Last week I went out searching for lunch while my 7-month-old daughter cooed along with Beyonce on the radio. We ended up at Flo's Pancake House, a nondescript diner in Muldoon.
Owner Grace Jang told me her diners typically are soldiers and older Alaskans. She said the restaurant's namesake, who was in her 70s when she retired a few years ago, was voted Best Waitress in the Anchorage Press during the height of her popularity.
The menu contained what you'd expect at a pancake house; eggs, patty melts, burgers and chicken. No real surprises, although there are a few twists on the classics. The Sicilian burger ($7.75) comes with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, mozzarella cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms. Flo's sub sandwich ($9.25) is topped with grilled ham, salami, pepperoni, melted mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce and a tomato.
The Farmers Skillet ($9.25) has chopped bacon, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, cheddar cheese with two eggs any style. You can keep it basic and order two farm fresh eggs ($5.75) or add a side order of hot links or reindeer sausage ($4 ) or home fries with country gravy for ($5) and call it a meal.
Inside there are about 20 booths and a long counter for single diners. At the front you'll find a list for daily specials, in the back an American and Alaska flag.
It was Sunday afternoon, but there were only a handful of people in the restaurant. An older couple sat together at a maroon-colored booth eating bacon cheese burgers in silence. Waitresses dressed in street wear instead of uniforms walked well worn paths across the maroon and green diamond patterned carpet. Jang said business is slower with so many soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Almost no one was talking, until the waitresses went to the tables.
"How are you doing today?"
"We missed you last week."
"How's the little one?"
Flo's staff seemed to treat everyone like family. Alice and I got a dose of it also.
"What's your little girls name?"
"My daughter is having a baby in a few weeks."
"I have a little 1-year-old who's 30 pounds."
It all happened within our first 10 minutes inside. I love it when waitresses treat you like you come in everyday.
I was urged to sit down and given a large menu, which everyone used to play peek-a-boo with Alice.
That's the charm and the reason to eat at Flo's. As for the food -- I ordered a London burger ($7.25). It's layered with American and Swiss cheese, a slice of Canadian bacon, lettuce, onions and a tomato. I was given the choice of either regular, curly or steak fries and went traditional. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't memorable either.
The Canadian bacon was a nice touch -- crunchy around the corners soft and warm in the middle. But the burger was a bit dry and the fries appeared to be previously frozen.
I made another trip to Flo's, bringing Alice again and my husband, Kyle, for lunch on a Monday.
This time it was pretty busy, with several people sitting at the counter watching a program on the Discovery Channel describing how to make hog maw.
We ordered the House Burger ($7.75) and the Ultimate Breakfast ($10.50). Our sodas were served in blue and yellow plastic cups that had to be at least 10 inches tall.
The burger was loaded with ham, bacon, American cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms, jalapeno peppers and sweet relish.
It was a handful. Kyle struggled to keep everything in the bun and failed. The meat was moist and cooked perfectly and the sweet relish cooled the hot peppers.
The Ultimate Breakfast was as huge as the name suggested. Two pancakes, four pieces of bacon, two eggs, toast and hash browns (you can also opt for ham or sausage instead of bacon). The pancakes were pretty standard; light and fluffy with just a hint of cinnamon and the eggs were cooked to perfection. I used the crispy hash browns to mop up the warm buttery yolk.
The bacon could have been crisper; it bent in half when I picked a piece.
Flo's reminds me of a Denny's without the slick advertising campaign and seems more family and senior friendly than all-hours diner Leroy's. Unless I'm in the area, I'm not sure I'll add it to my weekend brunch spots, but the service is fast and definitely very sweet.
• Got a restaurant tip, a new menu, a favorite dish or a chef change? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flo's Pancake House
Location: 335 Muldoon Road
Hours: 6 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
By Rebecca Palsha
Daily News correspondent