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deirdre

Alaska Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations

69 posts in this topic

Truth is, there aren't a lot of options. Since you will pass right by Denali State Park, your best option may be to go to the Grande Denali Lodge, which I believe is close to the highway.


Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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I'm assuming you already have your copy of the Milepost. Nobody drives Alaskan highways without it, and neither should you. In it, you will find ads for plenty of places along that route.

But here are some good options that come immediately to mind:

In Anchorage, do as the locals do and stop by the New Sagaya Market, to pick up stuff to go. You can have a fine picnic along the way.

Or, take the spur into Talkeetna. It's only about 15 miles or so off of the Parks Highway, and this historic and quaint little town is the jumping-off point (perhaps "staging point" is a better choice of words) for folks climbing Denali, as well as tourists arranging for helicopter or other flightseeing trips around the mountain, or river rafting, or hiking, or a myriad of other options. There is always an interesting, eclectic and international collection of thrill-seekers, artists, craftspeople, adventurers, prospectors and panners, climbers, rescuers, journalists, photographers, naturalists, backpackers, locals, characters and other assorted nuts, reprobates and riffraff hanging around. You can eat at one of the several funky little cafes. In particular, I remember pretty good lunches at the Wildflower Cafe, and great breakfasts at the Talkeetna Roadhouse (be sure to eat sourdough pancakes at least once during your visit).

Or, farther up the Parks Highway, you can take in a legendary Alaskan roadhouse:

Before the George Parks Highway was built in 1971, the Halfway Inn was an overnight stop on the sled dog trail that carried mail -- and everybody and everything else -- on its way north or south. The Halfway Inn was called that because it was halfway between the river towns of Nenana and Fairbanks. Years passed. The Parks Highway was built, and this tall, skinny guy named Richard bought the Halfway Inn. Richard's nickname, probably inevitably, was 'Skinny Dick.'

So now, it's Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn. And their logo is, well, two polar bears doin' it. If you have any tasteless friends, you can pick up some tasteless souvenirs here that proudly display their tasteless logo.

And while you're at it, you can say 'Hi' to Skinny, and buy some burgers and beer.

In Fairbanks, do go to the Chena Pump House. Sit out on the deck and watch the day float lazily by.

And I like the Salmon Bake in Fairbanks, too. Yes, it's touristy, and the sides are truly crappy, but the salmon and, especially, the halibut are to die for. When we lived there, we ate at the Salmon Bake at least once a week during those endless summer days. With three hungry teenagers that filled up on the all-you-can-eat salmon and halibut, I can tell you that they didn't make any money off of us.

And when I close my eyes and dream of Alaska, I always find myself biting into one of those fluffy pillows of snow-white, deep-fried halibut.

Heaven.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thank you both.

We now have a copy of the Milepost. The New Sagaya Market/picnic is a wonderful idea, if the weather cooperates. Otherwise, it sounds like Talkeetna is our best bet.

The Pumphouse and The Salmon Bake have been added to our list, too.

We'll report back ...

Emily (& Dave)

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Other folks have mentioned the big resorts. That brings to mind several Alaska-review type shows.

At Denali Resorts, it's called Cabin Nite. In Fairbanks, there are two -- the Malemute Saloon at Ester, and the show at the Palace Saloon in Alaska Land.

Of these, the Malemute Saloon and the Palace Saloon are the best. You'll enjoy either one of them.

If you go to the Malemute, don't miss the short film about the northern lights. It's the second-best thing to seeing them in person.

Which, since you're there in the summer, you won't.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Also in Fairbanks is the small, but excellent, museum at UAF. It's well-worth the 45 minutes or so it'll take you to get through it and I highly recommend it.

And if you have time, the Riverboat Discovery is definitely an interesting trip. Again, touristy, but fascinating.

Another fun stop is the Farthest-North Harley Outpost. If you've got any friends that ride Harleys, take them back a cute T-shirt. I sent them to all my nephews and nieces for the several years we were there.

How long are you going to be in Fairbanks? I've got more.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Another fun stop is the Farthest-North Harley Outpost.  If you've got any friends that ride Harleys, take them back a cute T-shirt.  I sent them to all my nephews and nieces for the several years we were there.

If you're a golfer, I think the North Pole golf course is a must. A total cow (well, Moose, actually) pasture, but its the northernmost golf course in the world. I have the hat to prove it! :biggrin: Local rules are that if your ball ends up near a moose, you get a free drop at a safe distance....


Edited by tighe (log)

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Another fun stop is the Farthest-North Harley Outpost.  If you've got any friends that ride Harleys, take them back a cute T-shirt.  I sent them to all my nephews and nieces for the several years we were there.

