Open & Shut is an ongoing series looking 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 reporter Alex DeMarban at email@example.com with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.
Whisky & Ramen: The owners of this restaurant in downtown Anchorage say they wanted to create something special for the city.
In recent years, co-owner Nicole Cusack has traveled to Japan to study and learn how to make ramen, working under the tutelage of ramen masters, she said.
In 2016, Cusack and her husband, Jon McNeil, purchased a historic building near the corner of 4th and E Street, at 436 W. 4th Ave.
The building dates back to the city’s early days a century ago, and records indicate it was once the photography studio for famed Alaska painter Sydney Laurence.
An extensive remodel of the building was delayed by the pandemic’s broken supply chain. But since at least 2020, proud contractors have been posting images of their work at the site on social media. That has helped boost the public’s anticipation for the new restaurant.
The end result is an elegant space where customers can grab a bowl of ramen, prepared in minutes, with noodles that are made daily.
For those seeking a casual spot, they can sit at a long counter, watching chefs work in the open kitchen.
For a more formal experience, customers can book a table and descend staircases to a subterranean but open-concept dining area. The full bar includes a variety of Japanese whiskys.
The extra time needed to launch the restaurant has been worth the wait, Cusack said.
“We have plenty of years to be open, but we only have so much time to get it together,” she said.
Among other dishes, the menu includes wagyu steaks imported from Japan and Australia, Japanese whisky-miso pulled-pork buns, tebasaki chicken wings, and hamachi crudo, a sashimi made of thin-sliced yellowtail tuna and other ingredients.
Whisky & Ramen opens at 5 pm., Wednesday through Sunday. It’s been busy, so it’s a good idea to make reservations, especially for customers wanting to sit in the main dining area downstairs, Cusack said.
Mexico Lindo Café: Mini-market Mexico Lindo plans to open a cafe next door in the former Granny B’s Cafe, a longtime popular breakfast spot.
Mexico Lindo will keep the Granny B’s menu that fed generations of fans, said David Guzman, owner of Mexico Lindo.
Mexico Lindo sells groceries from Latin America, plus homemade Mexican pastries and tamales, at 1201 W. Tudor Road.
The move will take place next month, Guzman said. The new cafe will serve new dishes, such as huevos rancheros and pupusa, an El Salvador staple of thick tortillas stuffed with meat, cheese or beans and other fillings.
“We’ll put some Latino seasoning” into the expanded menu, Guzman said.
Guzman said that Granny B’s closed many months ago after the owners retired.
The Gift Gallery: A yearlong closure during the pandemic allowed the Anchorage Senior Activity Center to undergo a $3 million remodel.
Among other updates, the center in Fairview is now home to a newly improved gift shop.
The Gift Gallery sells a variety of products made by seniors, such as quilts, baby booties and winter hats. It also sells handmade kuspuks.
“They’re made with extra love,” said Ashlyn Dye, the center’s volunteer coordinator, said Thursday of the handmade items.
The gift shop also sells donated items, some from estate sales. Only the best “gently used” products are sold, said Brianna McKibben, gift shop coordinator.
The assortment includes purses, vintage jewelry, tea towels, dishware, cashmere scarves and other items.
All the store’s earnings go to support the senior center, McKibben said.
The store is located east of the Seward Highway’s intersection with 20th Ave., at 1300 E. 19th Ave. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hours will soon expand in preparation for the holidays, McKibben said.
Little Caesars: The pizza joint, also known for chicken wings, opened in early September at 500 E. Benson Blvd., just south of the Midtown Mall. It’s open daily.
Shut (and moving)
Pangea Restaurant and Lounge: The downtown Anchorage restaurant closed earlier this month, after about six years in business. Pangea owner Abraham Gallo could not be reached for comment.
The space, across from Town Square Park at 508 W. 6th Ave. shouldn’t be empty for long.
The Gumbo House plans to move there in the coming weeks, said Gustavo Del Real Figueroa, a manager at the Gumbo House.
The Gumbo House has dished up hearty Cajun cuisine for close to 20 years out of the historic pink house just north of the Delaney Park Strip, near F Street.
The move to Pangea’s old digs will give the family-run Gumbo House a lot more space, with room for a full bar and community events, Figueroa said.
Gumbo House had sought to buy the little house where it operates, but it ultimately wasn’t for sale, Figueroa said. The house has been around since at least 1924, when the park strip was an airstrip, he said.
The Gumbo House began searching for a new site, and learned that Pangea was available, Figueroa said. The Gumbo House hopes to one day purchase the old Pangea building, he said.
It will keep its menu but add some dishes, including a blackened-shrimp macaroni and cheese, Figueroa said.
The former Pangea building is orange. Some day, the Gumbo House might paint it pink, Figueroa said.
Side Street Espresso: The beloved downtown café near 4th and G Street will close on Sept. 30 after three decades in business. Husband and wife owners George Gee and Deb Seaton are retiring.
The closure will open a spot for two longtime businesses across the street.
Gift shop Cabin Fever and Quilted Raven, selling Alaska-themed quilt fabric, will close Oct. 1, said their owner Jana Hayenga.
That’s because their landlord, Peach Holdings, plans to construct a large building on the block. Peach Holdings has already started the demolition of the historic 4th Avenue Theatre for the project after deciding it was too costly to restore because of code compliance and safety issues.
Cabin Fever and Quilted Raven plan to reopen in February at Side Street’s old spot, at 412 G St.
It will be a tighter space with two businesses sharing one location, Hayenga said. But it’s important to keep them alive, she said.
“A lot of people come have been coming to Cabin Fever and don’t want it to go away, and a lot of quilters come into the fabric store and don’t want to see that go away,” Hayenga said.
Sears Home & Life Anchorage: The appliance, tools and home goods store at 901 E. Dimond Blvd is closing Oct. 30, and liquidating products, a salesman there said over the phone. The once prominent chain declared bankruptcy in 2018, as shoppers increasingly bought products at other stores online. The bankruptcy has led to the closure and sale of Sears-owned properties in Anchorage.