Alaska Visitors Guide

In Anchorage, coffee is a whole thing

Even the hardiest Alaskans need a coping mechanism or two to help us through the long winter. Whether it’s sun lamps, blackout curtains, aromatherapy — you name it, we’ve probably tried it. And, sure, long walks and vitamin D are great, but have you tried coffee? One thing most Alaskans rely on is year-round coffee therapy.

A hot, frothy cappuccino, sipped in a cozy cafe, can be the perfect cure for the low-winter-sun blues. Or, skip the trudge through a snowy parking lot and pick up a hot brew from one of Anchorage’s many drive-thru coffee carts. Sip smugly in your warm car.

Caffeinated pick-me-ups are no less valuable in summer when Alaskans are burning the candle at both ends. After all, if the sun never goes down, is it ever really bedtime?

Which is why Alaska’s coffee roasters are household names to the locals. There’s Kaladi Brothers, which grew from a lone espresso cart in 1984 to a burgeoning business with 16 stores around the state (and one in Seattle). There is SteamDot Coffee Co., whose Midtown cafe (located in the Midtown Mall) features a “slow bar” with a rotating menu of origin coffees, where your coffee is ground and brewed fresh to order. Or try “The Lab” — which they describe as “the mothership” of their operation. Here you can enjoy your favorite hand-crafted beverage or take a seat at their pour-over bar if you like your brew with a little bravado. And then there’s Black Cup Coffee — they serve a full menu of espresso drinks but their motto, as their name implies, is: “Extraordinary coffee best served black” (341 E. Benson Blvd.). Undecided? Head over to Sip Coffee Lounge (510 W. Tudor Road), where you can order a flight of coffees featuring both Kaladi Brothers and Black Cup brews. (Sip is also known to do other unusual flights — pickle and beer flight, anyone?)

It’s a friendly battle of the beans. Everyone has their favorite, but each of these coffee purveyors enjoys a well-earned popularity.

But coffee can be as much about cafe culture as it is about beans. A good coffee house is part community center, part extended office, part mental day spa and part art gallery. It’s a great way to learn about someplace new. And in Anchorage, cafe culture is thriving.

The Kaladi Brothers Cafe at the Performing Arts Center (621 W. Sixth Ave.) in downtown is a bustling space and a convenient spot to grab a cup of stamina while in the midst of souvenir shopping or if you’re on the way to see a show. Another cozy spot is Moose A’La Mode (360 K St.), featuring expertly made coffee drinks, fantastic hot dogs (really!) and some of the best cupcakes in town, with inventive flavors like s’mores, blueberry lemonade and cinnamon toast crunch. Another spot that specializes in sweet treats and brew is Gelatte (with a downtown location and one in the Dimond Center mall) where, as the name suggests, you can warm up with a specialty drink or cool down with house-made ice cream. Or you can thread both needles and order an affogato, if you want a grown-up sip that pleases your inner child. Another local favorite is Dark Horse Coffee (646 F St.), a cozy, slightly out-of-the-way spot with a reputation for great coffee drinks (which they source from Heritage Coffee in Juneau), avocado toast and warm welcomes. Bonus points for their inviting little porch, where you can sit and sip on sunny days.


The Cubby, the spacious and comfortable coffee shop in Anchorage’s most elegant hotel, the Captain Cook, serves delicious Kaladi Brothers coffee drinks with a side of nautical style. With big windows, it’s an excellent place to put your feet up and do some people-watching. Open later in the day than some downtown coffee spots, they now offer wine and beer if you are needing a different kind of pick-me-up.

If you require an American breakfast alongside your Americano, Kaladi Brothers coffee (including their own Snow City espresso blend) is served up at the friendly Snow City Cafe (1034 W. Fourth Ave.). A favorite with locals, this funky, vibrant spot features rotating local art, an impressive variety of eggs Benedict and espresso drinks. I’m particularly partial to their use of tall, sleeved pint glasses to serve large-sized lattes and mochas. Hot drinks taste better served this way. It’s just science.

