Lunchbox: Club Paris
417 W 5th Ave.
$6-$30 per plate
11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
With clear summer weather giving way to cooler conditions, I took some time on a recent clear day to swing by the Downtown core for a meal at a local institution -- one better known for its dinner menu.
Club Paris can be easy to miss on the street, unless you know what you’re looking for: only a tilted Eiffel Tower sign marks its location on the north side of 5th Avenue, just west of its intersection with D Street. Finding on-street parking near the restaurant, directly across from the busy 5th Avenue Mall, ranges from difficult to impossible; I ended up parking about a block away, on 4th Avenue.
As one of Anchorage’s oldest restaurants, Club Paris practically oozes steakhouse atmosphere from the moment you walk through the front door. Only a few tables near the lone plate-glass window at the front receive natural light, but most of the restaurant is dominated by a well-stocked bar running along the left side of a darkly paneled and softly lit dining room. I arrived at 12:30 p.m., in the heart of the Downtown lunch rush, so service was a little slow -- after waiting for a few minutes at the bar, I was quickly led to a small table in the back near the kitchen, and took a seat to examine the menu.
While several items from the dinner menu make an appearance, the lunch menu is surprisingly varied by comparison. The evening seafood menu is replaced by a simple but nicely varied selection of sandwiches, with most of the steak entrees swapped out for a mix of more casual preparations and specialized plates. Lunch plates go as cheap as $6 for half a sandwich and a cup of soup, but I opted for the most interesting steak item I saw on the list, the chorasco tenderloin tips ($14). With the lunch rush still at its peak, I ended up waiting about half an hour for my food, with a front-row seat to the bustle of the wait staff.
The steak tips, featuring a Brazilian take on spices, were lightly crusted with a blend of cilantro, garlic and pepper, flavors which seared into the meat during cooking and penetrated well beyond the surface. Rather than the numerous small pieces of meat which the term might suggest, my plate had three hefty pieces of beef on it, accompanied by a pair of flour tortillas, two tomato slices and a small cup of salsa. Neither the tortillas nor the salsa were particularly exceptional, but they made decent additions to the platter, which I used to eat two of the steak pieces by hand before cutting up the third with utensils.
In addition to the steak itself, the meal was accompanied by not one but two vegetable side dishes. A rice pilaf alongside the meat was a heavier, steakhouse version of the dish, a buttery mix generously blended with bits of onions, peppers, mushrooms and carrots; I liked it a good deal more than bland and dry examples I’ve had elsewhere, since it felt rich without having the weight (and guilt) of a baked potato behind it. A small bowl of steamed vegetables, including broccoli florets, cauliflower and carrots came in for similar treatment, receiving a dusting of garlic salt, but turned out slightly mushy and otherwise bland -- I can’t fault it much, however, since it wasn’t even listed in the plate’s description.
Despite the wait to be served, I’m glad I visited Club Paris. While I enjoyed my meal in and of itself, I was also pleasantly surprised by the prices on offer. The establishment’s lunch menu, like the lunch buffet at Kobe Teppayaki House in Midtown, turns out to be a great way to sample a high-end restaurant’s fare without paying full price at dinner. It won’t change your mind if you already love the food or hate the atmosphere, of course, but if you’re undecided -- and if you come early -- it’s a fine opportunity to find out.
Contact Chris Klint