It’s hard to pass an Alaskan summer without a trek south to Seward.
During the off-season, it is a sleepy but still-charming town, nestled among dramatic peaks, with throwback buildings and steepled churches lining its historic streets. Then comes summer, and Seward is transformed by a flurry of festivals, footraces and incoming cruise ships. One can easily fill a day hiking around Exit Glacier or the Harding Ice Field, exploring cliff-top ruins of World War II fortresses, or kayaking, sight-seeing or fishing in Resurrection Bay.
When adventures wind down, hit up Seward’s restaurants and bars. The buzzy center of activity is Seward’s own Fourth Avenue, where in a two-block stretch, establishments include the Seward Alehouse, Tony’s, Thorn’s Showcase Lounge, the Yukon, Chattermark, Christo’s Palace, Seward Brewing Company and Apollo Restaurant.
It can be hard for rookies to sift through the options. Here are some highlights:
The Seward Brewing Company is a newer spot, open a few years now. With its wood-beamed ceilings, orangey-red walls and warm lighting, it is an inviting and urban space that pulls off a casual vibe while serving classed-up food and craft beer.
Seward Brewing is family-friendly, but its broad beer and wine selection and foodie menu make it a perfectly pleasing place for older palettes, too. Think of it as brewery fare with an upscale twist – like a burger topped with a slab of nutty Beecher’s cheddar on a buttery pretzel bun, or a creamy pasta dish served with seasonal vegetables and rich Oregon lamb.
There for dinner earlier this summer, we loved the salty, warm pretzel served with sides of zesty grain mustard and creamy ale cheese sauce. The small kale Caesar salad came generously portioned and dressed. And for a grown-up take on a comforting classic, try the veggie go-betti, a pasta dish with tomato, kale, peas, mushrooms, house cheese sauce and pretzel dust.
Just up the road is the Yukon Bar. Its uniquely Alaskan décor includes dollar bill-coated ceilings, graffiti’d bathroom walls, fringy bordello lamps and old life rings and buoys from boats. Nightly stage entertainment ranges from karaoke to full bands to crowd-involved crooning by Alaska balladeer Hobo Jim. Yukon is a rowdy and fun watering hole, with a full bar and pool tables, and as fun for the curious tourist as for comfort-seeking and cocktail-craving locals. Do note: It’s a cash-only establishment.
My personal favorite spot is the Seward Alehouse, just up the block from Yukon. It has a brighter and more laid-back feel, but things pick up when a DJ gets the crowd dancing on weekends. Bartenders here are friendly and professional, and for sports fans, it’s a spot to catch the game while sipping a mason jar filled with your favorite frosty Alaska beer.
Across the street is the iconic Thorn’s Showcase Lounge. With its odd décor (creepy giant chess pieces?), seedy “rippies” bar and stiffer-than-a-board cocktails, Thorn’s is not for the feint of heart. Trip Advisor users call out Thorn’s for its “uncomfortable” atmosphere, even comparing it to the campy, dark show Twin Peaks.
Indeed, if all you want after a day in the mountains or at sea is a pile of pull tabs and whiskey, Thorn’s has your back. But what Thorn’s lacks in ambiance, it makes up for with its famed “Bucket of Butt” – halibut, that is. Few things taste better after a long day of play than a pile of deep-fried chunks of Seward’s favorite fish, and few Alaska restaurants take halibut as seriously as Thorn’s.
Finally, locals on a recent fishing charter with Saltwater Safari couldn’t say enough about Woody’s Thai Kitchen. Admittedly, after a few days of being surrounded by seafood options, Woody’s panang curries or the bacon-fried rice sounded pretty alluring.
Worth noting: Woody’s ranks fourth on Trip Advisor for Seward restaurants.
If I’ve learned anything from traveling, it’s that you listen to locals. With that in mind, Woody’s will definitely be my next stop when I next find myself in Seward.
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