This story was originally written for the Anchorage Press.
Leila Smith has always enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen. She was raised in Emmonak and Kotzebue and grew up making creative dishes with her dad, like mongolian moose and smoked caribou brisket.
“I love to cook… I’ve always had a knack for it,” Smith said.
Smith moved to Anchorage after graduating high school; she has a background in rural and economic development. She worked in an office for years, but was craving something new. She didn’t know if she could do a 9-5, 40 hour a week desk job forever.
“What would I want to do with my life? What would earn me a living and make me happy?” Smith said.
The idea for a food truck began forming over five years ago. For a while, she had plans to move to Florida and run a food truck there, but she said she got scared. She didn’t want to leave Alaska. So, she bought a truck in 2015 and two years later, opened up Mobile Munchies 907, a food truck focusing on fry bread dishes and Alaska-centric foods.
“My network is here,” Smith said.
Her first gig in town was for the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in October, which is the largest annual gathering of any Native peoples in the U.S. The convention has around 6,000 attendees every year, according to AFN’s website.
Smith’s menu has a number of fry bread dishes, like fry bread pizza and peanut butter and jellies. She even makes Eskimo ice cream, although modern and sweet. She wanted to have menu items that were still authentic to her culture.
The word has been spreading and everyone has been telling everyone, Smith says.
“We’ve been getting travelers, tourists, people who want to try something different [and] Alaskan,” Smith said. “I think it’s perfect timing because I was so scared, and basically I didn’t really know what I was going to put on the menu. You have to think of something that you can get out the window as fast as you can.”
The community reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Her Facebook reviews speak for themselves.
“LOVE LOVE LOVE the tacos. Craving them after I have them. I will be following you guys around when you’re open!” one user says.
Another Facebook review says, “The fry bread is always on point, and the akutaq is always mixed perfectly!”
Smith’s favorite item on the menu are the halibut tacos with cilantro mango pico de gallo. The best seller is the fry bread tacos.
“I’m Alaska Native, and I grew up on cooking fry bread and akutaq, akutaq is Eskimo ice cream,” Smith said. “My long term goal is to have a cafe where I can be more creative. “I’ll probably stick with the food truck for awhile.”
You can find Mobile Munchies 907 at the Spenard Food Truck Carnival, which is in the Koot’s parking lot on Thursdays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and K Street Eats, a food truck hub located downtown. The truck will also be at the Fourth of July celebration in Seward, as well as several other festivals in the Anchorage area this summer.