I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel. The cinematography is incredible, Bourdain’s commentary is consistently good, and I tend to walk away from every episode wanting to go to the places he visits. From Livingston, Montana to The Azores or even the Maine episode there is a care and intentional quality to every episode.
In a recent episode he sought to visit U.S. cities that aren’t normally thought of for their culture or food. On the list were Detroit, Milwaukie, Minneapolis, Denver, Austin (which in my opinion doesn’t fit the lack of culture category) and Columbus, OH. While eating street food in Denver, Anthony is given an Alaskan Reindeer Sausage hot dog and he makes a snide comment, as he’s prone to do, about it being the only good thing to come out of Alaska. Despite watching it on my DVR on my time, when he said that I could hear the Anchorage and Alaskan travel industry people firing up their campaigns to get Bourdain to visit Anchorage. Over the past year we’ve had Man vs. Food and whatever the diner show is come to Alaska.
I know I’ve been accused of being an instigator before, and I’m sure this could be considered instigating, but I don’t think Anthony Bourdain should come to Anchorage. Anchorage has some great restaurants and, in general, it feels like the city values Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria or Snow City Cafe over national chains. But there is very little that is unique to Anchorage.
And it’s not our fault. Afterall with a relatively brief history (Anchorage really didn’t exist as a city until the early 1920s) and a population made up largely of people from other parts of the state, the U.S. and the World, Anchorage is still figuring out what Anchorage food is. While most restaurants have some sort of reindeer sausage omelet or buffalo or fresh salmon or halibut, largely they are inspired by Pacific Northwest restaurants or even places from the South. Perhaps one of the most damning lines of reasoning is how crazy and excited people get whenever someone refreshes the old rumor that Olive Garden will be opening in Anchorage.
The state as a whole is a different story, and I guess if No Reservations decided to visit rural Alaska and taste whale blubber or other scary foods, but I feel like that’s been done and I think that Bourdain’s show is above the “Alaska Week” thing.
To make up for my criticism, I now will highlight just a few Anchorage restaurants I love:
Spenard Roadhouse, Villa Nova, Glacier Brewhouse, Bear Tooth Grill, Humpys, Orso…there, satisfied?
“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough – to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
– Anthony Bourdain