2300 Airport Way
Fairbanks , Alaska
Tel: 800 354 7274
There are those who will say this is pure hokum—it is, after all, a salmon bake outside a theme park—but it's also a pleasant surprise. A salmon bake is an intrinsic part of the Alaska experience, and the recipe for a good one is simple: Get fresh fish, roast it over an open fire, eat outdoors if the weather allows. What make for a great salmon bake are the spice rubs and marinades used, and these are what set Alaska Salmon Bake apart as one of the best. The salmon, seasoned with lemon, butter, and brown sugar, is the main draw, but don't overlook the halibut or cod. (There's prime rib, too, but that's not why you're here.) It's also worth a trip inside Pioneer Park to see the dry-docked S.S. Nenana, a paddle-wheel ship (the type used to ferry gold during the rush) that's the second-largest wooden boat in the world.
They say bears can smell fish cooking from a distance of roughly two miles; it's worth going even further for a good salmon bake. If you have the time to travel a long way into the middle of nowhere, join the locals at the Tok Gateway Salmon Bake (Tok is located on the Alaska Highway, about halfway between Fairbanks and the Canadian border).—Edward Readicker-Henderson
Open daily 5 to 9:30 pm, mid-May through mid-September.
306 Nordic Drive
Petersburg , Alaska
Tel: 877 257 4746
Known as Alaska's "Little Norway," Petersburg is a fanatically tidy fishing town, the kind of place where shopkeepers put out cookies for their customers at Christmas and houses are decorated with rosemaling, a floral motif brought over from the old country. It's also home to a uniquely Alaskan dining experience. Coastal Cold Storage is exactly as the name implies—a cold-storage plant where fishermen store and prepare the day's catch for shipping. But inside, you'll find a tiny restaurant where, for less than ten bucks, you'll get the best beer-battered halibut or fish and chips you'll ever eat. Okay, so the place really does look like an industrial fish plant with a food counter. One taste, and you'll know it's worth waiting in line with the fishermen (quite possibly the same guys who pulled the fish you're about to eat from the water). This is the real Alaska: simple and well done, and nobody blinks if you walk in wearing gum boots.—Edward Readicker-Henderson
Open daily for lunch and early dinner, June through August.
627 W. Third Avenue
Anchorage , Alaska
Tel: 907 278 2133
A meal at Marx Bros. Café, a 14-table restaurant in a converted house near the water in downtown Anchorage, has the feeling of a dinner party—if the home cook trained at top culinary schools. The market-based menu can change dramatically from day to day, but count on straight-off-the-boat fish and interesting pairings, such as halibut in a coconut curry sauce or ostrich in a risotto accented with Syrian sumac. Expect the unexpected, trust the chef, and you won't be disappointed. As Marx Bros. Café is one of Anchorage's most sought-after reservations—it's usually filled with locals celebrating special occasions—you'll want to call a day or two in advance. The owners also run Muse a small restaurant inside the Anchorage Museum that's great for a quick lunch downtown.—Edward Readicker-Henderson
Open Thursdays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm, May through September.
Alyeska Ski Resort
Girdwood , Alaska
Tel: 907 754 2237
It's easy to get jaded about the views in Alaska—it's going to be gorgeous pretty much anywhere you look—but Seven Glaciers is something special. The experience starts with treetop views of eagles' nests, bears, and the silver waters of Turnagain Arm as the Alyeska Ski Resort's tram takes you up the mountain to this intimate dining room. Seven Glaciers, which serves modern Alaskan cuisine prepared with local ingredients, is the place to go for a fancy night out. (It's a pretty, 40-mile drive from Anchorage along Turnagain Arm and past Beluga Point.) Start with king crab cakes or blueberry halibut, a dish that marries the best of Alaska's land and sea harvest, then do as most Alaskans do and opt for wild game—we like the mesquite-grilled elk chop. If you haven't had elk before, it's like sweet, tender beef that's been perfectly marinated. Or order the chef's tasting menu and gaze at a different glacier during each of the six courses—saving the seventh glacier for the ride back down.—Edward Readicker-Henderson
Open daily 5 to 10 pm, June through August; usually noon to 10 pm, September through May, but with many seasonal closings (call in advance).
120 Second Street
at Main Street
Juneau , Alaska
Tel: 800 586 4146
A few years ago, a young couple from New York decided to bring Big Apple–style bagels to Alaska, bought one of Juneau's first bakeries, and went to work. Today, the Silverbow is the capital's choice to start the day. There are more than a dozen kinds of bagels to choose from—you'll smell the cinnamon ones as you walk in the door—as well as more substantial treats, such as bread pudding with caramel sauce. (Who says you can't have dessert for breakfast? You're on vacation, after all.) Get it as takeout, grab a table by the counter, or head into the dining room, which looks like something out of an old Western. The other people in line are as likely to be state senators as clerks headed for work at the T-shirt shops downtown, but it's rumored that there are some more unusual habitués, too: Between the bakery and the attached hotel (11 lovely rooms, each individually decorated, and a good option if the Capital Inn is booked), the place has more than a few ghosts. But who can blame them for wanting to hang out where you can get the best breakfast in Alaska? The Silverbow also acts as a community center, with regular movie nights and other activities; check the Web site for details.—Edward Readicker-Henderson
Open daily for breakfast and lunch.
420 L Street
Anchorage , Alaska
Tel: 907 274 3502
Simon & Seaforts, located at the edge of downtown Anchorage, may bill itself as a saloon and grill, but that undersells the locals' favorite date-night restaurant. True, the interior isn't too fancy (wooden tables, booths, and old-fashioned chandeliers), and the menu is one of the largest and most reasonably priced in the city—yet the food is a standout. The chef's simple, elegant preparations of dishes such as Asiago-almond–crusted scallops in a Champagne beurre blanc, steamed Bering Sea king crab legs, and seafood linguine allows the fresh ingredients to speak for themselves. If you're tired of fish, this is also the best place in Anchorage to get a steak.—Edward Readicker-Henderson
Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 9:30 pm, Fridays 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Saturdays 4:30 to 10 pm, and Sundays 4:30 to 9 pm.