Firetap Alehouse serves this ham and cheese pretzel ($10.25), available with korn fritters as seen here or a variety of other side choices. Fountain drinks are $2.25 apiece.
1148 N. Muldoon Rd.
$6-$18 per plate
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays; 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends
A recent visit to Inka’s Chicken found me driving east out of town along 6th Avenue -- a drive that made me remember a restaurant a few miles out along the Glenn Highway, a new location of a fresh local franchise.
The Firetap Alehouse has been a fixture in South Anchorage for some time now, but its expansion to the Tikahtnu Commons shopping area outside Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Muldoon Gate is much more recent. The only local entry in a series of chain restaurants colonizing the approach to Tikahtnu’s flagship stores, Firetap opts for a less garish outer shell than the faux stone of Olive Garden or the busy lighting of Red Robin, its glassy corner facade the only standout design feature. For now parking is abundant, although at Tikahtnu’s rate of growth -- a Texas Roadhouse is set to open soon right next to Firetap -- that might soon change.
The dining room within is a single expansive space, airy and unbroken by much in the way of internal divisions; booths line the edges of the area, with numerous tables at its center and a bar off to the right in front of the kitchen. Windows on the far wall offer light from either end of the room, as do no fewer than a dozen TVs hung throughout the dining room; with little in the way of sports during my weekday visit, many were tuned to network news shows, giving my inner journalist a geeky thrill as I was offered a table and began to study the menu.
Firetap has one of the largest arrays of dishes I’ve ever seen at a local restaurant, a boon for the indecisive but the bane of those in a hurry. More than 30 pizzas and calzones and 20 specialty sandwiches headline the menu, rounded out with about a dozen each soup-and-salad choices, children’s meals, appetizers and desserts, plus a page on the back collecting all of the gluten-free items; I ended up spending 10 to 15 minutes reading, just to get a handle on what was available. While many of the plates described sound like solid choices, my curiosity was piqued by a sandwich variant -- a ham and cheese pretzel ($10.25), which I ordered after a few more minutes of waffling on my part. The restaurant was doing decent business for 2 p.m., with a dozen tables occupied and a brisk kitchen which served my order in about 15 minutes.
While other diners were being served fairly reasonable-sized sandwiches, the pretzel on my plate was huge; it was easily big enough to feed two, a conclusion the kitchen had apparently reached as well judging by its inclusion of a knife. I didn’t need to cut it up, however, because the relatively simple ingredients had come together sublimely well. A layer of cheddar cheese and a garnish of chive cream cheese still bubbled slightly from a run through the oven, neither it nor the half-dozen deli slices of ham nestled within the split soft pretzel quite hot enough to burn my tongue as I tore into it. While the baking precluded adding vegetables or condiments, I added some mustard -- a natural complement to both the pretzel and the ham -- and simply couldn’t put the result down until it was gone.
The list of sides available with sandwiches and pretzels is as extensive as the larger menu proper, so I took the opportunity to try some of Firetap’s korn fritters in lieu of fries, soup or salad. Three of them, balls of golden-fried dough pockmarked with crispy kernels of corn, sat alongside the pretzel, their outer shell giving way to a wonderfully soft blend of fluffy bread and unfried kernels within. Quite enjoyable on their own, with the addition of honey butter served alongside them they became absolutely decadent, satisfying my latent dessert jones and even reminding me of Channel 2’s Lunchbox foray to last year’s Alaska State Fair.
Firetap’s new location seems poised to replicate the success of its first one in South Anchorage, with a huge volume of Tikahtnu traffic to serve and the menu with which to do it. A number of the stock menu prices feel a bit more heavily weighted toward the dinner crowd rather than lunch devotees like myself, and with competition like Olive Garden nearby management has added a pair of lunch specials (infinite soup and salad, or a two-topping pizza plus a salad) at about $11 a plate. That said, if you’ve got the time and inclination to experiment with the menu at large, I’d recommend doing so for a fun and enjoyable lunch.