Anchorage is Alaska's most populated community, also affectionately referred to as "Alaska's biggest village." My parents and I moved to Anchorage from rural Alaska in the mid-1980s and as an adult, I chose to make Anchorage my permanent home. Before moving here, I visited as a child. The bright lights, fast cars and glass buildings looked like a scene from television. It was very different from the muddy streets of Bethel. To me, Anchorage represented the progression of Alaska as a modern American destination. I currently live near the Spenard business district in Midtown, so most of my hangouts are in that area. With that said, I'm a sucker for any place with good food and entertainment, so you can find me at a number of places around town.
It's not exactly the West Village of New York City, but midtown is one of Anchorage's hipper areas. Not as trendy as obvious downtown spots, but the west side of midtown is establishing itself as a must-do for locals and visitors alike. The best place to start is at Kaladi Brothers Coffee/Title Wave Books (1340 West Northern Lights Blvd.) guaranteed the best coffee in town with a shot of friendly conversation, of course. Kaladi has 10 cafés throughout the Anchorage area. Stop in for lunch at Jens' Restaurant (701 West 36th Ave), one of the classiest places in town.
2. An evening in Midtown
For Anchorage's midtown dwellers, the Bear Tooth Theatre Pub & Grill (1230 West 27th Ave.) is a perfect choice. The theater pub hosts a variety of signature brews (my favorite is the Polar Pale Ale) and débuts a new beer every month. I recommend eating dinner first at the adjoining Bear Tooth Grill. They have wonderful specials and a creative Southwestern-inspired menu. Then head next door to the theater pub and watch a $3 second-run movie with a pint of Moose's Tooth beer or root beer.
3. Some fun in Downtown
Located in downtown Anchorage, Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse (610 West 6th Ave.) has very popular halibut dishes and even more popular beer choices. I always order my favorite dish "The Humpy Burger," of course. This alehouse is also one of the few venues for live music in Anchorage, so stay awhile and enjoy the show.
4. An evening drive on the Southside
Southside Bistro (1320 Huffman Park Dr.) is upscale and wonderful. This restaurant has two sides: The dining room is a more formal setting offering daily specials on its dinner menu, and the more casual side offers a special bistro menu. I recommend getting your dessert to go. Drive down Turnagain Arm along the Seward Highway, find a safe spot to pull over and have your dessert sitting at the foot of the great Chugach Mountains. You'll never forget it.