The Best Food and Drink in Alaska for 2019
December 20, 2018
The Last Frontier has no shortage of great restaurants
The Best Food and Drink in Alaska
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 second-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.
Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Alaska gallery ahead.
Best Airport Restaurant: Sushi On The Fly (Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport)
Relish some healthy Asian cuisine at Sushi On The Fly, a nice spot in Anchorage’s airport. In addition to a sports bar that has large flat-panel HD TVs, the restaurant also has a beer garden with delicious local craft beers on tap as well as fast Wi-Fi. Other delicious Asian dishes on the menu in addition to sushi include spicy pork bulgogi, Mongolian chicken, udon noodles, and salmon, chicken, and beef teriyaki.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Gold Creek Salmon Bake (Juneau)
Gold Creek Salmon Bake/Yelp
Since 1978, Gold Creek Salmon Bake has been bringing hungry travelers to a campsite at Salmon Creek Falls in an old-growth forest, where they can pan for gold, check out old mining relics, enjoy the wilderness, and partake in an all-you-can-eat feast of the freshest salmon you’ll find anywhere. The salmon is grilled over an alderwood fire, and served with a variety of side dishes and blueberry cake for dessert. The adventure costs $55 for adults and $41 for children.
Best Bar: Salty Dawg Saloon (Homer)
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).
Best Beach Bar: Talon Lodge & Spa (Sitka)
A beach bar in Alaska? It makes sense when you consider that Alaska has the longest total coastline of any state. This bar is located above the main lodge of a luxury fishing resort located on a private island. Sit on the outdoor deck (at least in good weather) overlooking Sitka Sound, and enjoy a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc during one of their Visiting Winemaker Series events.
Best Beer: Anchorage Brewing Company’s A Deal With The Devil
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.
Best Burger: Tommy’s Burger Stop (Anchorage)
This fun and eclectic burger joint is renowned in Anchorage, largely thanks to its wide variety of burgers, which start with 5.5-ounce patties of Australian beef that get a dose of Cajun seasoning before hitting the griddle. They adorn eight different types of burgers, ranging from a simple cheeseburger to the crave-worthy R.L.E. Hello Burger, two patties topped with bacon, grilled mushrooms, onions, jalapeños, and cheese. Veggie burgers, sliders, cheesesteaks, and po’boys round out the menu.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Charlie’s Bakery (Anchorage)
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.
Best Chocolate Shop: Sweet Chalet (Anchorage)
Anchorage is known for its stunning views of the aurora borealis, and Sweet Chalet is known for its similarly remarkable aurora bonbons. Each bonbon is hand-painted, and they come in unique flavors ranging from caramelized pear with saffron to raspberry rosewater.
Best Coffee Shop: South Restaurant + Coffeehouse (Anchorage)
As with most of the best food and drink in Alaska, you’ll have to take to Anchorage to find the best coffee. Adjoined to a restaurant that has plenty of great food, the coffeehouse at South Restaurant + Coffeehouse has some great snacks to munch on too. Serving Kaladi Brothers coffee and espresso, the coffeehouse also has teas, juices, and soda along with milkshakes, smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, salads, and more.
Best Craft Brewery: Alaskan Brewing Company (Juneau)
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 historically-based recipe was found in an old Alaskan newspaper.
Best Cupcake: Midnight Sun Cakery (Anchorage)
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.
Best Doughnut: Dino’s Donuts (Anchorage)
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.
Best Farmers Market: Homer Farmers Market (Homer)
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.
Best Food Truck: Yeti Dogs (Anchorage)
This Alaskan gem serves locally made sausages with a daily menu that includes everything from bratwurst and hot dogs to reindeer and buffalo sausages. They’ll also offer special sausage and condiment options, but you’ll have to keep up with them on social media to find out. The truck sets up shop daily, unless the finicky Alaska weather forecast says otherwise. The state might be closer to Russia than to your front door step, but the Alaska food scene is truly one of a kind, and worth checking out.
Best Fried Chicken: Lucky Wishbone (Anchorage)
Going strong since 1955, Lucky Wishbone has been an Alaska fried chicken destination for decades (and is in fact the town’s oldest family-owned restaurant). Founded by former WWII fighter pilot George Brown (who passed away earlier this year at age 96) and his wife Peggy, the restaurant has become a local legend due to its never-frozen chicken, which is dipped in buttermilk before being lightly battered and pan-fried until golden brown and delicious. Place a “family order” and it’ll come with 15 pieces, a pint of coleslaw, rolls, and honey.
Best Grocery Store: Safeway
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.
Best Hot Dog: International House of Hotdogs (Anchorage)
Served from a trailer on the corner of Northern Lights Boulevard and Eagle Street, the offerings at International House of Hotdogs are about as outside-the-box as hot dogs can get. The sausages themselves (available in a handful of varieties, including reindeer Polish and buffalo bratwurst) are snappy and nicely charred, and the toppings pay homage to far-flung locales; some of the more popular styles include the Monte Cristo Dog (Swiss cheese, strawberry jam, sautéed and fresh diced onions), Texan (homemade chili, shredded cheese, and onions); and the ingeniously bizarre Frankenstein (bacon-wrapped, cream cheese, sautéed onions, ham, bacon, diced pineapple, and mustard).
