Sure, Alaska probably will never rank among the most boundary-pushing states from a culinary perspective, but there are quite a few quality meals to be found on the Last Frontier. Miles of coastline and plenty of wilderness set an ideal stage for local fish and meat dishes. (We know a great seafood shack in the capital, Juneau, if you’re hungry.) Find out the rest as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Sure, most of our picks come from the state’s biggest city, Anchorage, but we’ve also found a good dive bar in Homer, which also has the best farmers market in the state. Their growing season might be short, but you can also find preserves and crafts to lengthen the season. We’ve also got some great bars, perfect for making the most of those endless days — or nights.
Facebook/Salty Dawg Saloon
The Salty Dawg Saloon was established in 1957 and is housed in a late-nineteenth-century building, one of the original cabins from the town site in Homer. If you’re tall, you’ll have to duck to enter this low-ceilinged bar, but inside is some really fun décor that includes life rings, dollars, and endless bric-a-brac (for years, the eclectic curios even included a prosthetic leg, until someone stole it to take it back to its owner). Ask the friendly bar staff, some of whom have been tending the same bar for decades, for signature cocktails with interesting names like the Salty Dog (vodka — the original was made with gin — and grapefruit juice with a salted rim) and the Duck Fart (a shot purportedly originating in Kodiak, composed of Kahlúa, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Crown Royal).
Courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company
Barleywines aren’t for everyone, but Anchorage Brewing Company’s A Deal With The Devil packs a world of flavor in every single sip. Complex with flavors of caramels and malts, this smooth yet thick beer is a flawless example of its style.
Anna Liza K. / Yelp
Charlie’s is a welcome surprise in the Anchorage restaurant scene, with a wide-ranging menu that sets it apart from every other Chinese spot in the state. Sample the steamed buns, yu-shang eggplant, shrimp balls, barbecue eel, house-roasted duck, and sweet sesame balls, and you’ll be hooked.
Alaskan Brewing Company / Facebook
In true pioneer spirit, Alaskan Brewing Company is the first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition, and the country’s 67th independent brewery. Marcy and Geoff Larson have been making beer in the Last Frontier since 1986. Slow fermentation lends a distinct smoothness to their Alaskan Amber, a brew whose recipe was found in an old Alaskan newspaper.
Midnight Sun Cakery
Though the Midnight Sun Cakery focuses a lot of its energy on signature cakes and stunning wedding cakes, it certainly hasn’t forgotten the small things. Each month, the bakery features a special sale on its unique flavors like peppermint bark, cherry chip, and raspberry cheesecake, giving patrons something special to look forward to.
The Salty Dawg Saloon isn’t just the best dive bar in Homer Spit or the best dive bar in Alaska. It’s the state’s best bar, period. The salty Dawg is housed in a nineteenth-century building, and the friendly bar staff will be quick to pour you one of their signature drinks, including the Duck Fart (a shot composed of Kahlúa, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Crown Royal).
This nostalgic doughnut shop makes its old-fashioned doughnuts fresh every day. In addition to the classic glazed options, it also makes an amazing salty-sweet bacon maple doughnut and some hugely popular cake doughnuts with fantastic frosting: Try the chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting or the vanilla cake doughnut with colorful sprinkles.
Courtesy of Homer Farmers Market
An abundance of fruits and vegetables, gourmet kettle corn, habanero-jalapeño apple jam made with wild and local fruits, halibut tacos, gemstone and wire-wrapped jewelry, pencil drawings of scenic sites in Alaska, and vegetable- and herb-based soaps are just some of the diverse items sold at the Homer Farmers Market. The market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays, May through September.
Andrew H. / Yelp
Lard Belly E.via Yelp
Each town in Alaska seems to have its own reliable hub or locally owned market, but Safeway wins here for its consistently positive reviews and its ability to reach and adequately supply the most people. Safeway is also Alaska’s most popular grocery chain with a whopping nine locations scattered throughout the state.
