Five outstandingly delicious places to eat in Alaska

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.

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Particularly in the winter, it’s pretty crucial that you stay warm and well fed while in Alaska. We can’t make any promises about the ease of the former, but we’ve got the latter completely under control. Believe it or not, The Last Frontier is a foodie’s paradise, with a vast number of outstanding local eateries to choose from. During my stay in Anchorage, I was told that there were some 16,000 restaurant permits floating around the greater ANC area, which likely means that you’ve more food options than lodging choices. I was also interested to find that a great many of Alaska’s best eateries are tucked into what we Lower 48ers would call “strip malls.” I’ll admit — prior to visiting AK, I’d visited all 49 of the other states, and strip mall food was rarely a hit. Not so in Alaska. Read on to find out five totally delectable places to eat in the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas; who knows, your favorite hole-in-the-wall might be in there!

%Gallery-118372%1) Silver Gulch

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This place didn’t even serve food three years ago, but after being a dedicated brewery for a decade, the owners decided to try their hand at something new. Good thing they did. Located in the tiny town of Fox, Alaska (around 20 minutes outside of Fairbanks), this restaurant and brewery makes its own grub and beer, and it’s easily one of the best meals you’ll find in the greater FAI area. The design of the place is refreshing as well, and the public is welcome to take a tour of the connected brewery at no charge. Looking for a recommendation? The Pub Pommes to get things going, the Halibut Tacos to stuff you and a walk around the brewery to make you feel a little better for overeating.

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2) Seven Glaciers

Perched high atop Alyeska Hotel, this AAA Four Diamond restaurant is a serious treat — from both a visual and deliciousness standpoint. I’ve never been to a place with a more astonishing entrance. In order to get here, you’ll need to step foot into a scenic tram that lifts you up the mountainside in a matter of minutes. The views of the surrounding mountain ranges in Girdwood (~45 miles outside of Anchorage) are downright breathtaking, and the food inside may be even more so. Reserve a table with a windowside view, and feel free to opt for any of the (seriously amazing) fish dishes. You’re in Alaska, after all!

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3) Moose’s Tooth

If you’ve heard of one restaurant in Alaska through the so-called grapevine, chances are it’s Moose’s Tooth. Situated in Anchorage, this place is widely known for having the best pizza in the state, maybe even the country. That’s a pretty tall claim, and after trying it for myself, I’d say the place mostly lives up to the hype. The vibe is laid back, the staff is warm and welcoming, and the service is top-notch. The food is truly world class; the only pizzas that I’ve had to rival this one in taste come from (the now defunct) Giordano’s in Chicago and Mellow Mushroom in North Carolina. Make no mistake — the sheer quantity of wild topping options is worth making a trip for, and I can guarantee you won’t leave disappointed.

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4) Lemongrass

Thai food… in Fairbanks? It’s true! In fact, Fairbanks is fairly well known for having a staggering array of Thai food options, and Lemongrass is a particularly delectable choice. As I alluded to earlier, this one’s tucked slyly within a strip mall of sorts, so it’s fairly easy to overlook. You’d be smart to look it up, though, as everything at the table I sat at drew wide smiles from those eating. Naturally, the Pad Thai was remarkable, so even if you aren’t feeling too adventurous, you can still snag a great Thai meal in Alaska.

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5) Crow’s Nest at the Captain Cook Hotel

I’ll be honest with you; this one’s worth stopping at just for the view. The food is delicious, mind you, but it’s a bit pricey and not quite as on-point as the grub at Seven Glaciers. But if you’re looking for the most impressive view of Anchorage from an eatery in the city, this is it. It’s located on the 20th (i.e. top) floor of The Captain Cook Hotel, and the overlook of the city (shown above) is simply astonishing. Be prepared to pay said view, though, and make absolutely sure you and your partner save room for the Bananas Foster dessert. That alone is worth making a reservation for.

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Obviously, there are a lot more than five great places to eat in the state of Alaska. Southside Bistro, Bear Tooth Theater Pub and Middle Way Cafe all come highly recommended in the Anchorage area, while Big Daddy’s BBQ in Fairbanks calls itself the most northerly place to get southern barbecue. Got any other great recommendations for food in Alaska? Shout ‘em out in the comments section below!

