Inlet Towers, the part hotel, part residential building at12th Avenue and L Street, has had several different names and culinary directions at its in-house restaurant over the last couple years. Formerly Mick's at the Inlet and Mixx Grill, the space is now called the PubHouse gastropub, a move that's part philosophy, part marketing.
"Gastropub is a fusion of food and drink," said Lorenzo King, Inlet Towers food and beverage director. "We wanted people to say, 'What's a gastropub?' and come in and check it out."
It worked on me. I made my first visit to the PubHouse on a Monday night around 7:30 p.m. for dinner with my wife. The interior was decorated with wine paintings of the generic variety, but there were several people at the bar and a couple more in the dining room.
Head chef Cameron Richardson said he works to make menu items in-house when possible. The burger meat is hand-ground, the fries are hand-cut, and house-made burger buns are in the works. Novelty is also a goal.
"We're trying to attract a crowd that's looking for something different. Something that's out there," Richardson said. "We're trying to do something that Anchorage hasn't seen before."
The menu starts off with appetizers like halibut nuggets ($9), baked macaroni and cheese with bacon and blue cheese ($10) and includes main dishes like spicy meatloaf made with ground pork and sirloin ($17) and beer-battered fish and chips ($18). The drink menu also features plenty of classic cocktails, beer and wine, including selections from the Pacific Northwest.
I opted for the baby back ribs ($18); my wife ordered the PubHouse Waffle Burger ($15). There was only one server, but she was attentive and our food was up quickly. My ribs were topped with a mango-chipotle barbecue sauce and topped with small pieces of fruit salsa. The meat wasn't fall-of-the-bone tender, but still quite moist and not too chewy. The sauce definitely had a spicy bite, but the addition of the fruit helped it strike that sweet-heat mark. On the side I also got sweet potato frittes (thick and perfect) and bacon-braised kale (garlicky and too salty).
The waffle burger was huge, a patty of house-ground sirloin topped with red onion jam and blue cheese served on a jalapeno-cornmeal waffle. The flavors worked together, but the size of the patty on the fragile waffle-bun made it tricky to eat.
While we were happy with the food, the ambiance was a little off. The automatic sliding door behind us in the lobby made a funny sound and let in cold air every time it opened. The bartender had a television above the bar tuned to a classic rock music channel and was singing along to Lynyrd Skynryd, creating a vibe that seemed to clash with the muted colors and low lighting.
"The idea is to have fine food but not a fine dining atmosphere," King said. "It's a beautiful restaurant, but casual. We want people to come in, but not feel it's a pretentious spot."
I popped by again a couple days later for a weekday breakfast. I wondered if I'd see any residents in pajamas, a tempting proposition if you have a café in your building's lobby, but the only other guest during my visit was a former Anchorage mayor juggling his paper and smart phone.
The breakfast menu is available 6-10:30 a.m. and stays fairly traditional, with waffles and pancakes ($9), eggs Benedict ($10) and biscuits and gravy ($10). Chef Richardson's affinity for in-house meats manifests itself with hand-cranked sausage available with several of the dishes.
Breakfast was served on the side of restaurant without the bar, keeping the door in the entryway out of earshot. The lighting was cheery and so was my server.
I ordered the PubHouse scramble ($10) a combination of sausage, mushrooms, pickled peppers and scrambled eggs served with a side of house potatoes.
The eggs and peppers gave the dish a bright color and flavor to match. The in-house sausage was tasty and the potatoes were dusted with spices that gave them great flavor and presence on the plate.
Inlet Towers has struggled to make an impression in Anchorage's dining scene, but it's heartening that it made innovation a priority of its newest restaurant.
The PubHouse is not afraid to take chances; some worked and some didn't. My breakfast was great, I appreciated the attention to in-house preparations and there were elements of all the dishes that complemented each other well.
It may be the first restaurant in town to bill itself as a gastropub, but it still has some work to do if it wants to set the bar in the category.
Want to rave or pan? Write your own review of this restaurant or any other recently reviewed place at adn.com/dining.
By Spencer Shroyer
Daily News correspondent