The "tri" in Tri-Grill Restaurant denotes the cuisine in which the restaurant specializes -- Italian, Chinese and the American South. And with a menu representing three continents and entrees ranging from $7.95 for a burger and fries to $18.95 for halibut Olympia, Tri-Grill has something to suit most tastes and budgets.
Located in an industrial section of South Anchorage, this blink-and-you'll-miss-it eatery is adjacent to a bingo hall and pull-tabs parlor. With late-night hours (the restaurant is open until 11:30 p.m. seven days a week), I'd imagine the restaurant is popular with the post-bingo crowd as well as with weekday nine-to-fivers looking for a quick and tasty lunch.
Tri-Grill was empty when I stopped in for my to-go order on a recent Saturday, though I did spy a few more to-go orders waiting near the cash register. I had perused the menu online and ordered in advance, and I was happy to find my order was ready when I arrived.
Including appetizers, sides and desserts, Tri-Grill's menu boasts nearly 150 different offerings. Italian choices include pizza, pasta and salad, and there are some off-the-beaten-path selections interspersed with standards like spaghetti ($14.95), fettuccine alfredo with chicken ($17.95) and pepperoni pizza ($18.50 for an 18-inch pie). The barbecue brisket pizza ($22.95, also 18 inches), for instance, comes topped with barbecue sauce, brisket, fried onions and three types of cheese.
Chinese choices include the usual suspects -- sesame chicken ($11.95), Mongolian beef ($12.95), hot and sour soup ($5.95) -- while Southern options such as fried green tomatoes ($6.95), chicken and dumplings ($12.95) and ribs ($14.50) consist primarily of the deep-fried and barbecued variety.
My husband opted for a traditional Southern meal of fried chicken with biscuits and gravy ($10.95), while I decided to go the Asian route and selected kung pao chicken with steamed rice ($11.95).
The gentleman who rang up my order was genial and efficient, and I was out of the restaurant and back home in no time.
My kung pao chicken was on par with most of the Chinese restaurants in town. It wasn't spectacular, but it was perfectly serviceable. Tender dark-meat chicken was stir-fried with crisp veggies and doused in a slightly sweet, soy-based sauce. I'm a bit of a spice fiend and found that the dish lacked heat, but those who prefer a lighter hand with seasoning won't be disappointed.
My husband's biscuits and gravy were average at best, but the fried chicken was quite good. The biscuits had a dense, bread-like texture as opposed to being crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. While the flavor of the gravy was fine, the texture was heavy almost to the point of being gelatinous.
The chicken, on the other hand, received high marks. Moist on the inside and crisp on the outside, the two drumsticks and a single thigh boasted just the right amount of chili powder and black pepper flavor, elevating it beyond what you'd typically find in a grocery store deli case.
I popped in to Tri-Grill a few days later for lunch. Wanting something on the light side, I opted for a Greek salad ($9.95).
Fresh romaine lettuce provided a platform for bell pepper, kalamata olives, sliced mushrooms, onions and plenty of feta cheese.
A vinaigrette dressing was served on the side. It was an entrée-size salad, and despite being fairly low in calories, kept me full for the remainder of the afternoon.
Next time I might add a chicken breast ($3.50) for even more staying power.
As it's not along a main thoroughfare, Tri-Grill's location is a bit tricky. Those who seek it out, however, will find a diverse menu of well-executed favorites and enough variety to satisfy a range of tastes.
By Carly Horton Stuart
Daily News correspondent