I have often chowed down at the Peanut Farm Sports Bar and Grill. Not because I love watching sports on any of their giant television screens. Not because I'm enamored of their rustic log and rock facility overlooking Campbell Creek. Not because I'm addicted to their cooking. The reason is purely pragmatic.
My visits tend to follow hikes in Chugach State Park. Excursions without compass or map that go awry and require many more miles, traverses, climbs and hours than planned. As often as not a trip scheduled to end at 6 p.m. takes until midnight before I somehow find and get back to where I parked -- or, as last month, a place where I can call a family member for rescue.
Anchorage bars stay open until 2 a.m., but not all keep dishing hash that late. The Peanut Farm does and it's on the way home. So it's a logical place to get a pitcher for myself, my expeditionary companions and the search and rescue party -- along with some grub. Always the same grub: burgers, fries and chicken wings.
Peanut Farm's fries are nondescript, but their burgers are good and big, flame-broiled patties weighing a half-pound. The wings, which come in a variety of flavors and heats (I go with 2 Alarm), have been a Daily News readers' pick in years past, with good reason.
But the menu goes well beyond standard bar fare. The Farm opens at 6 a.m. and serves breakfast until 11 a.m., until noon on weekends. They have a line of tortilla wraps, salads and square stone fired pizzas. After 3 p.m. they offer a small dinner menu including steaks and seafood. Lunch offerings are available all day.
Last week I went exploring, not the Chugach, but the Farm's nonburger fare. Service was adequate, but on the slow side; I've never been to the Peanut Farm when the wait staff didn't seem stretched. The fact that I was taking longer than usual to make up my mind may have helped slow things down. Once the order was in it came promptly, delivered by a runner who was not the order-taker.
First up was a cup of clam chowder ($3.75; $5.75 for a bowl). Like the fries, it was pretty plain, though I could feel the clam chunks. I also went for an appetizer of buffalo shrimp ($13.25 for a little less than a pound), smaller than "buffalo" would imply, farm-raised, butterflied, battered and fried and served with cocktail sauce -- again, pretty mild.
The barbecue pork sliders (four for $11.25), one of several new additions to the menu (which include veggie and turkey burgers and Malibu chicken), were substantial and savory. They were served on grilled sweet Hawaiian rolls, topped with an inoffensive cole slaw and accompanied by a small side of chopped lettuce. The barbecue sauce seemed store-bought, but the pork was tender and juicy and, as I said, ample. On a pound-per-dollar basis, this may be a better deal than the wings.
The three-piece fried chicken ($12.75) seemed small, particularly the drumstick. The crust was very crunchy, reminding me of the old home recipe using corn flakes. The meat within was all piping hot and moist, even the breast, which may have been some of the best white meat I've had.
The happiest surprise was the fire fries that I ordered with the chicken. They're thin, crinkle-cut spuds doused in a lively chili/pepper powder and served with ranch dressing -- well worth the $1 substitution charge.
After next week's wilderness adventure, I'll probably gravitate back to the burger. It's hard to improve a half-pound of fire-cooked meat, even when it costs more than $10. (Note: no matter what the economists are saying, inflation is rampant.) But I'll probably sub in the fire fries and, who knows, try a blackened walnut salmon spinach salad instead of the wings -- assuming I have any brain cells still functioning after the next mountain beats me into a senseless pulp.
Other food news:
Earlier this month we wrote about Chef Kevin Lane of Chinooks Bar and Grill in Seward, who represented Alaska at the Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans on Aug. 3. This year's competition was won by David Crews, executive chef of Six Shooter Land and Timber in Drew, Miss., who won with a salad featuring tuna and lump crabmeat. Congratulations to the Magnolia State, where folks indeed know about and appreciate good cooking, as suggested by obesity statistics (probably not due to salads); but frankly we prefer cod to tuna. Besides, Seward is a lot closer than Mississippi.
Joel Clark of Baker Mills, based in Salt Lake City, is flipping flapjacks at Costco stores Friday and Saturday to launch his line of Kodiak Cakes and Kodiak Syrups. The recipes are said to trace their roots to his father Richard's time surveying Kodiak Island in the 1950s.
• Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.
By MIKE DUNHAM