SkinnyPig Travels: Juneau, Alaska and Speaking at IFBC

I am way behind on this post, so for those of you who follow me on Instagram and have been asking for this list…I’m so sorry! Would you believe me if I told you I thought I wrote it already? Because seriously, I did. That’s how much I’m losing my mind.

But I digress. 

Alaska has been a MAJOR bucket list destination for me, so I was beyond thrilled when I got asked to speak at the International Food Blogger’s Conference in Juneau! Not only was I honored to be a speaker, but I also got to visit one of the most beautiful places on earth. Can’t beat that combo.

I also partnered with Travel Juneau and the Westmark Baranof Hotel on this trip, so I decided to extend for a few days after the conference and do some exploring with my friend Brittny. More on that later. In terms of the hotel – I’ll say it’s not the most updated, but it’s clean, the staff is SUPER friendly, and it’s in a perfect location right in downtown near all the action. Definitely recommend if you’re not the high maintenance luxury type. Their bar and lounge (The Bubble Room) also had some pretty good food – I ate fried calamari in bed one night and was NOT mad about it.

The International Food Blogger’s Conference (or IFBC) has been going on for a decade (first one was 2009 in Seattle), and it’s been a dream of mine to attend, let alone SPEAK. I was nervous as all hell, but I managed to get my life together and “kill it”, according to some of the attendees. 

My discussion was based on this piece I wrote about my love/hate relationship with Instagram, and it was so exciting to get up there and actually feel like I helped people understand it and how to stay sane while using it.

That’s a daily struggle, even for me.

The conference was 3 days (Thurs-Sat) and nicely packed with activities and talks, as well as breakout sessions (like mine). I felt they did a nice job of giving us ample time to explore (aka downtime), but still left us with a lot of opportunities for networking and mingling with the other bloggers. It was really cool to see how far this reaches – there were people from all over the world! Hence why they call it “international”, I suppose. Nothing gets by me.

Why did they have the conference in Alaska though? Many people asked me that. As it turns out, they have some damn good food there. Tracy’s Crab Shack? Oh my god. Best crab legs I’ve ever had in my life and the BIGGEST I’ve ever seen, hands down. 

Another thing Alaska does really well? Bar food. There was a bar near our hotel that made their own version of a crunchwrap and well, you know how I feel about crunchwraps…

There isn’t a ton of fine dining in Juneau, but I’ll be honest, I kind of liked that aspect. Every place I went to seemed laid back and approachable, with great stuff coming out of the kitchen. We went on a crawl with Juneau Food Tours as well, which was a really great way to get a taste of the best! See below for the full list of restaurants I visited, and the ones with an asterisk are the ones we went to on the Food Tour:

Alaska Restaurants

  1. Tracy’s King Crab Shack: Kind of already went over this, but you need to go here. If you come to Juneau and don’t visit this place, you messed up. BIG TIME. The crab bisque is out of this world delicious, and they have some of the best damn crab legs I’ve ever had. I could eat a bucket of them and I’m not even a seafood person. Be advised though, they are pricey, but when you see the size of the crab legs you’ll know why.
  2. Hangar on the Wharf: fish & chips, fish tacos, all the fish! Also GREAT views from here and I was sitting inside. 
  3. V’s Cellar Door: slightly more upscale, but still casual enough for a lunch. Had some amazing salmon tartare here.
  4. Imperial Billiard & Bar: so remember those homemade Crunchwraps I mentioned? This is where you can find them. You can also find great chicken fingers, fries, and nachos. This bar also comes with a great selection of Alaskan brews on tap, room for dancing, and pool tables.
  5. Devil’s Club Brewing Co.: so, this place was right across the street from the Baranof Hotel, and I was STARVING when I got there, so I went into the first place I saw. Turns out on Wednesdays they do a pizza night, and I happened to get in on a Wednesday. They had a great selection of beers, and I ordered a giant bowl of popcorn with that “nutritional yeast” stuff on it, and it was so addictive. If you’ve never had it, nutritional yeast tastes like cheese. The pizza was just ok though, they need to work on their crust. Didn’t stop me from eating about 6 slices but just saying.
  6. Deckhand Dave’s*: this was in a little food truck park right near the Baranof Hotel (can you tell it’s in a great location?), and it was SO good. I never thought I would enjoy panko-crusted and deep fried salmon on a stick, but oh man, you need to try this. Served with a tangy tartar sauce on the side, it was like a fish stick but WAY better. 
  7. Salt*: the only real fine dining establishment in Juneau, Salt was opened recently under acclaimed chef Lionel Uddipa, who has won the Great American Seafood Cookoff in 2017, and the Great Alaska Seafood Cookoff in 2014. The watermelon salad, deviled eggs, and halibut were delicious. Great balance of flavors in each dish. Menu here.
  8. Pel’meni – crazy delicious Russian dumplings. Open late for those drunken nights when you need a belly full of carbs to help you out. 

