Alaska’s Food Trucks – The New York Times

Alaska's Food Trucks - The New York Times

Last summer, on a cloudy July day, the coastal town of Sitka, once the capital of Russian Alaska and long a popular stop on Inside Passage cruises in Southeast Alaska, was packed with passengers disembarking from three cruise ships Was. To accommodate the crowd, the city closed Main Street to cars. In their place, food trucks, carts and stands had arrived, creating a festive atmosphere where diners on the go spooned up seafood chowder and gobbled up tacos.

“In the summer, street food seems to be the way to go in this kind of place,” said Gretchen Stelzenmüller, who cooked professionally in San Francisco before moving back home to Sitka during the pandemic and opening her mobile food business. Enoki Restaurant, which serves Japanese-inspired comfort food. “It’s healthier and celebrates uniquely Alaskan ingredients, but you can indulge and eat and still do your tour.”

In the wake of the pandemic, as Alaska cruises have returned in full force, food trucks and other vendors have popped up in ports from Ketchikan to Seward.

“With a food truck, you can get into the restaurant business without the full cost of entrepreneurship,” said John Bittner, state director of Food Trucks. Alaska Small Business Development Center, “It’s very attractive in the smaller communities that cruise ships serve.”

For travelers who only have a few hours in port and a lot to see – including those taking the ferry Alaska Marine Highway Food trucks offer local flavor at relatively reasonable prices and in less time than full-service restaurants.

“Food trucks are a natural extension of attracting people to Alaska, while still being outside,” said Aaron Saunders, senior editor at Alaska. cruise critic,

Expect to pay a bit more than in the lower 48, given the higher cost of living. Last summer, I bought a dish of chicken and rice from a stand in Seward for $16, a few dollars more and a can of Pepsi for less than the equivalent truck fare in New York City.

For the 2023 cruise season, which typically runs from April to October, Alaska cruise officials expect 1.65 million cruise passengers, up from a record 1.3 million in 2019. Most will travel through the Inside Passage, a roughly 500-mile route across Southeast Alaska. It is being shielded from the churning of the Pacific Ocean by means of islands.

While visitors arriving by ship could make their way through Anchorage – which had its own opulence food truck scene – The following popular cruise stops form a locally developed Coastal Culinary Trail.

Often the first call in Alaska for northbound Inside Passage cruises, Ketchikan – a traditional Tlingit fishing camp that today thrives on tourism, commercial fishing and forestry – flourished with the arrival of cruise ships. Hikers disembark for day trips or to see totem poles in the Tongass National Forest Saxman Native Village Some food stalls will be found among the vendor booths on the cruise docks – including Dee’s Fish and Chip Shack — while more robust food-truck offerings can be found within walking distance.

Food truck owner Thane Peterson wrote, “If you want to see someone eat a chicken sandwich, come by our truck sometime.” chick chick bang bang, which specializes in chicken sandwiches ($12), in an email. He described the diners as “closing their eyes, moaning, ‘Oh my God’.”

The truck, which launched last year, can often be found parked near cruise docks, and passengers, Mr. Peterson said, account for two-thirds of annual sales.

A few blocks away from the cruise berth, Amber Adams aims to open the city’s first food truck lot, Dock Street YardWith space for three vendors in August.

After moving to Ketchikan from New Orleans four years ago, Ms. Adams found herself cooking Creole cuisine with Alaskan ingredients in a way that was both reminiscent of home and a necessity in a small town with few dining options. Currently the only tenant in that location, his business, the food truck, will serve shrimp and grits ($15) and rib-eye banh mi po’ boys ($18).

“Starting a restaurant is scary,” Ms. Adams said, taking a break from preparing her truck. “But there’s a different kind of atmosphere here because of the massive influx of people for six months, which basically doubled the city’s population.”

In high season, disembarking passengers may coincide SitkaThe population of is approximately 8,500. Again this year, the city is restricting the main thoroughfare, Lincoln Street, to foot traffic on days when cruise ship capacity in the port exceeds 5,000, inviting mobile businesses to set up.

“I think it’s a great way to showcase all the talent in this city,” said Ms. Stelzenmuller, who launched Enoki Eatery as a Lincoln Street pop-up last year, featuring Hawaiian-style musubi. Variations were served, on top of which a piece of rice was put. Tied with Spam or a wrap of fish and seaweed. “Street food has to be a reason to come here.”

This year, he bought a food truck and parked it downtown. The vehicle has allowed him to expand the menu, which can include steamed buns stuffed with pork or salmon and cream cheese ($9) and smoked salmon musubi ($8.50).

Just off Lincoln Street, behind Ernie’s Old Time Saloon, Barbara Palacios serves up poke, chowder and ceviche from her cart, fresh fish,

“We have a food-truck boom here in Sitka,” said Ms. Palacios, who plans to upgrade her vehicle to a full-size food truck later this year and continue to offer poke (tuna or salmon, $18), halibut ceviche, planning to keep. ($14) and seafood chowder ($9 per cup, $14 per bowl).

