Take your repeat visitors to the ‘real’ Alaskan hangouts
|Somewhere in the Alaska residency job description is the expectation that when visitors from Outside arrive, we show them a good time.|
We haul them to Seward, gawk over animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, dutifully tromp up Flattop, and afterward, wait an agonizing hour for the legendary Moose’s Tooth pizza. We troll Earthquake Park in search of moose, endure hours of sorting through bins of bargain T-shirts and ulu models, and maybe even splurge for a glacier or wildlife viewing cruise or a jaunt on the Alaska Railroad.
Some will visit just once. But others – family, perhaps your closest friends – will return a second or third time or more. And it’s then, on these repeat trips, that you can peel back the shiny layers of expected tourist trap activities and dive deeper into some of Anchorage and the surrounding area’s more authentic experiences.
Alaska is known for some truly special foods, like sourdough pancakes, oysters, and deep-friend halibut. For the latter, I insist on F Street Station, which is more bar than restaurant, but serves better food than most restaurants in Anchorage. F Street occupies a small space on – you guessed it – F Street, between Third and Fourth avenues Downtown. Its menu is small and hasn’t changed in years; because it doesn’t have to.
F Street’s food is simple, straightforward, fresh, and unabashedly Alaskan. You’ll have a hard time choosing between fresh or fried oysters. Both are simply delicious. But it’s their worshipful preparation of halibut that keeps the locals returning and makes this an awesome stopping spot for visitors. The grilled halibut sandwich is something special, especially if you add the jalapeno mayo. The deep-friend halibut, served with hand-cut fries, simply can’t be beat. Amusingly, the restaurant offers a half portion dubbed “Texas sized.”
For desert, you could dish out serious dollars at one of our city’s fine dining establishments. Or, you could walk your guests down to Alaska Cake Studio, on Fourth Avenue. There, the team turns out a tantalizing display of truffles, flavored mousses, cakes and pies, and for incredibly reasonable prices. With a charming display of playful aprons and housewares, you can slide in a little gift shopping while you’re at it.
Anchorage has its share of famous and reputable bars, like the Great Alaskan Bush Company, and Koots, formerly known as Chilkoot Charlie’s. But when you have guests return a second or third time, drink where the locals drink: at dive bars!
I love Darwin’s Theory, a venerable hole-in-the-wall on G Street known for feisty staff, salty regulars and even saltier free popcorn. The drinks are cheap and strong, so beware. Soak it up after with a slice of pizza from next door’s Uncle Joe’s Pizzeria, an Anchorage fixture for more than 20 years.
One of my golden rules when entertaining Outsiders is to avoid chains of any kind – chain stores, chain restaurants, anything non-exclusively Alaskan. With that framework in mind, during my brother’s recent visit we had a family dinner at Kobe Teppayaki House on Arctic.
Kobe is a local’s Beninhana, where wise-cracking chefs do flashy tricks with knives, spatulas, raw eggs and flame while deftly preparing a pile of food that will leave you smiling and content.
Food preparation at Kobe is done at your table, with up to eight people sitting semi-circled around a piping-hot grill, as the cooks sauté vegetables, cook mountains of fried rice, and chop and grill ample portions of steak, halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp and more.
It’s Alaskan food with an Asian twist and a slice of spirited humor, a perfectly entertaining and fulfilling way to spend a leisurely evening with visitors. Better yet, it’s all the flavors of fine dining with a smaller financial impact and a more laid-back environment, with sake bombs to boot.