Alaska Recommendations Needed - Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Seward
We’ll be in Alaska for almost two weeks prior to a cruise out of Seward. Flying into Fairbanks and spending time there, in Denali, Anchorage, and Seward. I have some major needs for 2 adults and 2 kids who eat anything and everything. The kids are fine in ANY restaurant. Price does not matter, only looking for the best food. I would like some great seafood, great asian if its available, native American food if available, and the best Alaskan cuisine.
We need recommendations for 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, and 3 Dinners in FAIRBANKS. We are staying at Sophie Station and will have a car. The best recommendations I have found are for Pike’s Landing, Zack’s, Lavelle’s Bistro, and Lulu’s and Sam’s Sourdough Café.
We need recommendations for 2 Lunches and 2 Dinners in DENALI. We are staying at the McKinley Chalet Resort. We have (free) tickets to cabin night for a night so far.
We need recommendations for 3 Lunches and 4 Dinners in ANCHORAGE. We are staying at the Anchorage Grand Hotel but will not have a car. The best recommendations I have found are for Crow’s Nest, Simon and Seafort, Sacks, Orso, Glacier Brewhouse, Mooses Tooth Pizza, Kumogoro, Marx Brothers, Humpy’s, Savannah Grill, and Bear Tooth.
We need recommendations for 2 Dinners and 2 Lunches in SEWARD. We are staying at the Van gilder but will not have a car. The only good recommendation I have is for Ray’s on the Waterfront.
1. Buy a Milepost. It's our bible and will give you good info.
2. Most of your picks are the top tourist places. If you'll be on a cruise anyway, why not seek out the places locals like? Especially if you're already coming from a big city with plenty of great choices, avoid our best restaurants.
3. Seward--Ray's is over-rated. Go a few steps north and experience the seafood at Chinooks. Christo's Palace downtown near the SeaLife Center is actually fun and good.
We live in Anc, have a boat in Seward, and spent a week camping in Fairbanks last summer, so let me think more on the Fb options...
You have a decent start. Don't have any current recs for Denali, but it's never had much in terms of good food. Too many buses and tours.
In Anchorage, Orso/Moose's Tooth and Glacier Brewhouse each get a good mix of tourists and locals and are solid but not spectacular. Simon and Seafort's an institution but can be hit or miss.
Consider grabbing some quick stuff, like the reindeer dogs off a street cart or a stop at the Saturday farmer's market. Other considerations: Jen's and, if you're in the mood for a time-warped steak house, Club Paris.
On the way to Seward, stop at the Alyeska bake shop if you're heading down in the a.m. or hit the Double Musky if it's in the evening. There's also a great tram ride to 7 Glaciers but the food is inconsistent -- plus it can be socked in by weather and you'll miss the view.
In Fairbanks, well, good luck. It's just not a big enough area to sustain a lot of great dining although I've had some decent meals there. Hit the salmon bake there, it's tough to mess up.
While I know this isn't a travel forum, the way your time is split seems to be a common visitor mistake -- unless there was some compelling reason to visit. With the amount of time you have you'd have been better either flying into ANC and heading to Denali for a couple of days. That way you could give more time to the Kenai Peninsula, which is much more interesting than the Fairbanks area with trips to Homer (some fun dining options) and sidetrips to places like Halibut Cove and Seldovia, plus great bear viewing options. Great museum in Fairbanks, but otherwise not that much up there. Paddlewheel trip and other excursions are a bit hokey and aimed at the more sedentary set.
On the drive from Denali to Anchorage, hit the historic Talkeetna Roadhouse (best for breakfast or burgers. ). Not fancy but nice atmosphere unless the tour buses are in town.
Yeah, I think in Denali I'm pretty much stuck. Reindeer dogs sound cool. We are heading to the market on a sunday morning so we are planning on "grazing" that morning for food.
As for our itinerary, It may not be sexy to the outdoorsy types but when you have two kids, ages 7 and 8, and you and your wife aren't the most outdoorsy types, then this works. Fairbanks sounds boring but when you consider we will spend one day up in the arctic, one day panning for gold and taking a boat and train trip, and a third day at the Fairbanks Musuem, Large Animal Research Center, Ice Musuem, and Pioneer Village... It fills up. Over three weeks in Alaska we will still take two flight seeing tours, check out the bears, hike a glacier, cruise through a glacier, go whale watching, dog sledding, driving through denali, and a bunch of other stuff.. I think we will get alot of Alaska. Now I just have to make sure that we also "taste" Alaska also.
Many of those touristy attractions--flightseeing, train, boat--include a meal that will satisfy you. Everyplace you're staying has a restaurant, so don't even worry about seeking out something else. The kids will be happiest if you just seek out the ice cream shops everywhere you are--Alaskans eat more ice cream than any other state. You're really focusing on getting the most out of your time sightseeing-wise, so again, you'll have the good food on the ship (hopefully it's one of the better lines), so just focus on looking UP from your plate. There's a lot to see in AK and you'll have a fabulous time.
