A Slice of Fried Gold

The Final: Bear Tooth vs. Hula Hands

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
This is it folks! The showdown between the two finalists in my March Madness tourney of Anchorage restaurants. All that is left is Bear Tooth and Hula Hands, and given my affinity for these two places it isn't surprising. It's been a long road and I appreciate everyone reading, and I'm looking forward to getting back to my regular programming. This was a hell of a thing to do.

No less, on with the show. Who will take the crown as the best restaurant in Anchorage (according to me)? Find out below.

Bear Tooth: Let's get back to the facts about Bear Tooth. It's a restaurant that serves inventive and delicious meals that come in at reasonable prices (between $11 and $15 for the most part). It features two actual restaurants really, with the grill side serving things like Halibut Tacos and Moroccan Chicke, while the other side serves a Moose's Tooth like collection of pizzas along with burritos, nachos and other things. The service is very good, with the wait staff being friendly and mostly young hipster types. They serve beer, wine and liquor, and high class versions of all three no less. Nearly all of these previously stated facts can be combined with a movie (in which you can eat/drink during) or the occasional concert (in which you can drink but you have to eat before).

I mean come on, that's ridiculous.

Yet it has a fairly prevalent negative, and perhaps the only real negative of this final in my mind: wait times. Just like Moose's Tooth, you can expect the occasionally ridiculous wait. While that doesn't kill the experience, it does bring it down a notch or two.

Hula Hands: This place is so locked in it's unreal. Their food always tastes exactly as good as it did the previous time (incredibly good, in case you were wondering). The food is served unbelievably fast (3 to 5 minutes) and with a smile. The prices are extremely reasonable, getting down to around $7.50 for a plate with a huge serving of Kahlua Pig and mac salad/rice. They have two locations, one in Mountain View and one off Fireweed. They served a surprisingly robust selection of beer (La Fin Du Monde!) at good prices, as well as a nice wine list.

This place is perpetually surprising. It has no negatives in my mind and the worst experience I've had is better than most of the ones I've had at other restaurants on this list. In short, this place kicks ass.

The Showdown: Oh man, this is it. This is the ultimate matchup. Do you take Bear Tooth, the joint that is so versatile its absurd and can give you peak Anchorage dining experiences but also can make you wait for it at great lengths? Or do you take the metronome like consistency of Hula Hands, providing tasty food at crazy fast speeds and extremely reasonable prices?

I'll leave the decision to situational greatness. If it was someone's birthday and I was going to offer to take them to dinner where would I go? If I wanted to celebrate something in general, where would I go? Assuming no wait at both spots, where would I go? If it was my last meal, who would I want food from?

While slow and steady wins races with tortoises and hares, that doesn't work here. In the Anchorage restaurant scene, the hare wins, and the hare is Bear Tooth. In my mind, Bear Tooth is the best Anchorage dining has to offer.

The Winner: Bear Tooth

Final Four Matchup #2: Hula Hands vs. Gumbo House

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
One finalist is set as Bear Tooth is entrenched in the first slot, but who will they face? The Hawaiian delight of Hula Hands or the Southern comfort provided by Gumbo House? Both are lunch favorites. Both provide special versions of comfort foods. But there can only be one! Who will it be?!

Find out below.

Hula Hands: After dining at Hula Hands at their bar (a tiny little nook up by the kitchen), I've now pretty much had every experience I can get at this restaurant. I went with my friend Eric and I had my standard food (Kahlua Pig and Pulehu Chicken with mac salad and rice) while Eric took a stab at adventure (fried poke - tuna that is flash fried and raw in the middle - with mac and rice), and unsurprisingly both meals were fantastic. We even had a pitcher of Midnight Sun Brewing Co's. Sockeye Red IPA with it, and it paired to be an exceptional meal.

Even with a restaurant full of people thanks to the review the Anchorage Daily News wrote on Friday, our service was still very friendly and very fast. It consistently astounds me how a place can be so quick and so delicious no matter how busy they are. They must have the most well run kitchen that has ever been created.

