More Talkeetna restaurant reviews
Just because you’re in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice a good slice of pizza. The prices are good and the slices are large, and you can get a crazy Alaskan creation or just top your slice with what you want. The crust is thin but I wouldn’t dare compare it to the delectable New York crust that is just as thin but in another league entirely. The fried lasagna bites are my favorite appetizer because they put a twist on a classic dish and allowed me to add even more Italian food to my meal without totally filling me up (although it will never be as good as Grandma’s). I enjoyed their outdoor seating when Alaska was going through a record-breaking heatwave, which allowed me to eat pizza and get sunburnt all at once. You pretty much have to go to Mountain High if you’re craving a slice, but I recommend it anyway for its generous portions and decent crusts.
True to its name, the Roadhouse offers tiny accommodations, family-style food and a damn good bakery for the travelers passing through. My first time in Talkeetna, I stopped by the Roadhouse and bought a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie and I was in comfort food heaven. I often stopped by the bakery with friends after a meal from somewhere else and bought assorted cookies as a treat, although I never found that apple pie again. I only ate a real meal at the Roadhouse once, pulled-pork sliders, and they were decent (I guess I really like pulled pork). I hear the real meal to enjoy at the Roadhouse is breakfast, although I could never bring myself to stay overnight in Talkeetna in order to try it, but it comes highly recommended from others I’ve talked to. I can only recommend the bakery with full confidence, and will always remember my slice of pie eaten at a worn picnic table, when I had time to myself to ponder the entire Alaskan summer I had ahead of me.
Payo’s Thai Kitchen $$
I was surprised to learn that tiny Talkeetna hosted a Thai eatery, but I was glad for it when I was craving something a little more exotic than the normal Alaskan fare. Set away from the main street, it might be a place you miss unless you’re specifically looking for it. It’s outside-seating only, and the food is made in a small silver trailer. The place is run by a tiny, older Thai lady and a 30-something redneck dude, and I have no idea what their relationship was or how they ended up their selling Thai food from a trailer. One can only guess. I ordered “pot Thai” (misspelled Pad Thai) and spring rolls, and everything was served on paper plates. The food was good, the only gripe I had was the price. Including a drink, that particular meal ran me about $20, a travesty considering the atmosphere and the fact that I know how much that food would cost in Thailand. I recommend indulging exotic food cravings here, but I wouldn’t make it a regular thing unless you’re willing to overlook the exorbitant prices.
The spinach bread trailer
A super-shiny silver Airstream is pretty hard to miss on the main street, and about $6 will get you a large piece of greasy, cheesy spinach bread. It was very indulgent and the resulting garlic-breath probably offended my closest friends, but it was worth it to taste what I can only describe as a sort of deep dish spinach pizza, minus the pizza sauce. My inner cheese addict was thrilled whenever I stopped by.
Shirley’s Burger Barn
The only thing I ever bought from this tiny little food window was the fireweed ice cream. Although not traditionally a fan of ice cream, I had to try that particular flavor because I knew I could probably not get it anywhere other than Alaska, not even at any other place than this tiny shack. The flavor was light and sweet and it helped me cool down on one of the aforementioned record heat days spent wandering around Talkeetna.
I never expected to find wonderful food in the middle of rural Alaska, much less several restaurants that offer a wide selection of dishes that will reach even the most exotic of cravings. The Princess lodge I worked at this summer is only a few miles away from the small enclave of Talkeetna, a no-rules hippie town of about 800 year-round residents. The fictional town of Sicily, Alaska from the TV show Northern Exposure is based on this one-horse town. Although it’s only a few miles away, Talkeetna is an hour away by car or bus due to the lack of a comprehensive road system in Alaska (who knew). Many Princess employees make the pilgrimage to Talkeetna whenever they can in order to enjoy meals that are not overcooked, underseasoned or just plain gross as they often are in the employee dining room. I will warn that the service just plain sucks across the board in Talkeetna, but most of us don’t even care because we’re just enjoying the time off of “Princess Island”. Here are some reviews of the places I’ve eaten at, and later when I’ve tried the rest of them I will post reviews of those.
Talkeetna’s own microbrewery, DBC is where I have gotten the best service. Although I’m not a beer drinker, I hear that their beers are pretty darn amazing, and we even have some of them on tap in the restaurant I worked at the lodge. Sometimes they even create limited-editon special beers, such as a chai beer I heard they had a while back that people raved about. Some other beers they brew are the Twister Creek IPA, Mother Ale, and Single Engine Red. I wish I could give a better reviews of the beer, but I’m just not an enthusiast! It’s girly cocktails all the way for me. As for food, that I am definitely enthusiastic about. The provolone wedge starter is greasy but mouth-watering, and the sweet potato fry wedges are light and sweet. The regular burger is nice and juicy, but I wasn’t too crazy about the pulled pork sandwich. I just didn’t think it had enough of a kick to it. All in all though, I give this place the Awkward Tourist stamp of approval.
