Nearly two full weeks in Alaska, including a cruise ship and followed by one day in culinary paradise Vancouver, provided a big mixed bag of food to review, which will happen over the next few days. First though I want to welcome Another Day in Wheaton to the local blogosphere; ADiW popped up at the beginning of 2013, amidst my hiatus. Another Day blogs about all kinds of Wheatony things — gardens, traffic, development, other stuff I don’t blog about. Check it out. Any other new-ish Wheaton blogs I should know about?
Okay, North to Alaska. Land of the
Rising Midnight Sun (hi Japan! You cannot see Japan from Alaska; I thought I caught a glimpse of Russia as we drove through Wasilla but then it hid behind a glacier — might have just been a moose). We flew all day to get there, routed inconveniently through Dallas (American hub) and only minimally fortified with anything edible upon arrival in Anchorage.
Tired and hungry, we stumbled down the street a few blocks from the Captain Cook Hotel to try the pizza at Uncle Joe’s (428 G Street), a local joint on a side street where most tourists don’t bother to walk. Uncle Joe’s* is kind of a dive (just the way we like it), with a handful of formica tables, a mostly exposed kitchen, and a staff of teenagers/twentysomethings who seemed to be having a lot of fun. I think they do a lot of takeout/delivery but most of the tables were occupied; we snagged the last one and ordered a slice of pepperoni, which was huge, enough for two, and excellent, teeming with meat, crisp crust, and a fine, inoffensive cheese-sauce balance.
* Joseph Stalin was known by Russians as Uncle Joe, back in the day. Despite Alaska’s history of Russian influence, there is no connection between Uncle Joe the Despot and Uncle Joe the Pizzaiolo. Just to be clear.
They also had a small but good selection of local microbrews — nearly every restaurant in Alaska seems to have a sometimes-small, always-good selection of local microbrews — and we especially liked the Glacier Brewhouse IPA, hoppy and citrusy and strong but balanced. The King Street IPA was unbalanced, the hops overwhelming all else. Two pints and a good, big slice for $15 (food in Alaska can be a bit more expensive than in the lower 48, but not as much more as we had imagined, and in some cases not any more at all) made a fine end to the day and a fine start to the trip.
The next morning we walked a block in the opposite direction to the Snow City Cafe (1034 W. 4th), which unlike Joe’s is one of the best-known tourist destinations and is packed every morning for breakfast, so we arrived 10 minutes before opening, and were not the first ones there. Snow City provides benches indoors to sit in, available even before they are official open, a nice welcoming touch given Alaska’s often inclement weather (it was indeed raining the morning we were there).
Touristy restaurants are a dicey proposition, since many of them coast on reputation as they decline in quality, but Snow City is pretty good, even if not quite as fabulous as some reviews might suggest. I don’t have much to compare it to, but I suspect it is genuinely one of the better restaurants in Anchorage. The Kodiak Benedict was worthwhile, with perfectly runny eggs, decent crab cakes, and huge crispy hash browns on the side. Salmon cakes proved less of a hit with our party, but everyone enjoyed the bread assortment, especially the delicious sticky buns and biscuits. We also liked the ambience, with high ceilings and bright natural light through one wall comprised entirely of windows. Large portions, reasonable prices, good way to fuel up for a four hour bus ride (urk) to near the southwest corner of Denali National Park.
Next: the food scene at Princess Lodge(s) around Denali.