The advent of football season brings a spike -- pun intended -- in home deliveries of tasty food that isn't always what your heart doctor wants to see you eating. Popular choices are pizzas and Chinese, though you can have almost anything brought to your door in Anchorage nowadays.
Casting around for something different, I ran into Winky's Wings, a southside storefront that only does deliveries and takeout. What drew me in was the promise of gumbo. While bright spots have popped up over the years, it's never been easy to find good gumbo unless you were willing to drive to the Double Musky in Girdwood.
Alas, I was told at 6:30 p.m., the last gumbo had "just gone out the door" before I arrived. There would be more tomorrow, I was promised. At least they didn't say, "Hang on a moment and we'll whip up a bowl." Any gumbo fan knows it can't be whipped up; it takes hours, sometimes days.
The menu includes burgers that range from the Little Winky ($3.95) to the Boss Hogg ($9.95,) which includes four strips of bacon, ham, fried egg, two cheeses and lettuce, and the Big John (also $9.95), with two strips of bacon, ham, hotlink, sauteed onions, mushrooms, jalapenos, American cheese lettuce, tomato (more) onion and pickles. Gyros and French dips are also available.
But even a fancy 1/3 pound hamburger is still a hamburger. In the interest of adventure, I ordered the catfish platter ($14.95), cheesesteak sandwich ($11.95, $7.95 for half), an order of wings (of course; $9.95 for 10) and fried pickles.
Winky's fried fare is pretty impressive. They have fried zucchini and okra, fried jalapenos, deep fried corn and even a whole rack of deep fried ribs -- something I may want to try if I haven't eaten for a couple of days.
The three fillets of catfish were clean, without the mud taste that some find authentic and many northerners detest. Something like Frank's Red Hot sauce accompanied them, along with a big bunch of crinkle-cut fries and -- in a sweet Dixie touch -- one slice of plain white bread.
The cheesesteak was not exactly Philly-style. The tender prime rib was more thickly cut than the familiar thin slice and had a peppery seasoning. The hoagie roll was good (they say it's from Philadelphia) and the customer has the option of provolone or a Cheez Whiz equivalent.
The pickles ($3.95) were sliced cross-ways, not spears, and plentiful.
Winky's has a variety of wing flavors and heats. I went for the original and asked for hot. And hot they were, enough to make me stop everything after the first one, go to the freezer and dish out a bowl of ice cream. The meat came off the bone cleanly and was delicious, even if it did leave my lips aflame. Had I gone for the next hotter grade, "inferno," I suspect that I would have been reaching for the Boudreaux's the next day.
The shrimp gumbo was ready after noon the following day. $13.95 bought a pint-plus container (more than I could handle at one sitting) that included maybe a half cup of rice. The rich roux, not as dark as Double Musky's, but yummy nonetheless, had a hint of sesame. I counted six shrimp; the andouille tasted fairly plain but the chicken had a zesty flavor that made me wish there were more non-wings poultry offerings at the place.
I'd also picked up fried okra ($7.95 for a lot) for a co-worker who found it expertly prepared, lightly breaded, not greasy, not salty. Another Daily News employee saw us sampling in the lunchroom, tried it and started taking notes on how to find this Winky's place.
Finally, there's the fried corn on the cob ($3). It's not breaded, but came out sweet and juicy. Additional condiments like salt, pepper, mayonnaise or chili powder probably aren't necessary. I zipped through it like candy and laid plans to try it at home.
However, though I feel that I got my money's worth, I should have checked the order. The online menu says the cheesesteak comes with grilled onions, which cheesesteak lovers expect to find without asking. But this hoagie didn't hold any. The menu also promises coleslaw and fritters with the catfish; they were not to be found.
I mentioned this on a return trip. We agreed that the onion omission may have been a misunderstanding. But the rationale that the catfish no longer comes with fritters didn't fly; "It's on your online menu now," I repeated, which drew no response.
That said, I don't buy catfish for the side of fritters -- or slaw for that matter. Winky's food is good and hard to find in Anchorage, even if their customer satisfaction could use some polishing. I'll be back to the little strip mall just south of Key Bank and Sports Authority on the Old Seward Highway.
If you're the type who doesn't want to leave the house once the game starts, delivery is available during business hours in south Anchorage and expands to the whole city after 2 p.m. It costs $3 extra and requires a minimum order.
At this writing they're closed on Sundays and Mondays, but after Labor Day they'll expand to both days, in part to accommodate the football crowd.
By MIKE DUNHAM