Travel

Where to go for good coffee, beer and pizza in Fairbanks, Juneau and Seattle

  • Author: Scott McMurren
    | Alaska Travel
  • Updated: February 23
  • Published February 22

A tasting flight at Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau (Photo by Scott McMurren)

It's an open question what constitutes "essentials" for travelers on an adventure. Some say a toothbrush, clean underwear and a wad of the local currency are necessary. Others put good walking shoes, a portable water filter and a working cellphone at the top of the list. Truthfully, I've lost or forgotten all of the aforementioned items once or twice. I place my bet on three locally produced elixirs: good coffee, artisan pizza and craft beer.

Last week in Seattle, I was walking uphill on Pike Street, just uphill from the convention center. At the corner of Pike Street and Minor Avenue is the new "Starbucks Reserve" cafe (1124 Pike St.). This cafe boasts a coffee bar where you can order up coffee from several varieties roasted on the premises. Of course, you still can get your caramel macchiato with sprinkles, but the single-variety specials are worth the trip.

Craving pizza? Get some Serious Pie at 316 Virginia St. This is one of several downtown restaurants run by local celebrity chef Tom Douglas. There are several crazy pizza mixes on the menu, including clams and pancetta or prosciutto and eggs. My favorite? The sweet fennel sausage special with roasted peppers and provolone.

Later in the afternoon, I walked down Western Avenue to Cloudburst Brewing (2116 Western Ave., Seattle). There's nothing fancy about this place — you walk into their brewing space with concrete floors and sit on metal chairs. But the beer is good. Try a tasting flight, which includes samples from three or four varieties. I love the IPA, but you can choose from stouts, Pilsners or other varieties.

You don't have to fly to Seattle to get the perfect triple-play of coffee, pizza and beer, though.

Fairbanks

Up in Fairbanks, Alaska, coffee lovers can choose from a couple of nice spots: McCafferty's at 408 Cushman St. serves up a delicious espresso, accompanied by some tasty sweets. Alaska Coffee Roasting Company at 4001 Geist Rd. is a favorite with the locals. There also is a big selection of baked goods available.

Pizza lovers in Fairbanks seek out The Hungry Robot at 910 Old Steese Highway. For the past couple of years, these folks were hauling their mobile pizza oven to fairs and festivals. Recently, though, they settled into their current location. Sort of. When you walk in the door, it's filled with condiments and pizza dough. But the pizza itself still is made outside in the parking lot. The mobile oven is next to the window — and they pass the pizza out to the cook, who's warming his hands by the wood-fired oven. Try the "Okie-Dokey-Artichokie:" pesto, chicken, artichoke hears, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes.

A tasting flight at HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks (Photo by Scott McMurren)

Don't miss HooDoo Brewing. It's just a tasting room, but they have food trucks that pull up alongside the plant at 1951 Fox Ave. In fact, that's how I found out about the Hungry Robot, since they used to park the mobile pizza oven there on Thursdays. Owner Bobby Wilken is a certifiable "beer geek," having studied brewing in Bavaria. I recommend getting a tasting flight so you can sample some different beers. Right now there is a German "Kolsch" beer on tap, a pale ale, an ESB and my favorite, an IPA. The tasting room is open until 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

Juneau and Douglas

Juneau also offers a feast for those who love coffee, pizza and beer. Juneau's home-town roaster, Heritage Coffee, took over the downtown McDonald's at 130 Front Street. This is bigger and brighter than the original location on South Franklin Street. I love Heritage's slogan "Life's short. Stay awake." If you get off the plane from Anchorage and just can't wait until you get downtown, there is a drive-through coffee trailer near the corner of Shell Simmons Drive and the Glacier Highway.

Although it's technically in Douglas, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau, The Island Pub is easy to find at 1102 Second Street — and it's got the best pizza in town. Not just Douglas, either. No, it can claim the title of "Juneau's Best Pizza" too. There's a great view of the water and a nice selection of local beers on tap. One of my favorite pies is "The Commodore," with pesto, sausage, tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. I'm always tempted to pile too much on top — and the thin crust collapses under the weight. So, choose your toppings wisely.

Alaskan Brewing is Juneau's original craft brewery. It's not so small any more. The tasting room is located out by Costco in Lemon Creek, between downtown and the airport at 5429 Shaune Drive. You can find Alaskan Brewing beer in most stores, but it's fun to tour the brewery and learn how they use the spent grain to help power the brewing process.

Downtown, just a block from the Baranof Hotel, a new "nano brewery" has opened: Barnaby Brewing. Located at 206 N. Franklin Street, it's in the basement! Go ahead, though, walk down the stairs. Watch your head. The shop "specializes in American-style ales with the occasional outlier," according to its website. In addition to a glass of ale, you also can taste a selection of handcrafted sodas or some of the pomegranate kombucha. The hours vary and Barnaby is only open Thursday-Sunday.

There are many other great coffees, pizzas and beers around the state, including Mountain High Pizza Pie in Talkeetna (just down the street from Denali Brewing Co.), Raven's Brew Coffee in Ketchikan and Fat Olive's in Homer. It's hard not to have a great trip when you think globally, but drink locally. With pizza.

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.