[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

2011 Iditarod begins today

The 2011 Iditarod beings today!The 2011 edition of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway today in Anchorage, Alaska, where 62 mushers, and their teams of dogs, will set out on an 1131 mile journey to Nome. The event, which is billed as “The Last Great Race,” is an annual test of stamina and skill for both the dogs and their drivers.

The Iditarod was first run back in 1973 and over the years has easily become the most popular sporting event in Alaska. The event pays homage to an historic sled dog run that took place in 1925 in which teams of mushers raced against the clock to deliver a lifesaving diphtheria serum to Nome at a time when many children were stricken with the disease. Norwegian Gunnar Kaasen and his lead dog Balto became well known celebrities for completing the final leg into the town with the medical supplies in tow.

Today, the ceremonial start to the Iditarod will take place on 4th Avenue and D Street in Anchorage, where large crowds will gather to see the teams off. The real race gets underway tomorrow however, when the action moves to Willow. From there, the competition will truly get underway, with the top mushers expected to arrive in Nome in about 10-12 days depending on weather conditions.

The field is full of experienced teams, but the man to beat is still Lance Mackey, who is the four-time defending champ. Mackey and his dogs have easily been the fastest team over the past few years, and until someone steps up to take the crown, he’s still the odds on favorite. He may be challenged by 23-year old Dallas Seavey however. Seavey, who placed eighth last year, recently won the 1000-mile long Yukon Quest, and seems to be an emerging force in the sport.

Good luck to all the mushers and their dogs. Race well and stay safe on the trail.

[Photo credit: Kevin Horan/Getty Images]




Winter in Alaska: Fur Rondy 2011 highlights, from snowshoe softball to dog weight pulling (video)

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.



A glimpse at the variety of events that make up Alaska’s Fur Rondy

Alaska’s Fur Rendezvous Festival is a real treat. The 2011 version is the 76th annual running of the event, and particularly over the past four years, things have been looking up for those involved. This year’s edition kicked off with a serious bang — the weather in Anchorage was absolutely amazing, and locals and tourists alike flocked to downtown in order to witness (or participate in) thoroughly Alaskan events like the Frostbite Footrace, dog weight pull, ice and snow sculpture carving and multi-tribal dance gatherings. The event is one that’s cherished by Alaskans all over the state. For one, it gives everyone a chance to come together and celebrate the awesomeness that is Winter in Alaska. Secondly, it gives Alaskans a reason to celebrate the impending arrival of Spring.

I had a chance to experience Fur Rondy as an outsider, but left feeling like someone who was welcomed with open arms. Peek the video above for a glimpse into the real magic behind this event, and read on for a bit of perspective that I gained from picking Ernie Hall’s brain.

%Gallery-117714%For those unaware, Ernie Hall is fairly big deal in Alaska. He moved here in 1959, the same year that Alaska gained statehood. Needless to say, he’s seen every single thing that has happened to The Last Frontier since becoming an official state within the US of A. For the past four years, he has been an integral part of organizing Fur Rondy, and I was able to sit down and pick his brain about the event. Currently, he sits on the board, and his job to ensure that sponsors are found, events are organized and that the community plays an integral part in everything.

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According to him, Rondy had “fallen on hard times” a few years back. The issue was simple: the event had been ushered away from the locals, and turned more into a commercial spectacle. In truth, it’s the communities within Alaska that makes this all so special, and if you remove the pride factor, you’ve sucked the heart right out of the event. When he stepped in, he took it upon himself to convince sponsors to give him “one more chance,” and he vowed to let the community run things once again. Evidently, that’s exactly what happened.

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During my stay this past weekend in Anchorage, I saw beaming Alaskans at every event. Crowds were noticeable, and people were genuinely excited to be here. The events themselves went off without a hitch. Ernie said that the 45 days leading up to the starting weekend were the craziest 45 days of his entire year, but once the planning was nailed down, he found that enjoying Fur Rondy was the easy part. Indeed, the events schedule rolled on like a well-oiled machine, and as a spectator, I kept finding myself in amazement at just how well everything was put together and just how “Alaskan” everything felt. If you’re looking for a neck-deep dive into Alaskan culture, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity than at Fur Rondy.

