Tucked away on the less-frequented Old International Airport Road, Fly In Restaurant is hidden from most of the traffic that buzzes in and out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Instead, the restaurant's customers are mainly the people who work as part of the nearby cargo and flight operations.
It seems only fitting that Fly In is located on a road with "International" in its name. How else do you describe a menu that spans egg and pancake breakfasts, pizza, pasta, Chinese dishes, Mexican plates and burgers?
Whether it's a Spanish omelet ($9.95) or reindeer sausage and eggs ($10.95) for breakfast, a lunchtime nacho grande ($6.95) and Philly cheese steak ($8.95) or working late with a Hawaiian pizza (large, $15.95) and chef salad ($9.95), the Fly In caters to the all-day, all-tastes operations at the airport.
The restaurant's low-key interior is decorated with aviation memorabilia, rows of vinyl booths and a television playing CNN. A buffet-style serving station has since been closed but still sits near the front of the restaurant covered with takeout delivery maps.
I made my first trip around noon on a Monday and focused on the page of Asian-inspired dishes, ordering a combination plate with almond chicken and sweet and sour pork ($13.95).
The meal started with a coffee mug of egg drop soup, followed a few minutes later by my entrées. The breaded pieces of sweet and sour chicken, onion and carrot were covered in bright pink sauce and topped with pineapple wedges. A mound of chicken fried rice and an egg roll separated them from the chunks of almond chicken, mushrooms, onions, celery and a topping of shaved almonds. These dishes are more American than Chinese, but they were well-executed and the portions were big.
On my next trip I opted for breakfast, ordering the chicken fried steak ($10.95). While I was waiting for my food, a guy wearing Fed Ex gear came in, placed a to-go order and flipped through a Cabela's catalog on the counter while he waited. His items were up in about the same time as mine, a brief 10 minutes.
My steak was lightly breaded, covered with sausage gravy and accompanied by two eggs, hash browns and toast. One of the eggs was over-easy, per my order, while the other ranked over-medium. The steak was on the thin side, and I left feeling full but a bit underwhelmed.
My dad visited a few days later, so I placed a pick-up order for a medium combo pizza ($14.95) and a bacon cheeseburger ($4.50). The wait time matched the 20 minutes I was told on the phone.
The pizza was warm when I got home, with a layer of melted cheese sprinkled with some Italian herbs. The crust was a little soft on the bottom, but that's hard to avoid without a great pizza oven. I was impressed with the flakiness and buttery flavor of the crust, but the toppings and sauce seemed average.
The burger was made with 90-95 percent, lean quarter-pound patty that made it healthier, but not quite as juicy as a burger made with more fat (you can upgrade to a third-pound bison patty for an extra $4). Still, the standard mayo, onion, lettuce, tomato, pickle and sesame seed bun rounded out a decent burger, with crispy bacon and a nice charred flavor.
With its huge menu as an international flight plan, Fly In does its best to crisscross the culinary globe. I wasn't doing barrel rolls over anything I had, but you don't normally expect a first-class ride when you're only paying coach fares. Most of the meals I had at Fly In left me feeling full and satisfied and the combination of decent prices, quick service and a diverse menu should help many passengers overlook the occasional bout of turbulence.
By Spencer Shroyer
Daily News correspondent