Originale, the authentic, downtown Italian deli, serves a variety of traditional specialty Italian coffee drinks. And if you can resist their incredible sandwiches stuffed with imported Italian salumi, then I bow to your superior willpower (my favorite is the “Don Quixote,” with ham, homemade garlic mousse and Manchego cheese). You can also purchase vacuum-sealed sandwiches that are perfect for road trips, camping or your plane ride home. Picking up your morning coffee and your afternoon lunch in one stop is a delicious way to multitask. (400 D St.)

That Feeling Co. (logo: “Plants, Coffee, and All the Feels), with a location in Midtown and one just on the edge of downtown, is an eclectic houseplant, gift and coffee shop. The downtown location shares its space with Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop and Johnny’s Produce, making this a one-stop shopping, can’t-miss experience (718 K St.). The bakery makes some of the best breads, pastries, sandwiches and cookies in town, and we all know that pastries get lonely without a cup of coffee to keep them company. As you sip and munch in the indoor jungle of houseplants, you’ll appreciate this site’s popularity with the locals. I personally appreciate the little produce stand, because if you come home from an afternoon of mochas and croissants carrying a bag of local carrots, you can say you’ve been “doing errands.”

In East Anchorage, Cafecito Bonito, a warm, community-spirited coffee spot, serves espresso drinks with a Latin flair — like a Spanish latte with sweetened condensed milk, a Café de Olla featuring piloncillo (unrefined sugar, which lends a caramel flavor to drinks), or the horchata, which features rice milk and cinnamon. They also host popular and unique events like drag lotería and brunches. The baked goods are unique and delicious, such as scones with flavors like strawberry basil, maple bacon and lavender.

For a unique coffeehouse experience with a bohemian vibe, head to Spenard and track down Uncle Leroy’s Coffee, a local roaster that began in a 1968 bus (and owned by an “outlaw preacher” according to legend). The origin story is scrappy, but the drinks being served from this mobile coffee bar are anything but (the bus is in operation during summer months only). Or hit up Spenard Joe’s (motto: Not Your Average Joe) for some of the most unique coffee creations in town. Try the “Lady Godiva,” a lavender mocha with salted black currant whipped cream, or the “Spenard Fog” made from whiskey barrel aged black tea with vanilla and cayenne, topped with cinnamon frothed milk.

On the other end of the ambiance spectrum is Kobuk Coffee (504 W. Fifth Ave.). By Town Square, in the historic Kimball Building (1915), this charming little gift shop retains some of its original fixtures and flooring. In a store packed full of unnecessary necessities (old-timey candy, scented candles and teacups), you’ll be hard-pressed to make it to the coffee room without doing some impromptu browsing (and, if you’re like me, buying). Kobuk offers a whole range of espresso drinks and a wide variety of teas but, whichever you choose, make sure you get house-made doughnuts to keep it company. What kind of doughnuts, you ask? Like everything else in the store: old-fashioned.

One of the best places to soak up local color and read up on local lore is The Writer’s Block, a cozy book shop with an excellent cafe featuring local coffee, beer and wine, and an eclectic food menu (I’m partial to the curry-dusted pelmeni).

The Writer’s Block has a unique origin story. Four good friends reclaimed a bit of old Spenard and transformed the site of an adult bookstore (literally called “Adult Book Store”) into a welcome and inclusive cultural hub. With comforting food, well-crafted drinks, a lovingly selected range of books featuring local writers and a menu of eclectic events like poetry slams, book launches and even the occasional Japanese sake tasting, this space has quickly become the neighborhood’s living room.

The cafe took a hit after a significant earthquake in 2018. Glasses shattered, books scattered and even a heavy filing cabinet took a dive. But when the doors opened that morning, they were not the only ones who got to work. “Our first customers walked in and asked for brooms,” recalls Vered Mares, one of the bookstore’s founders. “They said, ‘We’ll sweep up. You make the coffee.’”

It’s a reminder that a cup of coffee can invigorate, but a cafe can inspire.

Mara Severin is a food writer and restaurant reviewer who writes about restaurants in Southcentral Alaska.