There's seafood, and then there's seafood in Alaska. A trip is not complete without some salmon or king crab. Whether you're embarking on a cruise or are seeing the state on your own, these locals-approved establishments deserve a spot on any Southeast Alaska food tour. They may not have all the bells and whistles of your favorite special occasion seafood restaurant back home, but that's because they deliver on what's important: fresh catch and satisfying flavor.
Juneau: Tracy's Crab Shack
Just because tourists flock to an eatery doesn't mean it's any less delicious than quieter spots. Case in point: Tracy's Crab Shack, a tiny establishment off an alley that's come to nationwide fame after Top Chef filmed an episode there. But long before the cameras and out-of-towners descended, locals in Alaska's busiest cruise port have been visiting Tracy for her 10- to 12-ounce king crab legs and award-winning crab bisque. Even today, one devoted local writes that the shack "gives [her] a reason to look forward to tourist season." Massive as the arm-length crab legs are, they do cost $24; for a more affordable and filling meal, a large bisque costs $10.95.
Ketchikan: Halibut Hole
Diehard fans of fish and chips head over to Halibut Hole, which serves up fresh meals with a creekside view (and, if you're lucky, seal and otter sightings). For $10.99-$14.99, hungry travelers can order freshly battered fish – salmon and cod are popular options – and a choice of fries, slaw, or hush puppies. This dive-y spot is a great place to grab a lunchtime beer, and clams and shrimp also find their way to the menu. Good to know: The restaurant is located in the Eagles club. While you don't need membership for a meal, you do have to pay in cash.
Sitka: Ludvig’s Bistro
Have room in your budget for a splurge? Sitka is a small town with big dining expectations, thanks to Ludvig's refined Mediterranean cuisine. Don't be surprised to see tapas like truffled scallops ($18) or large plates like Alaskan seafood paella ($34) and prawn pesto gnocchi with artichokes ($34) come out of the kitchen. Casual and all-American setting aside, we also love owner and chef Colette Nelson's focus on local sourcing – a result of the years she spent as a commercial salmon fisher.
Hoonah: Chipper Fish
Step into Chipper Fish and you'll think you're in salmon heaven. Chef and proprietor Kristi Skalflestad snags the best catch daily from her father, a commercial fisher. In just four short years, her chili-glazed salmon taco and panko-breaded salmon bites have become local staples. Be warned: These items sell out early, so get there early. If you're not in a salmon mood, for some inexplicable reason, breakfast here is also spot on – biscuits with cheesy bacon tots with sausage gravy and eggs, anyone?
Gustavus: Gustavus Inn
Sometimes, the best food requires a bit of traveling. Such is the case with Gustavus Inn, a 1965 homestead that calls a remote Alaska port home. Proof? The James Beard Foundation bestowed an America's Classics distinction on the inn's restaurant in 2010. There, the star of each meal is always a local catch – be it Dungeness crab, salmon, halibut, or sablefish – accompanied by greens and a foraged edible from the area. While most seats go to inn guests, a few spots usually are open for passersby, so go ahead and stop by.