Henry’s Great Alaskan Restaurant has an interesting personality. It’s reminiscent of a chain restaurant — the inside still seems squeakilynew after more than two years in business, and it’s brightly lit, spacious and bustling.
But it’s also a rustic, unassuming and easy-to-appreciate place where cowboy hats and Carhartts are usually de rigueur.
And with the recent additions of live music, a dance floor and a liquor license, it’s a new nightlife scene.
When the restaurant opened, it was a beer-and-wine-only affair, and ownerRay LeGrue said the goal was to concentrate on dining before dancing.
“You have to walk before you run,” he said.
Now Henry’s is at a brisk trot, with a bustling after-work scene and an ever-growing audience for Friday-, Saturday- and Sunday-night music events.
LeGrue is the son of Henry “Legs” James, the original namesake for the Kodiak restaurant that opened in 1957, when it was called the Beachcombers. LeGrue said music is part of Henry’s lifeblood, as the Kodiak location has hosted musicians since the late ’50s.
“We’ve always loved the arts,” he said.
Henry’s hasn’t settled on a specific musical genre yet, and LeGrue said the restaurant’s theme is “a tribute to Alaskan artists.” That includes local bands, Alaska art on the walls and Don Russell, a local magician who performs on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
The modest exterior, as seen from Old Seward Highway, is misleading; just around the corner, the front door boasts copper siding and a large entryway. Inside, the restaurant is muted, airy and family-friendly.
What does that mean for nightlifers? Skip the restaurant and head for the bar. It’s the best part and is so big that you won’t have difficulty finding a seat.
The music comes from a small stage behind a shiny dance floor at the end of the bar. The decor is enhanced by the Jagermeister-chilling machine, or “Jager-rator,” but the beverage menu is what you’d expect at a well-stocked but run-of-the-mill restaurant/bar: well drinks, more than a dozen beers on tap and a variety of wines by the glass or bottle.
As for food, it’s not quite haute cuisine, but it’s not bad. It is, however, spendy. Appetizers can run up to $17 and $23. Yikes. Still, there are more than 20 starter options, and several are deep-fried, which is great when partnered with a pint (they range from $3.50 to $5.50).
Each time I’ve visited Henry’s, I’ve enjoyed myself. There aren’t many surprises but no disappointments either. It can be a quiet, comfortable night out; it can be a rowdy, cacophonous bar scene that screams “Alaska.”
Whether gearing up for a night at nearby Al’s Alaskan Inn, or just relaxing after work with friends, it works.
And who knows? If the music scene continues to grow, Henry’s Great Alaskan Restaurant might become a great time, true to it’s name.
-- by Jessica Bowman