Destination Guides,  Food Stories

Where to Eat in Denali: A Local’s Guide to 10 Great Restaurants

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Choosing favorites is hard, but if I had to pick my absolute favorite place to visit in Alaska, it’s Denali.

Growing up in Alaska, I was fortunate to visit Denali National Park many times. I also worked in Denali for one summer, selling tours for one of the major cruise companies. Since moving out of Alaska, I’ve made return trips often, riding the Denali buses all the way back to Mile 92.5 before the road closure in 2021 – and even taking the shorter bus tour a few weeks after the road closed. I never get tired of exploring Denali National Park and the surrounding region. All this to say: I love Denali, and I know Denali well.

In addition to the great outdoors and one humbling huge mountain, there is a small tourism-based community each summer, which includes the train depot, several places to eat in Denali, as well as hotels for overnight accommodation.

Where to Eat in Denali Hero

As you plan your Denali itinerary, you might wonder if there are enough good restaurants for the number of days you have – and which ones to choose with your limited time. For that reason, I wrote this list of the best restaurants in Denali… according to me! This is not a comprehensive list, and it is not algorithmically based on reviews or any other data; it is my personal list of recommendations, based on all the time I’ve spent in Denali and my love for the area.

If you’re ready to sink your teeth into my list of Denali restaurant recommendations and sort out where you’ll be eating during your Denali trip, read on – these are some delicious options.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Tanana and Dënéndeh peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Where to Eat in Denali (Map)

Where to Eat in Denali Map
Click to interact with the map – also to see 49th State Brewing (N) and 229 Parks (S)

Before diving into the list of restaurants in Denali I recommend, I wanted to share a map so you could get oriented to where the majority of restaurants are in Denali. If you click the map image above, it will open a custom map in a separate tab or window – then you can move around the map to see how most restaurants I recommend are in the Nenana Canyon area one mile north of the Denali park entrance. There are a few other restaurants I recommend further away, and I explain more about both of those in the list below.

Now that you’re oriented, let’s go through each of the places to eat in Denali that I love – and why!

Moose-AKa’s – Best in Show (In Town)

  • Address: Mile 238.9 Parks Hwy
  • Website: moose-akas.com
  • Must-Try: The Meze Platter followed by Sarma

In writing these lists of where to eat in various parts of Alaska, I always find it’s easy to come up with one place I recommend to literally anyone and everyone. I call this the “Best in Show” restaurant since my experience there was so good that I can’t imagine anyone having a bad experience. In Denali, that place is Moose-AKa’s, a restaurant I was genuinely uncertain about and almost skipped.

Moose-AKa’s is an Eastern European taverna in the heart of Alaska, and somehow manages to beautifully balance these dichotomous styles. The menu is truly stunning, the interior is both charmingly rustic and transportive – you literally don’t remember you’re in Denali when dining here.

And it’s really the menu that shines here – this is what brought me in the door and I guarantee will blow your mind. I’ve eaten Eastern European food in Eastern Europe that wasn’t as good or traditional as what you’ll find at Moose-AKa’s. Best of all, the service is European style; there’s no rushing you off the table to turn it over. The servers are there to serve you as a team, and this makes the whole meal low-pressure and no-rush.

To be honest, the prices are higher than you might find at most other restaurants in Denali, but it is 100% worth it. Step inside that little log cabin and you’ll thank me later!

229 Parks – Best in Show (Worth the Drive)

  • Address: Mile 229 Parks Hwy
  • Website: 229parks.com
  • Must-Try: Whatever’s on the menu! But if the Reindeer Ragu or Kodiak Scallops are offered, go for those.

If you drive to Denali, you get a special treat: along the way is one of Alaska’s best restaurants. Unfortunately, it’s only accessible if you have a car and there is no shuttle, but 229 Parks is worth the drive if you can get there.

Located about 10 miles south of the park entrance and main Nenana Canyon business area, 229 Parks is chef Laura Cole’s restaurant; that would be two-time James Beard nominee and Top Chef contestant Laura Cole if you know the food world at all. Chef Cole puts together a frequently changing menu based on seasonal ingredients but I guarantee whatever’s on the menu will blow your mind.

I was fortunate to have lunch at 229 Parks as part of my John Hall’s Alaska tour in August 2021 and have been dying to get back. I would literally consider renting a car specifically just to have dinner here.

Lynx Creek Pizza – Best for Pizza

Where to Eat in Denali - Lynx Creek Pizza

There are two pizza places in Denali, and most people are partial to the other one – but I had a really bad/weird experience there during my last visit, so my vote stays with Lynx Creek Pizza. It’s nothing fancy, but I have some fond memories of bygone pizzas enjoyed here, and I love the no-frills atmosphere inside the log cabin where this restaurant is located.

While they have a nice menu of pizzas to choose from, I personally love to order a custom pie: marinara, mozzarella, and artichoke hearts. I’m not normally a veggies-on-pizza kind of gal, but this combo is rich and flavorful.

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    The Black Bear – Best for Breakfast

    • Address: Mile 238.5 Parks Hwy
    • Website: theblackbeardenali.com
    • Must-Try: Cinnamon roll and a latte with the Barista’s choice art on top

    If you need a pick-me-up and don’t want to pay for coffee and just eat at your hotel, head to The Black Bear, the only independent coffee shop in town. They call themselves “the living room of Denali,” which is an apt description for the only place you can really kick back, unwind, re-caffeinate, or get a bit of work done on the semi-decent wifi.

    In addition to great coffee, they have a full brunch menu. My personal favorite has to be the Better than Grandma’s Biscuits & Gravy (my fave breakfast of all time), but their Breakfast Bearito sounds great for fueling up for a day of hiking in the park and their cinnamon rolls are renowned. They are also known for their latte art.