If you're a golfer, I think the North Pole golf course is a must. A total cow (well, Moose, actually) pasture, but its the northernmost golf course in the world.

You're right....it's the northernmost PERMANENT golf course in the world.

You really can't count Nome and the Bering Sea Ice Golf Classic course, since it comes and goes.

:cool:


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Well! We're back. We took many of your recommendations to heart, and for the most part, we enjoyed our meals very much.

Here's the rundown. In Anchorage, we found, just a short walk from our B&B, the recently expanded Snow City Cafe. We each had a cup of soup and a sandwich for lunch, and vowed to try to get back for their breakfast (alas, this did not happen). Had dinner that night at Sacks Cafe. This was probably my favorite meal of the trip: salads, salmon, dessert, followed by port - the works. The food was delicious, the service attentive - a really nice meal. The next morning, we picked up some sandwiches at The New Sagaya Market before heading out for a drive to the Kenai peninsula. Along the way, I was flipping through the Milepost and came across the description for Indian Valley Meats. We *had* to stop. We sampled ptarmigan, buffalo, pheasant and reindeer, and bought a few things to take home. If you're in the area and are, uh, wondering how to get your caribou home, they'll process it for you (their side door has "FULL CARCASS DROP-OFF" in red paint; I wish I'd gotten a photo.)

Our only disappointment in Anchorage was our dinner that night, at Club Paris. The meal wasn't bad, exactly, just not great, after all the other good food we'd had. We took in the atmosphere, though (dim lighting, ancient banquettes, crusty waitresses) and decided to chalk it up to experience. One last dinner in Anchorage, at Simon & Seafort's. The food was good, the view was better.

At Denali, we had a nice, but expensive, dinner at the Grande Denali. Dave liked the breakfasts at our hotel, the Denali Princess Lodge. "Try the crab eggs Benedict!" he says.

In Fairbanks, we enjoyed the Alaska Salmon Bake (though it's no bargain, really, unless you're pretty hungry, or a big eater) and the Pump House. The Pump House let us in, even though they were closing in 30 minutes (thanks, guys!). Try the musk ox meatloaf - it's quite tasty. Dave says this was his favorite meal of the trip.

Oh yes, the drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks. We stopped for lunch at the Talkeetna Roadhouse. I had the BLT, Dave had the R (for reindeer) LT.

Finally, it's not a restaurant, but I feel I should mention the food on our cruise, because I'd been worrying that we'd be stuck with four days' worth of wretched buffets ... but everything was delicious, from soup to nuts. A pleasant surprise.

So, thanks for the recommendations everyone. Much appreciated.

Emily

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I'd like to thank you for that report. So often, too often, people ask for advice and everyone offers their thoughts, but you never hear back, and you're left to wonder how it was.

Sounds like your trip was terrific and you really did capture the spirit and essence of The Great Land.

:cool:


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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My husband and his work partner are very excited to be spending several days in Anchorage for business. They are compatible dining partners as well -- loving to seek out local gems, the hole-in-the-wall-ier the better, though they also appreciate more up-scale meals. I promised to find them some good recommendations from the good folks on the 'gullet. They will have rental car. Where would you send them?


~ Lori in PA

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I really liked the Glacier Brewhouse during my last business trip to Anchorage: http://www.glacierbrewhouse.com/


Carolyn

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

J.R.R. Tolkien

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Hardly inexpensive, but Jens Restaurant does a fine job and offers good value for the money. You can't go wrong favoring the Scandinavian-influenced fare, particularly at lunch.

And be sure they try a reindeer hotdog from the vendor downtown.


Edited by rlibkind (log)

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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My husband and his work partner are very excited to be spending several days in Anchorage for business. They are compatible dining partners as well -- loving to seek out local gems, the hole-in-the-wall-ier the better, though they also appreciate more up-scale meals. I promised to find them some good recommendations from the good folks on the 'gullet. They will have rental car. Where would you send them?

My wife and I had fun killing time in Anchorage before our return flight at both Club Paris for the cocktails (big, strong, cheap) and Humpy's for the Alaskan pub grub and beer.

We found Club Paris just walking around downtown. They close early so the bartender recommended Humpy's as we had more time to kill. Humpy's is kind of divey, and has a great vibe. The place was packed with both locals and touristas.

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We only stayed in Anchorage one night before boarding the Alaska Railroad train to Denali and Fairbanks. We stayed at the Hilton and ate dinner in their restaurant with a stunning view. Very good local seafood.

