Though epic in scale and beauty, Seward Alaska isn’t exactly a hotbed of activity. Surprisingly easy to get to from the West Coast, and extremely inexpensive why not head up to the last frontier? A short trip up to Anchorage and then about an hour’s drive south and you’ll be pulling up right into town.
Nearly everyone you speak with in Seward is a refugee from the continental United States or Russia. Places like Michigan and Illinois where folks grow up hardy enough to withstand winter and excessive drinking. Imagine the Milwaukee of the frozen north.
Seward (pronounced soo-ard) looks like an old wild western movie set converted into a town. The drinking starts early and the sun barely sets. You might think most of the men in this town are plumbers, or that there is a shortage of leather for belts judging by all the faded wranglers hugging below the waist on male citizens. Two o’clock is as good a time as any to start drinking in this town that thrives on cruise ship revenue.
Thorn’s Showcase Lounge has probably the most glowing reviews of any restaurant in Seward, of which there were around 4. The yelp reviews list such comments as, “best seafood I’ve ever tasted” and “exceptional halibut”. We were eager to sample this showcase, but what we discovered was an ancient sports bar with excellent service, and a highly disturbing collection of porcelain dolls, several of which seemed to be human hair.
We arrived at Thorn’s hungry and thirsty. Don’t expect any fancy craft beer up here, this is Miller Genuine Draft Country. Thorn’s is apparently world renown for it’s fried ‘Bucket of Butt’ and exactly what we were after. We were seated quickly and were advised immediately that the bloody mary’s were excellent. This in fact was absolutely true, as the pickled asparagus was a nice touch, the mix didn’t taste more than a week old, and the vodka quantity was heavily free poured.
As the large screen cathode ray tube’s flickered in the background our first course arrived. Next up were the basket of tater tots with melted American cheese. These were spectacular, mainly because they were sticking nicely to each other, and worked perfectly with the aged ketchup brought to the table. The frozen potatoes were baked nicely, revealing slightly undercooked but warm centers.
The clam chowder also was pleasing; completely emulsified and rich with a good depth of clam flavor. Judging from how well it held together given it’s hot serving temperature, this most likely was from a can. It was still highly enjoyable, and the prerequisite oyster crackers were also presented nicely. We also elected to try the steamed clams, which were not all that exciting and steamed extremely hot, rendering them rubbery. The clam broth wasn’t all that exciting either, tasting watery and uninspired.
Finally it came time for the namesake bucket of butt. The halibut had barely any breading and was fried crispy and dry. The accoutrements were spartan in tartar sauce and horseradish sauce (the Heinz theme beginning to become apparent here). I liked what they were doing with the underripe iceberg lettuce leaf next to the dried out lemons, almost like a small side salad, but not. The halibut itself had nearly no flavor, almost like a Gordon’s crispy fish fillet with less breading.
I can’t say we were completely satisfied by the quality of the food at this establishment, but the service was quick and courteous which went quite a long way in the Stephen King like town. Our bellies now full of marginally nutritious food and alcohol we felt comfortable braving the frontier, as we still had about 16 more hours of sunlight left in the day.
After wandering around the town ( there was only one street) we quickly learned from a local barkeep that the seafood in these parts isn’t advertised because it was out of season, and nearly all is shipped to the lower 48. The explained why the crab legs were cheaper in Orlando Florida. Most people in Seward don’t order what they can go out in their backyard to catch for free. This explained the absolute lack of seafood on many of the menu’s around town, and the consistently high prices.
Seward Alaska. Go for the view, stay for the tater tots.