I’ll ask ‘er


Caribou Cafe

1867 Glenn Hwy
Glennallen, AK 99588

If you have been following SliceofLife, then you’ll know that I drove the Alaska Highway recently. Also, if you have been following SliceofLife, then you’ll know that I have not done a proper pizza review in a while. Simply put, that trip had enough of an impact on my pocketbook that I have recently been forced to cut certain pleasures from my life. First thing to go: paying money for pizza. As some sort of comprimise to my loyal readers I will do something that I never thought I would do and review a non-Edmonton pizza joint.

Glennallen is a small town in Alaska, roughly half-way between Tok and Anchorage. More importantly though, Glennallen is home to the one-and-only Caribou Cafe, a modest roadside diner and serious pizza maker. My 2 travelling partners and I decided to stop-in at the Caribou Cafe for the same reasons that anyone else would: it is the first restaurant on the side of the highway. We were pleasantly surprised.

After waiting the abnormally large wait-time time to be seated, we posted up at the counter and sipped on coffee while waiting for a Ham and Pineapple pizza. Our choice of seating allowed us a great view of the inner workings of the restaurant and staff dynamics. The staff, which included 2 Eastern European waitresses and a 13 year old child, were very sweet. My favourite moment came when one waitress was cutting a piece of birthday cake for a customer and the yung’un brought 2 birthday candles for the cake. Pleased with his foresight, the waitress (his mom?) was quick to exclaim “you are wonderful” to the kid. Even if this pizza was bad, I knew this place was great.

After a quick trip to the washroom, I got lost and stumbled into an empty room filled with tables, chairs and one large signboard that read Panther’s Pizza leaning against a wall. When our order came up, we finished our coffee, took our pizza, and returned to my Toyota Corolla in order to make good time.

Caribou’s Pizza is great! The crust was perfectly cooked and of perfect thickness. The cheese was not too thick and left a lot of room for the tasty sauce.

I was so impressed with their pizza that I was left with some questions. How could this modest establishment, tucked away in a small town on the Alaska Highway, be responsible for some of the best pizza I have tasted? Do other travellers know about this joint? Is this a local favourite? Why do they not advertise their pizza specifically?

The entirely unfounded conclusion that I came to was that Caribou Cafe used to be a pizza restaurant called Panther Pizza that was forced to change formats and adopt a more northernly name in order to appeal to the middle-of-the-road tourists that pass through Glennallen on their way to Alaska’a largest city. As a general roadside diner and by pumping the wilderness angle in their name, the cafe’s business likely doubled and they never looked back.

A quick visit to their website put things into place however. Looks like Panther Pizza is the (still active) pizza and ice cream side of the cafe. The empty room with tables and chairs that I found was likely simply that side of the restaurant. No big mystery. It doesn’t matter, the place is dope and so is there Pizza.

Needless to say, the remainder of that day was spent, in the car, coming up with animal-restaurant alliterations. Winner: Salmon Saute-House. Loser: all three of us.

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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