Everyone has a favorite culinary hangout. You know, a place in town where locals don't need a menu, visitors ask "What's fresh today?" and both groups can mingle comfortably in a tapestry of food and conversation. The foods of a destination define its culture and personality with an intimacy often found in a good glass of wine or delectable dessert. Food makes us, and we make it. Dining out is an equitable benefit.
Juneau, Alaska is one town that appreciates, perhaps even worships, its dining establishments. Why? Maybe it's the weather, the famous "liquid sunshine" that leaves everything dripping wet and slapped by raw windstorms in the winter, and more gentle breezes of mist in the summer. Snuggling in front of a warm fire with a cocktail and good company becomes as important as tossing a fishing line out upon the briny waterways nearby.
Or maybe it's the remote nature of Alaska's capital city, a place inaccessible to the rest of the state and Lower 48 except by water or air. Residents need dining options that stretch the imagination, provide opportunities for reminiscing, and simply taste good.
Alaska is famous for seafood. From the colorful (and sweet) King crab to sleek, red salmon, Alaska's food scene thrives on a bounty from the ocean, which just so happens to be right out most people's front door.
Juneau Food Tours is a locally-grown company dedicated to the value of a story; food or otherwise. Owned by local food blogger Kelly "Midgi" Moore, Juneau Food Tours is a culinary walk through Southeast Alaska's cultural connection with food.
With two tours to choose from, guests meet in a designated downtown spot and proceed to take a short walking tour of the snug core of Juneau before tucking into one of the restaurants personally selected and vetted by Moore.
For 2.5 hours, guests can sip wine or cocktails (non-alcoholic drinks are available, too), nibble on appetizers, main courses, or desserts; just enough to leave with a "Happy belly," Moore says. During each stop, Moore spins the story of Juneau, Alaska as it relates to early history and present-day circumstances. Alaska is a young state, flush with innovation and invention, and the foodie scene is no different.
Moore prides herself on creating an experience for her guests, not just an attraction. Limiting each tour to 12 guests, Moore is able to utilize smaller restaurants with a boutique feel, preserving the intimacy of cuisine and the information related to it.
Beef filets, crab cakes, sautéed seaweed; everything is plated and presented with an explanation and exceptional visual attention to detail. Pairings of wine go perfectly with each dish, and often, head chefs will make an appearance to offer insight into the why or how of a particular recipe.
Moore rolled out a Prohibition Progressive Tour in 2016, borrowing a page from the "Great Gatsby" or "Untouchables" to outline a chapter of American history with food as the center point. Returning to a time when bootlegging, secret knocks at speakeasy doors and gin parties with jazz existed even in the far north, the Prohibition Progressive Tour is an education and treat for the taste buds.
Her original tour focuses on Juneau's seafood scene and vibrant fishing industry. Walk the docks where ships have arrived and departed since the 1800's. Sample crab bisque, a favorite among visitors, then bite into a cod taco or halibut fusion nachos, all along the 1-mile route of mealtime bliss.
Is a Juneau Food Tours Experience for Everyone?
No. There is walking involved, and some establishments require climbing stairs up or down. Kids under 12 are not permitted so as to create a more hospitable atmosphere for leisurely dining and conversation. While some dietary considerations are met for those with allergies, Moore hesitates to say all special diets will be accommodated since menus are carefully planned and executed in advance.
That said, a food tour of Juneau offers most visitors a chance to feel part of a community, for yes, eating and drinking is the great equalizer of humanity's most vivid sensory desires.
If You Go
Juneau Food Tours are excellent options for those cruising to Alaska. At only 2.5 hours, there will still be plenty of time to enjoy other sights around town. The tours are also well-suited to the independent traveler.
Each food tour option is $129 per person with a 5% city tax added. A small goody bag of candies, coupons, and information about Juneau is provided for each guest.
Guests should wear appropriate clothing and footwear for walking and standing in any sort of weather. Footwear should be sturdy enough for walking city streets and stairways.
Tours operate April 30-October 1.