Neighborhood dining options hit the mark
Anchorage has plenty of fine dining. What it often lacks are less formal alternatives, where you can still enjoy upscale cuisine and drinks that don’t break the bank, in an environment that isn’t old school or generic.
Now two new kids are on the block, and this dynamic has delightfully shifted. Both Killjoy Tasting Room and Rustic Goat are unique to their neighborhoods, with contemporary interiors and a range of delicious food, topped off by a pleasing spectrum of beer and wine.
Killjoy opened in early spring. It classes up the east end of downtown’s Fourth Avenue, sitting just around the corner from Cyrano’s. Its urban vibe makes decorative use of brick and wood-paneled walls. A dramatic French chandelier hangs in the center of the dimly lit, rectangular room, a glowing showpiece dripping with strings of drooping crystals and faux-torch bulbs. The bar itself has its own degree of dark drama, back-dropped by an enormous shattered mirror, trimmed in dark wood. Booths with velvet benches line the walls, with plenty of bar seating.
Overall, Killjoy is like a younger, moodier version of Crush Bistro. It’s more accessible and affordable. Its cuisine is less adventurous but perfectly tasty – small plates, pretty salads, shareable snacks like baked bacon mac and bleu cheese ($9), grilled goat cheese flatbread ($9) and gouda crab and prosciutto spread ($13).
We tried the baked honey brie ($10), a bowl of hot, gooey brie seasoned with ginger, wrapped in a flaky puff pastry, topped with toasted macadamia nuts and drizzled in sticky, sweet honey. Served with chunks of toasted bread, it was a perfect treat to enjoy with a glass of wine. Wine sells by the glass or bottle, and draught and bottled beers loyally rep Alaska breweries from across the state.
Killjoy has booked a steady stream of bands and DJs since opening, displays local artists’ work, and is open Tuesday to Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Rustic Goat opened early this year, at the southwest corner of Turnagain Avenue and Northern Lights Boulevard in West Anchorage. Buzz was instantaneous, and patrons lauded its cool environment and delicious food.
The most unusual thing about Rustic Goat is its location. Anchorage is sadly short on cool, walkable dining and drinking options in neighborhoods. We’ll see whether Anchorage will ever latch on to the mixed-use development concept so hot in the Lower 48. For now, Rustic Goat is a merry trendsetter. As long as patrons aren’t blocking people’s driveways, the Turnagain neighborhood seems pretty stoked about it being there.
Rustic Goat’s ambiance is industrial chic, and brighter than Killjoy thanks to enormous floor-to-ceiling windows on the north and west walls. The chandelier here is iron, capped with little lampshades. The exposed ceiling ducts support the urban vibe. Balcony seating, honey-colored wood, tin-gray metal décor and the visible kitchen keep the bistro feeling open and airy and very suburban.
The bar menu ranges from simple to unexpected Staples such as pepperoni pizza and salads will satisfy basic palettes. More adventurous foodies can opt for the clam and bacon pizza or fried olives. Either way, there is a consistent delivery of fresh dishes.
Rustic goat serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., dinner from 5-10 p.m., seven days a week. Small plates from the bar menu are available between 2:30 and 5 p.m. We devoured the smoky mac and cheese: creamy cheese sauce, roasted red onions, bacon lardons, garlic, topped with a spicy sour dough crumble and baked in an adorable cast iron skillet ($9). The rich essence of bacon perfectly complemented the smooth cheese flavor. This is definitely a dish worth going back for.
Several years ago, researchers at Cornell University and Michigan State University studied restaurants in local markets over 10 years, and found that about a quarter of startups close in the first year. By the end of the decade, about 70 percent of the establishments were shuttered up. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to these two new arrivals.
Moody lighting, macaroni and cheese, warehouse ambiance – Killjoy and Rustic Goat are hipster hives on the surface but offer a little something for everyone. At their helms are confident chefs, backed by energetic staffs. That they’ve already inspired loyal fans is promising. Here’s wishing them luck moving forward. Their neighborhoods are better for having them.