Come for the summer activities, stay for the tasty dining options
There’s still plenty of time to head south and enjoy Seward, one of Alaska’s prettiest and most bustling summertime cities.
Seward is known for many things: its hiker-luring pointy-peaked Mount Marathon, the crystalline waters of Resurrection Bay that make for idyllic days of wildlife viewing and fi shing, and the entertaining and educational SeaLife Center. When I visit Seward, though, it’s all about the food.
For a small town, Seward teems with tasty options. From low-key to high-end, there’s something for everyone here. Many of the res-taurants close or slim down operating hours during the off season, so head south while you can to sample some truly yummy cuisine.
On a recent trip, I paid a fi rst-time visit to Le Barn Appetit, a quaint and cozy crepe shop run by a lively Belgium couple, Janet and Yvon Van Driessche. Tucked off Exit Glacier Road in a rustic four-story structure that the Van Driessches built themselves, this bustling shop sells a variety of sweet and savory crepes.
Janet works the room and takes orders while colorful Yvon expert-ly smooths creamy discs of batter over large crepe griddles, gleefully tolling a large bell and calling out with the completion of each order. Expect a lively, talkative crowd – and a wait, if you go during peak hours. The Van Driessches don’t even advertise, but this place is always busy.
Another longtime locals lair is Th orn’s Showcase Lounge, in business now for decades on Seward’s action epicenter, Fourth Avenue. Don’t be scared off by Thorn’s fantastically tacky exterior, the dated furniture and the eclectic and odd collections of whiskey bottles and giant chess pieces. Rather, embrace the dated darling that Thorn’s is and order the most famous menu item, the “Bucket of Butt.” Th e “butt,” in this case, refers to halibut, and the bucket is actually a bowl piled with many chunks of this moist, sweet fi sh. Th e batter here is perfection: not too thick, seasoned but not overpowering, letting the fl aky, soft fi sh stand on its own.
Thorn’s is a great jumping-off point for an evening at some of Seward’s better-known bars, with the Yukon and the Seward Ale-house just across the street. Gather with friends for mounds of fish, yummy side dishes and a cool beverage, which, if of the alcoholic variety, will be quite strong. You’ve been warned.
Another favorite is a relative newcomer in Seward, the Seward Brewing Company. It opened in 2012 and serves lunch and dinner through mid-September. Th e site of the Brewing Company has a long history dating back to the early 1900s when the Seattle Bar operated here. While today’s interior is modern, industrial and airy, it incorporates elements of past site inhabitants; the bar is fronted by old exterior siding, for example, and original second-fl oor beams have been refashioned into bar tables.
Th e menu is full of inventive options, with classics slightly elevated to reflect culinary attention to detail. Th e basic burger, for example, is dressed up with Beecher’s Flagship Cheese and a house-made brew sauce, and served on a pretzel bun. One menu standout: the AK Vato Tacos, with chunks of fried rockfi sh, crispy ribbons of kale, a pickled bacon corn relish and a sweet tomatillo sauce. Also don’t miss the pretzel, freshly made and perfectly chewy and salty, served with a rich house cheese sauce and a slightly spicy house mustard.
Finally, there’s a personal favorite, the Railway Cantina. It’s a great last stop on your way out of town, situated at the north end of the harbor. Its menu overflows with options for filling burritos, tacos and quesadillas, with the option to turn anything into a bowl served over lettuce.
The Cantina uses fresh ingredients, including homemade salsas, and concocts Mexican dishes with a huge range of ingredients, from reindeer to halibut to crab to falafel. Burritos are big enough to share; a friend and I recently split the Blue Moo, a giant fl our tortilla enveloping chunks of steak, rice and beans, sour cream and blue cheese, served with tortilla chips. This is an extremely casual atmosphere and reasonably priced, too.
While you can do Seward in a day, that’s a pretty long day, with about five hours of driving to and from Anchorage. Plus, that hardly leaves time for many meals. Stay overnight at least, so you have time, energy and appetite to try these restaurants and so many more.