A real armpit of a place.

Last evening we visited the Forget-Me-Not Nursery in Indian, Alaska, then got a guided tour of plantings at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. Really, though, it was just an excuse to enjoy a sunny summer-evening drive along beautiful Turnagain Arm.

All that scenery made us hungry. On the way back we stopped by a local eatery, the Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ. I haven’t had that much fun since downing the Salmon Dill Dough Pizza up in Talkeetna.


As my former editor once noted, a true ’Q place can be identified by things like:

  • A smoky smell
  • A cartoon oinker on the sign
  • A name that is either short (J.J.’s) or funny

The Turnagain Arm Pit has a proudly gross name and a windsurfing, toque-wearing pig as its mascot. And ooooohhhh, that smell. As soon as we got out of the car we were struck by a powerful aroma that had nothing to do with olor del sobaco. No, this was the good kind of pit odor: Rich, smoky, meaty.

Speaking of proudly gross: Inside, you can buy a T-shirt that features a stick-figure chef holding a cartoon bone up for a stick-figure pooch. The caption is, “We love to meat people and bone their dogs.”

Yep, we’re keeping it classy up here in Alaska. Although I didn’t buy a shirt on the spot, I’m thinking about it.

Two of my other favorite BBQ-joint names: “Ribbed For Your Pleasure” and “Bone Daddy.” Funny, yes, and I bet the T-shirts are funny, too. Still,  they can’t quite compete with the chance to say, “Let’s eat at the Arm Pit.”

However, if that first restaurant doesn’t hand out condoms along with the condiments it’s missing a great promotional opportunity.


Melting nuggets of smoky cow

Even if I decide against the shirt I’m going back to Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ to eat. It’s a little pricey (hello, Alaska gouge!) but incredibly tasty. The chopped brisket was a heap of little nuggets of smoky cow that melted in my mouth, like an all-beef version of Dippin’ Dots.

My dining companions made quasi-sexual moaning noises over their pulled-pork sandwiches (smoked pork, of course). We all loved the coleslaw, which was simply two kinds of slivered cabbage glistening with a simple vinaigrette; I couldn’t swear to it, but I believe they used cider vinegar.

And oh, my, the side of beans. Six kinds of whistleberries, diced pepper and onion, and three kinds of meat (fatback, bacon and bits of smoked meat off the cutting board), simmered to surrender in a spicy, BBQ-inspired sauce.

My friend Linda B. bought and shared a side of hush puppies: perfectly fried corn balls served with a mustardy dipping sauce. I wanted to treat to a side of fried pickles but they were sold clean out. Bummer: I’ve never eaten a fried pickle, and last night I was feeling good enough not to fret over the $5 cost. It had been a gorgeous drive in the company of three kickass women, and we were being fed royally.

Some days you just have to say “The heck with the cost” and enjoy the kind of food that comes in a plastic basket, with a roll of paper towels on the side. (We needed those. I’m a woman who wears her dinner with pride.) What’s life without a little bit of saucy joy?

Readers: What are some of your favorite splurges? They need not be expensive. For example, one of my own off-brand treats is dipping dollar-store pretzels into mustard that was free with double coupons. Small things please small minds.

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  1. hot but not broiled

    What a hoot! Hilarious! Nice to read about your adventures, miss. Or should I say misadventures 😉 hahaha.

    In the habit these days of putting cayenne pepper on most lunches. Bought a bag of cayenne pepper flakes at a Korean market a while back, and now it goes on every lunch I take to work. I like Kosher stone-ground mustard (Bataampte) and Kosher pickles. Found a great great local Indian place that makes a Tandoori fish wrap;with mint-cilantro chutney, just heavenly.

    Love your blog. And your openness to say what you want to say.

  2. Susan

    This post made me smile….sounds like a wonderful evening, and you got memories that will be with you for a lifetime for, really, very little money. So glad you’re having a nice time in Alaska. Your life and experiences are such an encouragement to me; to know that life can have such joy in it after living through the dark and difficult chapters gives me hope. I’m glad you share these fun times with all of us!

  3. Harry Martin

    I rolled laughing at the T shirt — buy it!

    My big (inexpensive) splurge — Kosher salt. $3 for a box at the Hispanic market and lasts months. It’s so much better than table salt.


