Friday, December 22, 2006

Dining in Alaska - The best food and drink in downtown Anchorage!

A fast track guide to restaurants and bars that friends, work colleagues, and I happen to enjoy. Chances are with a busy holiday schedule in a place the size of Alaska – there isn’t too much time to experiment. So, hopefully we can help point you towards a pint, pizza or a memorable meal in a good restaurant. Obviously in a city like Anchorage there is a wide choice of venues and places to discover – so wherever you end up, cheers and ‘bon appetite’!

Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
High on our list of fun places to visit. What we love is the buzz, it’s noisy, busy and staggeringly popular and operating with endless energy. Want to feel the pulse of Alaska? This is a good place to start. Evenings are best and even if you have wait for a table (no advanced reservations) the bar is fun and makes the wait worth while. Beer drinkers will be delighted with fifteen or more different Alaskan beers to choose from. Goes to show just how the microbrew industry has changed the pub scene (for the good). My top three; Pipeline Stout, Polar Pale Ale, Fairweather I.P.A. And the pizza’s are great! Combined with super friendly ambiance, MT is a must visit. Check out the menu, find the location and do your own beer research online ! Appealing to the outdoor crowd - it seems most diners are just about to climb Alaska’s tallest peak, raft a raging, white water river or talk about their latest North Pole ski trip! Curious name? The owners are climbers and Moose’s Tooth is a 10,300 ft granite pimple on the side of Mt McKinley. Check out sister restaurant Bear Tooth Theatre Pub.( You gotta love like this place – set in an old movie theatre – you take your food and watch a classic! Seen the movie before? No problem – The Grill and bar is the place to go. Usually packed, it has a great buzz and definitely where the locals go. Website tells you all you need.

Glacier Brewhouse
Just round the corner from our office – we know it well! And more importantly we reckon you might like to as well. The restaurant’s popularity with summer visitors is clearly evident with dinner reservations recommended. The brewery forms the backdrop of the restaurant and is the ultimate in steel artwork! Found on 5th Avenue in the heart of the city, The Brewhouse is easily reached on foot from most downtown hotels. Keep it mind for a good lunch if you are sightseeing or walking the coastal trail. Holidays are thirsty work, and the beer is so good they got a telephone number to equal it - 274 BREW. We recommend the food and the creative menu offers a pleasant Alaskan / West Coast focus. Menu and prices are online By the way the best show in town are the chefs working with flames and flair in the open kitchen. Fun, friendly, good value, relaxing atmosphere and the pleasant young staff make this a fixture on our list.

Orso Ristorante
Fine dining with a warm, intimate atmosphere. Situated next door to Glacier Brewhouse (same owner) this restaurant offers a completely different experience. It is quiet, romantic and with a subtle ambiance. The décor is Italian and the food is Italian / Mediterranean. An out of date website does it little justice (due for serious surgical attention). Their excellent wine list is one of better to be found in the city. Romantic? Yes, definitely “third date and thereafter” is how it was explained to me! Apparently two corner tables upstairs receive the majority of those epic lines like “I love you darling” and other endearing indicators on a very regular basis! The food is Italian with a Mediterranean flair that clearly manages to encompass Alaska in the nicest of ways. It’s special, memorable – and even if you don’t have a few epic love lines up your sleeve – you’ll have a darned good evening here.

Sacks Café & Restaurant
Sacks is well established and something of an Anchorage institution. After 24 years in the city’s downtown business / shopping district, Sacks has developed a strong reputation and distinct and enviable image. Interior style is warm, chic and cosmopolitan. Menus, are in a word – creative. Check out a good example of how restaurant menus should look – clear and concise. Knowing the restaurant it’s interesting how the online menu accurately portrays your dining experience (straightforward text, honest, no fluffy descriptions). As they say, an innovative dinner menu with knockout appetizers, salads and entrees. Wine list is comprehensive (won Wine Spectator award of excellence) plus good selection of beers. Recipe pages I like and particularly links to their archives. With file cabinets crammed full of creativity this section could be expanded. One of the best places to dine downtown and what’s more it’s not too noisy so you can talk normally with friends. Easy to find on G street (between 3rd & 4th Ave) in the heart of the city centre.

Simon & Seaforts Saloon & Grill
By most accounts, best seafood restaurant in Anchorage. Long established (1978) and popular with locals and visitors alike. Almost everyone I know loves going to ‘Simons’ now and again. Views from the dining room (Cook Inlet) are stunning. For a real ‘Wow’ on a clear evening plan for a latish dinner to get the summer sun in the right place and watch it slowly setting over ‘The Sleeping Lady’ mountain. Yup, reservations are important, so don’t forget. To the meat and potatoes of the blog; fish is what Simon & Seaforts is best known for; Alaska King Crab, fresh Copper River salmon and halibut are the best sellers. Over a period of years I have eaten here many times and have rarely been disappointed (if only they would serve piping hot coffee). The menu reads temptingly well The bar is fun, large with a good atmosphere, magnificent views and has on average 12-15 Alaskan brewed beers on tap. Unlike the microbrew guys, Simon’s draw from a wide range of Alaskan brewers – so a decent variety is available to try. The wine list is comprehensive. I personally enjoy wines from the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon Pinot Gris goes well with Alaskan seafood dishes. It’s downtown, easy to find, easy to park – in fact close to where Captain Cook managed to find free ship parking in 1784.

Side Street Expresso
Easily our favourite coffee shop. Found on G Street between 4th + 5th Avenue. ‘Side Street’ is a real gem. Run by George and Deb, they are the friendliest people and serve a great cup of (steaming hot) coffee. So different from those large, coffee house mega-chain places, Side Street is the real thing – with local artwork on the walls, animated conversations at wooden tables and lots of locals. It’s the sort of old fashioned place that every time the door opens and closes in winter – a cloud of steam puffs out into the atmosphere! And around lunchtime if all you want is a bowl of soup and a bagel – this is the place. Website? Who needs one, when everyday George draws a cartoon that sits on the counter, in front of the old chrome coffee maker.

Humpy’s Great Alaska Alehouse

Their website tells the whole story This place is fun, very central, pleasantly noisy, young crowd and if you like burgers and beers it’s definitely for you. My favourite? Can’t resist their halibut burger and chips. Live music features quite often, check website for who’s playing when you are in town.

Snow City Café
Voted best breakfast / best brunch restaurant by the local paper three years in a row – so chances are these people are doing something right in the kitchen. With a strong, local clientele it’s a great place to drop by for a leisurely breakfast. When I can, I enjoy a weekend visit and order something from their ‘Good Morning Sunshine’ breakfast menu (available with draft Guinness!!). As they’d say in New York “Ya gotta love the crowd, rustle of newspapers, aroma of hot coffee and more creativity with eggs than most of us could imagine possible”! Sounds sheer madness, but over past winters I, along with friends seem content to queue outside in twenty degrees below zero temperatures just to get a seat. The enterprising menu also features some excellent (and recommended) vegetarian dishes – all of which can be found on their website Located in the centre of Anchorage on 4th Avenue, almost next door to the Captain Cook Hotel.