It's here. One of my favorite holidays as a foodie, an extrovert who loves being with friends and family and as a whiskey lover. That's right: Cheersgiving. I tended bar for many years and Thanksgiving Eve was always one of the busiest nights in the industry. Friends are in town, some for just two or three days, and Turkey Day is already slated for sweatpants, grandmas and football. The best pregaming is the night before, when visitors are still fresh and the relatives desperately want idle hands out of the kitchen.
These days, I am the one who does most of the cooking for Thanksgiving, but I'm loath to give up this cherished tradition. It gets me out of the kitchen after hours of meal prep and allows me to spend time with even more loved ones. Here is my guide for a Cheersgiving night of activities, food and drinking. And if there happens to be a little over-indulgence — well, what better cure than pounds of turkey and a plateful of cornbread stuffing?
Bowling, beer and bacon
Have you heard of the Bacon of the Month Special at Spenard Roadhouse? I like to kick off my weekend of gluttony with my favorite food, prepared in new and innovative ways. I never know what I'm going to get but I always love it. (1049 W. Northern Lights Blvd., 907-770-7623)
Follow the bacon binge with a night filled with gutter balls (at least for me) and terrible nacho cheese at Center Bowl, which is conveniently only a few minutes away. It's like an open house where people can show up for one beer or stay for a few pitchers. My friends with kids are happy they can bring the whole family and I'm happy that I get to see all of them. Plus, a lot of those kids have some pretty sweet bowling moves.
Comfort and joy
This has always been a time of reflection and community appreciation and I feel that more so than ever this year. There are some places I feel are imbued with meaning and history for me and for many other Anchorage residents.
The Lucky Wishbone is one of those places. Yes, I am related by marriage to the original owner (my husband's family is large; they're related to everyone), but generations have grown up with this restaurant. If it's reminiscing you want, this is the place to do it. The burgers are my favorite but it's hard to go wrong with a menu that's been in effect for 60 years. (1033 E. Fifth Ave., 907-272-3454)
Afterward, walk next door for another Alaska institution; Van at Van's Dive Bar. Van Hale helped open Marx Bros. in 1979 and bought the old King's X Lounge this year, wanting to do something different and fun. The Dive Bar offers karaoke, live music on certain nights and if you're lucky, Van will feed you himself. (1027 E. Fifth Ave., 907-929-5464)
I know, I know, this sounds like the most irresponsible thing to do the night before a major holiday, but stick with me here. Whiskey is delicious. And 49th State Brewing Co. has close to 300 choices and references to someone known as the "Master of Whiskey." I'm sold. (717 W. Third Ave., 907-277-7727)
The key is to sip and carbo-load, which is easy given the large number of pizzas and sandwiches offered. Plus, I've always been a big proponent of really stretching that stomach out the day before in order to "prime" it for the main event. The brewery just opened this year, so chances are that out-of-town friends haven't yet experienced it. Like the meal itself, it's always nice to introduce one new element, while still mainly sticking to the solid core of tradition. Which means that after you sample this whiskey-topia, you have to walk to Darwin's and have a red hot shot or two. For tradition.
Riza Brown is a food writer and owner of a catering company based in Anchorage.
Correction: A previous version of this story included free trivia night at the Whale's Tail on Wednesday, Nov. 23. That event has been canceled, and the Whale's Tail will be closed that day.