Whether you’re visiting Juneau for a taste of our northernmost frontier or stopping in the city from the comfort of a cruise ship, there’s nothing like a foodie tour to introduce you to the real Alaska. Just choose your preferred mode of transport, a walking tour or floatplane adventure.
Sampling Juneau one step—and one restaurant—at a time
“Didn’t I check you in at the hotel last night?” Just as I’m about to dip my spoon into a piping hot cup of crab bisque, the young man standing in front of me catches me off guard. Not only is he skillfully cracking the shell of a giant king crab leg, we’re outdoors at Tracy’s King Crab Shack on Juneau’s wharf, not up the street at the reception desk of the Baranof Hotel. I admit to being a bit groggy from a late-night flight, but who knew Juneau, the capital of Alaska, was such a small town that I’d be recognized on my first day there?
It’s no accident I’m sitting at the counter of this local dining hotspot. Kelly “Call me Midgi” Moore has brought me and my husband here on her lunchtime Juneau Food Tours walk. When she’s not leading the group herself, Midgi turns over the guiding to fellow residents who know the territory intimately. “I want people to know what Juneau is about from the dining scene perspective,” she says.
That dining scene has exploded in the last few years, according to Midgi. Thanks to a new crop of creative chefs, you can graze at an Italian deli, go upscale at SALT, or sip imaginative craft cocktails at V’s Cellar Door. Midgi is determined to introduce us to her hometown and several chefs—one delicious bite at a time.
“I have three goals for your tour,” she announces. “Have fun. Learn something new. End the tour with a happy belly.”
After meeting Midgi on the waterfront, we walk down the city’s spiffy Seawalk, a.k.a. the wharf. Tracy’s King Crab Shack marks the first of our tour’s diverse tasting locations. Along with creamy King crab bisque, we sample a mini crab cake, all the while watching our friendly hotel clerk deftly prepare steamed King crab legs, one of the menu’s most popular items.
Tales of Juneau’s Treadwell gold mine and favorite pooch, Patsy Ann (immortalized by a bronze statue looking out to sea), serve as entertainment and education as we stroll toward such taste treats as panko crusted salmon at Deckhand Dave’s and hog wings (a lip-smacking morsel of pork on the bone) at McGivney’s.
Having primed our appetites on small bites, we’re off to V’s Cellar Door where owner V Santana heats it up with Korean/Mexican fusion. Her rendition of halibut fusion nachos is so incredibly yummy, we make a note to return.
An even more delicious surprise awaits at the modern, upscale SALT restaurant and bar. If you’re looking for a high-end dining experience in Juneau, this is the place. As we sit admiring the décor, a trio of beer-battered Alaskan cod tacos made with blue corn tortillas magically appears. That would be one plate of three tacos for each of us and the day’s chef’s choice. A glass of Sauvignon Blanc is chosen to pair with our fish tacos.
No taste of Juneau would be complete without a sip or three of the local brews. Built in 1913, the Victorian-style Alaskan Hotel & Bar offers just the right ambiance for checking out Alaskan Brewing Co.’s finest. We sip Amber, based on a Gold Rush-era recipe; White, a wheat ale; and Free Ride APA. As for the hotel, it’s the oldest operating hotel in the state and one many claim to be haunted.
Before saying good-bye, Midgi reminds us of her three goals. Did we have fun? Check. Have we learned something new? Yes, plenty. Are our bellies in happy mode? You bet!
Salmon feast and floatplane adventure
Nothing says Alaska like freshly caught wild salmon. And, it’s tough to beat the flavor of the locally caught fish grilled on the outdoor barbeque at Taku Glacier Lodge. Hungry lodge visitors are in for another treat. Reaching this remote dining venue involves an iconic, last frontier must-do—riding in a floatplane over spectacular glaciers and forested mountain peaks.
During summer’s busy cruise season, floatplanes depart daily (weather permitting) from the pier in downtown Juneau. From the moment our plane lifts off the waters of the Gastineau Channel, we turn to the window, unable to take our eyes off the spectacular views unfolding outside. Within minutes, we’re flying over the massive Juneau Icefield, observing multiple glaciers, including Taku Glacier, the area’s largest at roughly 35 miles long.
Our floatplane coasts to a landing across from Taku Glacier where we step into Taku Lodge, a log structure built as a fishing camp in 1923. There, we feast on a buffet of alder wood-grilled salmon, baked beans, coleslaw, herb biscuits, ginger cookies and more. The drinks come chilled with glacier ice. Feeling a tad chilly, I sip mine while cozying up to the fire crackling in a stone fireplace decorated with a moose head and old fishing gear.
After savoring our delicious meal, there’s time for a guided nature walk through the adjacent woodlands. It’s our lucky day for wildlife spotting. First, the guide points out a black bear snoozing on a tree limb. Even more exciting is the bear that drops by the barbeque looking for leftovers. The bear knows a good free meal when he sniffs one and eagerly laps up the salmon drippings.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Visitors enjoy a delicious meal of local goodies while either discovering what makes Alaska’s capital city tick, or seeing scenic glaciers and mountain peaks from above.
- The Juneau Food Tours experience is an easy, mostly flat walk and is wheelchair accessible.
- Plan on a light breakfast before your tour. The locations and dishes on Juneau Food Tours change from time to time but add up to a filling lunch. At Taku Lodge, salmon lovers are usually offered a second, irresistible helping of fish.
- You can book either tour online in advance. If you’re cruising, Taku Lodge is offered as a shore excursion aboard most ships. Juneau Food Tours is available through Holland America, Windstar, Princess and other cruise lines.
- Dress in layers and bring an umbrella. Juneau’s weather is unpredictable.
All photo credits: Ginger Dingus except for lead photo
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