Hold the scold

December 24, 2008 

Tom Doerner is the new owner of the White Spot Cafe, a downtown landmark on Fourth Avenue.

MARC LESTER / ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS Buy Photo

The White Spot Cafe changed hands in April, and owner Tom Doerner is still shaking things up and creating a welcoming environment -- even to those who don't know the "rules."

"The intimidation factor was removed," Doerner said when asked what has changed since he took over from the previous owner. So if you've always wanted to try that famous halibut sandwich at the White Spot but didn't relish the idea of a scolding on the side, now is the time to check it out. You'll also enjoy the bonus of a fish fillet now 2 ounces heavier at the same price of $11.50.

Besides recognizing that there is little benefit to scolding paying customers -- other than getting a laugh from customers who managed to escape a tongue-lashing -- Doerner also expanded the menu and implemented a little flexibility in the "rules."

It is open season on eggs; negotiate any style you like. "I'm not gonna tell somebody how to eat their eggs," Doerner said.

A sampling of the new menu items include omelettes at breakfast, a house garden salad with halibut or chicken if you are so inclined, specialty burgers such as the jalapeno cheddar and a Philly steak sandwich.

But the good ol' bacon cheeseburger is still the top seller. Doerner says about 200 hungry people a day saddle up to his counter, and the majority of them order lunch. The prices at the cafe are the same, ranging from $5.50 to $15.50.

I was so eager to get my hands around a halibut sandwich that I didn't notice the new offerings until after I had already ordered. Though I was disappointed that I didn't try something new, I was delighted that the halibut sandwich was as delicious as ever. You can get the same sandwich at Captain Chuck's from the White Spot's previous owner, but it doesn't come with homemade fries. My dining companions ordered chili cheese fries ($5.50) and a bacon cheeseburger ($9.25). The three-alarm chili is homemade and served in a whopping portion atop a platter of homemade fries sprinkled with shredded cheese and diced onion. None of us left hungry or dissatisfied.

A few White Spot traditions are still going strong. Wheat is the only toast you can have with your breakfast. "What do you want with your fries?" is the catchphrase at lunch. Try to order for someone, and you'll likely hear something along the lines of "Don't speak for anyone else."

As with the previous owners, Doerner's cafe is family run. He does the cooking, and his son, Kyle, works the counter and the newly added tables -- all two of them.

Only one table stays in place during the winter, but come May, when the tourism industry springs to life, the other table will be put back in place.

The two tables increase the available seats in the cafe from 14 to 22. The tables are meant to better accommodate families and elderly patrons who don't want to sit on bar stools at the counter.

To make room for the tables, Doerner removed the arctic entry and knocked out a small wall between White Spot and Nine Star Enterprises.

The increase in seats -- at the cafe once compared to combat fishing on the Russian River -- is a good for business and good for the hungry masses that flock to this downtown landmark.

Don't call it a comeback. White Spot Cafe has been slinging old-fashioned burgers and fresh-cut french fries since 1959. Doerner has 30 years' experience in the restaurant business. He tuned his culinary skills as executive chef at restaurants such as Snow City Cafe and the long-departed Mama Nicco's.

If you go: The cafe will be closed Jan. 1 to 10. And the infamous "rules" are printed on the menu but are not enforced as vigorously now.

"It's not your mother's White Spot. It is chef Tom's White Spot now," Doerner said.

• Find Rachael Fisher at rfisher@ adn.com or call 257-4466. Got a restaurant tip, a new menu, a favorite dish or a chef change? Send an e-mail to jrogers@adn.com.

Hold the scold

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