Two recommendations for Fairbanks:
Soupy Smith's right in downtown. Not much on the food, but it's got lot's of memorabilia on the walls.
Silver Gulch Brewery. It's actually in Fox, about 10 miles north of Fairbanks. On the way, you can stop and walk right up to the Alaska pipeline by the side of the road (the stop even has displays). Its a great brewpub, and when we were there, there were tons of families with small kids. It's a fun atmosphere and the food and beer were quite good.
We haven't lived in Anchorage since 2001, but if the weather is bad or you otherwise want to kill time in ANC ht the Bear Tooth Theater Pub for lunch and a $3 movie (or skip the movie and just have lunch). You can get some pretty yummy options with lots of kid-friendly fare and adults can get some good brew. The kids love to eat a slice of pizza in a movie theater!
Once upon a time there was also a really great drive-through seafood cart about one block from the corner of Nothern Lights and Arctic Boulevard. I loved that place! Super fresh grilled halibut and more. No indoor dining, just a little trailer and a nice big grill. The fish was cooked fresh when you ordered. So many of the seafood restaurants in ANC were really overpriced.
Hot Licks is a must to visit while in Fairbanks. They have delicious hand-made ice cream and savory pasties (meat and vegetarian varieties) to satisfy both the sweet tooth and your kids' daily vegetable serving. The pasties are mostly organic, made with veggies and/or meat, cheese and wrapped in a flaky crust...so delish! The ice cream is rBST free cream, so you don't have to worry about any added hormones in the milk. I specifically recommend the Smoked Salmon Pasty, which is made with Wild Caught Alaskan Smoked Salmon, fresh mascarpone cheese, organic potatoes onions and turnips. It's quite a yummy treat and the kids will love it! I recommend going at lunch time. Have fun and say hi to the owner, Geoff, a super chill, great guy.
Hot Licks Homemade Ice Cream
1899 Van Horn Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99701
So I discovered something interesting about Hot Licks. They also sell their ice cream (just 4 flavors) at the Riverboat Discovery ride and gold dredge places (both are terribly touristy but they were included with our tour). And they only charge $3 for a double scoop at both places! I had the AK Blueberry at the Riverboat place and it was excellent. Then they had the sugar free blueberry at the dredge and the consistency was not nearly as good so we did not buy any. Then we stopped by the actual Hot Licks store (we had a rental car our last day) and discovered a) they do not open until noon, and b) they charge $3 for a single and $6 for a double. So, after having lunch at the Cookie Jar, we went back to the riverboat place on our way to the airport (it's maybe 5 minutes away). The place was empty since the boat was out, but there were a few employees on the floor and one was able to help me. He probably thought I was crazy coming in just for the ice cream.
It was quite good, BTW, especially at $3 for a double!
The Cookie Jar Restaurant
1006 Cadillac Ct, Fairbanks, AK 99701
As AKgalleygirl mentioned, I much prefer dining at the local spots. Usually better food at a better value. I'm going to be in Fairbanks for 2 days and would appreciate any input. I won't have any kids in tow so the food and a nice atmosphere are much more important than kitchy or entertaining decorations.
Moose's Tooth Pizza was very very good. At lunch, be prepared for a wait. We were there at about 1:30 PM and had to wait about 10-15 minutes for a table. It's very popular. We had a burger at Tommy's Burger Stop that was very decent.
Ray's Waterfront was not very good at all, I would not return. The food was the worst we had in Seward. Resurrection Roadhouse was very good but you'd need transportation to get there. There's a decent place for sandwiches and breakfast items just across from the marina, next door to an ice cream shop. I don't remember the name. It's not far from Ray's, on the other side of the street. They have pastries and muffins, etc.
Tommy's Burger Stop
1106 W 29th Pl, Anchorage, AK 99503
3300 Old Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99503
31772 Herman Leirer Rd, Seward, AK 99664
I travel to ANC quite often. My favorite breakfast place is Snow City. They have great shakes there too. VERY family freindly. When going to Snow City call ahead, they will put you in line so you will not have to wait too long for a table. Simon and Seafort's happy hour is the best deal in town. Marx Brother's still does table side Caesar salads and has an amazing wine list. Thai Kitchen on Tudor is the best Thai in Alaska, and easily some of the best Thai food I have eaten. Orso continually disappoints me, many rave about it, but I have had nothing but 2nd rate experiences. The Glacier Brewhouse next door is a better choice, and the excellence of the beer is not matched in Anchorage. Yes Moose’s Tooth has excellent beer, but try the cask conditioned selection at GB and you will not be disappointed. Kobuk Coffee has really good doughnuts and very quaffable espresso. It is a bit touristy for my tastes, but I cannot resist a double shot and an old fashioned doughnut. Humpy’s has standard pub grub-what is stellar there is the beer list. If you like beer this is a must. Moose’s Tooth is hand down the best pizza in Alaska. The beer is also excellent.
The Crow's Nest is good-especially if you want extra attitude. It has a great view, but Simon and Seafort's does too and it is much friendlier and the food excellent.