  9. The Westmark Baranof Hotel: there were actually some great bar bites coming out of our hotel’s lounge, The Bubble Room. Fried calamari, wings, truffle fries, and a spicy cod sandwich. Ideally washed down with a cocktail (or two). 

  10. The Narrows Bar: right down the block from our hotel was this cozy bar with classic cocktails. The bartenders know their stuff and were super helpful with the beer selection too. One too many old fashioneds here and we were running around the corner to the place with the Crunchwraps…
  11. Alaskan Hotel*: Oldest hotel in town and supposedly haunted *shivers*, this bar has live music and a great selection of IPA’s. We did a tasting flight of Alaskan Brew Co. IPA’s and lagers, then sat at the bar and listened to some live tunes. Loved this spot, it felt like going back in time. Probably couldn’t convince me to stay there due to the haunting but still…
  12. Devil’s Hideaway: me and Britt stumbled upon this place when we rented a a car and drove to the glaciers for a hike. There weren’t many options, but this divey bar smelled like a deep fryer (in a good way) and we were STARVING so it hit the spot, 1000%. I had a basket of wings and the most perfect onion rings ever. Like literally, I don’t think I’ve had a better onion ring. 

  13. Alaska Fish & Chips Company at The Flight Deck: this was a great spot to grab some beers and crabcakes. Right on the water where you can watch the seaplanes take off!

  14. Roma Bistro on the Wharf: this place doesn’t have the best reviews online, but I rather enjoyed the food. The tomatoes and burrata were super fresh, and I thought the pizzas were tasty with a crispy, cracker-y crust.

  15. El Sombrero: great little Mexican spot right down the block from our hotel, and I had some delicious quesadillas there.

  16. Red Dog Saloon: the oldest bar/tourist attraction in Juneau, this is definitely one you don’t want to miss! I didn’t eat here but I grabbed some drinks and it’s got such a fun, divey vibe. Alaska is king of dive bars, I’ve discovered. 

  17. Sandpiper Cafe: this place was BUMPIN for brunch on Sunday, but we waited it out and it was well worth it. We had pancakes, baked eggs with hashbrowns and veggies, fresh OJ/coffee…perfect Sunday.

  18. The Rookery Cafe: stopped in here for a coffee a few times, as well as a grab-n-go salad. I actually thought the salad was damn good for a pre-packaged thing. Not far from where the boats dock, so it’s easy to pop in for a quick bite and a coffee or tea.

In terms of activities, we rented a car one day and drove to the Mendenhall Glaciers for a little hike. Emphasis on little – my knee was really messed up at this point so walking was difficult. I pushed through the pain for the epic scenery, which you can browse below in the photos. Definitely worth the drive (which wasn’t very long to begin with, maybe 20-30 minutes).

I think my favorite activity was probably whale watching though, which we did with Juneau Tours. I had gone on a trip like this back in elementary school somewhere in Long Island, but there were zero whales to be watched. In this case, we saw A LOT and it was AWESOME. The ride out is gorgeous (vid below), and even though it’s a little uneventful while you wait for the whales, once you see them pop up and take that little dive with their tails flipping out of the water, everyone “oohs” and “ahhs”. It’s almost as if the whales know they’re being watched, putting on such a performance.

Absolutely loved Juneau, and even though I came back home to a nightmarish flu, it was 100% worth it. Pictures of the scenery barely do it justice.

Thank you again to Travel Juneau and the IFBC!! I had a wonderful time and met so many amazing people 🙂

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