Reindeer Tacos and Native Brews: a Great Night Out in Anchorage

·Managing Editor

Ah, Thursday night — the only truly social night of the week. It’s the night when babysitters are booked, friends convene, and drinks are imbibed. There are no family obligations to fulfill, no amateurish weekend crowds to elbow through — and the possibilities are endless. The night starts after work and ends whenever you want. In any city. All over the world. 

This week, we’re presenting the perfect Thursday night in Anchorage, Alaska.

Downtown Anchorage as spied across the Cook Inlet. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Too many visitors to the largest state in the U.S. think about the metropolis of Anchorage as a mere way station en route to a cruise, a scenic train ride, or an excursion to see the Northern Lights. Those visitors would be wrong and they would do themselves a favor to spend a night or two in Anchorage to experience a bit of true Alaskan hospitality.

Things are different this far north. The women, who are vastly outnumbered by men, like to say, “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.” Still, the goods are definitely work checking out on a Thursday evening.

You need to know your way around here. Local gems are hidden away in old innocuous buildings, shacks, or strip malls. But when you find one of them, we promise you are in for quite a good evening. 

Moose, just chilling out on the edge of downtown. (Photo: Thinkstock)

3 p.m. 

Kick off your Thursday Night at the quirky Alaska State Trooper Museum, which takes you through the history of law and order in the rugged wilderness of Alaska. (Note that it closes at 4 p.m., so don’t dawdle.) Pick up your very own Alaska State Trooper parka for just $85. 

Whether you’re a museum naysayer or a culture snob, you’ll find something that catches your interest at the Anchorage Museum.

For hundreds of years, the state of Alaska had a massive collection of native artifacts just hidden away in storage. Museum curators put tremendous effort into bringing together longtime homesteaders and natives to connect stories to all of the items, in order to learn their significance. The result is one of the richest museum experiences you will ever encounter.

The museum is open until 6 p.m. every day throughout the summer, so if you get there around 4 p.m., you have plenty of time to enjoy the collection.

The museum shop has a collection of some of the best native and local art in the region.

6 p.m. 

What you might think is an abandoned shack in the middle of an empty field or a strip mall parking lot is probably a coffee hut, ubiquitous all over Alaska. Wander over to the AK Alchemist on East 4th Street, which is chicer than your average Alaskan hut. 

You’ll need some Alchemist coffee for the night ahead and we don’t want you to fill up just yet, but while you’re here it would be a real sin not to indulge in just one of the Alchemist’s reindeer tacos or quesadillas. To be fair, you could make an entire dinner stop here.

Nothing says “Alaska” like a reindeer quesadilla. (Photo: Facebook)

7 p.m. (or later)

Walk along the coastal trail to catch the sunset. In the winter this can happen as early as 5:30 p.m., but during the summer months you will want to head here much later in the evening to catch the warm peach and pink hues bouncing off the inlet, since the sun doesn’t set until around midnight.

Related: Take a Dog Sledding Adventure with Iditarod Champion Dallas Seavey

During January you get a nice alpenglow during sunset. (Photo: Jo Piazza)

Even if the sun is still shining, work up an appetite walking or biking along the 10-mile trail, searching for moose or trying to spot beluga whales out in Cook inlet.

8 p.m. 

Hands down, Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria has the best pizza in Anchorage. At least that’s what the locals promise. Hunker down in one of the restaurant’s cozy booths underneath a wooden canoe.

Related: Cheaper Ways to Visit Alaska this Summer — From a Local

The sign may be unassuming, but the pizza most definitely is not. (Photo: Jo Piazza)

The owners brew their own beer here and have a revolving list of drafts. During the colder months, tuck into a Williwaw Warmer Winter Ale, which combines crystal and Munich malts with a hint of chocolate. The Bear Tooth Ale, a hop-forward, light brown American ale, is also a delight. You can try a sampler of four small glasses for just $5. While there are salads and sandwiches, pizza is the star of this menu.

There are 36 specialty pizzas, from the Greek Gyro with cucumber yogurt and feta cheese to the Spicy Thai Chicken to the Chipotle Steak with cilantro and zesty sour cream.

Related: An Alaskan Adventure — Ice Road Trucking Under the Northern Lights

Time for a chipotle steak pizza, (Photo: Jo Piazza)

For dessert, dig into some moose pie, a version of the classic mud pie, with a chocolate cookie crust, coffee ice cream, fudge, roasted almonds, and fresh whipped cream. It easily feeds two.

If dinner and a movie is more your thing, swing by the Bear Tooth TheatrePub, owned by the same proprietors as the Moose Tooth. Unlike conventional theaters, the Bear Tooth offers freshly prepared food and drinks. Have a can of Broken Tooth beer and tuck in for a new release or an artsy classic. The Tooth also hosts some killer concerts, like Jane’s Addiction, who is playing their anniversary party on July 25.

If you just want a quick meal, swing by the Lucky Wishbone for the best pan-fried chicken in town. You’ll probably be the only tourist there. My favorite Urban Spoon review of the place reads as follows: “Every time I visit Anchorage I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack because I eat [at] Lucky Wishbone every single day.”

10 p.m. 

By far the most happening place in town for nightlife, Chilkoot Charlie’s, may be the most Alaskan bar in all of Alaska — and that is saying a lot.

This spot has a little something for everyone, with three stages, three dance floors, and 10 bars (one of which is a bar top constructed out of 25 feet of solid ice).

The locals call it Koots. You can also call it Koots, but only after you have spent a suitably wobbly evening here.

You’ll need a map to navigate Koots. (Photo: Chilkoot Charlie’s)

The massive wooden building is about the size of a city block; one patron likened the bar to a “museum of funky Alaska.” Wander through the maze of rooms to find one decorated exclusively with Cold War relics (including a life-sized replica of Sputnik) and another covered in underwear. Thursday nights are a bit more tame at Koots than the rest of the week, but all that means is that you won’t have to throw elbows to get to the bar.

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