Ketchikan is the self-proclaimed “Salmon Capital of Alaska” and salmon certainly are evident there: in the water, near the water, and (unfortunately) wafting in the air. While Skagway is a charming little burg (if a bit touristy in places) and Juneau is a solid small city (if a bit touristy in places), Ketchikan is a stinky touristy mess. I don’t think the stink is due to the tourists — well, maybe in part — but rather it is due to the decaying salmon on the banks of the creek that runs through downtown to the waterfront. We actually saw more salmon in Skagway’s creek than in Ketchikan’s, but we sure smelled them in Ketchikan. Which didn’t exactly make us want to eat them in Ketchikan.
And that’s okay because we were headed for Burger Queen (518 Water Street), a favorite among cruise forum posters, for burgers and fries. BQ is an unassuming little white shack right across the street from the docks, with four small tables inside and a couple more outside (for use on those rare non-rainy Ketchikan days), and a typically long wait as they cook food to order. It wasn’t that busy when we were there, but still took 30+ minutes to get our food.Not really worth the wait, either, although it came close to burger excellence: toasted sesame seed bun, tangy 1,000 Island dressing, fresh lettuce/tomato/onion, all good and in the right proportions. And it looked like it would be juicy and delicious. Unfortunately, the half-pound ground beef puck was neither charred nor juicy nor particularly anything at all. If they cut the burger to 1/4 pound and put a good char on it, and maybe have a freer hand with the salt, they’d have a winner. But you don’t have to have a winner in order to be a winner when you’re a burger shack right across from the cruise ship docks…
Partial redemption came from the big basket of crisp, hot, salty, thin-cut fries, and the halibut sandwich was (reportedly) good too. Fries and Fish Sandwich Queen doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?
We weren’t in Ketchikan all that long and didn’t have time to do any additional eating, and that was fine, we didn’t see any place that looked like it might be even as good as Burger Queen. Even more than other Alaskan towns, Ketchikan consists nearly 100% of gift shops, art boutiques, and jewelry stores — just regular old jewelry stores, not selling special Alaskan artifacts or that kind of thing. Do cruise ship passengers really spend so much money on the kind of jewelry you can buy literally in any city anywhere in the U.S. that they prop up a booming jeweler industry in every port in Alaska? Makes no sense to me, but there they all are. Some of the art boutiques are nice and have genuine local Alaskan art, but even those start to look the same after a while.
Plus you can’t eat jewelry. We did have a beer — more Alaskan IPA/APA — at a little bar/liquor store whose name I didn’t write down and where we finally found wi-fi, albeit slow and limited to a half-hour. Wi-fi is tough to find throughout Alaska, but Ketchikan was especially problematic. We can not haz internets. Apropos of my previous post, I could happily spend some time in Skagway or Juneau, but I don’t need to go back to Ketchikan (although their new public library is quite nice — and a half-mile out of town and just over a hill, so all you can smell there is clean pine forests and pure icy glaciers).