Words and photos by Darcy Stein
If you are carnivorously inclined, then you’ve probably tried — or at least heard of — Tommy’s Burger Stop. Located in the heart of Spenard at 1106 W. 29th Place, this iconic burger haven has become Anchorage’s favorite local spot for burgers. If you don’t believe me, get on the Google machine and do some research of your own. Tommy’s has taken home first place in the Anchorage Press Picks “best burger” category for many years in a row, including most recently, in 2019.
So you might know Tommy’s Burger Stop, but do you know Tommy Persons, the mastermind behind the curtain? Humble and unassuming, Tommy puts quality, customer service and a memorable experience at the heart of his business model.
Every morning before opening, someone from Tommy’s Burger Stop hand picks the best, freshest produce available, as opposed to relying on wholesalers to make weekly deliveries. And this system just works for them; they have limited storage space. Lucky for us consumers who cringe at the thought of our food sitting in a cooler somewhere for weeks, the burger stop moves through all of their products daily. And the following day, they get up and do it all over again.
Back to Persons, who has been a chef for decades and currently lives in Spenard with two of the cutest chihuahuas imaginable. His culinary career began right after high school at the Girdwood restaurant his parents purchased in 1979. You may have heard of it, a little cajun place called The Double Musky Inn.
Persons cooked there for five years before venturing out to write his own story, cooking in different places such as Lake Tahoe and St. Thomas. He eventually moved back to Alaska and worked at Orso and Organic Oasis, before purchasing the Burger Stop in 2002. This was a highly sought after acquisition — in addition to the restaurant, there’s also a functioning apartment right above it — but Persons got to it first.
The first thing to go was most of the menu and the newest addition was Person’s high standards when choosing products. Persons is proud to offer his diners high-quality beef from New Zealand which is grass-fed and hormone-free.
“We don’t try to be the cheapest,” Persons says. “We just try to be the best.”
So what’s with the Po Boys, slices of pie in the fridge and the rest of the cajun vibes, you ask? Persons and his family are from Bogalusa, Louisiana. They relocated to Alaska in the mid-’70s, bringing their southern roots along with them. You may have noticed the Mardi Gras decor and local art throughout the small, yet poignant space of the Burger Stop. The combination of this “colorful corner” of Spenard, as Persons puts it, and a little cajun flare certainly makes for a memorably tasty dining experience.