Seward, an easy 90 minute drive from Anchorage, is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park with access to glaciers and marine wildlife. As such, the harbor town was busy in June of 2021 even without the cruise ships running. We stayed near the harbor for both sleeping and dining.
Harbor 360 Hotel
The Harbor 360 Hotel was a big disappointment. I can’t believe it is rated #1 on TripAdvisor. Our king harbor view room was at one end of the first floor (rooms 135-142). While it did have harbor views the windows look on to the walkway in front of the harbor, with endless foot traffic crossing in front of the window when the day tour boats are boarding and disembarking. To reach the room you have to walk past all the service areas of the hotel – laundry, maintenance and so forth. The first floor hallway on the other side of reception looks much more civilized with just rooms and the business center.
The room itself reeked of cigarette smoke and the furniture was dingy and dated. The bathroom was sizable but the shower needed recaulking. Judging from website photos some of the rooms have been updated. This one definitely had not.
The second issue was the parking. The hotel does not have enough spaces for both the hotel guests and the tour boat guests that meet at the hotel for the fjord tours. If you arrive before the tour boat guests have left there are no parking spaces. When we arrived and couldn’t find a space we were told to try again in an hour. Despite advertising free parking they suggested we pay $10 to park across the street.
The front desk staff, however, is friendly and helpful. One young woman hunted down packages of hot chocolate for me and brought them to our room when they were out of them in the dining room.
Harbor 360 Hotel Breakfast
The hot and cold buffet breakfast was meager in both choice and quality. Hot items consisted of a premade American cheese omelet and meat, sausage one morning, bacon the next. There is also a self-serve pancake machine that makes thin, dense pancakes. Cold items included – 3 choices of cereal, bread, bagels, English muffins, pastry, small containers of yogurt and apples. Juice, coffee, tea and hot chocolate are also available.
Seward was brimming with tourists the 3rd week in June. Tours were full and restaurants difficult to get into. If you wanted to eat at a reasonable hour you had to get your name on the waiting list early and expect at least a 30 minute wait if you were lucky.
Chinooks Seafood and Grill
Conveniently located next to the Harbor 360 Hotel we got in with just a 30 minute wait on a busy Saturday night. Chinooks’ casual dining room has a hip vibe and harbor views, but unfortunately the food quality doesn’t match.
We ordered the market priced Alaskan king crab to start. It was cooked in way-too-salty water causing the salt to completely overpower the sweetness of the meat. For mains we tried the smoked salmon bucatini in a garlic cream sauce. While it was really linguini and not bucanti, a small error, the smoked salmon again was way too salty and overpowered the dish. The crab cakes were more bread than crab and not their best effort. The service is friendly and efficient but there isn’t much else to recommend this place.
After the previous night at Chinooks I was beginning to wonder if a good dinner was possible with all the restaurants filled to capacity and under staffed. When we arrived at Ray’s at 6:30 they said it would be at least an hour wait but to check in with them in 45 minutes. We took a walk around the docks and were back at 7:10. They called us at 7:15. The evening was starting well.
The restaurant was super crowded with lots of large groups, maybe because of Father’s Day or perhaps post Covid pent-up demand. The hostess said they’ve been this busy since the start of the summer season.
Our server was excellent and got our order in ahead of a couple of large groups. Our dishes came out of the kitchen paced quit well if not a little on the fast side. Warm, crusty sourdough with olive oil and balsamic is served before dinner.
We started with the calamari – tender with a light crispy coating and just a hint of heat, on the edge of too much seasoning, but otherwise quite good.
For mains Don had the cedar plank Halibut. They were out of salmon and were offering the halibut instead of the salmon in this signature dish. It was served with mashed potatoes and roasted vegies. All nicely done.
I tried the cioppino. The shell fish was mostly well-cooked with some morsels such as the scallops a tad over-cooked. The tomato sauce had a bit of heat and was well-seasoned.
The meal was going so well we tried dessert. A nice tart key lime pie. One of my favorites it was prepared the way I like it, i.e., not the cheesecake style, just a simple tart pie. This version was topped with toasted coconut.
Breeze Inn Restaurant & Lounge
Don’t let the shabby exterior and dated dining room fool you, the Breeze Inn Restaurant & Lounge serves good quality fare. On a Monday evening, when Ray’s stopped taking names on their waiting list by 6:30 and Chinook’s was closed (besides they have terrible food) this was our only non-fast food option within walking distance of the Harbor 360 Hotel. The wait list was only 20-25 minutes but she called our name in under 10. Unfortunately we had stepped out and missed it but were promptly seated upon our return.
The menu offers the usual American selection of dishes; appetizers, salads, sandwiches, a large selection of burger variations and mains. With the restaurant understaffed and servers over-worked we kept it simple – 2 beers, 5 piece batter-fried halibut and the patty melt with sweet potato fries. After a long wait our food was served piping hot and beautifully cooked. The best cooked halibut of the trip.
Service was friendly and efficient despite being so terribly short staffed.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Alaska page.
June 19-22, 2021