In general, avoid the touristy salmon-bake type places. The salmon will be overcooked, overpriced and oversweet. If you can, get Sockeye. If you can smell sweet maple/honey on approach pick a new place.
New Sagaya is a local grocery that has wonderful deli choices. Perfect for picnicking and snacks.
939 W 5th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501
Marx Brothers Cafe
627 W Third Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501
3405 E Tudor Rd, Anchorage, AK 99507
737 W. 5th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501
Snow City Cafe
1034 W 4th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501
Here's another vote for New Sagaya. There's a small cafe there and it's always filled with locals grabbing a quick breakfast or lunch. And just as El Boorba says, it's perfect for picking up picnic items to take with you on your road trip north.
As for the rest of your trip -
Yes, Alaska is touristy. I suppose you can drive yourself nuts trying to avoid tourist spots, or you can just relax and go with the flow and decide that there must be a reason why people come from so far to see them. We lived there for four years and I honestly believe everybody we ever knew took that opportunity to visit us. After hauling visitors around for four years, I can tell you what were hits, especially since you're traveling with kids.
In Fairbanks: There's nothing wrong with the Riverboat Discovery. I'll bet I've been on it more than a dozen times, and always find something new and interesting to see or hear or learn. The kids will love seeing the fish wheels working.
Chena Pump House in Fairbanks. We were locals. We loved sitting out on that back deck sipping a Hot Apple Pie and watching the boats pass and the floatplanes land.
Fairbanks Salmon Bake. Touristy? You betcha. But I had three teenagers to fill up and they sure could do it there. The salmon is tasty. The beef ribs and sides not so much - although who goes to Alaska for beef ribs and limp cole slaw and mediocre baked beans anyway? But that deep fried halibut? That is the halibut of my dreams. Biting through the crunchy coating into steaming hot soft pillows of snowy white fish? Absolute heaven. Skip the sides. Fill up on the halibut. Then tuck into the cake with the fresh blueberry sauce. I don't care if virtual hoards of rubber-tire tourists surround me. That halibut is ambrosial and I won't apologize to anybody for loving it.
Malemute Saloon. Whoop it up with a bunch of the boys at the Malemute Saloon. It's a great time. You'll love it. The kids will love it. I love it. Over and over and over, I loved it. I loved it then and I love it still.
If you can find somebody to babysit the kids, Mom and Dad should down a brewski or two at the Howling Dog. A true Alaskan bar.
Drive up to the old Chatanika Gold Camp bunkhouse for a great breakfast of sourdough pancakes. They have a terrific Sunday Brunch, and we never went a month in the summertime without driving up there at least once. Seeing that old stove that runs the length of the bunkhouse is worth the drive all by itself. http://fairbanks-alaska.com/fe-compan...
For special evenings, if we didn't go to the Chena Pump House, we took the short drive out Chena Hot Springs Road to Two Rivers Lodge. Wonderful food and a great atmosphere. If your goal is avoid tourists, there are not a lot at Two Rivers. I think that's because it's well off the proverbial beaten path. You have to know about it and you have to have a car to get there. But it's been the place where Fairbanksians go for birthdays, anniversaries, office Christmas parties, etc., for many years. http://www.tworiverslodge.com/
In Anchorage, take the kids up the Alyeska ski lift. What a view.
Pick up some souvenirs from Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn on your drive up to Fairbanks. It comes by the name honestly. It's owned by a fellow named Dick, who indeed is extremely skinny, and the Inn is halfway between Fairbanks and Nenana. Items from Skinny Dick's never fail to attract attention in the L48. And if you've got a slightly juvenile brother-in-law with questionable taste for whom you need to bring back a souvenir, trust me, he'll love anything with Skinny's logo.
Here are our notes from 3 trips to Alaska, in 1999, 2000, & 2006.
Glacier Brewpub: huge, but surprisingly good
Marx Brothers: absolutely yes, probably the best in town
Moose’s Tooth Brewpub: fine pizza & craft beers, especially their Pipeline Stout
Southside Bistro: noisy but good
"New Sagaya is a local grocery that has wonderful deli choices. Perfect for picnicking and snacks." Quite agreed!
Glacier Brewpub & Moose's Tooth would probably be ok with kids (we don't have'em so don't know for sure). Marx Brothers would be good anywhere in the Lower 48, much less in Anchorage, but you might want to poke around online (Google, TripAdvisor, &c) to see if it'll suit you as a family.
Lynx Creek Pizza: eh
Nenana Bar & Grill: ok pizza
Rose’s Café (Healy): decent
The Denali area is heavily touristed & at best average for food. Nuff said. Bring picnic supplies from Anchorage & you'll be (far!) better off.
Ray's: eh to bad
Terry’s Fish & Chips: fine for the $
Again, as you know, there are 1-3+ HUGE boats a day pulling in & out & the place can be literally overrun with tourists. Hardly a good way to keep a good restaurant in business. Maybe you can find something good there, & report back? If you like aquariums, the one here is very well done.