Alaskans like to take advantage of every second of nice weather we're given during the summer. If you see blue skies, you'll see the hiking trails packed, every inch of fishable territory filled, and runners and bikers out in force.
And if summer is in the air, restaurants in Anchorage with outdoor seating areas are usually crowded with a blend of eager locals and swarming tourists.
So with summer solstice upon us, where should you go to maximize the longer daylight hours? Below are my picks for best places to grab a meal or a beer with friends outdoors.
626 D St., 276-8808
The facts: Hanging at the Bernie's courtyard is a post-work tradition for many professionals who work downtown, and with good reason: a diverse menu, a full bar and the sun hitting the area right as people leave work,
Best feature: This is my favorite outdoor dining area in town. While there are many great features, the best in my book is the reasonably priced and tasty menu.
Achilles' heel: Between cigarettes and hookahs, this spot that can get on the smokier side.
The facts: This downtown eatery hosts one of the more popular decks, providing diners a view of the Sleeping Lady across Cook Inlet while offering beers on tap from Sleeping Lady Brewery. If you're lucky, they'll have the grill on the roof going for some cheap eats.
Best feature: There's a lot of space and copious amounts of sun hitting the deck throughout the day if the weather is just right, but it's hard to top the killer view, which includes a look at Denali on really pristine days.
Achilles' heel: If the weather doesn't cooperate, the deck can get windy.
5227 Old Seward Highway, 563-3283
The facts: An Alaska tradition in sports bar form, The Peanut Farm is known for catering to every type of fan, but it also has a sun-drenched patio out back for those looking to enjoy a drink outside after work or on the weekend.
Best feature: Besides Snow Goose, this might offer the best natural ambience, especially with Campbell Creek running nearby.
Achilles' heel: There are better options around town for pizza, wings or burgers, but not many better destinations for an adult beverage on a deck. For that reason, it can be a difficult place to find a seat.
Fancy Moose Lounge
4800 Spenard Road, 266-2249
The facts: This restaurant is attached to the Millennium Hotel and is one of the more unknown outdoor options in town, giving diners the chance to soak in some rays and enjoy the floatplanes taking off and landing on Lake Hood.
Best feature: I may not be a tourist, but I still get the appeal of floatplanes actively coming and going during your meal.
Achilles' heel: The food is quality, but it is expensive for the portions.
11321 Old Seward Highway, 336-7177
The facts: The only option out of the top five on the south side, the Bradley House is an institution in the area with some very regular regulars.
Best feature: The list of starters complements any nice weather, especially the crab and artichoke dip. And for the masses who live on that side of town, Bradley House offers an outdoor dining option without the need to cross the whole city.
Achilles' heel: Like the Fancy Moose, Bradley House has good food, but it is on the expensive side.
Aside from those five, Spenard Roadhouse (1049 W. Northern Lights Blvd., 770-7623) has a small collection of tables outside their entrance, but they happen to be aligned right along the always busy Northern Lights Boulevard. Tap Root (3300 Spenard Road, 345-0282) recently opened its deck for dining, but if you're looking for rays, trees block potential sunlight.
For great outdoor dining a little outside of Anchorage, take a drive to Indian to visit Turnagain Arm Pit (Mile 103.5 Seward Highway, 653-1953). This little slice of barbecue heaven serves delicious items like the Boar Tide -- a sandwich with a third of a pound of pulled pork and a plank of bacon -- and the picnic tables on the covered deck offers views of Turnagain Arm. Bonus points: It gives you an excuse for a nice summer drive along the shore.
By David Harper
Daily News correspondent