Anchorage Food Quest: Summer 2011 winners

Anchorage has a lot to offer in the way of local restaurants. From burger stops and Chinese restaurants to organic cafes and bakeries, there isn’t much that Alaska’s most buzzing metropolis doesn’t offer.

In a special six part summer series, the Anchorage Food Quest, The Northern Light visited and ordered food from various locations around town in search of the best of the best. TNL analyzed delivery and wait time, individual and mixed flavors and (to a slightly lesser extend) appearance, to determine the winners for best burger, pepperoni pizza, tofu dish, Mongolian beef, breakfast platter and cupcakes. Here are this summer’s champions.

 Best Burger: Max’s Beefy Burgers – The Hawaiian burger stands out as both unique and simple. The beef’s texture and presentation is akin to what you’ll find in an Asian dish, (which makes sense, since Max’s is also a Chinese restaurant). The beef’s flavor is also the most noticeable of all the burgers sampled, and it holds its own against the powerful taste of the pineapple slice the burger includes. The burger is moderately filling, and is more than worth the $4.95 bill. Max’s is located on Northern Lights Boulevard near Boniface Parkway.

Best Pepperoni Pizza: Uncle Joe’s – For this leg of Food Quest, the entire staff of TNL participated in the judging, ordering plain pepperoni pizzas from five locally owned joints around town. Uncle Joe’s Pizza provided the undisputedly best pie. The crust was neither too thick or too thin and had flavor, there was just the right amount of pepperoni on top, the cheese wasn’t too greasy and didn’t smother the flavors of the pizza and the sauce tasted as though it had been crafted by heaven-trained sauce artisans. Coincidentally, Uncle Joe’s Pizza also provided a free two-liter of Coke for being late on their delivery. They were one of the first pizza deliveries to arrive. The Uncle Joe’s that TNL ordered from is located on Tudor Road between Dale Street and Florina Street.

Best Tofu Dish: Spenard Roadhouse – There are no regular menu items at Spenard Roadhouse that utilize tofu, however, any burger served at the restaurant can have a tofu substitute. The black bean burger (with tofu instead of black beans) possessed a fantastic blend of flavors. Of the two tofu options available, (blackened and marinated), the marinated offered light flavor that meshed beautifully with the vegetables of the burger. The tofu’s texture was also favorable, having just enough firmness to hold together. The burger also came with a choice of tater tots or French fries.

Best Mongolian beef: Northern China – It was a tough call for which restaurant claimed the number one slot in this category, but Northern China’s Mongolian beef pulled ahead with their moderately thin meat slices, slight caramelization of the sauce around the meat, greens (which added a surprisingly pleasant crunch), bold and sweet flavor and their generous serving size. The ultimate deal sealer for TNL was the smaller beef chunks; Northern China is the only restaurant sampled where the chunks were a manageable size to eat without using a knife. Northern China is located on Muldoon Road between East 3rd Avenue and East 4th Avenue.

Best breakfast platter: Judy’s Cafe – While the top two locations were essentially equal in meal quality, Judy’s Cafe snatched the win with their fantastic service. The scrambled eggs in their French toast platter were light and fluffy, and actually had flavor; it was the only egg that wasn’t completely bland. The French toast was thick, had a slight crunch to the crust and was cooked all the way through; it wasn’t soggy in the slightest. The bacon was also fairly good; it wasn’t as salty as the other locations and (unusually) had more of a bacon flavor than grease flavor. Unfortunately, it was just a smidgeon over-cooked for our personal tastes, but if you like crunchy bacon, you’ll love it. And the service? The restaurant was completely full, and yet never once was TNL in need of anything. The waitresses there were good at what they did, friendly and full of personality; tip them well. Judy’s Café is located on Old Seward near Klatt Road.

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Best cupcake: Sugarspoon: The PB&J cupcake from Sugarspoon was, by far, the finest cupcake sampled in this round of Food Quest.  It’s a chocolate cupcake with raspberry jelly filling and peanut butter frosting, garnished with a few shavings of chocolate on top. It was as close to perfection as TNL can envision it. The chocolate cupcake is moist and flavorful, and the raspberry filling is rich and light at the same time, complimenting the chocolate. The peanut butter frosting is very strong, but it doesn’t overpower the rest of the components, instead meshing with them to create a blended taste. Unfortunately, Sugarspoon only offers cupcakes on Wednesdays; it’s worth scheduling for though. Sugarspoon is located next to Bella’s Boutique on Spenard Road.