Food Trucks of Alaska – The New York Times

Last summer, on an overcast July day, the port city of Sitka, once the Russian capital of Alaska and long a popular stop on Inside Passage cruises in Southeast Alaska, was packed with passengers disembarking from three cruise ships. To accommodate the crowds, the city closed off Main Street to cars. In their place, food trucks, carts, and kiosks popped up, creating a party atmosphere as mobile diners munched on seafood soup and chowed down on tacos.

“In the summer, street food seems like the way to go for a place like this,” said Gretchen Stellzenmuller, who cooked professionally in San Francisco before returning home to Sitka during the pandemic and opening her mobile food business. Inoki-etri, which serves Japanese-inspired comfort food. “It’s healthy and uniquely celebrates Alaskan ingredients, but you can also just eat it and carry on with your tour.”

In the aftermath of the pandemic, with cruises back in full force in Alaska, food trucks and other vendors have proliferated at ports from Ketchikan to Seward.

said John Bittner, State Administrator at Alaska Small Business Development Center. “This is very attractive in the smaller communities that cruise ships serve.”

For passengers with only a few hours in port and plenty to see – including ferry passengers boarding Alaska Maritime Highway Food trucks deliver homegrown flares at relatively affordable prices and in less time than full-service restaurants.

said Aaron Saunders, senior editor at Cruz critic.

Expect to pay a bit more than you would in the Lower 48, given the higher cost of living. Last summer, I bought a chicken and rice bowl for $16 from a stall in Seward, a few dollars more and a free can of Pepsi for less than comparable truck fare in New York City.

For the 2023 cruise season, which generally runs from April to October, Alaska cruise authorities expect 1.65 million cruise passengers, up from a record 1.3 million in 2019. Most of them will be cruising the Inside Passage, a route about approximately 500 miles in southeastern Alaska. Through the islands that protect it from the churning of the Pacific Ocean.

While ship-bound visitors may make their way through Anchorage – which has its own boom Food truck scene – The following popular cruise stops make for a home-grown coastal culinary trail.

Alaska’s first call for northbound cruises is often Inside Passage, Ketchikan The traditional Tlingit fishing camp that today thrives on tourism, commercial fishing and forestry thrives with the arrival of cruise ships. Disembark passengers on day trips in the Tongass National Forest or to see totem poles in the Tongass National Forest Saxman’s Native Village You will find quite a few food stalls among the vendor stalls on the cruise dock – incl D Fish and Chip Shack – while more solid food truck offerings can be found within walking distance.

“If you want to see someone make a chicken sandwich, come over to our truck sometime,” wrote food truck owner Thane Peterson. Chick Chick Bang Bang, which specializes in chicken sandwiches ($12), per email. He described diners with “eyes closed, groaning, muttering ‘Oh my God'”.

Peterson said the truck, which launched last year, can be found parked near cruise docks, and passengers make up two-thirds of annual sales.

Just a few blocks from the cruise docks, Amber Adams aims to open the city’s first food truck plaza, Dock Street Yardin August with room for three vendors.

After moving to Ketchikan from New Orleans four years ago, Mrs. Adams found herself cooking Creole dishes with Alaskan ingredients as a reminder of home and a necessity in a small town with few dining options. Currently, the plot’s only tenant, the Food Truck, will serve shrimp and grits ($15) and rib-eye banh mi po’ boys ($18).

“Starting a restaurant is scary,” said Mrs. Adams, taking a break from preparing her truck. “But it’s a different beast here because of the massive influx of people for six months that basically doubles the population in the city.”

In high season, disembarking passengers can match SitkaIt has a population of about 8,500 people. Again this year, the city is restricting the main thoroughfare, Lincoln Street, to foot traffic on days when the cruise ship capacity in port exceeds 5,000, and inviting traveling companies to stay.

“I think it’s a really great way to showcase all the talent in this city,” said Ms. Stelzenmuller, who launched Enoki Eatery last year as a pop-up on Lincoln Street serving variations of Hawaiian-style musubi. Spam or fish and wrapped in seaweed. “Street food must be a reason to come here.”

This year, she bought a food truck and parked it downtown. The car allowed her to expand the menu, which might include steamed buns stuffed with ham or salmon and cream cheese ($9) and smoked salmon ($8.50).

Just off Lincoln Street, behind Ernie’s old saloon, Barbara Palacios serves poke, chowder and ceviche from her cart, fresh fish.

“We’re having a food truck boom here in Sitka,” said Ms. Palacios, who plans to update her car later this year to a full-size food truck and continues to serve poke (tuna or salmon, $18) and halibut ceviche. ($14) and seafood chowder ($9 for a cup, $14 for a bowl).

“It’s a job full of passion and love,” said Ms. Palacios, who often works 12 hours a day in season.

