The Men Behind the Machine

Rod Hancock and Matt Jones passed up the corporate world for pizza and beer.

Written by Rachel D’Oro for in December 1998

Fellow rock climbers, they had virtually no restaurant experience when they launched Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria 21/2 years ago. The 30-table restaurant at 3300 Old Seward Highway opened to a full crowd, and business has never let up, according to Hancock, a friendly young blond who wears his hair in a ponytail.

”We never fathomed it would be like this,” he said above the din of lunchtime diners during a recent interview. ”When we first started, we didn’t think we could fill a restaurant this size. Now it seems funny.”

The Portland, Ore., native said he had studied computer science in college and was considering a job offer from Microsoft Corp. four years ago. Jones, who grew up in Anchorage, had a law degree and had passed the Alaska bar exam. But neither was excited about working for somebody else. So they decided to go into business for themselves, making draft beer and stone-baked pizzas with toppings like traditional pepperoni and sausage to more Epicurean ingredients like artichoke hearts, eggplant, spinach and grilled salmon.

Hancock had a passion for cooking, and Jones had mastered the art of making beer in a bathtub. Both had spent many nights enjoying good microbrews and designer pizzas at Portland pubs, and believed Anchorage was ripe for the same combination. They spent a year planning the business, which is named after a climbing peak that rises out of The Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier in the Alaska Range.

All along, people warned them about the site they chose, saying it was a loser. Wedged in an awkward spot where the Old Seward dead-ends near the New Seward, many restaurants have failed there, including Luigi’s Pizza, which went under only months before Hancock and Jones signed the $2,700-a-month lease.

“Planning was a real stressful time,” said Hancock, 30. “Our parents would call us up and say, ‘Why don’t you guys get a real job?'”

To read the original story HERE.


Beartooth Goes All In With 3D Digital

Written by Andrew Jensen for the Alaska Journal of Commerce

Building a brand

Rod Hancock had never worked in a restaurant before opening Moose’s Tooth. All he knew about microbrewing was that he liked beer.

Jones, who attended Service High School in Anchorage before college at UW, had planned on being an environmental lawyer but was more fascinated by how his favorite Portland pubs crafted their brews.

Hancock had a job lined up at Microsoft, but neither he nor Jones, both avid outdoorsmen, envisioned themselves working a daily grind for 12 months a year with two weeks vacation.

“We wanted the independence and the lifestyle,” Hancock said.

Warren Hancock was a teacher who came up to Anchorage to help with Moose’s Tooth in the summer. He said he might try to find a teaching gig in town.

His brother chuckled at the memory.

“Yeah, he never ended up teaching,” Rod Hancock said.

The Moose’s Tooth brewery was “Matt’s baby,” Rod said, and he dedicated himself to developing the signature pizzas.

“I would cook pizzas every night,” he said. “It was fun.”

Jones and Hancock quickly had a full kitchen staff, many still with them more than 10 years later and who have also contributed mightily to the homemade menus at Bear Tooth and Moose’s Tooth, so named for neighboring mountains in the Alaska Range.

Lovers of live music, Jones and Hancock started their “First Tap” parties when introducing a new brew every three months with a local band for entertainment.

“At first they were some really crazy parties,” Hancock said. “Then we started running out of local bands.”

The trio got into the production business, booking national acts into Bear Tooth and other Anchorage venues. The theatre converts to a live music venue by removing the tables and seats. The Anchorage music scene has benefited in its reputation; Korn approached them about booking a pair of shows and sold 8,000 tickets at the Dena’ina Center in late March.

The Anchorage music scene has also gotten more sophisticated with more tunes available online, which allows the audience to check out bands they may not have heard of before buying tickets.

The theatrepub was always the ultimate goal for Jones and Hancock, one put off for more than six years because of the physical and financial challenges of opening Moose’s Tooth. The vision of transforming the old theater and by extension the Spenard area will reach an ultimate Hollywood ending this fall.

“We never lost sight of it,” Rod Hancock said. “We were able to realize our dream.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Some kind words…

“You can’t find food of this quality for prices this low anywhere else in Anchorage. Dishes such as the soy grilled halibut are sophisticated and nicely done, but take up only a small part of a menu that goes on and on with Mexican choices, sandwiches, and other selections inexpensive enough to make the restaurant fit for an after-work impulse — most main courses are under $11.

The partners who own the restaurant started in business by making beer and then opened a pizzeria to sell the beer; next they opened a theater-pub; then the grill.

The grill is in a separate, calmer, and more confined dining room, best for couples and parties of four or less. The food comes more slowly, as befits the atmosphere. Tables are more comfortable than booths, but at peak times you have to take what you can get, often with a wait, so try to dine here early or late. Besides the beer, they have a full bar serving many margaritas and 20 wines by the glass.”

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