229.7 Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755, USA
There’s got to be something wrong with the judges of the James Beard Awards. They keep getting the chance to give the top nod to 229 Parks’ chef, Laura Cole (she’s been nominated for Best Chef: Northwest twice), but they haven’t done it yet. Here’s your warning to get in there before they wise up and it becomes even harder to snag a reservation (definitely make a reservation). The restaurant sits just 11 miles south of Denali National Park, where there are loads of cabins and other touristy this and that in the area. There’s no reason why a restaurant this damn good should be exactly where this damn good restaurant sits. But chef Cole’s husband built it for her (with the help of a lot of friends) so she could have the kitchen of her dreams in the state he grew up in. It’s quite the Alaska love story. And though Cole grew up near Chicago, she is now one of the most devoted Alaskans around. And her food? Day-um!
2600 College Road
No matter how much people seem to know about the giant Alaska-grown vegetables they hear about on the national news, they’re always surprised that—surprise!—Alaska has farms, and those farms grow loads of different things. Here’s some proof: The tables at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market overflow with goodness grown under the midnight sun. All those hours of sunlight make it possible for farmers to turn over more crops per summer than a cranky French maître d’ turns over tables at a busy bistro. But even if you’re not up for just chomping down on sweet, sweet Alaska-grown carrots for lunch—and seriously, you should consider doing just that—there are plenty of other food vendors at the market. Crafty fun stuff, too. Your souvenir shopping? Done!
1343 G St, Anchorage, AK 99501, USA
Fire Island, in the heart of South Addition, one of Anchorage’s oldest neighborhoods, handcrafts an astonishingly delicious array of baked goods, breads, sandwiches, and savory delights that keep locals lining up for more. The bakery uses as much local produce as it can squeeze into its scones and muffins, offers interesting flavor combos, and serves up a tofu banh mi that is one of the finest tofu sandwiches known to man. If you’re hanging out in Anchorage for more than a day or two, check out the class schedule. You could leave Alaska with some serious sourdough skills. Please note: Fire Island is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as most of January.
388 Old Chena Pump Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA
Fairbanks has a seriously deep bench when it comes to great Thai restaurants. Like, deep enough that locals have strong opinions on their favorite place to go. They get downright New York pushy about it (this coming from a New Yorker who lives in Anchorage now). Your first Thai food outing in Fairbanks should be Lemongrass Thai Restaurant, where the chefs are equally devoted to both the art of cooking Thai food and using local ingredients. Their menu even has an Alaskan Favorite Menu section. The larb wild salmon puts a super-local spin on everybody’s favorite Thai salad, and the beer scallops put locally brewed HooDoo Brewing beer to work to steam local scallops. Oh, yeah, that’s good.
409 Overland Ave, Kenai, AK 99611, USA
You can definitely catch this bus, because the Burger Bus isn’t going anywhere. And that’s a very good thing—because you want the cooked-to-order fast food served up out of this so-slow-it’s-stopped bus. Walk into the vestibule that offers coverage from Alaska weather (and a few tables for those who don’t want to eat in their car), peruse the menu taped to the windows of the bus, and order ... joy. The namesake burgers are delightful. If you’re fish’d out, go for beef or chicken. If not, go straight to the halibut burger. Oh, so good. Not up for wrapping your mouth around one of the messy delights? OK, fine. Get a platter of fried halibut and chips. Make sure you post that sucker on Instagram before you down it all. Your friends back home are gonna weep. You’ll win the day.
215 Front St, Wrangell, AK 99929, USA
Is breakfast theater a thing? Not yet? Well, it should be—and anybody who starts their morning at the Diamond C would probably agree. No matter what’s on your agenda for the day—bear viewing, fishing, shrimping, poking around icebergs in a boat, kayaking, whatever—the Diamond C’s generous breakfast (and lunch) portions will give you a good start. And while you’re downing your plate of Diamond C hash or a halibut omelette (welcome to SE Alaska!), you’re sure to enjoy listening to the banter of the band of guys who think of the Diamond C as their own personal clubhouse. Yup, there’s even a poster of them right there on the wall. Their dedication to the Diamond C is well deserved—and the Diamond C loves them (and all the customers) right back.
