When she became the only one of her 12 siblings to move to the United States, she kept cooking, mostly for her children in Florida.
Now, she’s still cooking her favorite Peruvian dishes, but is doing it for a different audience — Juneau.
Felix’s restaurant, Four Plates, opened July 1 at the Frontier Suites Airport Hotel on Glacier Highway. The name of the restaurant is straightforward, as there are four dishes that are constantly on the menu in addition to a daily special. The aim of the restaurant is also simple, as explained by Felix’s daughter Janet Felix.
“Her goal with this place is to have people come in, order what they’d like to order, and leave full,” Janet said of her mother’s aims. “The reason she overserves a lot, she doesn’t care about that. She cares that you guys are full and you guys are actually eating something not too greasy, not too fattening.”
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, then reopens for dinner from 5-10 p.m., closing at 9 p.m. on Sundays. The portions are substantial for the prices, as all four plates are either $11 or $12 and offer distinctive Peruvian flavors. Felix, who doesn’t speak much English, works with her son Cesar Bellido in the kitchen while Janet serves the customers. Janet is only in town for the summer to help out with the new venture.
The sight of some of the dishes can be jarring, including a green sauce called huacatay that Felix puts on noodles. This sauce, made from spinach, basil and jalapenos among other ingredients, has a distinctive and spicy flavor. Another surprising sight is the makeup of the No. 4 plate, called Lomo Salteado, which is beef, rice, tomato, onions and French Fries.
“A couple people look at the plates different and they’re like, ‘Wow, I’ve never had rice with fries,’” Janet said. “’I think that’s a little weird.’ You know what? That is a little weird, but I grew up with it. I’m used to seeing all of this. The weirdest plates you guys have ever seen, I’ve seen it.”
It’s a bit difficult to get all of the ingredients and distinctive Peruvian products (including Inca Kola, a Peruvian soda) up to Juneau, so the menu will probably remain the same for a while, Janet said. The first three plates are chicken stew with potatoes and rice, pork with rice and beans and carne asada with the green noodles.
Business has been good so far, as Janet recalled a situation one night this week where she was overwhelmed as the only server. They’re looking to expand the limited seating in the coming weeks and hope to make a couple new hires as well to help out.
Felix came to Juneau about three years ago with her husband, looking for a change of scenery. Janet said Juneau’s appearance is similar to parts of Peru, where chilly weather surrounds foggy mountains. Felix fits well in Juneau, and hopes her cuisine will find its niche as well.
“She fell in love with Juneau,” Janet said. “That’s why she started this here. She doesn’t want to leave Juneau. She loves the quietness, the mountains.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.