Best Ice Cream Stand: Hot Licks (Fairbanks)
Open May through August, Hot Licks uses local ingredients as well as dairy cream from an Oregon dairy to create their perfect flavors. There is currently a shortage of dairy cows in this American state, but Hot Licks still manages to serve the best and freshest quality ice cream in Alaska with cool flavors like Aurora Borealis, a vanilla ice cream with Alaskan blueberry and cranberry purée, and Prudhoe, a chocolate ice cream containing twice as much chocolate as a normal chocolate ice cream.
Best Italian Restaurant: Sorrento’s (Anchorage)
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.
Best Mexican Restaurant: El Dorado (Anchorage)
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.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Crow’s Nest (Anchorage)
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.
Most Outrageous Dish: Seward's Folly, West Rib Pub & Grill (Talkeetna)
At West Rib Pub & Grill, they have the most American and most Alaskan of burgers in Seward's Folly. The monstrosity contains 2 pounds of caribou meat, half a pound of smoked ham, and 6 ounces each of Swiss and American cheese, as well as 12 strips of bacon. If that's not enough for you, you also get a pound of fries on the side, and if you can eat all of it within an hour, you get a free Seward's Folly T-shirt.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Crow’s Nest (Anchorage)
Located in Anchorage’s luxurious Hotel Captain Cook, Crow’s Nest offers 360-degree high-floor views and an upscale menu from chef Reuben Gerber. It’s a AAA four-diamond restaurant with plenty of dark woods and a 10,000-bottle wine list, and the menu is positively luxurious: Indulge in foie gras with pistachio, gooseberries, apricots, and fruit coulis; a daily risotto; Alaska king crab bisque with sherry gelée; prime beef ribeye with roasted broccolini and bordelaise; and duck breast with porcini duxelles, Parisian gnocchi, duck pancetta, spruce tip salt, and crowberry gastrique. Grab a table next to the windows or a banquette, and you’ll be in your own little world.
Best Pancakes: Granny B’s (Anchorage)
This small, quirky diner is an ideal Anchorage breakfast destination, with generous portions and a warm and cozy atmosphere. The pancakes here are exactly as you’d expect: big, fluffy, and slightly crisped in the corners from the butter on the griddle. The blueberry pancakes are especially memorable.
Best Pasta Dish: Garlic Alaskan Seafood Pasta at Louie’s (Kenai)
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.
Best Pizza: Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria (Anchorage)
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.
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Snow City Café (Anchorage)
Going strong in downtown Anchorage for 20 years, Snow City Café makes just about all of its menu items from scratch, is devoted to using fresh and local ingredients whenever possible, and offers a variety of vegan and gluten-free options. They’re open at 7 every morning and breakfast is served all day; on their menu you’ll find seven Benedicts (including one made with Alaska king crab cakes), build-your-own omelettes, a breakfast burrito with chorizo and green chile, Mandarin orange cream cheese-stuffed French toast, pancakes, and house-made granola.
Best Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere: Knik River Lodge (Palmer)
What would a middle-of-nowhere article be without an entry from America’s 49th state? The Knik River Lodge and its restaurant are listed as being in Palmer (population: 6,400), but not only is the center of that town a 30-minute drive from the lodge, you also have to cross two decent-sized rivers to get there. However, it’s worth it for the true Alaskan wilderness experience, the unbelievable views, and offerings like fresh grilled salmon, pan-seared rock fish, beef Wellington, slow-braised lamb shank, and organic free-range pork loin with a house-made apple-bacon chutney. Of course, being so remote also has its drawbacks: The restaurant is only open during the summer months.
Best Sandwich: Italian, Krazy Moose Subs (Wasilla)
Seth M/ Yelp
Krazy Moose is located inside a charming old building that originally housed a general store, and this homey sandwich shop offers a wide variety of clssic sandwiches served on top-notch, fresh-baked bread. Plenty of cold cuts are on offer (as well as a superb meatball sub), but the one to order is the Italian, packed with salami, pepperoni, capocollo, ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, pepperoncini, onion, spices, oil, and vinegar.
Best Seafood Shack: Hangar on the Wharf (Juneau)
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.
Best Soup: Smoked Salmon Chowder at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse (Anchorage)
Yelp/ Amy C.
Best Sports Bar: McGivney’s Sports Bar and Grill (Juneau)
Best Steakhouse: Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill (Anchorage)
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.
Best Taco: The Alaskan, Lane’s Quickie Tacos (Fairbanks)
Chef Lane Quick grew up in San Antonio, and was disappointed that he was unable to find any authentic Tex-Mex tacos in Fairbanks after moving there. So in 2013, after much trial and error, he opened a stand at the Tanata Valley Farmers Market, and it was so successful that it warranted a brick-and-mortar restaurant of its own. If you visit, make sure you try the Alaskan, which was modeled after the famed green chile pulled pork taco from Torchy’s in Austin: slow-roasted shredded pork in two fresh corn tortillas, topped with queso fresco, onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime, made fresh to order.
Best Thing to Eat: King Crab, Tracy’s King Crab Shack (Juneau)
You won’t find fresher king crab anywhere than you’ll find in Alaska, whose waters are brimming with the deadly catch. And in Juneau, the locals will tell you that the best place to find these massive, meaty crab legs is at Tracy’s, located right on the water. A big chunk of Bering Sea red king crab, dunked in melted butter and washed down with a custom-brewed Denali Crab Shack Kolsch, is Alaska perfection. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.