Going strong for more than 40 years, family-run Sorrento’s is an Anchorage landmark, dishing up solid and dependable Italian fare. The expansive menu doesn’t veer too far outside of the red-sauce comfort zone — popular dishes include fried calamari, fresh cannelloni with meat sauce, homemade meatballs, chicken cacciatore, steaks, and surprisingly solid pizzas — but you’d be hard-pressed to find a clunker in the bunch. Legions of fans have been regular customers at Sorrento’s for decades, and with good reason: It’s consistently delicious, and nothing on the menu will leave you disappointed.
Owned and operated by the Hurtados family since 1997, the homey El Dorado has become an Anchorage institution, and not just because a great Mexican restaurant is a bit of an anomaly in these parts. You’ll find all the standards here, as well as some more surprising finds, all made with care: shrimp tostadas, carnitas, enchiladas suizas or mole, carne asada, fajitas, burritos filled with pork chile verde, and even menudo and lengua in tomato-olive-chile sauce.
Located in Anchorage’s luxurious Hotel Captain Cook, Crow’s Nest offers 360-degree views and a very expensive menu from chef Reuben Gerber. The least expensive entrée (a vegetarian plate) costs $30, and prices soar to $48 for rabbit, $58 for king crab legs, and $68 for a bone-in bison rib-eye. The tableside bananas Foster, a dessert favorite, will set you back $14 per order.
Yelp/ Dean I
It’s all about the fresh seafood in Alaska, and you’ll find one of the state’s best seafood preparations in the small city of Kenai, at the popular Louie’s restaurant at the Uptown Motel. This heaping platter of fresh wide linguine is infused with a flavorful garlic herb butter sauce along with plenty of fresh halibut, salmon, shrimp, and scallops.
Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria
Ask anyone where to go for pizza in Anchorage and you’ll likely be directed to the renowned Midtown Anchorage nightlife spot Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria — the pizza place that has been locals’ go-to since the late 1990s when fellow rock climbers Rod Hancock and Matt Jones, despite having virtually no restaurant experience, launched a 30-table restaurant serving draft beer and stone-baked pizzas. Now, Moose’s Tooth is regularly noted by publications looking to cast a wide net as among the best pizzerias in the country. These days, the menu features almost 40 pizzas with names just as creative as their topping combinations, but the Avalanche is their most well-known, featuring barbecue sauce, mozzarella, provolone, Cheddar, red onions, blackened chicken, and bacon — a pizza that will need a similarly signature beverage, say the house-brewed and assertively hopped Fairweather IPA.
This sandwich shop is a big hit with the locals, partially because it’s open until 2 a.m., partially because it serves the best sandwiches in the state. The sandwich named Wilbur’s Fate — Black Forest ham, bacon, jalapeño jack cheese, and Dijon mustard pressed and melted on multi-grain bread — is porcine perfection.
Hangar on the Wharf
While it is technically not a shack, due to its location in an old former seaplane hangar resting atop pilings right over the water, it would be criminal for us to not include Hangar on the Wharf, whose specialty is a dish very far from home: Cajun-style jambalaya. Their salmon dishes ain’t too bad either, nor is the view of the Gastineau Channel with Mounts Jumbo and Roberts just nearby.
Yelp/ Amy C.
Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill
An Anchorage favorite since 1978, this landmark isn’t just the best steakhouse in Alaska, it’s also one of the most picturesque in America, offering stunning views of the Alaska Range and Mount Susitna. As for the steaks, they’re USDA Prime, and though you may have some trouble choosing between a grilled smoked sirloin, a char-grilled filet mignon, and their signature rock salt roasted prime rib (available in three sizes), you’ll definitely go home happy.
CC W. / Yelp
Great tacos in Alaska? You better believe it. At Paco’s Tacos, fresh, homemade pork and chicken tamales are certainly standouts, and regulars claim that the tacos and enchiladas are just as good as in Texas and Arizona. Try the carne asada, and help yourself to as many toppings as you’d like at the toppings bar. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.