on September 27, 2011
The area of the Parks Hwy near the entrance to Denali National Park is known as "glitter gulch" and is full of the trappings of any popular tourist area. There are several gift shops and high priced gasoline ($4.69/gallon vs. $4.20 just eight miles away). This area near the park entrance mostly caters to the cruise ship land tour crowd who are herded in from Anchorage or Fairbanks on either end of their Alaskan cruise vacation. Most of the large lodges in the area are also owned by the cruise lines (Princess or Holland America).For me, all of these touristy aspects of glitter gulch is reason enough to avoid the area at all costs. That said, I fought my instincts to skip it, opting instead to head on up the road to Healey where I knew I'd get a great meal at Rose's Cafe. I stayed in glitter gulch and gave Prospector's Pizzeria & Alehouse a shot. Truth is, I was really pretty tired and didn't want to add the extra time to head further up the Parks Hwy to Rose's. I'm glad I chose Prospector's.They are located in what was the Old Northern Lights Theatre building. The walls are covered with old photographs of an era long passed, providing guests with a peek into what Alaska was like back in the times of the gold rush and prospectors . . . hence the name I suppose.It was a Sunday evening, shortly before 7:00pm when I arrived. There were large groups of people hanging around outside at the entrance. Not a good sign if you're hungry and want to get in and out quickly. At the hostess stand inside, I was told it would be at least an hour and probably closer to an hour and a half before they would have a table for one. She suggested I consider sitting at the bar.Even the bar was packed, but I did find one lone chair at the near end, by the servers' area for orders and dirty glasses. I took the seat and looked for a menu on the bar. A few minutes later a young fella by the name of Luke stopped by to offer me a drink. I asked for a menu and a diet coke.With my order placed, I got involved in the large overhead television screen that had the Sunday night football game on. It was near the end of the game so they were not showing game scores from earlier in the day, but Luke was able to confirm that the Green Bay Packers had won . . . all was good in NFL land!I struck up a conversation with the lady next to me, part of a couple in Alaska from San Jose for the road lottery. They had won a road pass for the next day and were looking forward to their first "drive" of the park. I shared my experiences from my two days in the park. She was excited at the opportunity to see so much and thanked me for the tips on where I had seen the momma bear + 2 cubs.Their food arrived before mine, and I have to admit, I was almost sorry I hadn't ordered a pizza. Theirs looked so very good, with the bubbly crust the way I like it. While I had already eaten my bowl of minestrone soup, I had no regrets however. The soup was outstanding, very hearty and flavorful. When my steak and cheese sandwich arrived, it was equally good and very filling . . . too much to eat in fact. Perhaps it was the large steak fries that put the meal over the top for me? Not sure but everything was very good, just too much to finish.My meal came to $23 including tip to Luke. I would not hesitate to stop in here again if I'm in the area "in season". If you are planning to visit, be sure you know what their hours are. Given this is in a tourist area tied to the Denali National Park season, they open in early May and close mid to late September. For 2011, their season ran from May 7th through September 22nd.A word about their "alehouse" side of the business . . . they feature some 49 beers from all across the USA and even some foreign imports. I chuckled however at two items on their beer selection list: (1) Pabst Blue Ribbon being credited as from Illinois and (2) no Budweiser offered. If you want to sample some of Alaska's most well known brews, this may be the place to do it. They have Sleeping Lady (Anchorage), Denali Brewhouse (Talkeetna), Kenai River Brewing (Soldotna) and Glacier Alehouse (Anchorage) to name just a few. I seriously considered the root beer from Sleeping Lady having had it before there earlier this year, but figured without vanilla ice cream, I'd take a pass.Being a responsible alehouse, they promote "do not drink and drive" and offer a free shuttle service. I doubt they would do pick-up and drop-off inside Denali National Park, but for those staying in the Healey/Glitter Gulch area, it is worth considering.
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