Venietia Santana, the owner of V’s Cellar Door downtown, laughs when people say they don’t come out to eat downtown because the 15-minute commute from the Mendenhall Valley is too long.
This coming week, the Downtown Business Association is trying to give people more of a reason to make that commute, with Downtown Restaurant Week running from Monday to Sunday. Santana hopes that getting the word out about restaurants such as hers will prove to people outside of downtown that there’s a reason to come.
“People will stay in their corners,” Santana said, “and I think part of Restaurant Week is showing people that downtown has cool, new things.”
This is the second restaurant week of the year for the DBA, following up one in February. Restaurants for this week are required to be part of the DBA, and V’s Cellar Door is one of the newest members. There are 15 restaurants and eateries in total, many of which are offering new specials for the week. Santana, for example, is unveiling her Shiz Boom Pop! Corn, which is her take on turning popcorn into a replacement for chips and salsa.
An added incentive for people to visit these restaurants — which range from coffee shops such as Heritage Downtown to fine dining such as SALT Alaska to bars such as Red Dog Saloon — is the new rewards program.
When patrons visit one of the 15 spots, they can register them on www.juneaurestaurantweek.com and earn rewards based on how many they visit. All it takes is taking pictures of receipts and filling out a short form on the site (remember to hold on to your receipts until the end of the week).
People who eat at one or two restaurants are entered to win a variety of gift cards and donated gifts. Eating at three or four restaurants will earn someone a chance to win two tickets with Juneau Food Tours. Those who eat at five or more restaurants will be entered for a chance to have a cooking class with SALT Alaska Executive Chef Lionel Uddipa.
DBA Board Member Dana Herndon said they chose this week in part to bring locals back downtown now that the summer tourists are out of town, but also to help out the restaurants.
“It’s definitely catered to a local crowd but it’s also timed with the time of the year where restaurant traffic is lower,” Herndon said, “so we’re trying to really spark traffic within those restaurants too, and to get more people downtown.”
Both restaurant weeks, in February and this one, have also showed off how much the culinary scene downtown has changed. Liz Perry, the president and CEO of Travel Juneau, said there’s more variety now in Juneau’s food than there ever has.
Perry said “visitors are choosing to travel here specifically to eat,” and that Juneau restaurants are getting more national media attention now than before.
Santana opened V’s Cellar Door four years ago, and has seen an explosion of culinary creativity all around her. She said an influx of new, young restaurateurs has improved both the quality of food and the quality of service downtown, and that people should make an effort this week to come out and experience it.
“I think that food has, in the past five years in this town, gone from pretty mediocre to really great, tasty, fun, new options,” Santana said.
When: Monday, Oct. 9-Sunday, Oct. 15
Hangar on the Wharf
Heritage Coffee Downtown
Juneau Artists Gallery
Red Dog Saloon
V’s Cellar Door
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.