I get terrible service every time I go to this place, but what I’m about to reveal makes it worth the crappy servers: $25 king crab legs. You won’t get better king crab anywhere that’s better than what’s in Alaska, and that price beats any I saw anywhere else. Our own lodge was even twice the price for the same thing. I admit that they are hard work to eat, and I often flung bits of crabs on my friends by accident, but the result was totally worth the effort. The only other thing I had at West Rib was the caribou burger, which was messy and not as juicy as I thought it was going to be. I regret not ordering the crab every time I went there. The café is also famous for the Seward’s Folly, a 5-pound burger featured on an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”. This monstrosity includes 2 pounds of caribou meat, 12 slices of bacon, sliced ham, 12 slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and the famous “Fat Ass Sauce” made only at the West Rib. I never tried to tackle that one, but I saw it once and I would sooner climb Mt. McKinley than try to stuff my face with that crazy thing. It’s just another example of the typical American portions the guests at the lodge constantly marveled over. I say go ahead and dig into the monstrous king crab dish. Your inner foodie will thank you.
I was riding in the backseat of my friend’s rusty old Ford Bronco on our way to the Alaska State Fair. We made a stop in Wasilla, Alaska, because one of the car’s occupants needed to run an errand at the shopping center. We had just driven through Hatcher Pass, a gorgeous drive that took us from Willow to Wasilla through the Talkeetna Mountains and almost to an elevation of 4,000 feet (a much prettier drive than down the Parks Highway, trust me).
As we collected our friend after he had completed whatever it was he needed to do, we drove through the parking lot of the strip mall and past the front entrance at Target. I stared out of the dusty window toward the store, not really paying attention to anything in particular. I noticed a fairly large crowd of people in front of the store. A woman with a few children was pushing a cart out the front door, and I looked at her and thought she must be the most glamorous woman in Wasilla. As I was about to comment to my friends the large amount of makeup on this particular woman, more than is common for women in southern Alaska, I realized that I was looking at none other than Sarah Palin.
We almost got into a couple of fender-benders trying to park and run over to her like crazed fans, like we saw quite a few other people doing. I debated jumping out and asking her for a photo, but I decided that I couldn’t miss that opportunity. What other celebrity was I going to see who was going to embody Alaska more than Sarah Palin, aside from a grizzly bear? They might be one and the same, as a guest pointed out to me when I told this story at work later on in the week. Regardless of the real or perceived threat, I played fangirl and asked Ms. Palin for a photo. I told her I was a big fan and she graciously agreed. Although I’m not actually a Sarah Palin fan (except for the seeing Russia from her house comment…who’s not a fan of that hilariousness?), we posed for a photo and all I can say about her is that she was incredibly nice and patient, and looked damn good in a camo fleece.
Almost Stranded: A Tale of a Missed Bus
I arrived in Anchorage, Alaska at about 11:30 PM, and it was still bright as day outside. There was a bite to the air but it was not as cold as I had imagined. I stood outside the airport after having collected my one very heavy bag, and I waited for the hotel shuttle. I eventually called the hotel and asked if they even had a shuttle, which they did not (I would have been standing there for a long time). I ended up taking a taxi from the airport to downtown Anchorage, which cost me roughly $18 plus a tip. I couldn’t see much from the cab, as we drove through the outskirts into the center of the city, and for all I could see it looked like it could have been the Valley.
The cab dropped me off at The Westmark hotel and I proceeded to get really confused as the hotel didn’t have my reservation, even though the people at Princess had booked the room for me; or so I thought. The gentleman at the front desk told me I was lucky that they had rooms open and proceeded to give me one at the employee price, although he made it crystal clear that he was doing something nice for me and that I should be very appreciative of him. I was definitely appreciative, but he made it sound as if he were working a miracle for me. I suppose since I didn’t have to sleep out on the street, it sort of was.
As a quick hotel review, it was a decent room, clean and functional. The bathroom could use an update and maybe a deep clean, but it didn’t bother me enough to really complain about it. The bed was fairly comfortable and I had no problem falling or staying asleep.
The next morning I woke up and called the tour desk, and yet again they didn’t know anything about the shuttle that I was talking about. After a round on Facebook, I figured out that the shuttle was at noon. I went on Yelp to see if there was anyplace good to eat around the hotel, and discovered a popular spot called Snow City Café. I walked the few blocks and was greeted with a 35-40 minute wait for breakfast. Luckily they had a counter and I was able to sneak into a single open spot. I of course ordered the salmon cakes breakfast and coffee, and it was delicious and way too much food.
I walked back to the hotel and parked myself in the lobby staring out the window at noon sharp. I waited…and waited…and waited…and nothing even resembling a shuttle came. After several dozen panicked phone calls and text messages, I was able to gather which Wal-Mart the shuttle would be stopping at, so I took a cab there. I panicked again when I didn’t see the shuttle, but it arrived after a few minutes and I was never so relieved to see a gigantic motorcoach. I sheepishly admitted to the driver Brian that I had somehow missed it when they stopped at the hotel. I felt like an idiot, but so damn relieved to see that gigantic bus that I didn’t care much. I ran into Wal-Mart and picked up my essentials and some McDonald’s food (I didn’t know when I’d be getting fast food again, don’t judge me!), and off we went on the bus to my next big adventure.