Girdwood Izakaya (Girdwood, AK)

For most of our stay in Alaska, we were staying at an AirBnB condo in Girdwood, Alaska, a small resort town located in a valley east of Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm. Girdwood is primarily known for the Alyeska Ski Resort that actually constitutes the majority of the town. Aside from the resort itself, Girdwood is actually a pretty small town, but it has a handful of restaurants, a few smaller stores, and a brewery: Girdwood Brewing. Girdwood Brewing is just a small craft brewery without its own food service (unfortunately, that means that the brewery itself has to close at 8pm due to liquor laws, which in July in Alaska is ridiculously early). Instead, Girdwood has a rotating selection of local food trucks set up shop in their parking lot. During our visit, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the rotating food truck was Girdwood Izakaya.

True to the name “Izakaya” (a Japanese bar serving light snacks), Girdwood Izakaya serves a selection of of sushi, rice bowls, and Japanese appetizers that’s nice for pairing with the beer from Girdwood Brewing. The other place you can routinely find Girdwood Izakaya (at least in the Summer of 2021) is at Sitzmark Grill at the base of Alyeska resort, Friday through Sunday, where they serve a similar niche. On our visit, they had a selection of gyoza (pork and shiitake), steam buns (pork belly and veggie), rice bowls (various proteins), and sushi (spicy tuna, himachi, unagi, and veggie options). While I was most intrigued by the himachi, served up as a roll with pineapple and cilantro, my usual luck hit: the person in front of me got the last himachi roll for the day. So we instead opted for a mixed order of gyoza, pork buns, and a shrimp rice bowl.

Starting off with the gyoza: these were nicely executed. Nice pockets of spiced pork with a bit of sesame oil and cilantro, these seared up very nicely, and were served up with a nice spicy sweet chile soy and ginger dip. A bit of crunch, a bit of chew, and a nice pork interior, and these were everything I enjoy in a good fried gyoza.

Next up was a pair of pork belly steam buns, and these were probably my favorite item from Girdwood Izakaya. The pork belly itself was lightly seasoned and cooked just to the point where the fat layer was starting to separate, and that makes for a nice, tender bun. A good array of vegetables (carrot, pickled cucumber, pickled onion), and just a dab of hoisin sauce, and this was a pleasing steam bun; I wish more snacks like this were regularly available at breweries.

The rice bowl was enjoyable as well: an ample portion of rice topped with the same sweet chile soy dip as the gyoza, some shaved carrot, the same pickled veggies as the buns, and several nice, large, decently seared shrimp. A bit less composed than the steam bun, this was otherwise a decent, satisfying bowl, with the high point probably being the shrimp (I’ve had rather good luck with shrimp recently).

Overall, as an accompaniment to a brewery, Girdwood Izakaya hit the spot. Affordable, reasonable portions, and some good flavors that compliment the beer without covering it up. I was hoping to try the hamachi later in the week when they were at Sitzmark (literally, right outside our AirBnB), but never seemed to make the timing work out. If we end up returning to Girdwood, I’ll definitely look these folks up.

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