256 Katlian Street
People in tiny towns deserve great food as much as city folk do, but it’s still a surprise when a town of fewer than 9,000 residents can sustain a restaurant as good—excellent, really—as Ludvig’s Bistro. Open daily during the summer months and for plenty of special occasions off-season, the restaurant has been one of Alaska’s best for more than a decade. Chef/owner Colette Nelson puts a Mediterranean spin on all the local ingredients she can get her hands on. The restaurant is all bright pops of color, too. Even Southeast Alaska’s rainiest days can’t knock the happy off of Ludvig’s. Don’t you dare show your face without making a reservation first—even if Sitka weren’t one of the world’s most magical little towns, Ludvig’s would make it a worthy destination.
320 3rd Ave, Seward, AK 99664, USA
Starting a day in Seward without a walk around town and a stop—a long stop—at Resurrect Art Coffee House would be simply ridiculous. The baristas are religious about serving excellent espresso drinks in this former church, a 100-year-old building that offers a warm spot to hang out on one of Seward’s not-so-nice days. But thanks to the often friendly conversations found inside (and plenty of room to read the paper or snag some time with the free Wi-Fi), it’s well worth devoting a piece of even the sunniest morning to Resurrect. Like the people of many an Alaskan town, Seward residents spend a lot of their summers focused on fishing and other busy summer stuff, but once fall rolls in, they turn toward each other for company as well as to solitary pursuits. Resurrect is at the center of both of those worlds as both a gathering place for locals and an art gallery for their work. There’s usually a dog or two hanging out inside, too. It’s just about perfect. The only downside: Resurrect closes at 7 p.m.
27635 Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99540, USA
Don’t blast past this easy-to-drive-by restaurant on the Seward Highway. Open since June 2017, Froth & Forage looks like an unassuming sandwich joint. And it does serve some sandwiches. But you’re not going to get, say, a ham and cheese. Nope. You’re going to get an open-faced shrimp scampi sandwich served with house-cut fries that are topped with truffle oil, garlic, and Parmesan. Oh, and the view out of the window is of Turnagain Arm and the mountains. It’s crazy beautiful. So now you see why you shouldn’t blast past? You’ll want to eat there again—and you can do that on your drive back to Anchorage.
4460 Homer Spit Rd, Homer, AK 99603, USA
The Homer Spit is home to, for the most part, summer-only businesses that cater to tourists, fishermen, and weekend adventurers aplenty. So there’s long been an emphasis on fried halibut and other related goodies. The Spit’s food cred took a serious bump up when La Baleine opened. Though the restaurant has a seriously casual beach-town vibe, the food is not your everyday sandy-feet fare. Emphasizing organic and local ingredients, chef Mandy Dixon—who grew up in the kitchens of her parents’ Alaska lodges (Within the Wild)—serves up elegant but generous dishes, including salmon bowls with brown rice and roasted root vegetables and miso-marinated sablefish. The breakfasts are hearty enough to take you through a full day of paddling the bay.
107 Beach Rd W, Unalakleet, AK 99684, USA
Sitting on the edge of the Bering Sea, the village of Unalakleet is, of course, stunning in its stark beauty. But the off-the-road-system village also offers plenty of surprises, including damn good pizza. Even full-on pizza snobs won’t thumb their nose at the thin-crust pies coming out of the ovens. The price of the pizzas is kind of a killer (it costs bundles to get foodstuffs shipped out there, so any restaurants have to charge a bundle to make a buck), but the payoff is dandy. Crust that has the right amount of crunch and tenderness. Proper cheese bubbles! And a light, bright tomato sauce. Chow down and then go explore this marvel of a town.
3311 Spenard Rd, Anchorage, AK 99503, USA
When it rains that kind of nasty gray-day cold rain that happens in Anchorage, point your car toward Pho Lena. Keep this restaurant in your back pocket in case you’re lucky enough to encounter some real Alaskan weather while in town (or if you just want some of the most budget-friendly meals). The menu is New Jersey–diner long, but if it’s the warmth of pho you’re up for, you won’t have to flip far. Unless you’re a big, big eater, stick with a smaller bowl; you probably won’t get through it anyway.
