Alaska is vast, offering rugged, unspoiled and beautiful terrain. With access to superbly fresh seafood and a plentiful array of game meats, state capital Juneau’s restaurant scene is an exciting mix of fine dining and home-style neighborhood spots. We explore ten of the best local dining establishments in this capital of the last frontier.
For an establishment that’s been in business for less than ten years, Tracy’s King Crab Shack has made an impressive mark on Juneau’s food landscape. The restaurant was born out of a love for crabs, sports, and people. The staff is a close-knit group that are friendly and welcoming, and have a passion for sports. Beyond serving hot, locally-sourced crab legs with butter, the menu offers crab cakes, crab rolls, crab bisque, and seafood appetizers. Needless to say, Tracy’s is the place for the crab lover, looking for a laid-back environment to enjoy the fruit of the nearby Alaskan sea.
Salt takes local Alaskan flavors and ingredients and updates them with modern flair; the result is a stunning juxtaposition of rustic heart and fine dining. The atmosphere is upscale, yet comfortable, and guests are often entertained with unobtrusive and pleasant live piano music. The menu at Salt combines unexpected elements, like roasted chestnut soup with prawns, and sea scallop carbonara, to obtain a perfect marriage of flavors. Waitstaff is attentive and professional, yet still have the congenial warmth expected from a local restaurant. Whether you are a visitor or a permanent resident, Salt is certainly not to be missed.
Pelmeni is a common food eaten in Russia, consisting of a very thin flour dough, filled with meat and vegetables. Pel’Meni restaurant boasts a small menu that keeps locals coming back time and again. The menu is so small, in fact, that pelmeni is the only thing on it. For $5, guests get a large portion of the heavenly pastry pillows, filled with their choice of beef or potatoes, and topped with sour cream. Some locals call this haunt a dive, but we like to call it humble. However you name it, Pel’Mini is uncomplicated, allowing for the delicious simplicity of their food to shine through.
With the friendly face of a famous cartoon character as its logo, Bullwinkle’s is a playful throwback to childhood. The restaurant is unpretentious and straightforward, serving pizza and fresh-made sandwiches. Customers have been dining at this local spot for over forty years, and at its second location west of town for over thirty. Classic pies are a favorite of regulars, while the house specialty pizzas like barbecue chicken, taco, and garlic veggie supreme are also popular. Bullwinkle’s is a perfect place to grab – or order for delivery – a great pizza when cooking is out of the question.
The Rookery is a quaint cafe in the heart of Juneau that has grown into much more than just a coffee shop. It is open all day, serving American food with heavy influences from local flavors and ingredients. Priding itself on freshness, The Rookery makes as much of its food from scratch as possible.House favorites on the menu include coconut-poached Alaskan scallops, champagne and three cheese fondue, and the cedar roasted salmon with beet greens. For a quiet, locals-only meal, this is the place to go.
One of the best things about Juneau is the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds it; The Hangar on the Wharf takes full advantage of that, with panoramic views of the Gastineau Channel. The restaurant has been in business for nearly 20 years, and has become both a local standard and a popular destination for out-of-town visitors. The menu offers contemporary American fare, with several dishes using local seafood. Beyond that, soups, salads, sandwiches, and classics like jambalaya and chicken fried steak round out the options.
Rockwell has been described as a clean and modern local bar. The interior is understated and tasteful, and local talent often provides live entertainment in the dining room. Its location away from the port keeps it mostly hidden from visitors coming in from the nearby cruise docks, preserving its quiet neighborly feel. The menu is uncomplicated and straightforward, offering American classics made from scratch. Fan favorites include the prime rib french dip or the citrus king salmon, and the menu also has several offerings for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free needs. Rockwell also offers a variety of local beers on tap, for a truly Alaskan experience.
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Sandpiper Café is always busy, especially on the weekends, which further attests to its standing as one of Juneau’s best. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch daily, so be sure to hit it up early in the day so you don’t miss it. The breakfast menu is packed with hearty comforts like omelets, eggs benedict, and steak and eggs. The lunch dishes consist of burgers, sandwiches, soups, and salads. There are several items for vegetarians as well, such as tofu, scrambled egg and french toast. This haunt remains a local favorite due to its consistently great food, friendly staff, and generous portions.
In a city where fresh seafood is constantly available, it seems apropos for a great restaurant to spring up and take advantage of this. Enter Twisted Fish. As the name suggests, the menu highlights the freshest catch from Alaskan waters, with its dishes like sweet potato shrimp cakes, clam chowder, and sauteed Alaskan black cod. The restaurant is popular with both locals and visitors, being within walking distance of the cruise docks. Twisted Fish is open daily for lunch and dinner, but only during the summer months. From October to April, the owners and staff close up for the winter and prepare for the coming year.
It would be difficult to think of Juneau without thinking of the Red Dog Saloon. This restaurant and bar has been in business since the end of the 19th century, when mining brought droves of newcomers to the Klondike region. Since then, the saloon has changed locations, but has held on to its history – and a collection of antique guns and furs that still decorate the dining room to this day. The restaurant serves bar classics that stick to your ribs and go down perfectly with an ice cold beer. Red Dog Saloon is a stalwart fixture in Juneau’s restaurant and commercial landscape, and is a delightfully nostalgic place in which to experience a glimpse of the past.