Sacks and Crush create joint ownership
For years now, I’ve had a bit of a crush on Crush, the downtown Anchorage wine bistro that dependably delivers delicious dishes, while bringing eclectic wine options to patrons. And recently, I wrote glowingly of the quality and creativity coming from Sacks Café, a nearby and longtime staple of the downtown cuisine scene.
So the recent news that the two restaurants will merge comes with great interest and anticipation. Crush will leave its cool boutique space (I hope someone brings along those amazing wine bottle light fixtures) to join forces with Sacks on G Street, between Third and Fourth avenues.
In fact, by the time this article prints, the merger should be complete. What it will mean for the look and feel of the final product remains to be seen. The venture will be managed by Crush co-owner Robert DeLucia, according to a press release from the company that oversees Sacks, Locally Grown Properties LLC.
At least from the start, the place will remain Sacks Café, its name for decades now since the eatery opened in 1983. It may change its name to Crush this fall. Sacks had the same owner for decades until it was purchased in 2015 by Joe Dugan and Laile Fairburn. Fairburn is managing partner of Locally Grown Properties. That entity also oversees foodie favs Snow City Café, Spenard Roadhouse, and South Restaurant and Coffeehouse.
Locally Grown Properties and Crush will have 50/50 ownership in the new joint establishment.
Changes to Sacks in the past two years included an interior remodel, adding a liquor license and drink menu, and bringing in Chef Shana Whitlock, who updated the menu to reflect her French training and inventive inclinations. Whitlock, in a Facebook post, said the merger is “exciting” and let friends know she is moving on, working to open a new restaurant in Spenard.
Those connected with the project tease that Sacks’ revamped menu will more closely resemble Crush’s tastes. This is great news. Crush has kept its edge in large part because it’s persistently different and exciting menu. Its wines are often exclusive, unusual.
Wine connoisseurs delighted in Crush’s rotating options or flights, which are three small pours of compatible though distinctly different varietals. Hopefully this mainstay remains in the newly merged venture.
And if Crush’s approach to cuisine dictates the menu’s flavor, that’s good news, as the kitchen long turned out tasty treats you simply couldn’t find elsewhere in Anchorage. On a recent visit, my sister and I started with prosciutto-wrapped dates. The sweet, squishy dates came stuffed with salty feta and drizzled with a tart basalmic reduction.
This perfect bite exemplified many staples of Crush’s menu, which often featured small, shareable plates composed of sparing ingredients artfully selected to compose precise, complex dishes. Too few restaurants take this approach in Anchorage and here’s hoping this tradition continues as well. Other small plates we ordered included the delectable deviled eggs with mustard and caperberry; the filling was especially creamy, punctuated with tiny salty shards of fried chicken skin.
Other favorites included the open-faced flat bread topped with succulent buttery crab, flecks of bacon, peppery arugula, crunch radish discs and a smear of avocado. The dish was fresh, bright and summery, an homage to the season. We capped off the dining with sherried crimini and spinach over polenta, a rich, rustic dish with a sweet sherry sauce.
Visiting Sacks earlier this year, I enjoyed a comparably enjoyable experience, devouring a dish of duck confit ravioli, enjoying a lobster appetizer. The menu promoted dishes that were elevated and sometimes adventurous, with exciting proteins like oxtail and bone marrow.
The two venues attracted similar diners: appreciative foodies looking to indulge in an unhurried dining and drinking experience. If the new establishment finds a way blend the best of the two worlds created by Sacks and Crush, we are in for a treat.
And here’s a bonus: One of the best parts about Crush was ending the evening with a shopping trip at its boutique upstairs, where diners could browse wines, specialty beers, and decorative wares like wine glass charms and dish towels. The Crush boutique will now live on next door to Sacks, in the space formerly occupied by Artique, a gallery that sold paintings and other art.