Unlike most capital cities, Juneau can be found beneath a snow-capped mountain, surrounded only by hiking trails, wildflowers and icy waters. Visiting the city on a cruise to Alaska is one of the most exciting journeys you’ll likely ever take, and when you arrive, there’s plenty waiting for you.
Juneau’s food scene has never been so vibrant. Along with traditional eateries serving the freshest Alaskan seafood, eclectic fusion restaurants have popped up, creating new takes on the country’s classic dishes. To help you make the most of your time in this beautiful city, we have created a guide to the best restaurants within 20 minutes of your cruise port in Juneau.
Juneau’s food scene
Despite its remote location, the city’s food scene has blossomed in recent years. Juneau Food Tours, a company offering culinary experiences in downtown Juneau, is proof of this increased interest in food and drink in the capital. We caught up with owner Midgi Moore to find out more about eating in the area:
“The food scene has changed tremendously over the past five to six years,” said Midgi. “We can actually pinpoint what the catalyst was. Travis Smith, owner of The Rookery Café, wanted to start a dinner menu. He brought in Chef Beau Schooler. Chef Beau is a two-time James Beard nominee, and through his talent and skills, created a dinner menu that excited Juneau residents. From there, restaurants realised that dining was more than food, it was an experience and we were quite happy to support that experience.
“Juneau currently has a plethora of unique dining options ranging from the sophisticated Salt, casual fish tacos and beer at Deckhand Dave’s, to the comfortable, friendly dining experience of Hangar on the Wharf.”
Alaska is famous for its delicious fresh seafood and, perhaps surprisingly, its exceptional craft beer. We asked Midgi what people should be sure to try on their Alaskan cruise holiday:
“When visiting Juneau, I think it’s a must to stop at Tracy’s King Crab Shack for her award-winning crab bisque. I’d also recommend anything at Deckhand Dave’s or V’s Cellar Door, and we have a new waterfront place, Pier 49, which boasts a fantastic view.
“As far as drinks go, a stop at the Amalga Distillery is always fun. Owners Brandon Howard and Maura Selenak distil their own gin, aptly named Juneauper Gin, as well as their own tonic. They forage Juneau’s coastline and forest for botanicals to use in the cocktails and each batch is just a little different, but always tasty.
“New on the beverage scene is The Narrows Bar, which is a chic, small cocktail bar featuring fine spirits. I definitely recommend the Manhattan or my personal favourite, the Rattlesnake. For something old school, don’t miss The Imperial Bar (est. 1891), as well as the Super Tots from Front Street Café. Lastly, swing by the Alaskan Bar, where one can get an Alaskan beer in the Alaskan bar served by an Alaskan. It’s what we call the trifecta of visiting Juneau.”
With so many new and exciting restaurants popping up in this remote Alaskan city, we asked Midgi to recommend a few of her favourites:
“It’s not unusual to find me having lunch at Hangar on the Wharf or dinner at Salt. I’m always up for small plates and wine at The Rookery Café, or In Bocca al Lupo, Chef Beau’s Italian restaurant. In our valley area, a few miles outside of town, I enjoy brisket and sumptuous food prepared by Chef Abby LaForce at Zerelda’s Bistro. The beauty of Juneau is there are so many choices!”
Midgi’s food tours cover many of Juneau’s most eclectic eateries and are worth considering on your cruise holiday to the city. “We enjoy tastings at seven locations, including everything from the casual food truck to fine dining with a wine pairing,” said Midgi. “We focus on Alaska’s wild seafood, but also include fun tastings such as a hog wing and soba noodle salad with duck confit.
“We firmly believe that food brings people together and that there is no better way to experience a community than through its food. Our culinary hosts are local residents who enjoy sharing the food scene as well as local tidbits of history and fun facts about living in Alaska. Our mission is simple: to deliver tasty memories.”
Best restaurants in Juneau
Tracy’s King Crab Shack
This popular Juneau eatery was the brainchild of Tracy, who moved to the city in 1996 and immediately fell in love with crabbing and the fishing industry. On her website, Tracy says: “I found crab fascinating, the pulling of the pots, the cleaning of the crab, cooking, the scenery, the company and of course the taste of the crab was awesome!” In 2006, Tracy decided to follow her dreams and start a business selling delicious crab. Today, you can enjoy mouth-watering king crab dishes at Tracy’s King Crab Shack on your cruise holiday, which is just a two-minute walk from the port.
Owned and operated by a former commercial fisherman, it comes as no surprise that Deckhand Dave’s is one of the best places to enjoy seafood in Juneau. Tuck into delicious halibut, salmon or rockfish tacos with red cabbage slaw, pico de gallo and cilantro, or panko-breaded salmon with fries, just moments from the port.
The Rookery Café
Voted the number one restaurant in the 2014 and 2015 Juneau Empire Readers’ Choice Awards, it’s safe to say The Rookery Café is well-loved in the city. Stop for breakfast to enjoy an Alaskan twist on the classic eggs benedict, with Amalga Distillery Juneauper Gin-cured sockeye salmon, or pop by for a warming coffee and cake while exploring the city. The café also serves lunch and dinner.
Hangar on the Wharf
Overlooking the surrounding mountains and the Gastineau Channel, a visit to Hangar on the Wharf is highly recommended by locals. Serving warming Alaskan halibut chowder for cold days, delicious stuffed sandwiches such as the turkey provolone and unique dishes like the wasabi salmon burger, you’re guaranteed to find something to suit your taste here. Wash it down with a refreshing glass of Alaskan craft beer. Hangar on the Wharf is just a three-minute stroll from the cruise port.
