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The Salmon Bake and Exit Glacier Lodge; A Labor of Love

Exit Glacier Lodge Photo by Michelle Strubeck

By Michelle Strubeck for Seward City News –

Many Alaskans are known to be hard working, multi-talented individuals with diverse backgrounds. Many Alaskans come here for vacation, work opportunities or other reasons and they quickly take a liking to the beautiful scenery, abundance of wildlife and unique lifestyle that Alaska has to offer and they find themselves planting roots in the 49th state.

Vince Benjamin, owner of the Salmon Bake and Exit Glacier Lodge is no exception to this scenario. In 1989 Vince moved to Alaska from Montana for a teaching job. He spent time teaching in Skagway, Nome and Dillingham. While living in Dillingham Vince’s wife was working at a local restaurant and they had the opportunity to buy it. After purchasing the restaurant they developed rental accommodations and a sport fishing camp for salmon fishing. In the midst of all this Vince also established an expediting business shipping big game antlers and meat.

The original Exit Glacier Salmon Bake in 2002 prior to multiple site additions and lodging
The original Exit Glacier Salmon Bake in 2002 prior to multiple site additions and lodging

In 2000 after talking with friends John and Laura Beck of Seward, it was decided that it was time to leave Dillingham and relocate to Seward for a new business opportunity. There was some property for sale on Exit Glacier Road, however Vince didn’t have enough money for a down payment on the property at the time so Vince went to work at Glacier View, where he is currently employed. In time the property was acquired as Vince still had an interest in the restaurant business. After looking at other restaurants in the area, Vince felt that they didn’t have the rustic style and ambiance of the Salmon Bake. One of the main reasons that Vince was attracted to the location of the Salmon Bake was just that.  Exit Glacier Road is one of the highest traveled roads for tourism. Once the property was purchased the building began. The first phase of building took eight months to complete. The building was done with the help of Vince’s daughter and his father. No outside help was hired. The incredible amount of hard work was done on nights and weekends using materials found on the property and a friends milled lumber. Trees were cut, gravel was hauled and in July 2002 the Salmon Bake opened for business. The original dining room could accommodate thirty patrons and over time the dining room has been expanded and can now accommodate eighty hungry, thirsty patrons.

Inside Exit Glacier Lodge
Inside Exit Glacier Lodge

In time cabins were built on the property and in 2009 Exit Glacier Lodge opened for business. Vince’s wife was instrumental in helping to build and operate the fifteen room lodge. Exit Glacier Lodge has a turn of the century flair with ten foot ceilings, a handmade fireplace built with rocks from the parking lot and historic pictures of Seward are on display. As many people in Seward know, lodging is still at a premium and accommodations can be hard to come by. Exit Glacier Lodge is no exception. Their reservations are full for the summer and its sure to be another busy season.

When dining at the Salmon Bake, guests should be prepared for high quality food served in generous portions. The Seward Chamber of Commerce has rated the Salmon Bake as one of the best places to dine in Seward. The menu offers a variety of entree’s from steak and seafood to salads and pasta. When the Salmon Bake originally opened Vince explained that the establishment he and his wife owned in Dillingham was more of a greasy spoon restaurant and he didn’t know much about fine dining. In the winter of 2002 with the help of Robert Rich from the Breeze Inn, a fine dining menu was created. Items such as fresh peeled shrimp, hand cut steaks and fresh caught salmon were put on the menu.

Salmon Bake Head Chef Juan Carlos Baquera
Salmon Bake Head Chef Juan Carlos Baquera

This summer Juan Carlos Baquera, formerly of Chinooks, will be returning as the chef at the Salmon Bake. Juan Carlos has spent 3-4 years in the past working at the Salmon Bake and Vince feels very fortunate to have such an incredible chef working as part of the team. If you are in the mood for a few libations the Salmon Bake offers a variety of Alaskan beers and micro brews along with a wine selection that has been tweaked and picked for specific reasons. Ray Simutis, owner of Ray’s on the Waterfront, helped Vince develop the wine menu in the winter of 2002.

Vince went on to say that there is a neat atmosphere between restaurant owners in Seward. There is the human side as well as the business side with many good people willing to help out. Many restaurant owners help each other out buy sharing employees, collaborating on menus and supporting one another in numerous ways. Vince is very thankful for his staff at the Salmon Bake and Exit Glacier Lodge. In the past he has employed as many as thirty five staff members. This summer there are twenty five employees; many of them being repeat staff. Half are employed part time and half are employed full-time. Each staff member is dedicated, hard working and their efforts are very much appreciated.

If you have friends or family visiting Seward this summer or if tourists are asking for a recommendation, be sure to tell them to go to the Salmon Bake. They will be open for business from May 12th through September 10th from 5:00 – 10:00 P.M. seven days a week. You can also visit the following websites for more information: www.sewardalaskalodging.com, www.sewardalaskacabins.com.

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