Image used under Flickr Creative Commons license from Nicole Klauss.
Farm to table, forage to fork—whatever you want to call the movement, Alaskans have been practicing it for centuries. Some of the most pristine land and waterways in the world combined with a relatively isolated spot on the map means that eating local has become a way of life. Here we’ve gathered some of the best local foods you should discover during your trip, and where to find them!
Delicious, nutritious wild salmon has become almost synonymous with Alaska by now, and that suits Alaskans just fine. But where to dig into premium King, Coho, or prized Copper River Sockeye salmon? For a splurge, Simon & Seafort’s Saloon and Grill is one of Anchorage’s best places to order the fine cuts of fish. The immensely popular Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage also serves grilled Copper River salmon and inventive dishes like smoked salmon pesto.
In Glacier Bay, the unassuming Gustavus Inn uses salmon straight from the Icy Strait as an ingredient in just about everything. Sashimi, crisped salmon skin, crab stuffed with salmon, salmon head broth… talk about nothing going to waste!
King Crab is King
You can’t go wrong with any of the seafood in Alaska, which includes halibut, scallops, and the delectable king crab. The Snow Goose restaurant in Anchorage prides itself on its craft food and beer, like fresh king crab and an Alaskan take on cioppino, a traditional Italian seafood soup. True to its name, the Snow Goose also whips up a snow goose burger, which is a native Alaskan bird. For true crab aficionados, Tracy’s King Crab Shack in downtown Juneau is a no-fuss spot to see fresh-caught king, snow, and Dungeness crab prepared directly in front of you.
Caribou (aka Reindeer)
Like most game meat, caribou is rich with flavor and full of healthier fats than farm-raised beef. At the casual Loose Moose Café in Fairbanks, pull up to the table for reindeer burgers, fresh steaks, and wrapped reindeer sausages that you can take home as a souvenir. The charming Marx Café—located in a snug converted home in Anchorage—is sometimes dubbed the best restaurant in Alaska for its inventive platings of reindeer medallions and fresh Alaska oysters in a half-shell. Or for one of the best caribou burgers in Anchorage, head on down to the Solstice Bar & Grill.
It makes sense that Alaska would be home to a native fruit named after the illustrious salmon. Salmonberries resemble blackberries, but are a yellow or (you guessed it) salmon-pink color instead. Juicy, and a combination of tart and sweet, look for native salmonberry in dessert compotes or used as a boost to dressings for fish and game. The Killer Whale Café in Cordova, Alaska earned a spot on the Food Network’s “Best Of” program for its outstanding salmonberry pie. One taste and you’ll see why.
Wild blueberries represent an additional fruit feast in Alaska—don’t miss out! You might even be able to snag some yourself on the hiking trail.
A colder, alpine climate like Alaska’s may not be the first one that comes to mind when considering fresh greens and herbs, but plenty of creative Alaskan chefs have made local forage their mission. At the Seward Brewing Company, for example, the chef makes use of his coastal location and throws in chickweed and seagrass for extra flavor. At the gateway to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, award-winning McCarthy Lodge prides itself on a locally sourced menu. Even lesser-known herbs such as borage are sometimes used in preparations.
Green onions, beets, cabbage, and more can all be grown in Alaska’s short summer growing season as well, so look for these fresh veggies on your menu.
Alaskans have always been resourceful when it comes to living (and eating) off the land. Their surrounding ecosystem, can-do attitude, and commitment to the finest cuisine lend themselves to an outstanding dining experience time and again. What can we say? Eating local is simple when the food is this amazing!