Call up a few local bars or restaurants to ask them if they offer karaoke. You'll probably get one of two reactions. Either the person on the line will call you "sugar" and ask you to come sing, or that person will sigh with exhaustion at the thought of one more amateur night. It seems you do karaoke or you don't.
After a week of scouring the town for the best and worst karaoke, I've come to the conclusion that Anchorage does karaoke. Karaoke late at night when people have let their hair down. Karaoke over American/Chinese food or Lucky Wishbone takeout. Karaoke while playing pool and even while bowling.
"It's like a Lay's potato chip. You can't do just one," Ron "Mac" McCampbell of King's X Lounge said on a Wednesday night as he encouraged a friend to sing another.
Over on Old Seward at the Timeout Lounge, local percussionist Hector Ortiz cues up "Delta Dawn" for a patron. An older crowd enjoys free pretzels, popcorn, hotdogs and soup as they sing Patsy Cline and Creedence Clearwater Revival, among others. A younger crowd will arrive later and follow suit in singing the classics, at least until most all the old-timers have gone home.
"I ask them, 'How do you know that song,' and they say, 'My mom and dad used to sing it,' " Ortiz said.
Farther south on Old Seward, several gentlemen eat steaks at the bar in Asia Garden as other patrons sip drinks and occasionally wander down the steps to the karaoke podium and belt out a tune. It's often mellow here on a Wednesday, and then the weekends draw a crowd.
Hop over to Al's Alaskan Inn, also on Old Seward, where the karaoke host known as Double says, "As far as a karaoke where you can let loose -- and I mean let loose -- this is the one." Double has seen it all. He works seven nights a week at Al's.
Over in Midtown, all ages win a free game at Center Bowl when they take the stage in the middle of the alley, their images projected on big screens on either side.
Then there's the staple Woodshed downtown or the Paradise Lounge in Spenard, not to mention whatever else is out there. And remember, we're only talking about Wednesday.
Yes, Anchorage does karaoke. And as Mac at King's X will tell you, "We're here seven nights a week, 365 days a year, and we're always looking for new singers."
Location: 561 W Dimond Blvd.
When: 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday (youth must be accompanied by parent or guardian)
Food and drink: Pastries, croissants, soup, frozen yogurt, espresso, beer and wine.
Heard often: Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline. The kids like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and Aqua's "Barbie Tirl."
Overheard: This is a safe place for kids. One little girl was in here to sing and she said, "I hope there is a music producer here."
Location: 3717 Minnesota Drive
When: About 9:30 p.m.- 1 a.m. Wednesday
Host: Zach or one of the other guys in a red shirt
Food: Cafe is open until 12:30 a.m. if there is a large enough crowd.
Heard often: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite."
Overheard: As soon as you get off that stage, you get one free game of bowling.
21 AND OLDER
Location: 4600 Old Seward Highway
When: 9 p.m.- 1 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday
Food: Free pretzels, popcorn, hotdogs and soup until they are gone.
Heard often: Helen Reddy's "Delta Dawn" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain." Then late at night Hector gets out three mikes and the whole bar joins together for Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar."
Overheard: Every time you do it, you're better. Every time, you're better and you gain confidence.
Location: 7828 Old Seward Highway
When: 9 p.m. to close daily
Host: CJ on Wednesday, Zach on Tuesday and Thursday and Kelly hosts Friday through Monday.
Food: Full kitchen offers Chinese and American food until 10:30 p.m. weekdays and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Heard often: Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly," Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" and a duet, Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock's, "Picture."
Overheard: This is a good place for beginners. One time this guy who had never sung before got up and sang and didn't stop. He sang all night.
Location: 2435 Spenard Road
When: 10 p.m. to close Sunday
Host: Jukebox Joe and Kelly Lee Williams
Food: Sancho's Barbecue
Heard often: Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman," Drowning Pool's "Bodies," Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock's "Picture."
Overheard: Sometimes the dance floor fills up as people are singing karaoke. You can also bring your own tracks to sing along to, original songs or whatever. The hosts offer a bunch of gimmicks and door prizes.
Al's Alaskan Inn
Location: 7830 Old Seward Highway
When: 8 p.m. to close daily
Food: Vending machines and $2 tap water
Heard often: Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock's, "Picture." If it's your birthday, Double will perform Jeremih's "Birthday Sex" and yes, it will be a performance.
Overheard: This place has one of the best selections of karaoke music in town. You can schedule a private party or look out for a Groupon that features 25 drinks.
King's X Lounge
Location: 1027 E. Fifth Ave.
When: 9:30 p.m. till late daily
Host: Mac hosts Tuesday through Saturday and Bobbi takes Sunday and Monday
Food: Lucky Wishbone is next door and there's a vending machine
Heard often: The Temptation's "My Girl," Patsy Cline's "Crazy," Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Midnight Special."
Overheard: The little hole-in-the-wall places draw the best singers. Regulars can put a list on the wall so they don't have to look up their songs every time. On Sunday nights they have a "Dash for Cash" if there are enough people. Everyone puts their name in a bucket. If your name is pulled, you are blindfolded. The hosts throw $50 in dollar bills on the floor and you try to retrieve as many as you can before time runs out.
The Whaler Bar & Grill
Location: 171 Muldoon Road
When: 9 p.m. to close Sunday through Thursday
Host: DJ Paul on Sunday and Monday, DJ Matt on Tuesday and Wednesday and DJ Pineapple on Thursday
Food: Full kitchen with burgers, sandwiches, steak and appetizers until 11 p.m.
Heard often: LeAnn Rimes, "Blue," Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," Brooks & Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie"
Overheard: "We love hearing people sing at the Whaler, good or bad."
OTHER KARAOKE HOT SPOTS
Location: 535 W. Third Ave.
When: 8 p.m. daily
Location: 3001 Spenard Road
When: 8 p.m. daily
Blue Fox Cocktail Lounge
Location: 3461 E. Tudor Road
When: 10 p.m. Friday
Location: 530 E. Fifth Ave.
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 10 p.m. or later Friday and Saturday
By Rosey Robards
Daily News correspondent