13618 E Main St, Talkeetna, AK 99676, USA
Is it lunch? Or a snack? Or perhaps an appetizer before you head across the street to Denali Brewpub? Oh, who cares—just make sure you eat some of the spinach bread served up out of the gleaming Airstream on Main Street. A word of warning: There are a few times each summer when the Airstream takes the brakes off to head to the festivals and fairs. If the Alaska State Fair is on (late August to early September), you’ll have to go there to get some of the spinachy cheesy goodness. Wash it down with the not-too-sweet limeade.
1 West Ishmailof, Halibut Cove, AK 99603, USA
The Slow Food people could learn a thing or two from The Saltry when it comes to really stretching out the pacing of a meal: This restaurant sits a beautiful one-hour ride away on the Danny J ferry (one of the cutest ferries ever), across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska. (Seriously, this meal is not for the seasick prone.) Once the boat arrives in tiny Halibut Cove, you get three hours to dine, explore, and visit the two art galleries in town. (OK, town is a strong word. Halibut Cove is a tiny pip of a place.) For such an out-of-the-way spot, The Saltry serves up a stunningly high-end meal. The seafood-heavy menu depends on mostly local ingredients. (Do not, unless you’re allergic, skip out on the oysters.)
1951 Fox Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701, USA
Visitors are often surprised to find that Fairbanks summers run hot, hot, hot! And you’ll stay hot hanging out in front of HooDoo—but you’ll have one of the tastiest beers you can remember in your hand and some new friends at your side so ... hot, schmot. Owner Bobby Wilken grew up in Fairbanks but, once he decided the brewing life was for him, headed to Chicago and Munich to learn the craft. That schooling paid off. HooDoo’s German Kölsch would fit right in back in Germany, but Wilken also goes far beyond traditional brews. IPAs, pumpkin ales, awesome porters, and much more rotate through HooDoo’s brewing system to keep thirsty patrons jonesing for something new.
Anchorage, AK, USA
Alaska has a booming microbrewery scene, but it’s hard to tour (and taste) your way through a bunch of breweries without some insider info. Big Swig Tours will take you on behind-the-scenes tours of breweries and set more than a few beers in front of your face. And they do all the driving. Of course, what’s a tasting without some pairing? Opt for the bike and brew tour, and you’ll start the day with a bike ride on Anchorage’s Tony Knowles Coastal Trail before your afternoon brewery jaunt. Want even more breweries and sights? Big Swig’s Hops on the Rail starts with a three-hour Alaska Railroad trip to Talkeetna. You’ll amble slowly back down to Anchorage via breweries in the comfort of the Big Swig van.
429 E Street
Take your place in line, check the street sign to see what the flavors of the week are (or send somebody up to the shop door to take a peek), and start planning your order. Most of Wild Scoops’ ice creams are made with locally sourced ingredients. Even Alaska-made potato chips make an appearance. Are you a fan of coffee ice cream? Then don’t even play around. Order up a coffee ice cream baked Alaska. They’ll fill a freshly made waffle cone with the sweet cold joy, swirl marshmallow on top, and hit it with a mini blowtorch. You’ll be back for more the next day.
Hyder, AK 99923, USA
It’d be challenging to find a more remote place to get fish and chips than The Bus. Yet another Alaska restaurant in a bus (the state is peppered with them), The Bus serves up what could be one of earth’s most delicate fried halibut and chips. Moist fish and a crispy and golden brown crust create layers of flavor. There’s a good chance one of Hyder’s own residents caught the halibut the day before. The fries are so good you’ll keep eating them long after you’re full. Very full. Important: Check The Bus’s Facebook page before you make the drive to Hyder. Owner Diana Simpson shuts down from time to time to do some fishing of her own. Road-tripping without a stop at The Bus would make for a very sad day indeed.