“It is a labor of passion and love,” said Ms. Palacios, who often works 12 hours a day in season.

a few blocks east, beyond the Russian Orthodox St. Michael’s CathedralAshley McNamee runs of stoneServing up locally caught fish in smoked salmon macaroni and cheese ($9), black cod on coconut rice ($10) and lingcod sandwiches ($12).

Like many food truck operators here, McNamee, whose resume includes 14 years of experience cooking at an Alaskan fishing lodge, chose the food truck over the “restaurant grind.” Still, she added, “With the influx of people from cruise ships, that’s about all I can do to keep up.”

From the city center, it is a little over a mile away Harbor Mountain Brewing CompanyWhere Cambria Goodwin and Luke Bruckert build their brick-and-mortar base campfire kitchen, a wood-oven pizza specialist. This year, they’ve added a mobile kitchen on-site to prepare fried chicken sandwiches ($15) and fried cheese curds ($9) to keep up with the pace of business.

In a separate effort, Ms. Goodwin recently started Sitka Salmon WagonSalmon bisque ($10 per cup, $16 per bowl) is being served from a trailer parked downtown to “feed the masses,” she said.

Weather can be a challenge for outdoor dining in the temperate rainforests of Southeast Alaska. after a year Blumen Dogs The hot dog cart, Shawn Blumenshine, is adding a food truck and will operate multiple locations, serving Nathan’s Famous Franks ($7) and creative versions ($11), including carrots, cabbage, jalapeños, vinaigrette and sweet peppers Also includes banh mi dog with sauce. To this day, patrons are largely local. “I’ve got my diehard fans,” Mr. Blumenshine said.

The state capital, Juneau, is no stranger to food carts and trucks. City leaders include Bernadette’sa Filipino barbecue cart introduced in 1996 that serves visiting cruise ship crew members, many of whom are Filipino, and pucker wilson’sOpened nine years ago, and serves double-faced burgers like the Husky Dawson with bacon, onion rings, and cheese ($16).

Visitors looking for Alaskan seafood on the go will find it a few blocks from the cruise pier Deckhand Dave’s, a fish taco purveyor that anchors a food-truck yard. The truck and yard is run by Dave McCausland, a self-taught chef who used this to pay off his college loans before launching his truck in 2016 with items like blackened rockfish tacos ($13.50 for three). He worked for two years as a cook on a commercial fishing boat. ,

In 2019, they developed the food truck lot with space for the original business, a spinoff Oyster & Champagne bar, and other mobile tenants, which still include it today. Alaska Crepe Escape and a cotton candy maker.

“People travel for a taste of the place, and when they come to Alaska they really want seafood and local food,” said Midgee Moore, who runs Juno Food ToursGuiding visitors to places like Deckhand Dave’s.

five miles from the city mendenhall glacierThe Alaska Brewing Company The Tasting Room also includes a host of food trucks. forno rosso, serving wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza ($13 to $17 for a 10-inch pie). Before moving to Juneau, the truck’s owners, Alexander and Kim Kotlarov, lived in Rome where they developed a passion for pizza, which led to the mobile business being named after their red-tiled oven.

According to Ms. Kotlyarov, if visitors discover Forno Rosso, they are likely independent travelers or fans of craft beers, which use specialty flours, San Marzano tomatoes from California and locally grown Genovese basil.

“I feel like we’re moving forward with our agenda of caring about quality and staying true to all things Italian,” Ms. Kotlyarov said, noting that she will be offering specialty Italian potato pizzas from time to time. Keeps doing

a port on the Kenai Peninsula, about 130 miles south of Anchorage, Seward Cruise ships tend to meet at the beginning or end of their itineraries. On the road system, it also attracts commuters by land route.

“They get off and get on at Seward,” said Cameron Weathers, owner of wild spoon Food truck and catering company. “We’re not going to stop.”

Still, ship crews and road-trippers patronize his stand of souped-up reindeer or buffalo dogs, topped with beetroot kimchi and ginger aioli ($10), and venison specials.

In the summer of 2020, Faith Alderman and Fiona Crosby launched their own breakfast and lunch business, despite tourism collapsing during the pandemic. porthole, with breakfast burritos ($12) and English muffin sandwiches ($8) to catch the morning traffic on Seward Harbor. Open at 4:30 a.m., business draws captains, deckhands and visitors for boat tours nearby Kenai Fjords National Park,

bound for seaward passengers Alaska SeaLife CenterAn aquarium and marine research center on Resurrection Bay, can’t be missed los chanchitosA busy Mexican food truck that anchors a shared space nearby early bird Coffee trucks and ax-throwing business. It specializes in birria or beef brisket tacos ($17), among other dishes.

Peter Cavaretta, who spent more than a decade in the southern Baja peninsula, opened the truck last April after visiting his sister in Seward and seeing “queues out the door for semi-average food at high prices,” he said. “I wanted to make great food at moderate prices.”

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