    • Donna Freedman

      @Harry: Is that a big box of salt? I’ve found one-pound boxes at the dollar store for — you guessed it — a dollar. I use it for table salt myself. And did you ever hear of the book “Salt”? It’s a really interesting read.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  4. Sumant

    Hmmmm…..I daresay the cougar in you is waking up, Donna…

    “…..if that first restaurant doesn’t hand out condoms…. ”

    “My dining companions made quasi-sexual moaning noises …..”

    “What’s life without a little bit of saucy joy?”

    “Although I didn’t buy a shirt on the spot, I’m thinking about it.”

    Thinking about WHAT exaCtly ?

    Oh, THAT…..sigh…..I’m simply envious of the boy who is going to take your fancy…..

  5. jestjack

    Sounds like you are having a great time with your “peeps”….I too am “somewhat thrifty” but do enjoy paying for big meals with a large group for special occasions. Like this past weekend when DD2 graduated high school and we took everyone out to dinner afterwards. Just listening to everyone chatting, enjoying each other’s company and reminiscing about times gone by made the expense worth every penny…. Enjoy your trip Donna…

  6. What a rip-roaring read! That is absolutely hilarious. I have to go and make lunch now though as you have made me hungry…

    xxx Piper

  7. I had to look up “whistleberries” on the internets. Thankfully the urban dictionary helped me out.

    We splurge on cheese.

  8. karla

    Show them your blog…get a couple free t-shirts…and give one of them away to us. Share the fun!

  9. Sarah L

    That BBQ place sounds awesome!! It’s too bad about the fried pickles, those are just AMAZING!! Get them with a side of ranch when you go back, for dipping. Heaven. So amazing!!

  10. CandiO

    I second your return, if only to get a really good fried pickle! I love fried pickles. You have to go back for the food and t-shirt!

  11. Debbie E.

    You made me hungry just thinking about all of those amazing sensations! Indulge – we only get to take this trip called Life once (that we know of)!

  12. You did it again. You managed to slip the word “condoms” into another post. 🙂

    You must go to Ribbed for Your Pleasure and report on their BBQ, ambiance, and oh yes the t-shirt. You can’t just say there is another place with a name like that and leave us guessing!

  13. Melinda

    I’m putting this on my list of places to visit when I head back to Alaska and show my husband what a beautiful place it is! I’m reminded of Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ in KC, Kansas (otherwise known as KCK) – it’s in a gas station, but so popular that the line to order is out the door. Velvet Creme popcorn is also a favorite of mine. I moved from KC, MO 4 years ago but when I visit in August, these are two places I’m hitting up.

  14. Jenny

    We can never resist the ‘Q either. We loved Mr. Bones on Anna Maria Island in FL. Beer is on ice in a plywood coffin and includes several local brews. They let you pick one out to drink while you wait, because there is always a wait. But lots of reggae music to entertain in the meantime and BBQ worth waiting for.

    And on vacations, we splurge on mini-golf. Especially the mom & pop ones–but they are getting pretty rare. Much rejoicing when we find one full of local tacky monuments!

  15. christy

    I splurge on rootbeer floats or a scoop of ice cream from the drivethru. It would be cheaper to buy ice cream at the store and have a 2 litre of soda to make them at home, but I would not have self control. Allowing a trip to the drivethru for a cool treat once a week or every two weeks is actually better for me. Now it is soooooo hot here so these are really special. Normally at home I just make a frozen banana shake with powdered milk or have a cheap sugar free popsicle or more often one small frozen peppermint pattie.

  16. Catseye

    Dang, girl, you done flung a craving on me! ;oD
    Yes, go back for the t-shirt and the fried pickles. You won’t regret it.

  17. Glad to hear you’re having a great time…Trust me, splurge on the fried pickles!! You’ll be glad that you did 🙂 As always, enjoying your posts..

  18. Debt free for 3 years, we do have a few splurges. One is organic skim milk for drinking. It actually tastes like the whole milk I grew up with. Second splurge is good beer, since we drink very little of it. SWMBO and I will usually split a beer if we feel like it. Blue Moon is a favorite.

  19. Mark Hummel

    Thanks for the laughs! I look forward to reading your blogs, partly because I’m a prepper and mainly because I grew up in Anchorage (1968 – 1999) and miss it terribly. My good friends and I built a couple of cabins up the road from King Mtn Lodge (near the confluence of the Mat-Su rivers), and I’m stockpiling all the info (and gear) I can get my grubby hands on in anticipation of retiring back ‘home’ someday. Keep up the good work my friends!


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