    Photos courtesy of The Black Bear

    Denali Park Salmon Bake – Best for Drinks

    • Address: Mile 238.5 Parks Hwy
    • Website: denaliparksalmonbake.com
    • Must-Try: The McKinley Margarita with Alaskan King Crab

    I had to dig way back into the photo archives for this one, folks! (The Denali Park Salmon Bake was not open for summer 2020 or 2021, so I was unable to visit and update my photos and only have this one from 2009.)

    When I worked in Denali for a summer, I was underage, but all of my over-age coworkers spent basically every Friday and Saturday night at “the Salmon Bake.” I’mma be honest: it sounded like so much fun and I had serious FOMO. Once I finally turned 21, I made a stop on my next trip to Denali and finally tried the “McKinley Margarita,” a towering heap of blue frozen margarita meant to pay homage to the giant mountain that shared its name for a time.

    Warning though: you only need one of these monstrosities!

    Great 1 Grocery – Best for Grab & Go

    Denali is a place for adventure, and sometimes that means you either don’t have time or don’t want to spend the time for a longer sit-down meal. While it’s nothing fancy, I was impressed by Great 1 Grocery and the little food cart they set up outside during the summers. Mr. V and I had a late lunch here one afternoon and were quite pleased.

    They also offer a box lunch alternative to whatever the Park Service and your Denali hotel might be offering on the day of your Tundra Wilderness Tour; you can order and pick it up in advance to have a better meal during your day of sightseeing on the Denali park bus. I guarantee that at $13 it’s cheaper than whatever your hotel is offering!

    The Mountaineer Grill – Best Salmon Chowder

    Many times when I visit Alaska, I decide to try the same dish at a number of different restaurants; during my September 2021 trip, that dish was salmon chowder. Don’t ask me why – it just sounded delicious on every menu, so I kept enjoying it!

    Hands down the best salmon chowder I had was at The Mountaineer Grill & Bar within the Denali Bluffs Hotel. Mr. V and I were staying here for part of our Alaska trip and had a late dinner here one night. Even at the end of the season and literally the bottom of the barrel – our server told me it was the last cup of the last tureen of chowder the chef would make that year! –, the salmon chowder here was excellent. Seriously, stop here for a beer and a bowl of chowder.

    Alpenglow Restaurant – Best for Special Occasions & Views

    The other part of our September 2021 Denali trip included an overnight in one of the cabins at the Grande Denali; I’ve previously detailed how that is my favorite place to stay in Denali. As part of that stay, we dined at the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Alpenglow, which sits high on the slopes of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

    The views from the dining room – and even from the bar – are spectacular, and the food is lovely, making Alpenglow my top choice for both views and any special occasion you might want to celebrate while in the Denali area. You can toast your relationship, your birthday, or any other event you want to mark while looking out over the Nenana Canyon spread out below you. Their menu features options from both surf (fresh Alaskan seafood) and turf (steaks and burgers).

    Denali Glacier Scoops – Best for Ice Cream

    Where to Eat in Denali - Denali Glacier Scoops
    • Address: Mile 238.6 Parks Hwy
    • Website: n/a
    • Must-Try: Wild Mountain Blackberry if you prefer fruity flavors (as I do)

    I mentioned in my guide for where to eat in Anchorage that Alaskans love their ice cream; they eat more of it per capita than any other state! So it’s really no surprise that even a tiny community like Denali Park/Nenana canyon has an ice cream shop, nor that said ice cream shop does a roaring trade in the summer months.

    Denali Glacier Scoops is your traditional ice cream shop, with all the flavors you’d expect. I’m not sure whether they make their own ice cream, but the flavors aren’t as creative as you might find at a craft ice cream shop (there isn’t one in Denali). That said, they regularly have flavors like “moose tracks,” “bear claw,” and “caramel caribou” on the menu, bringing you up to three of Denali’s Big Five without even entering the park!

    Photo courtesy of Denali Glacier Scoops via Facebook

    49th State Brewing – Best in Healy

    • Address: 248 Parks Hwy
    • Website: 49statebrewing.com/denali
    • Must-Try: Bavarian Handmade Pretzels followed by their Alaskan Halibut Fish & Chips

    If you follow this blog at all, you already know that I recommend 49th State Brewing as my Best in Show restaurant in Anchorage – it’s truly my favorite place to eat in Alaska’s biggest city, which says a lot. 49th State Brewing actually started up in the Denali area, Healy to be specific, which is 10 miles north of the Nenana Canyon business district.

    Healy is a small community of actual locals – like, people who live in the area all year long, not just during the summer tourist season. They are also lucky to have closer access to the original 49th State Brewing location, which sits just off the Parks Highway on the southern end of town. As with their Anchorage branch, this is the place to grab a beer and great food; in Healy, you can also sit outside in the beer garden, which includes the “Into the Wild” bus replica from the movie of the same name.

    If you have a car and want to make the drive up to Healy (which is a beautiful drive anyway!), be sure to enjoy a bite and a pint before returning back to Nenana Canyon.

    While some folks might say there aren’t a lot of options for where to eat in the Denali area, I think there are plenty – this is far from a comprehensive list too, so if you didn’t see anything you like on my list, Google can help you find other options. Have any questions about these restaurants in Denali? Let me know in the comments!

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    I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

    4 Comments

    • Susan Taylor

      We’re staying at Denali Park Village. Which restaurants do you recommend near there? I’m hoping they offer shuttle service to some locations.

      • Avatar photo

        Valerie

        I actually don’t know of any restaurants down there, other than the ones at the property. I’m pretty sure their shuttle only runs to the Park Entrance, but I’ve never stayed down there so I’m not sure – you might try contacting them.

    • Allan Pearl

      Google shows The Great 1 grocery store store is permanently closed! Do you know if will be open for the 2022 season?

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