Twisted Fish Company
In the summer, locals and visitors flock to Twisted Fish Company for their fix of tasty Alaskan cuisine and craft cocktails. As well as an extensive menu of wild Alaskan seafood, the restaurant serves unique creations including the wild berry halibut burger, peppered salmon mac and cheese and smokehouse pizzas. Walk along Franklin Street for four minutes to get to Twisted Fish Company.
In Bocca al Lupo
If you’re in the mood for Italian food during your visit, head to In Bocca Al Lupo. The restaurant’s name is Italian for ‘into the wolf’s mouth’, a way to wish someone good luck. Tempting wood-fired pizzas and handmade pasta feature on the menu at In Bocca Al Lupo, one of Juneau’s newest eateries, which is only an eight-minute walk from the cruise port.
Alaska Fish & Chips Company
In the heart of downtown Juneau, Alaska Fish & Chips Company is another firm favourite among locals. Whether you want to gorge on Alaskan crab cakes, fish tacos or salmon burgers, there’s something for all seafood fans here. Meat-lovers can opt for the hand-dipped corn dog with reindeer sausage. The eatery also boasts an impressive selection of local craft beers from the likes of Alaskan Brewing Co, Denali Brewing, Midnight Sun Brewing, and Silver Gulch Brewing. Take a six-minute walk from the port to reach the restaurant.
V’s Cellar Door
If you’re not the biggest fan of seafood, or if you’ve already indulged in some fresh king crab and fancy something different, visit Mexican-Asian fusion restaurant, V’s Cellar Door. Its spectacular menu includes burritos, tacos, quesadillas and nachos, all influenced by Asian cuisine. If you just can’t decide what to order, take a peek at V’s Fusion Favourites on the menu. This eclectic eatery is just an eight-minute walk from the cruise port.
Perhaps the closest of all the restaurants in Juneau is Pier 49, a brand new restaurant just 89 feet from the cruise ship terminal. Its mouth-watering menu includes king crab tacos for just $3, reindeer sausage with sauerkraut and barbecue salmon. Enjoy your meal with one of the restaurant’s speciality drinks such as Mermaid Water, The Last Frontier Margarita or The Gold Rush.
Modern restaurant Salt has been praised for its creative approach to Alaskan cuisine. Using fresh seafood, butcher-cut steaks and seasonal ingredients to create its unique menu, Salt is an exciting place to stop by for dinner on your visit to Juneau. Expect dishes such as herb brined pork shoulder and king crab risotto, paired with exceptional wines.
Don’t leave without trying
Barnacle Foods’ kelp salsa
Barnacle Foods creates delicious salsas and pickles from a natural ingredient that Alaska offers in abundance – kelp. Owners Matt and Lia grew up in Southeast Alaska and are passionate about making sustainable, tasty products. We caught up with the duo to find out more about the natural ingredients on offer in Alaska and why they chose kelp:
“From the coastal bounty of salmon, seaweed and berries, we fill our cupboards every year. Bull kelp is a favourite ingredient we’ve been using for years. On the way back home from a fishing trip we’d fill a cooler with kelp, gather our friends and create handmade pickles and salsas in our kitchen. Over the years we experimented with new recipes, our batches grew, and the list of people we shared it with grew longer.
We realised we were making something special, a taste of home that we should share with more than just our friends and family. Bringing the wild flavours of Southeast Alaska from our kitchen into yours.”
As well as creating incredible flavours, the team behind Barnacle Foods also focus on sustainability. Matt and Lia added: “Our first goal is to make delicious food, but we’re also conscious about using abundant and sustainable local food sources, like wild kelp. By preserving kelp in the form of salsas and pickles, we are bringing this renewable resource to your kitchen year-round.
“We go to great lengths – and depths – to capture the essence of Southeast Alaska by using locally-grown, harvested and foraged ingredients like kelp. In harvesting wild ingredients, our priority is to make the least impact on the environment around us and keep the resources we rely on as healthy as we found them. We are stewards of our environment and want to make sure these resources continue to be available for future generations.
“Living in Alaska, only connected to the Lower 48 through barge or plane, isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. Living in Southeast Alaska makes us who we are and our products what they are, and despite any challenges, we’re committed to maintaining our home and business right here.”
On your Alaska cruise, be sure to pick up something to take home from Barnacle Foods. “Our Campfire Kelp Salsa4 (made from 40 per cent kelp) is a popular choice for those who like a little bit of spice,” said Matt and Lia, “and our Dill Kelp Pickles are an awesome addition to cocktails, a sandwich or straight out of the jar.”
A pretzel from Peterson’s Pretzels
Be sure to stop by Peterson’s Pretzels for an after-dinner treat or for something delicious to snack on while you’re exploring Juneau. The family-owned business serves a selection of tasty pretzels, including the traditional pretzel, spicy jalapeno, Italian parmesan, cinnamon sugar and the ‘everything pretzel’, made with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried minced onion and garlic.
Beer from Alaskan Brewing Co
As it’s served in pretty much every bar and restaurant in Juneau, you won’t have any trouble finding a crisp pint of beer from Alaskan Brewing Co. The brewery opened in 1986 by Marcy and Geoff Larson, who wanted to create beers reflecting many of the characteristics of beers that were brewed locally in the Gold Rush era. Its website states: “From the historically based Alaskan Amber recipe to alder-smoked malts and Sitka spruce tips, Alaskan beers reflect Juneau’s local brewing history and innovation”.
If you’re itching to explore Alaska and just can’t wait, take a look at our last minute cruise deals to find your dream holiday. Have you visited Alaska or Juneau before? We’d love to hear all about your adventures!
Image credits: Kimberly Vardeman, Juneau Food Tours, Antti T. Nissinen