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It's been some time since I moved out of Anchorage, but I still remember the wonderful food at Sacks restaurant and the prices are moderate plus. On the lower end--Arctic Roadrunner for unusual burgers and really good homestyle onion rings. The Lucky Wishbone had some pretty good fried chicken. I can list many others still in operation, but you did say good, reasonably priced food and the ones I liked are pretty spendy.

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Visited Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula last weekend. Had a few completely unremarkable meals and a few worth noting.

We had a great lunch at Snow City Cafe in Anchorage. After eating my weight in king crab legs and halibut over the previous couple of days on the Peninsula, I was thrilled at the promise of eating fresh vegetables at long last...which begs the question of why I ordered a tuna melt and tomato soup. :wacko: The sandwich was served open face and was done perfectly, with a thick slab of sharp cheddar atop well-seasoned tuna salad. The tomato soup was extremely flavorful, especially for a dish that had to have been made with canned tomatoes considering its April. My dining companion had a ciabatta roll stuffed generously with roast beef and blue cheese that he dipped into au jus, accompanied by the soup of the day, a corn chowder with bacon. Service was attentive for the most part. One server seemed to be working the majority of the floor but that was fine with us -- we were enjoying our leisurely meal and would definitely return the next time we have occasion to travel to Anchorage.

We also enjoyed late night happy hour dinner at Simon & Seafort's that same day. It felt a little chain-y (like McCormick & Schmicks here in the Pac NW) but their bar menu appetizers were half-off starting at 9pm, the portions were generous and the view not to be beat. Service was fabulous -- when my boyfriend was told that they were out of oysters, the last two were delivered on the house. We actually went back to the same restaurant for a quick pre-airport snack the next day (after calling, of course, to see if their oyster delivery had come in) and the staff remembered us. They were so remorseful about denying my boyfriend his full plate of oysters the night before that they delivered an entire order to him on the house!

On the Kenai Peninsula, the one meal that surprised us was breakfast at the Smoke Shack in Seward. We got the last of the six tables as soon as we walked in and promptly ordered a breakfast burrito and corned beef hash. The coffee could have been stronger (then again, we're from Portland, OR) but both dishes were surprisingly good. We'll admit that our expectations were fairly low as we were dining in a converted train car in a parking lot, but considering it was literally the only place serving breakfast on Sunday morning in April, we had no complaints!

Other meals and quick stops:

- Ray's in Seward (crab legs and view: good, cioppino not)

- Bowman's Bear Creek Lodge & Cafe in Hope (beef burgundy and shrimp tempura at a place run by two tremendously nice folks)

- Middle Way Cafe in Anchorage (great coffee and free wi-fi; great place to continue trip planning while waiting for REI to open!)

- Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage (more good crab legs but an heavily overdressed salad)

All in all, a really enjoyable trip filled with breathtaking scenery and some surprisingly good eats. Thanks, Alaska, for a great visit!

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I figured as someone living outside of Fairbanks, this thread needed an update.

When visiting Fairbanks, some great places are:

- Most any of the Thai restaurants. Fairbanks, oddly enough, has a huge Thai population that was located here after the Vietnam War by a Catholic non-profit. We have more Thai restaurants than Chinese -- and virtually all are great. Lemon Grass, in particular, tries hard to serve locally-grown and organic food. Thai House, downtown near the Marriott, has a great catfish dish and other chef's specials.

- Chena Pump House -- a historic landmark (old dredge site) with well-prepared and often local food, on the river.

- Seoul Gate Restaurant -- cheap but very good Korean food in the basement of a bowling alley!

- The Bakery -- old-fashioned simple American diner, great homemade donuts and breakfasts

- SourDough Sams - another inexpensive and simple local diner

- Pike's Landing - unpretentious but good American food, on the river as well

- Wolf's Run -- I haven't been here in many years, but it used to be (and I assume still is) a cozy little bistro with an interesting menu.

- Lavelle's -- downtown in the Marriot SpringHill Suites, local produce when available, high quality ingredients, varied menu. Lavelle's took a while to hammer their menu down, but has turned into one of the more reliable spots in town.

- Drive-through coffee stands. Alaska has a LOT of these, and Fairbanks is no exception. Many have bagels, paninis, and sandwiches for something quick. Rising Sun is one of the better ones.

Two other notable mentions while in the Interior, out-of-town:

-- Taste of Europe, in Delta Junction, is owned by a Russian family and serves Eastern European and Italian fare. Their food is excellent. The sampler plate is a good choice.

-- Fast Eddy's in Tok. It has been in business for years for a reason.

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