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This year, two events in particular garnered a vast amount of attention. The first is Yukigassen. It’s a sophisticated snowball fight that’s hugely popular in Japan, and the tournament held here at Fur Rondy was the first sanctioned Yukigassen event in the United States. The battles were intense, and from the sidelines, it certainly looked like gobs of fun. I’m giving it 12 months before places like North Dakota, Minnesota and other snow-filled locales pick up on it. Even The Travel Channel’s own Bert Kreischer (from Bert the Conqueror) made it out to join in the festivities, and we caught up with him for an interview here.


Not only did he sling a few snowballs at enemies across the field, he also participated in the World’s Largest Outhouse Race. He brought a crew up to Anchorage in order to race down a snowy street, pushing a gal in a customized Bert the Conqueror outhouse in hopes of claiming the gold. It’ll eventually show up in a future episode, but you can take a sneak peek from my footage here.

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I departed Fur Rondy with one overriding realization: this festival is just magical. Visiting Alaska marked my 50th state, and it’s safe to say that it’s easily one of my favorites. There’s no question that this state is vast, but you’re able to get a handle on quite a bit of the culture by just spending a weekend or two at For Rondy. Just interacting with the folks who show up here is a real treat, and it’s already got my considering a training regimen in order to enter next year’s Yukigassen tournament. Who says a boy from the south can’t hang with these Arctic folks? (Well, I do, but I’m working on toughening up.)

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[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

Bert the Conqueror joins the Outhouse Races in Alaska’s Fur Rondy (video)

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.



Bert the Conqueror joins the madness in the 2011 Fur Rondy Outhouse Races

I need only say the name to pique your interest. Outhouse Races. “Is this event what I think it is?” That’s the question I asked about ten minutes prior to arriving at the starting line. “Oh, yeah — it’s exactly what you think it is.” That’s the quip I received in return. This is the world’s largest Outhouse Race, and it’s held annually at Alaska‘s own Fur Rondy Festival. This year marked the 76th anniversary of the event, and it just seems to get better and better. Not only did 2011 mark the addition of Yukigassen to the agenda, but it also brought in The Travel Channel’s own Bert the Conqueror. Bert arrived in Anchorage in order to shoot an upcoming episode of his show, and in addition to participating in a Yukigassen match, he also put together a team of friendlies to race an outhouse with him.

We won’t spoil the fun for you, but suffice it to say we caught him on tape recoding an introduction for the episode-to-be as well as making a lap around the bend. We all know Bert’s quite the competitor, and he definitely put his best foot forward here in Alaska’s snow. Be sure to DVR his show, too — no telling when this episode will air, but hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later.

Psst… missed our interview with Bert at Fur Rondy? Catch up here!

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My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

Winter in Alaska: Yukigassen brings team snowball fighting competition to Fur Rondy (video)

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.



A vicious, vicious Yukigassen match at the 2011 Fur Rondy Festival

It’s late February in Alaska, and that can only mean one thing: Fur Rendezvous. 2011 marks the 76th year that this extravaganza has taken over the streets of downtown Anchorage, and for two solid weekends, locals and tourists alike flock to the city to gawk and participate. This year, the Fur Rondy board decided to spice things up a bit by adding one more event to the roster: Yukigassen. Translated from Japanese, it means “snow battle,” and that’s exactly what it looks like when played out. At this year’s festival, the first sanctioned Yukigassen tournament was held in America, giving the teams a chance to go on and compete at a higher level should they take the gold here in Anchorage.

It’s a blast to watch, and I can only imagine how much fun it’d be to take part in. It’s a little like paintball, but you’ll need to substitute snowballs for paint-filled pellets to really grok it. Teams have a stockpile of snowballs behind their flag, which can only be transferred forward to other teammates by rolling them on the ground (i.e. no tossing allowed). The goal is simple: be on the team that captures the opponent’s flag, or be on the team that has the last man / woman standing. It’s like dodgeball, but for angst-ridden adults with a bone to pick and plenty of steam to blow off. Here’s hoping this sport spreads from AK down into the lower 48, but for now, have a look at two teams battling it out in the video above and the gallery below.

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My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.