It's a simple enough bar: windows looking out onto downtown Anchorage, tiny open kitchen, no music, a chalkboard scrawled with the daily special and a snarky quote. In the winter, parkas hang from hooks on the wall. In the summer, baskets of flowers hang outside. Pilots love F Street Station, but so do college kids, bartenders and servers, tourists and anyone looking for killer seafood. It's the oldest downtown bar and has achieved that rare success -- timelessness. It's our Cheers.
This was proven to me when I sat down to lunch with my erstwhile editor Spencer, and the bartender sashayed over with two shots of Fireball, "from the lovely ladies at the bar." Never mind that it was only 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Our two friends waved from across the room and we lifted our shot glasses to them.
We didn't even need to consult the menu, which is short and sweet, to decide on our order. A halibut sandwich ($12) for me and a crab salad sandwich ($12) for Spencer.
I have eaten enough halibut sandwiches at F Street to fill a Cessna. The beauty of this sandwich is not that the fish is always fresh, the seasoning solid and the proportions perfect (although that helps), it is the fact that this dish is excellent every time. This time it was terrible. Just kidding. It was the same as it always was, and I love it for its unfailing consistency as much as its flavor.
Spencer's sandwich also boasted the same deft touch with sweet red crab and just the right amount of mayonnaise. The bread was sturdy enough to hold up to the generous portion, yet retained a pleasant chewiness. We weren't actually talking a lot about the food, which is strange for two restaurant reviewers, but we would have had plenty to say if the food was bad. F Street's limited menu pays homage to the concept of doing only a few things, but doing them well.
A couple of nights later, after a long day of work, I texted a few friends to let them know that I would be stopping by F Street for dinner and a drink if they wanted to join me. It was a gorgeous day, sunlight spilling in, and the place was packed. I managed to snag a few stools by the open kitchen and ordered calamari ($9) to start. I watched as the cook battered and fried mere feet away from me. There is something familial and comforting in watching someone cook your food and then hand it directly to you. I always want to give that person a hug.
The calamari overflowed from its bowl, far too much for one person. It was crispy upon the initial bite, then tender, as all good calamari should be. The peppery batter and creamy, bright jalapeño aioli were a one-two punch.
I ordered a turkey sandwich ($9) next and, on a whim, I added avocado and bacon ($2). Even though it was busy, Chef Rodney Rathbun was happy to accommodate me.
A turkey sandwich may sound pedestrian, but I assure you, this was far from it. Nutty, golden, melty, delicious -- it was easily the best turkey sandwich I've had in months, and it was huge. There would be no need to shave some cheese off of the community block (prominently marked with a sign reading "Do Not Eat," which everyone ignores).
Over the course of the evening, first one friend, then another, then another, piled into F Street until we were stacked three deep, ordering drinks, trying to leave, deciding not to, then re-opening the tab. Three times. Our poor server handled us with equanimity and grace and it was just another night at the neighborhood bar with some of our favorite cooks, servers and bartenders.
The quote on the wall that day was: "If you don't have anything nice to say, say it anonymously on the Internet." Luckily, I don't have to do that.
By Riza Brown
Daily News correspondent