Food and Drink

Dining review: TurnAgains Fish House could become an essential Seward Highway stop

Food writing — while obviously important journalism of the highest order — is rarely a matter of urgency. Recommendations for tacos, pho and gyros don’t often cause anyone to yell “Stop the presses!”

But TurnAgains Fish House is a bit of an exception.

The new roadhouse, on the Seward Highway just outside Indian, occupies the magical but somehow hard-to-make-stick building on the most beautiful stretch of road in the world. It has been open only a month or so, with very limited hours. Normally, I like to let a restaurant find its feet before paying a formal visit and writing it up, but I share the common Alaska malady known as SFB — Summer’s Flying By — and don’t think anyone should snooze on the opportunity to sit in the sun, drink a cold beer and slurp oysters while looking out over Turnagain Arm. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, there is no time to lose.

Co-owner Matthew Cronquist is a homegrown chef whose love of cooking began at King Career Center. He has since studied farther afield, specifically at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado, but has happily brought his talent and love for seafood back home. His partnership with the Cabana family, whose commercial fishing venture will provide the restaurant with fresh local seafood, is a perfect match.

Recently, my daughter and I took the quick jaunt down the highway for a little late lunch/early dinner. The space has been remodeled and reallocated, with a gallery/gift shop on the left side of the building. At the time of our visit, this area looked like a work in progress, and plans included a seafood market. A Facebook post this week was offering salmon priced at $45 per pound for king and $25 a pound for sockeye, with a discount for locals.

On the other side of the building is the bright, open dining room and bar. The refreshed interior has a homey, old-school roadhouse feel with a touch of nautical flair. Sadly, it was a blustery day so, we opted for interior seating, cozying up to a high-top table at a window that overlooked a spacious deck with spectacular views beyond. All but the barstools boast a similar view.

The menu is limited and focused. Roadhouse classics like fish and chips, seafood chowder and salmon hushpuppies share space with a surprising number of healthy and/or vegetarian options like the Fishermen’s rice bowl, which features chimichurri brown rice, pinto and black beans, cabbage, roasted sweet potatoes, edamame and avocado. The bowls can be beefed up, so to speak, with proteins including steak, miso cod, salmon and tofu. It’s nice to see this kind of adventure fuel on the menu.


Of course, our lunch WAS the adventure, so we ordered accordingly. We started with a half-dozen raw oysters ($17) because, well, oysters. During our visit, these were being sourced from Seattle but we were told they would be sourced from Alaska oyster farms as soon as possible. Whatever their origin, they were perfection. Served icy cold, they were briny and bright with a sweet, almost creamy finish. I liked the horseradish dip that came alongside these little gems but I saved it for my french fries. I like my oysters all but naked, with just the lightest drizzle of lemon.

For our main dish, my daughter opted for the basic smashburger — an Impossible burger can be substituted — and I went with the halibut fish and chips. For the sake of feeling virtuous, we decided to split the chopped broccoli salad ($10), which comes with kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, craisins, pepitas and a bright lemon poppy dressing. It’s a hearty, nutritious salad that could absolutely stand in for a main course.

My daughter’s burger ($14) was a simple but well-executed version of the classic. This is not one of those giant, stacked burgers, sporting all but the kitchen sink. This burger can easily be dispatched with one hand. But the patty was flavorful and crispy from the smash and had a sinfully creamy “special” sauce that I would slather on pretty much anything.

My fish and chips ($28) was the dish of the day. A deep golden, crispy batter gives way to tender, flaky, perfectly cooked fish within. I used to think that halibut was a poor choice for fish and chips — that the flavor is too delicate for deep frying — but these perfect little nuggets have me rethinking my so-called wisdom. This dish is the best of both worlds: the rustic fun of a classic fried dish with the integrity of properly cooked halibut. These — and the burger — came with thick planks of well-seasoned steak fries that are crisp on the outside and tender and meaty within. An added delight were the bottles of locally made malt vinegar from Turnagain Brewing that adorn every table. Who knew?

Service was prompt and pleasant, and the room, while not packed, felt upbeat and lively. The cooks and servers appeared to be having as much fun as we were.

This lovely spot has seen more than a few culinary iterations in the last couple of decades — fine dining, barbecue and even paella — but I think this is a winning strategy. TurnAgains Fish House offers a fun Alaska-themed roadside attraction for out-of-state visitors enjoying their vacation as well as a nice mini-break for locals who want to pretend to be on vacation. After all, as all Alaskans know, the days are long, but summer is short.

If you go:

TurnAgains Fish House

27957 Seward Highway in Indian


Current hours are 12-8 p.m., Friday-Sunday (but be sure to keep up with their website and social media for any changes.)



Mara Severin | Eating out

Mara Severin is a food writer who writes about restaurants in Southcentral Alaska. Want to respond to a column or suggest a restaurant for review? Reach her at