Open & Shut: Anchorage gets a shawarma fast-food diner, a bagel-sandwich food truck plus a new Chinese restaurant

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 with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.


My Shawarma House: A Somali couple opened this fast-food style diner serving African and Middle Eastern dishes such as shawarma wraps with meats roasted slowly on a rotisserie.

Hodan Mohamud and husband Mustafa Warsame own the Anchorage Halal Market next door, in the Russian Jack Plaza off DeBarr Road in northeast Anchorage.

My Shawarma House is based on homemade recipes Mohamud grew up cooking, she said. She’s from Somalia but grew in the Middle East.

Strips of lamb, beef or chicken are the key ingredient in the wraps and many other dishes, like injera plates with Ethiopian flatbread. There’s vegetarian fare like vegetable korma and injera korma. Somali fried rice with goat or lamb is a popular dish on the menu, along with sambusas, meat-filled pastries served during important events such as Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, Mohamud said. Beverages include vimto shake, a popular sweet drink during Somali holidays.

On a recent Thursday, a mix of patrons filtered in and out of the diner. Joni Nelson said she and her son, Wyatt, love the sambusas and quickly became repeat customers. “It has very unique flavors, and that’s what we love,” Joni Nelson said of the restaurant.

My Shawarma House opened in early November, Mohamud said during a break from behind the food counter. A line formed out the door on Day 2, as word about the new spot spread, she said.


People seemed thankful for a restaurant with food that is pretty unique in Anchorage, and for the good prices, she said.

Mohamud said she created the fast-food concept with a potential franchise in mind, knowing that Americans want meals ready in minutes. “Grab something and go because, you know, as an American community we don’t have time,” she said, laughing.

My Shawarma House is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s located in the retail center at 6311 DeBarr Road.

Alter’d Boutique: After working at an Anchorage boutique for years, Rachel Stewart recently went into business for herself, opening this Midtown shop just across 36th Avenue from the New Sagaya grocery store.

Alter’d Boutique sells primarily women’s apparel and accessories, from casual wear like bright blouses, jeans, T-shirts and hoodies to semiformal dresses and skirts, maybe for a night on the town. Some clothes and jewelry are brought in from Lower 48 creators, or European cities like Paris or Amsterdam. The highest-end items are made by American designer Eva Franco.

The shop has a small but soon-to-expand men’s section, with items such as hoodies and T-shirts. Alter’d is also partly a gift store, with a sense of humor. It sells everything from candles and nail polish to rubber ducky briefs for the guys.

Some shoppers have referred to the store as a fun, small version of Nordstrom, Stewart said.

Stewart, who was also a longtime barista and bartender in Anchorage, said she’s “100% broke” after spending her savings to open the boutique — and completely happy with her decision.

One highlight is finding the perfect fit for customers, she said.

She sells limited amounts of each item, but she offers a variety of sizes, from double-extra smalls to double-extra larges and everything in between.

“It’s refreshing to see women feel good about themselves,” she said. “Women are really mean to themselves, like, ‘I need to lose weight.’ There’s a lot of pressure to be this, that and the other. But in Alaska, we have a different point of view. There is no real fashion rule here.”

Alter’d is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11-5 p.m. It’s located in the retail center at 751 E. 36th Ave., next door to the Far North Yarn Co.

North Cup Espresso: This drive-up coffee shop in Midtown Anchorage first opened in October. But owner Kelsa Northrup had to quickly shut her doors after her father passed away in Oregon and she prepared his services.

North Cup Espresso reopened in mid-December at 439 E. Fireweed Lane, near the AK Bark pet supply store.

It dishes up coffee creations like the Insomnia, an ice-shaken espresso that includes Hawaiian salted caramel and a topping of oat milk, or the Kare Bear that comes with white chocolate and cinnamon.

North Cup also serves white coffee beverages, something that’s new for many Alaskans, Northrup said. White coffee, made from lightly roasted beans, has a nuttier taste than brown or black coffee. It’s also got more of a kick since less caffeine gets roasted out, she said. Her go-to favorite is the Shift-Starter, a double shot of white coffee with chocolate.

Northrup worked for years at Dutch Bros coffee shops in Oregon before moving to Alaska in 2020. She’d come to Alaska to visit a college friend. She fell in love with the state — and her friend’s brother, she said.


She saw an opportunity to bring new coffee recipes to Anchorage. And Steven Hanks, now her husband, provided a loan to help start the shop, along with family members. Hanks, who owns a drywall business, also built the coffee hut.

