Lunchbox: Kinley’s Restaurant and Bar
Kinley’s Restaurant and Bar serves (from top, counter-clockwise) this halibut BLT sandwich ($18) and this tenderloin burger ($16); sandwiches come standard with French fries, with available substitutions including a cup of French onion soup ($5). Fountain drinks are $2.25 apiece.
Kinley’s Restaurant and Bar
3230 Seward Hwy.
$7-$18 per plate
Dinner hours 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; lunch hours 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday
It’s been a year since I took my boss, digital director Jeff Rivet, out on a less-than-successful Lunchbox meal in Midtown. We still joke about it but I wanted to make up for it, so we recently met at a long-neglected stop near the station.
Kinley’s Restaurant and Bar sits in a low, unassuming building adjacent to the Moose’s Tooth pizzeria, set aside from the hustle and bustle of the larger restaurant by its understated signage and relatively low vehicular traffic. While the parking lot isn’t big, signs at both restaurants have seemingly educated drivers in the overflowing parking lot at the Moose’s Tooth that they’ll be towed if they park at Kinley’s; despite what looked like a capacity lunch crowd next door during my visit with Jeff, I had no problem finding a space.
Like many of Anchorage’s finer restaurants, Kinley’s has turned much of its attention inward rather than outward, focusing on the dining area where customers spend their visit. Four small tables with chairs before the front desk create a small but useful waiting area, with the dining area beyond wrapped around an elegant and unobtrusive bar. Most of the seating is in booths lining the edge of the building, with long low windows letting in plenty of natural light, but there are some tables slightly inward from them. Some of the booths have bolted-down tables that can be a little tight for bigger guys like myself, so we moved from one of the former to one of the latter.
For lunch, Kinley’s fields its full selection of about a dozen appetizers alongside a core menu of about half a dozen each salads, sandwiches and entrees -- the sandwiches are largely omitted from the entree-heavy dinner menu, making many of them lunch exclusives. With the restaurant specializing in seafood, Jeff quickly cottoned on to ordering a halibut BLT ($18); I was intrigued by the description of a tenderloin burger ($16), opting to add a side of house-specialty French onion soup ($5) perhaps due to this week’s rainy weather. With our orders taken, our waiter brought out a basket of four warm white and wheat bread slices meant to go with the olive oil on the table, but upstaged by the incredibly fresh butter which accompanied it. With the lunch crowd relatively modest we broke the bread and talked shop for about 15 minutes, which was all the kitchen need to put down a pair of intimidating plates before us.
Jeff, not normally a heavy eater, was hungry and tore into the BLT with gusto. Essentially a variant of a focaccia BLT also on the menu enhanced with caper aioli and a cut of halibut, Jeff had great praise for it after only a few bites: “Not overwhelmingly fishy or anything, got good seasoning on it -- I can’t cook halibut this good.” While he often makes his own halibut, the meal was his first sampling of the dish in sandwich form and he liked it: “Delicious: halibut's cooked just right, the bacon just totally compliments the halibut as well.” Despite arriving cut in half as two tall stacks of meat and bread, Rivet was rather stunned to have “just wolfed this thing in one sitting,” only stopping halfway through the accompanying pile of beer-battered fries which he admitted from the outset were his favorite kind.
Calling the tenderloin burger I was served a burger may be technically accurate, but only in the same way that calling a Ferrari Enzo a car is. Composed not of standard hamburger meat but ground filet mignon, even from the outset it was in its own league; it shared many of the same trimmings with Jeff’s sandwich -- generous quantities of lettuce, tomato, red onion and bacon -- then topped it off with a thick slice of Muenster cheese. Capping off the dripping-wet, gloriously tasty results, a house-made smoked Porter steak sauce landed somewhere between A-1 and ketchup, combining the best parts of both with a richness that I’ve rarely encountered in a condiment before. All things considered, it’s the single best beef sandwich of any kind that I’ve had in Anchorage, and a must-try if you have the opportunity; the only demerit it even has is the hot mess to which its final bites inevitably devolve, but that’s easily rectified by keeping it over the plate.
Despite the burger being markedly larger than I’d anticipated, I didn’t have any trouble whatsoever digging into the French onion soup. Served in a custom oven-baked bowl, my delay in eating it let the customary disc of French bread and cheese atop it fuse into a sticky, onion-drenched delicacy which had cooled just enough not to burn my tongue when I started to eat it. The five-dollar charge was well worth it despite cheaper options (substituting soup du jour or a salad is only $2), as a spoonful of soup brought up a blend of broth and onions that didn’t readily slide off due to its latent thickness. While all French onion soups have salt, the true test of the dish is whether it’s a noticeable additional flavor, and the savory sweetness of the onions carried the day so completely that it didn’t even register in the last drop of it I ate.
Kinley’s is definitely a treat, and like any treat you shouldn’t overindulge -- eating food this good every day would leave anyone inured to its sheer excellence. There’s definitely a premium in play for the quality and quantity of what you get in the easily underestimated portions, but we ordered on the high side of the menu and most lunch items come in at $12, which is in line with the loose constant of about $10 a plate I’ve seen across town. The next time you can’t find a space at the Moose’s Tooth and the line stretches out the door, consider crossing the street and spending an hour eating rather than waiting -- instead of being towed, you might be wowed.
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