A few blocks east, past the Russian Orthodox St. Michael’s CathedralAshley McNamee directs Ashmooserving locally caught fish in smoked salmon mac and cheese ($9), black cod on coconut rice ($10) and Lingkod sandwiches ($12).

Like many food truck operators here, Ms. McNamee, whose resume includes 14 years of cooking at an Alaskan hunting lodge, chose the food truck rather than a “grind restaurant.” However, she added, “With people pouring in from cruise ships, almost all I can do is keep up.”

From the city centre, just over a mile Harbor Mountain Brewing Companywhere Cambria Goodwin and Luke Bruckert based it on bricks and mortar Campfire KitchenPizza specialist in wood-fired ovens. This year, they added a mobile kitchen on site to make fried chicken sandwiches ($15) and fried cheese curds ($9) to keep up with crushing business.

In a separate endeavor, Mrs. Goodwin recently opened Sitka Salmon Trolleyserving salmon chowder ($10 a cup, $16 a bowl) from a trailer parked downtown to “feed the crowd,” she says.

The weather can be challenging for al fresco dining in the temperate rainforests of Southeast Alaska. After one year in a row Blumen dogs Sausage cart Shawn Blumenshine is adding a food truck and will operate in several locations, offering Nathan’s famous patties ($7) and creative versions ($11), including the Banh Mi Dog with carrots, cabbage, jalapenos, vinegar and sweet chili sauce. To date, the beneficiaries are largely local. “I have hardcore Banh Mi fans,” said Mr. Blumenshine.

The state capital, Juneau, is no stranger to food carts and trucks. Includes city goers in the city Bernadettea Filipino barbecue trolley that began in 1996 draws lines for visiting cruise ship crew members, many of whom are Filipinos, and Booker Wilsonwhich opened nine years ago, and fish for two-hat burgers like the Huskey Dawson with bacon, onion rings, and cheese ($16).

Visitors looking for Alaskan seafood on the go will find it just a few blocks from the cruise dock at Decand Dev, the fish taco supplier that anchors the food truck arena. The truck and arena is run by Dave McCasland, a self-taught chef who worked for two years as a chef on a commercial fishing boat to pay off college loans before launching his truck in 2016 with things like rockstar fish tacos ($13.50 for three). ).

In 2019 he developed a lot of food trucks with space for original work, separate oysters and champagne bar and other mobile tenants, including today Alaskan Escape Crepe and a cotton candy maker.

said Midji Moore, who runs Juno Food Toursdirecting visitors to places like Deckhand Dave’s.

Five miles from downtown, in the direction of Mendenhall Glacierthe Alaska Brewing Company It hosts a food truck tasting room, incl Forno Rosso, serving Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza ($13 to $17 for 10-inch pies). Before moving to Juneau, the truck’s owners, Alexander and Kim Kotlaroff, lived in Rome where they developed a passion for pizza that led to the mobile business named after their red-brick oven.

If visitors find Forno Rosso a bit out of the way, they tend to be independent travelers or craft beer aficionados, according to Ms. Kotlarov, who uses specialty flour, California San Marzano tomatoes and locally grown Genovese basil.

“I feel like we’re swimming downstream with our agenda of being mindful of quality and staying true to the Italian thing,” said Ms. Kotlarov, noting that she continues to offer Italian potato pizza on a special occasion.

A port on the Kenai Peninsula, about 130 miles south of Anchorage, Seward Cruise ships tend to get at the beginning or end of their itineraries. On the road system, it also attracts travelers by road.

Cameron Withers, owner of Get Down and Up at Seward, said: wild spoon Food Truck and Catering Company. “We are not a station.”

However, the ship’s crew and road trippers patronize her stand for reindeer or buffalo dogs topped with kimchi-ginger beets ($10), and venison offerings.

In the summer of 2020, despite a collapse in tourism during the pandemic, Faith Alderman and Fiona Crosby launch their breakfast and lunch business, alcove, to catch early morning traffic in Seward Harbor with breakfast burritos ($12) and English muffins ($8). The business opens at 4:30 a.m., attracting businessmen, captains, freighters, and visitors taking boat trips to nearby destinations. Kenai Fjords National Park.

Seward passengers heading to Alaska Sea Life Centera center for aquatic and marine research on Easter Bay, is not to be missed Los Chanchitosa crowded Mexican food truck docked nearby shared by many Quick-witted Coffee truck and ax throwing business. It specializes in birria, or beef brisket tacos ($17), among other fare.

Peter Cavaretta, who has spent more than a decade on the southern Baja peninsula, opened the truck this past April after visiting his sister in Seward and saw “queues outside the door for semi-average food at sky-high prices,” he says. “I wanted to serve superior food at moderate prices.”