Before Fusions was a Southern-style restaurant, it was S Lounge, a frenetic, disco-fied dive bar with great live music and DJs. Before that, it was a pretty cool karaoke bar. I didn't think twice about going to the Travel Inn with my girlfriends to drink Jameson and dance, but now that same ambience as a restaurant is slightly off-putting, although the glow of ever-changing LED light panels could be the candlelight of the future.
I went in at 5 p.m. on a Friday and the place was completely empty. The music, however, was set at a volume meant to drive a crowd to fist-pumping status. I shouted at the bartender that I would like to see a menu. She was very friendly and I appreciated that she turned down the music shortly after I walked in. We discussed the food and she recommended the fried chicken ($11.95) and Philly cheesesteak ($12.95).
The more adventurous options are BBQ pigs' feet ($12.95) and oxtails ($22.95), which are marinated overnight and cooked for hours. I went with Robert's Famous Ribs ($14.95) and Nia's Cornish Game Hen ($13.95). And because I am a glutton, I added the collard greens ($4.95) and macaroni and cheese ($5.50).
The bartender informed me that Fusions has been open for about a year and a half and is also associated with Tri-Grill and the LED Lounge (formerly Platinum Jaxx), due to open soon.
I waited over 30 minutes for the food, which I had ordered to go, but that was fine by me. I love listening to Tupac through human-sized speakers and this was the place to do it. Once home, my bulging sacks of food revealed a deep-fried feast that I haven't encountered since the state fair.
My whole game hen was a lovely, burnished hue, flecked liberally with dried herbs and garlic salt. It had good flavor and good crunch. Generally, restaurants tend to under-season; Fusions goes in the opposite direction. The collard greens were mixed with shreds of meat and doused with bracingly tart vinegar. I counteracted this with the rich and buttery mac and cheese.
My husband's meal was similar in that one had to take a bite of the very creamy coleslaw — probably my favorite component — following a bite of the salt-and-vinegar-laden ribs. At midnight, after a few beers, this is exactly the kind of food that I crave. For dinner on a Friday, though, I felt the need for a juice cleanse dessert option.
I went back the next night with a girlfriend to listen to some reggae and try the recommended cheesesteak. I'd already been foiled by the online business hours, which said Fusions is open for lunch (it's not), so I had been sure to ask what time they stopped serving food on weekends. I was told 10 p.m., later if there's music. We got there at 9:05 and was informed that the chef had left to go to the other restaurant and cook.
The good news was that we could order there and they would pick it up from Tri-Grill and bring it back for us. We declined and instead had a wonderful time listening to music, drinking and chatting with the other bar patrons.
I really wanted this cheesesteak, though. Determined, I went in a couple of days later and my heart sank because I only saw a bartender on staff. Turns out that this is a man of many talents; he mixed drinks, then put on a chef's coat and went to the kitchen to make our dinners. We could see him toiling away through the glass windows. I was happy. Then he came back to tell me that they were out of Philly meat.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be. He made it with some other meat and added bacon and jalapeños -- usually a cure-all for anything -- but it wasn't the "best ever," as I'd been so optimistically told. The honey BBQ wings ($9.50) were the highlight of the meal. Deep-fried, naturally.
Fusions does the bar scene very well. The staff is friendly. The live music is always a draw. The food is a cut above your average bar food. Indulge in the deep-fried deliciousness and then dance it all off.
Fusions Southern Food & Bar
Hours: Call for hours
Options: Dine-in and takeout
Address: 720 Gambell St.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing