Open & Shut: Two Anchorage restaurants and a marijuana business open, and a cycle studio returns with new ownership

El Jefe, open & shut, open and shut, taco, tacos

This is an installment of an occasional series in the Anchorage Daily News taking a quick look at the comings and goings of businesses in Southcentral Alaska. If you know of a business opening or closing in the area, send a note to, with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.

El Jefe Taco Joint: Mark Ha opened El Jefe Taco Joint on March 1 to give tourists in Midtown hotels a quick bite to eat.

The spot at 101 E. International Airport Road is within “eyeshot” of the hotels, he said.

“We were looking for something that felt clean and upscale, with a real classy look, but also providing real good food that’s simple and not expensive,” Ha said. “We wanted a cool little place where people can gather.”

Among other items, El Jefe offers all-day breakfast burritos topped with chipotle lime crema, and street-sized tacos filled with honey-lime chicken or barbacoa beef. House-made queso with street corn or carnitas pork are also on the menu.

“All the meats are braised, so it takes about 12 hours to cook,” Ha said.

The restaurant is building an outdoor patio where diners can linger.


“I’m sure in summer it’ll get a lot of traffic,” he said.

El Jefe, Ganja Guys, open & shut, open and shut

Ganja Guys of Alaska: El Jefe shares the building with another new business that Ha co-owns.

[The Alaska Marijuana Control Board is considering doubling the amount of THC allowed in edibles]

Ganja Guys of Alaska features pipes and glass jars of marijuana varieties, among other items. Offerings include “pre-rolled joints and king-size blunts,” according to the store’s website.

“It’s a different vibe than other stores,” Ha said. “We’re trying to get the best product out there and are marketing the store in kind of a different way. ”

Lime Leaf restaurant: Lime Leaf opened in late February in Eagle River.

“We stand out,” said co-owner Gino Kuang. “The décor, the food, it’s pretty cosmopolitan.”

Gino Kuang, Lime Leaf, open & shut, open and shut

Kuang and his family also operate Basil Ginger restaurant in Wasilla, offering Asian dishes as well, he said.

Chef’s specialties at Lime Leaf include ginger halibut and Siam curry prawns, Kuang said.

The wide-ranging menu features a variety of sushi, like the “lava roll” with shrimp tempura, crab, mango, seared salmon and other ingredients.

Other menu items include bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, fried shrimp cake with plum sauce and a chicken lettuce wrap based on a secret family recipe.

Lime Leaf is located at 12940 Old Glenn Highway.

Just Ride Cycle: Just Ride Cycle, an indoor cycling studio, opened in early March after former Anchorage Cycle head instructor Beth Childress-Wilson bought the Anchorage Cycle business and remodeled it.

Beth Childress-Wilson, Just Ride, Just Ride Cycle, Just Ride Cycle Studio, open & shut, open and shut, spin class

Childress-Wilson said her passion for music, business and exercise led to the deal.

“The former owners asked if I wanted to buy it in May,” she said. “It was a long transaction, so here we are.”

The Stages Cycling bikes were purchased shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and are like-new, she said. The business was closed for more than two months during the pandemic, and again at the turn of the year because of the transaction, she said.

“It’s a rhythm-based ride,” she said. “It’s a party on a bike, like you’re dancing, kind of. In a dark room, with a light and sound system, so it’s easy to forgot about your workout.”


Just Ride is located at 2610 Spenard Road, Suite A, north of the Bear Tooth Theatrepub.

Spenard Food Truck Carnival: The Spenard Food Truck Carnival, where vendors sell local and international fare, is launching again for its ninth season after closing last fall as cold weather closed in.

[Alaska’s tourism businesses see reasons for hope in 2021 — even without the cruise ships]

This month, the carnival will be open Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. The trucks will also be available on Saturday, March 13, for the same three-hour stint, and on Saturday, March 27.

The schedule will expand in May as temperatures warm, said organizer Darrin Huycke. The carnival is held at the intersection of Spenard Road and West 26th Avenue.

Coronavirus, COVID-19, Pandemic, Spenard Food Truck Carnival

Several trucks are expected to offer food, including Mr. Daryl’s Southern BBQ, Papaya Tree with its Southeast Asian street food, and BruceSkis, with Turkish and Mediterranean dishes like beef and lamb pitas.

Huycke said the carnival’s spring break opener is popular with families looking for an outing while schools in Anchorage are closed, Huycke said.

Moose is Loose bakery: The popular bakery in Soldotna along the Sterling Highway will reopen late this month under new ownership, after Girdwood café owner Niko Nikolich agreed to buy it.


Nikolich has run the Alpine Cafe and Bakery in Girdwood for years. He said he hopes to reopen the Moose Is Loose, keeping its name, around the last weekend in March.

Nikolich said he’ll continue offering the doughnuts that the Moose is Loose is known for. He’ll add ice cream, French crepes and Italian pizza to the menu.

The shop has been closed since early in the pandemic, he said.

He plans to employ about 15 people at the Moose is Loose and said he’s looking for workers.

“I’m working every day to get open,” he said.

If you know of more businesses that are closing or opening, you can let us know by emailing

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or