It was not the most auspicious beginning. We pulled into the parking lot and as my friend exited his truck, he took a skeptical look around and commented, "Is anybody else thinking about that scene in 'Bridesmaids' when they walk into the Brazilian restaurant?" Crazy Cow is located in one half of the former Whaler Bar on Muldoon Road, a dive famous for its bikers and clam shells full of flaming booze.
The Whaler didn't look like much either, but it sure was fun. Inside, the remodel job is a combination of wood, corrugated metal and cow print. It's simple and innocuous, like a Disney-fied idea of what eating in a barn would be like. The barn metaphor would become even more apt as we saw the size of the portions; "trough-like" came to mind.
Five other tables were seated for lunch, and it was more populated than I thought it would be on a Tuesday afternoon. A neighboring table's order came out as we were being seated and it was borne past on a sheet tray. Its entire surface was covered in food. Apparently, Crazy Cow is the place to come with friends, family or your local football team. I had to laugh when I noticed that a kids' menu dish is one-quarter of a roast chicken with mashed potatoes ($7).
There is a section called "Caribbean Lonely Nights Menu (Dinner for One)" and consists of just one protein and two side dishes, a paltry portion when compared with items from the "Caribbean Fiesta Menu"; the Homer fried fish, a 3-pound red snapper (market price) for three people, or an entire 5-pound roasted Boston butt ($45) for four people. Each of these is accompanied by three side dishes, chosen from a large selection of Puerto Rican specialties.
I had gathered my foodiest of friends to test-drive this new cuisine on Anchorage's culinary map. We had no choice about going big -- everything was big. So we went the biggest. As soon as we saw "Beef Madness" ($68) on the menu, we knew this was the vehicle for us. Yes, it was expensive, but one can't count pennies when it comes to getting the grand tour. This bad boy had everything: roasted pork, roasted chicken, spare ribs, Caribbean sausage and grilled skirt steak.
For one of our three side dishes, I valiantly tried to order the house salad and the server said dismissively, "Oh, that's already included. Choose three others." We ordered sweet potato fries, Caribbean mashed root vegetables and Puerto Rican rice.
And because we ordered the biggest entree, we decided to order the biggest appetizer as well. The kitchen was out of corn fritters that day so our sampler platter ($20) consisted of breaded fish, green banana fritters stuffed with ground beef and a double portion of deep-fried shrimp turnovers.
As homogenous as the plate looked, the flavors were distinctly different. The plantain sticks were moist and a delicious departure from the quotidian corn fritter. The fish bites and homemade tartar sauce were fresh-tasting but my favorite was the shrimp turnovers, an herby seafood concoction in flaky pastry.
Then the Beef Madness came out and I almost started clapping. All of the meats were skewered through and hanging impressively over a pile of our side dishes (the fat was dripping directly onto the salad; so much for our healthy choice). There were a few misses; the pork was dry and underseasoned and the chimichurri subpar, but the sausage was a definite winner, along with the crispy chicken and well-seasoned sides. Overall, it was something I would order again, perhaps with more friends to help share the madness.
After having indulged in all that is meaty, I ordered a nice, light ceviche ($13) to go for a friend's barbecue. Alaskans are seafood snobs (rightfully so) and even though the fish was lowly cod, everyone agreed that the ceviche was a refreshing summer side dish. It was flavored with lemon and orange juice, tequila, jalapeño, herbs and perfectly ripe mango. Of course, even this sprightly salad was accompanied by deep-fried plantain chips. Puerto Ricans love deep-frying almost as much as they love meat.
This new restaurant experience has a happier ending than the cinematic version and I'll be looking forward to the sequel: "Crazy Pork: My Big Fat Meat Wedding."
Crazy Cow Caribbean Grill
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Location: 171 Muldoon Road, Suite 107
Three and a half stars
Alaska Dispatch Publishing