Between Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas treats and stress eating our way through holiday gift-shopping, we've rounded the corner on a very food-centric time of year. You may be looking at January with resolve to cut back on certain delicious, caloric excesses — if so, you're in good company.
But before you bust out the kale smoothies, let's pause and reflect on the Anchorage food scene. We are a city that knows how to eat out, but what dishes truly stood above the fray?
We asked restaurant reviewers Mara Severin and Riza Brown to name their most memorable meals of the year. Many of these have been included in previous columns but some are new. Who knows — perhaps you'll find a new dish good enough to bend your New Year's resolution for.
Chicken and waffles: Pangea Restaurant and Lounge
Pangea is my go-to for birthday dinners, drinks with friends, first-date-night recommendations, work lunches and anniversaries, so when I found out that they started serving brunch, I decided to move in and just live there. The menus are ever-changing to reflect the season and the chef's whim, so be sure to call ahead if your heart is set on chicken and waffles ($15). In fact, we should all call until it becomes a permanent item. Shatteringly crisp chicken and a thick toothsome waffle is fairy-sprinkled with pecan dust, draped in Sriracha maple syrup and kissed with a scoop of sweet corn ice cream. Every element works together to create the most celebratory brunch meal I've had all year. — R.B.
(508 W. Sixth Ave.; pangearestaurantandlounge.com)
The Hot Mess sandwich: Midnight Sun Brewing Co. (brunch only)
This is the gold standard of breakfast sandwiches and the closest thing to a hangover cure that I'm aware of. A brioche bun (from Paris Bakery) is double-cut in order to add an extra floor to this rather tall construction. Two lightly fried eggs, thick, smoky bacon, chipotle Gouda, smoked ham, red onion, bacon basil mayonnaise and a pile of arugula are all expertly stacked to create a double-decker solution to all of your brunch- (or life-) related problems. Gooey, salty, peppery, smoky, crispy and creamy are all at home together in the slightly sweet bun. It's a boon to the chronically undecided (or weekend morning foggy-headed) because this sandwich has it all. ($14) — M.S.
(8111 Dimond Hook Drive; midnightsunbrewing.com)
Beet pizza: Hearth Artisan Pizza
I'll admit that this pie gave me pause when I first saw it on the menu. Beets can be such an overwhelming ingredient and I worried that the whole dish would be a sweet mess. But this lovely pie is a master class in balance. The beet pesto retains the robustness and earthiness of the vegetable while mellowing its natural sweetness. Kale, with its slight bitterness, and the char of roasted garlic add smoky depth of flavor. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar adds much-needed acid. And all of these assertive ingredients are brought to heel by the creamy decadence of three different cheeses (goat cheese, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano). ($17) — M.S.
(1200 W. Northern Lights Blvd., Suite F; facebook.com/hearthartisanpizza)
Pork banh mi sandwich: Phonatik
This is not traditional or authentic but it doesn't matter because it is cheap, fast and done extremely well. Some people say you can only get two out of those three; this is the exception to the rule. The sandwich is a stand-alone meal ($8) with those fun, deep-fried shrimp chips that come in a bewildering array of pastel colors, but I highly recommend "toning it up" ($2.50) — the fried egg and wasabi mayo add another layer of sauciness and spice to the deeply addicting trifecta of smoky pork, pickled things and fresh herbs. It's the best sandwich of 2016, hands (covered in yolk) down. — R.B.
(901 E. Dimond Blvd.; facebook.com/PHOnatik, 907-336-8880)
Moroccan goat tagine: Pangea Restaurant and Lounge
The goat meat in this rich, highly seasoned, slow-cooked stew reminded me of why we need the expression "melts in your mouth." Paprika oil and makfoul (a caramelized onion and tomato mixture) enlivened the earthy meat, while a generous heap of fresh herbs added aromatic freshness. A diminutive quail's egg, cooked to lacy perfection, glistened on top and melted creamily into the dish. This dish manages the neat trick of being both exotic (where do you even buy goat meat?) and comforting at the same time. ($25) — M.S.
(508 W. Sixth Ave.; pangearestaurantandlounge.com)
Poke: Aloha Stop & Shop
I adore poke. I had my first taste of the real thing in Hawaii eight years ago and went bananas. My husband and I would venture into gas stations, shacks and questionable-looking bodegas, even broadly hinting to locals that we would love to try their personal renditions, because we simply couldn't get enough. I love the one-two punch of velvety fresh fish spiked with a hint of soy sauce and the sweet pungency of onions, sometimes scented with sesame oil or flecked with furikake. The Aloha Stop & Shop offers a variety of options, but the Classic ($10) served with rice, is the perfect antidote to a dreary winter day. Or any day, really. — R.B.
(3333 Fairbanks St.; 907-339-9900, facebook.com/AlohaStopandShop)
Fried green tomato BLT: The Magpie food truck
Most Alaskans love summer because of the outdoor activities. I love it because it's food truck season. (Eating outdoors is my favorite outdoor activity.) It was a lazy, sunny day in Spenard when I spotted the bright-yellow food truck shining like a giant stick of butter. I knew immediately that I was going to have the fried green tomato BLT ($12) because it was something that I've never tried. It blew the roof off of my jaded little mouth. There were hints of rosemary, a double crunch from the bacon and the green tomato and fresh, fresh greens. Right now, the truck is closed, but the Magpie is offering a dessert-of-the-month club that runs through February ($30/month). Look for it to re-open in March or April and indulge in a taste of summer. — R.B.
(Locations vary; see facebook.com/themagpieak or call 907-575-7473)
Marco T pizza: Marco T's Pizzeria
This lovely pie, from my most recent review, made it onto my list just under the wire. It features a beautifully light, thin and crispy crust topped with a bright and summery tomato sauce, a generous drizzle of olive oil, generous slices of soft, buttery fresh mozzarella, and just enough fresh basil to lend subtle herbal notes to each bite. It's a lovingly constructed dish that achieves a perfect harmony of lightness and decadence. This is a pie that flies in the face of America's "more is more" pizza culture. It's a simple pie and a perfect one. Simply perfect. (Be sure to save room for a scoop of the restaurant's house-made gelato). ($11) — M.S.
(302 W. Fireweed Lane; marcotspizzeria.com and 907-929-3663)
The MVP sandwich: MVP Sports Deli
The sandwiches at this unassuming little Italian deli are the best in town and my obsession with them is one part Gollum, one part Captain Ahab and one part Augustus Gloop. Seriously. I think about these sandwiches a lot. The MVP sandwich, described as a pastrami "cheesesteak," marries the best ingredients of the Jewish and Italian delis I grew up with in New York and New Jersey. Spicy, well-seasoned, house-made pastrami is sliced razor thin and piled ridiculously high. It's then topped with Swiss cheese and a seasoned house-made cheddar cheese sauce. A bright and acidic Italian relish adds zing to each bite and cuts through the salty richness of the meat and cheese. This spot earned my only five-star review in 2016. ($19.95 for the "pro" — 1 pound of meat and cheese — $12.95 for the "rookie," which is half a pound of meat and cheese). — M.S.
(2470 E. Tudor Road; mvpsportsdeli.com)
Ice cream sandwich: Wild Scoops
In my other life as a caterer, I shared a kitchen with Wild Scoops owner Elissa Brown for over a year, and it was a deliciously symbiotic relationship. I provided the savory bites, and Elissa was constantly handing over her newest concoctions and flavor combinations to me and my staff. I am still finding the little samples that she would leave in my freezer and am saddened that someone else is now the recipient of her inspired test creations. (Come back, Elissa, we miss you!) One of the best things I ate this year was her chocolate chip and sea salt cookie sandwich lavished with rich vanilla ice cream ($5-$6.99). It's something I could eat every day, interspersed with her more exotic flavors: spruce tip, coconut red currant, basil honey walnut, gin and tonic … — R.B.
(Available during winter months at La Bodega, Summit Spice and Tea and other locations; see wildscoops.com or facebook.com/akwildscoops for details)
The doner kebab at Turkish Delight. The gin and tonic sorbet from Wild Scoops. Frozen pelmeni from Eastern European Store and Deli and crisp, over-stuffed burritos from K Street Convenience. The delicious, creative hot dogs at International House of Hot Dogs with a side of friendly charm (I'm partial to the Monte Cristo). — M.S.
What were the the best dishes you had in Anchorage this year? Comment below or write our reviewers at email@example.com.