Every city has its distinct architectural features – in Anchorage that would be gritty big-box store parking lots with soaring mountain views, 80-year-old log cabins tucked between condo developments, and many, many strip malls. In those malls — between the UPS stores, mani-pedi spots and storefront churches — you’ll often find some of the state’s best eating.
Situated on the traditional lands of the Dena’ina Athabascan people, Anchorage is a young city, founded along Ship Creek in 1914 as a hub for a railroad line running north to Fairbanks.
Modern Anchorage is incredibly diverse. More than 10 percent of the population is indigenous, making it one of the most indigenous cities in the United States per capita, and more than 100 languages are spoken in its schools. Asian and Pacific Islander influences are most pronounced in the restaurant world – you’re never very far from locally made kimchi, gas station Spam musubi, pho, a sushi roll, lumpia, or a poke bowl. You’ll also find lots of fine dining in the strip-mall eating scene. Nothing is more Anchorage than watching a woman in a sequined gown on the way to an upscale restaurant cross paths in a mall parking lot with someone carrying Thai takeout, and someone else coming from a yoga class.
Super fresh seafood – especially Alaska salmon, halibut and cod – are worth seeking out, especially in summer. A note on attire: Alaskans insist on a casual vibe. No matter how fine the cuisine, wearing Carhartt pants in the dining room is acceptable.
And a note on pandemic restaurant dynamics: Alaska is doubly impacted by supply-chain problems and many restaurants have been hobbled by a lack of summer season workers. All of this makes some aspects of dining unpredictable. Be prepared for longer waits at the table and missing menu items, and always check hours, as they may change unexpectedly.
Julia O’Malley, a third-generation Alaskan, is an editor and James Beard Award winning writer based in Anchorage.Read More