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Presented by Visit Sitka
Alaska foodies, take note: If you haven’t been to Sitka, your palate is missing out.
Sitka has more places to eat than it does miles of road, with selections to satisfy picky eaters and gourmands alike. As befits a port city, seafood is front and center on many plates, but there’s more to eating local than salmon and spot shrimp. The community’s creative kitchens churn out jams and jellies, sweets, and surprises from the sea, many of which can be enjoyed in town or packed home as tasty souvenirs.
From fine dining to food trucks, here are just some of the ways you can soak up local flavors on a culinary jaunt through Sitka.
Eats on the street
If you’re planning to eat your way through a Sitka getaway, you might want to start with one of Bob Purvis’ walking tours.
Purvis’ Taste of Sitka Sea Walk Tour leads visitors from Sitka’s oceanfront Harrigan Centennial Hall on the Lincoln Street seawalk. The tour’s name is both literal and metaphorical; Purvis shares a “taste” of Sitka’s Tlingit and Russian history, and along the way the group stops to learn about locally made goods from WinterSong Soap Co., Theobroma Chocolate and Alaska Pure Sea Salt.
Founded in 1992, Theobroma is a family business that manufactures chocolate bars, shells and other treats. (Chocoholics are in good company in Sitka; at Sitka Flowers and the Chocolate Moose on Lincoln Street, chocolatier Angela Ketah handcrafts more than 100 different treats incorporating local ingredients.) And Alaska Pure Sea Salt was born from a happy accident, when a forgotten pan of seawater formed salt and inspired Jim and Darcy Michener to dive into the world of salt making. Their Sitka Sound flake salt, in unique flavors like blueberry and spruce tip, has become a favorite of home cooks and professional chefs in Alaska and beyond. Purvis’ guests get to sample both, along with a locally made devil’s club salve.
“They kind of get some local flavor, but they also get some knowledge about three unique products that are made here in Sitka,” Purvis said.
At the tour’s end, Purvis will often invite his guests to join him for lunch from Ashmo’s, a downtown food truck that specializes in Alaska seafood.
“They have the most delicious black cod tips over rice,” Purvis said.
Savor local seafood
For a different “taste of Sitka,” stroll a few blocks west, down to the very end of Lincoln Street. That’s where you’ll find Beak Restaurant.
When chef Renee Trafton opened Beak in 2017, she aimed to center Sitka, both in the atmosphere and on the plate.
“I had a vision for local, sustainable seafood,” Trafton said. “I’m really excited about cooking fish. This is exciting fish to eat.”
Part of Beak’s mission is to “extend a taste of the Southeast Alaska lifestyle,” she said, and that means a friendly environment that is casual and welcoming. Trafton operates on a gratuity-free model, meaning that the value of the meal as well as the service is reflected in the price, and guests are not expected to tip their servers. She uses Alaska ingredients wherever possible, and she has relationships with the fishermen who provide her fish, both fresh in season and flash frozen for the winter months. Sitka’s world-class seafood is front and center on Beak’s menu.
“I don’t put a lot of sauces or garnish on my seafood because it’s so high quality,” Trafton said. “You let it speak for itself.”
If you only get to try one dish on the menu, Trafton recommends the seared salmon, prepared to order on a slab of cedar wood, paired with a massaged kale salad that incorporates macerated berries and housemade candied pecans.
“It’s a light meal,” Trafton said. “It really highlights the fish.”
Trafton spends most mealtimes in the kitchen at Beak, but when she does get out to eat, she said she enjoys the variety and creativity on offer in Sitka. At the moment, her favorite spot is Campfire Kitchen, a new pizza restaurant located inside Harbor Mountain Brewing Co.
“They have fantastic beer,” Trafton said. “(Harbor Mountain) does really interesting, nicely balanced local brews. You can get a really nice beer and a really nice pizza.”
In fact, good pizza isn’t hard to come by in Sitka -- unique pies can be found all over town, from the butter crust at Pizza Express to Mean Queen’s specialties topped with spicy pepper spread. Mangiare offers more elevated Italian fare.
For an upscale dining experience, Sitkans will give you one name: Ludvig’s Bistro.
“That’s really a five-star restaurant,” Purvis said.
The Mediterranean menu at Ludvig’s incorporates local ingredients in dishes like its wild Alaskan paella mixta and Tuscan scallops. Tables fill up quickly, especially in the summer, so plan ahead if you want to give it a try. If you can’t get a reservation in the bistro, try the upstairs wine bar, where you can enjoy a drink and tapas. Chef Colette Nelson also operates another spot that comes highly recommended by Sitkans: Ludvig’s Chowder Cart, located outside the Sitka Sound Science Center.
Eat (like a) local
Sitka boasts its fair share of hotels, lodges, and other full-service accommodations, but if -- like many visitors -- your family opts for a vacation rental instead, you can take advantage of having your own kitchen to whip up meals that incorporate fresh, local flavor.
Trafton said if there’s one thing she knows about Alaskans, it’s that everyone has their own way of preparing fish -- and there’s nothing like selecting the catch of the day to cook with.
“Having fresh fish is really nice in the summer,” she said. To make your selection, head to the harbor, where in-season fish and shellfish are readily available, along with flash-frozen selections, roe and more, at the Sitka Sound Seafoods retail store.
From there, you can pick up all the components of a flavorful Sitka dinner on a stroll through downtown. The Sitka Farmers’ Market will be held every other Saturday this summer from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the plaza outside Centennial Hall. Hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, the market features fresh produce, fish, baked goods, prepared foods, cottage foods, arts and crafts made or grown in the area. You can supplement your locally grown feast with ingredients from Market Center or Sitka Food Co-op, which regularly brings in deliveries of produce, meat and other groceries for its members and has a selection of natural and organic foods available for purchase by the general public.
As you walk, keep an eye out for other local treats stocked by downtown merchants. Alaska Simple Pleasures makes jams, jellies and other preserves from wild ingredients, including marmalade and pickles from bull kelp harvested from Sitka Sound. Sitka Wild Seafoods’ jars of smoked silver salmon can be found in shops throughout town. Swing by Alaska Pure Sea Salt to pick up a flake salt to complement your meal, and while you’re there, treat yourself to a box of Sweet Sisters Caramels for dessert -- the perfect sweet-and-salty pairing to end a day of Sitka dining.
Presented by Visit Sitka, inviting Alaska families to explore our unique town, where the fish is fresh, culture is celebrated, and adventure awaits visitors of all ages.
This story was produced by the sponsored content department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with Visit Sitka. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.