Aging Blue Fox bar a perfect precursor to shiny Alaska Airlines Center
Anchorage’s newest venue is the state-of-the-art Alaska Airlines Center, a gleaming 196,000-square-foot arena and a crown jewel of the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. It has proven to be a welcome addition for area music lovers so far, parading a series of awesome entertainment across its stage since opening in early September, from local favorites like the Whipsaws to national acts like Alabama Shakes and Lyle Lovett.
We hit up the arena for the Alabama Shakes show in mid-September. Like any seasoned troupe of concert-goers, we were immediately focused on where to begin the night. With dinner and drinks on the mind, we opted for a neighborhood staple that is practically in the shadow of the new arena: the Blue Fox on Tudor Road.
While the Alaska Airlines Center is shiny and modern, Blue Fox is a dimly lit, low-key and old-school dive bar, sandwiched into a strip mall between a barber shop and a Chinese restaurant. This longtime neighborhood establishment deftly serves a diverse clientele of college kids on up to older, good-time regulars, so no matter your age, you should feel at home here.
We figured the Blue Fox would be a cheap cab ride to the new Alaska Airlines Center, but it gets even better than that: from the bar, it’s a short, barely-10-minute walk through a neighborhood, over a footpath and past student housing, directly to the venue. Perfect!
Turns out we weren’t the only ones with the bright idea to hit up Blue Fox prior to show time. On that night, it was like everyone was there – Matt the ivory store owner, and Kamela from the burlesque troupe, her musician husband, Frank; Gary from the ad agency. Patrons piled into the door, slinging back cheap, stiff drinks and gobbling down Blue Fox burgers. Given the bar’s laidback vibe, it felt a lot like an early evening house party.
In many ways, Blue Fox is like the bar where time stood still. Its décor is lovably dated – swivel cushioned bucket seats, fabric-covered chandeliers, old sketches of long-gone regulars adorning the walls. Happily, its prices also feel unchanged. The burgers and sandwiches are cheap, drinks are a steal, and the bar’s happy hour deals are the stuff college-kid budgets are made of.
Happy hour deals are good between 5 and 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 5 and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Some examples: During Monday’s deals window, all appetizers are half-priced. Tuesday, buffalo wings are just $3.50. On Thursdays during the happy hour timeframe, chicken tacos are just $1.50, and all tacos are just $1 on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. You can add fries to any special for just $1.
While the concert-going crowd has obviously embraced Blue Fox for its pre- and post-show proximity to the Alaska Airlines Center, it has other amenities that are alluring. For the bar-game crowd, there is pool, darts, and that video game where you pretend you’re a hunter and shoot at big game. A modest dance floor has featured some of the more entertaining local acts. TVs show sports, strategically and visibly placed throughout the bar. And if you stay longer than intended, the front parking lot is well lit, visible, and a safe place to leave a vehicle overnight if you choose (wisely) to call a cab.
As a side note, if you do skip the pregame function and head directly to the Alaska Airlines Center, it is presently the only UAA facility to have a license to serve beer and wine. At Alabama Shakes, the “beer garden” was something of a warzone, with huge lines shuffling slowly toward a couple of fast-moving but slow-going drink stations, the masses restless and griping in the sauna-like temperatures. As a new facility, no doubt they’ll work the kinks out in time. Meanwhile, we’ve always got Blue Fox. Judging by its legacy and fan base, it’s around to stay.
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