“It was like business and love mixed together. What are the odds?” she said.

North Cup is open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

907 Bagel Co.: This food truck business based in South Anchorage came about by accident, said owner Sam Lilly.

Over the summer, Lilly jokingly posted on Twitter, now X, that she was planning a grand opening for a food truck serving bagel sandwiches.

She was shocked when the post got 19,000 views, she said. It was a sign that she needed to get into the bagel-sandwich business, even though she already has a 9-to-5 job at an educational outdoor nonprofit.

“When the world speaks, you just gotta listen,” she said.

“The world is saying we need bagels,” she said. “And Anchorage is saying we need bagels. And not just bagels, but the bagel sandwich.”


The 907 Bagel truck is located in the Magnetic North Brewing parking lot at 8861 Golovin St., a little north of the Fred Meyer on Abbott Road.

The food truck fills a niche in Anchorage’s food scene after the closure of the Alaska Bagel Restaurant in 2021, she said. Several small businesses have sprung up since then to make bagels, including Wooden Spoons Alaska, her bagel source.

[Anchorage’s bagels are better than ever. You just have to know where to find them.]

But Lilly said bagel sandwiches are also in high demand. On opening day, Dec. 2, the truck sold nearly 200 of them, she said. “It was absolute insanity,” she said.

The sandwiches are heated with steam, softening up the bagels. One hit is the cheese-smothered Morning Glory, which includes egg, bacon and chipotle cream cheese, she said.

There’s also the Handyman, an everything bagel with extra bacon and turkey, avocado spread, provolone cheese, chipotle cream cheese and ranch seasoning. The truck also sells other items like loaded tater tots with shredded cheese, bacon and sour cream.

Lilly moved to Alaska in 2020 after visiting family while she was on pandemic furlough from a brewery in Indiana. She said her food-truck business came together quickly thanks to help from other businesses, including Magnetic North Brewing, which leases the food truck. A lot of people “gave their time, talents and energy to make this possible,” she said.

907 Bagel is open Thursday and Friday from 4-8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. She plans to expand the schedule with more days soon, plus delivery.

Mei’s Kitchen: Mei Huang grew up in the Sichuan province in China, learning how to cook in her family’s restaurant.

She always wanted to open a place of her own, she said.

In October, she and her husband Joe, who is also originally from China but grew up in the U.S., tapped into their retirement savings to open Mei’s Kitchen.

“She likes to cook, and she has always been a good cook,” said Joe Huang, who works in the restaurant when he’s not working at his part-time job at Grainger, an industrial supply store. They’re often accompanied at the business by their two young children, Sophia, 7, and Lucas, who’s about to turn 1.


The Chinese restaurant is located in the former location of Thai Delight in Spenard, at 3609 Arctic Blvd.

The couple’s goal is providing “homemade Chinese-style dishes,” he said.

The rougamo, an open scallion pancake filled with meat that’s often described as a Chinese hamburger, is one such item. Customers also love the five-spice rice noodle soup with beef, topped with homemade chili oil sauce that “warms up your body,” he said.

The spicy fried shrimp is one of the best-selling appetizers, he said. The restaurant also serves up Mongolian beef, hot pot combo, ginger rice soup and other items.

Mei’s is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for dine-in. Hours for pick-up and deliveries, through DoorDash and Grubhub, run all day and last until 10:30 p.m.

It’s located near the corner of 36th and Arctic Boulevard.


Apricot Lane Boutique: This shop is closing its store in the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall after 11 years. But it has already relocated to a new spot in South Anchorage off Abbott Road, said owner Ann Marie Valdez.

It was a downsizing move to a more convenient location that will improve access for many customers, Valdez said.

“I’m trying to simplify it a bit,” she said. “It’s a smaller location, it’s a more boutique feeling than being in the mall, and we can have a better one-on-one connection with our customers.”

Instead of parking downtown to visit the mall, shoppers can breeze into the new location during their daily routines, like after dropping off kids at events or going out to lunch, she said. It will also be a better spot for hosting First Friday events and private parties for fundraising and shopping, she said.

Apricot Lane Boutique sells a range of unique items for women of all ages, for the office, dates, school and other activities. It carries dresses and gowns for prom or other events, and sells the Brighton brand of jewelry and accessories. The store is part of a national chain that allows a lot of flexibility for what local franchise owners sell, Valdez said.

The new store is located at 1601 Abbott Road in the Décor Lighting building at the corner of Abbott Road and Sandlewood Place.

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