Mountain peaks, glaciers and the scenic Gastineau Channel surround Juneau, making Alaska's capital city a favorite for outdoor adventure and wildlife- watching. Now, culinary travelers are being drawn to the Inside Passage, too.
"Barnaby Brewing Co., Devil's Club Brewing and Amalga Distillery will open in early 2017, and our local food tours are hugely successful," said Kara Tetley, Travel Juneau's destination marketing manager. "Juneau has great, award-winning chefs, as well."
Take Rookery Cafe chef Beau Schooler, the first Alaskan to win the Great American Seafood Cookoff. Within months of that victory, he earned a 2016 James Beard Foundation Rising Star of the Year nomination. Last spring, Schooler and Rookery co-owner Travis Smith turned the former Silverbow Bakery into In Bocca al Lupo, an Italian eatery, and moved their Panhandle Provisions storefront to the same location. The upscale deli and retail shop sells house-cured meats, pickled vegetables and Alaska-made groceries.
Schooler and Smith also collaborate at the Taqueria, a few blocks from the Hangar on the Wharf, a Juneau mainstay. Following the Hangar's recent ballroom updates and menu refresh, the owners are preparing for the May opening of the Pier 49 Seafood Station, which occupies the former spot of Tracy's King Crab Shack.
Tracy LaBarge is moving her namesake seafood destination a few blocks down South Franklin Street, where it reopens in 2017 as Crab Shack Express.
The former Goldbelt Hotel, now remodeled and rebranded as the Four Points by Sheraton Juneau, landed the downtown spinoff of LaBarge's popular McGivney's Sports Bar and Grill. She is also involved with Salt, a downtown steak-and-seafood bistro, and the nearby Indian restaurant, Saffron.
Guests of Juneau Food Tours can taste their way through downtown while learning about the city's chefs and its culinary evolution. After launching her flagship tour in 2015, owner Kelly "Midgi" Moore added wine education classes and the Prohibition Progressive Party tour. The speakeasy-themed, multirestaurant tasting experience explores the regional food and drink through a historical lens.
Next summer, Moore will introduce the Juneau Bites & Booze tour.
"This tour highlights the city's up-and-coming breweries, the new distillery and, of course, delicious food," she said.
Other tasting-tour newcomers include Alaskan Food Tours, which spotlights Alaska native and Filipino flavors, among others, and multiday fishing excursions with Alaska Commercial Fishing Adventures. Participants work with an experienced fishing crew and can leave with up to 50 pounds of the fresh catch.
Soon, they can pair that outing with custom cooking classes and chef demonstrations in a new culinary facility adjacent to Juneau's Jorgenson House.
"You get a realistic look at life on a commercial fishing boat, and then you learn to cook your fish at a luxurious bed and breakfast," Tetley said. "It's an authentic and amazing combination."