17 October 2013

Where to Eat Vegan: Middle Way Cafe - Anchorage, Alaska

Before my trip, when I thought of Alaska I thought of bears and mountains and lots and lots of salmon. These things are all true about Alaska - plus the squirrels of Alaska: bald eagles and elk who fly and roam free without remarking or reacting to your lower 48 gawk.

Forward thinking cuisine, rocking allergy sensitive delicious creations, vibrant local produce and the question: 
"Would you like almond, rice or coconut milk for your chai?"

These were things I was NOT expecting in Alaska.  

I give you the Colour's Tofu Snack.

Blackened tofu piled over patties of beet, carrot, zucchini and leeks. Throw in some home fries, ranchero sauce and vegan sour cream and that's a pretty decadent breakfast! 

This was my first meal in Alaska and if the pictures convey anything then you know I was a pretty darn happy girl. I made the short walk to Middle Way Cafe from my host house to meet with a fellow couch surfer to get the lay of the land, look at some local maps and get some food in my stomach that wasn't an airport's attempts at the edible.

Middle Way Cafe sits in an unassuming strip mall in the Spenard neighborhood of Anchorage. To the tourist who travels to see quaint old cities and delights in things like converted factory loft apartments, windmills refabed into restaurants, ancient old squares in southern towns and other gems of our countries offerings - Anchorage may seem like a let down at first glance. The streets are wide and still dusted in mud after the spring meltdown, the buildings are straightforwardly plain reminding you of every dirty, commercial heavy town you've ever sped through on a road-trip. It feels industrial save for the towering snow capped mountains that shadow the city.

But then, sometimes the charm of a city turns out not to be the turreted victorians or the old brownstones or the courtyards. In the absence of these frivolities you find that a city is in fact made up of its people, not its buildings. During my short stay in Alaska I came to Middle Way Cafe three separate times and each time I met someone new: a transplant to Alaska who after 7 years was just beginning to venture out into the mountains and was full of excitement, two Swiss teenagers hitchhiking to Denali and then a man so tan his skin looked charred who had just come down off the glaciers to take a break from work. 

The generosity and friendliness of the Alaskans, both transplants and native born was what made Anchorage attractive. I easily found myself chatting in line with strangers and sharing tables with new friends at Middle Way on the first day.

Temple Bowl and Carrot Juice

Oh and did I mention that I ate like a queen in Alaska? YEAH, back to the food... this cafe has an extensive menu with a cult following that produces lines almost out the door - but don't worry it's worth it! Buddha bowls, burgers, grilled cheeses, vegan soups and smoothies, desserts galore! In much of my travels, places that have professed to be vegan friendly are actually really more vegetarian friendly and they can subtract things like sour cream or cheese from your meal. Middle Way was refreshingly simple to order from but at the same time difficult to choose from - so many choices.

Vegan travelers: the veg scene is alive and well in Alaska so go explore!

                                                    SUITE G
                                                    ANCHORAGE, ALASKA 99503

(907) 272-6433

Mon-Fri: 7:00 am-6:00 pm
                                                     Sat-Sun: 8:00 am-6:00 pm

Lacey Walker | @quinoaween | Blog | Flickr
Maryland Lacey is a food photographing, French speaking, English teaching, travel enthusiast. She's been known to cut a rug. She's also been known to spend all day in bed eating vegan waffles and talking to her cat Hibou.

Photo credit: Lacey