So why did I write about this one experience? Because this is how it always is at Hula Hands. I'll stop raving about them when they give me a reason to. I don't see that time coming any time soon.

Gumbo House: When my Dad and I go to Gumbo House, the man who (I believe) owns the restaurant as well as serves every table always comes to us and knows what we want regardless of however long it's been since we were last there.

Owner: "Fried Chicken Poboy isn't on special today."
Us: "Come on, you know we love it."
Owner: "Ugh...let me see if the kitchen is okay with it."

The answer is always yes to a question they have no reason to say yes to. They always give us this food that isn't even on their menu just because they have genuinely great service. That the fried chicken poboys are almost comically good (I choose to think the combo of mayo and fried chicken isn't making my heart hurt, it's making my heart sing) is almost just icing on the cake here. The food is superb, they have a great spot, and they deliver! Come on now! This place is as gold as their delicious corn muffins.

The Showdown: This is like choosing between my unborn sons Biscuits and Gravy (yes, that is right. I plan on naming one child "Biscuits" and the other "Gravy". Have I mentioned I'm available ladies?). Superb, inexpensive comfort food that is incredibly close to me and served with a smile and unwavering speed. It's ridiculous.

However, when it gets down to it Hula Hands does everything just a little bit better and I simply like Hawaiian food more than Southern food. And I love my Southern food, or my middle name isn't Leroy (that is actually true).

So sorry to Gumbo House, but Hula Hands moves on to the final.

Hula Hands will meet Bear Tooth in the finale tomorrow!

Final Four Matchup #1: Bear Tooth vs. Club Paris

Monday, March 29, 2010
The first matchup in the Final Four of Anchorage restaurants features two of my absolute favorites: Bear Tooth and Club Paris. These two couldn't be any different, as one is old school classy and all about the meat while the other features a diversified lineup and something for anyone. It's going to be an epic showdown, but there can be only one winner. Who will it be?

Bear Tooth: This has quickly become one of the most universally loved restaurants in town. With good reason...Bear Tooth does everything you want a good restaurant to do. A delicious and diverse menu (thai noodles in peanut sauce? Sure. Moroccan Chicken? Hell yes. Halibut Tacos? Don't mind if I do. Tasty burgers? YES!), quality service, good atmosphere, and a primo location. That they throw in a nice bar with a quality selection and the vaunted beer selection they and Moose's Tooth share, a movie theater to eat and drink in, and two restaurants in one (really?!) really adds to the equation, making it an exceptional blend of all the best you want from your restaurant experiences.

Yet it also has a major negatives that it shares with its sister restaurant Moose's Tooth: the occasional ferocious wait. Worth it? Sure. Annoying? Oh yeah.

Club Paris: Let's say this: if the Rat Pack existed in 2010 Anchorage, Alaska, they'd probably eat at Club Paris. Well, realistically they'd probably eat wherever they could smoke at and whichever place Dean Martin hadn't been 86'd from for boozing and hitting on every waitress. But still, the connection is there: Club Paris is a throwback. It's all about small groups that enjoy a stiff drink or a tasty beer with their thick as hell but oh so delicious steaks. It may be a very specific niche, but it's a classic one and one that I fully subscribe to.

Sure, red meat may have grown less popular over the years with some crowds, but not this guy. I choose to have my filet served with a side of petite filet thank you very much. And their burgers...lord their burgers! Filet mignon served on tasty buns with you name it for toppings (blue cheese AND bacon? What did I do to deserve this?!)...so delectable it should be illegal.

Still, the atmosphere is suffocating for some (I understand why) and due to its pervasive hardiness it may not be the best idea to eat here all of the time. I've never been good at making good decisions though.

The Showdown: This is a pretty much impossible choice for me. Club Paris is as ingrained into me as my skin, being my go-to birthday dinner joint for the past 6 years as well as a real piece of Anchorage history (sit down at the bar sometime and talk to the bartender. The guy is a gem and can tell you a lot about life, such as the power of a line like "it's a good life...if you don't weaken"). Bear Tooth is a place I've only really been eating at consistently for two years (non movie experiences rather), but a place that is so damn good it is almost required eating weekly.

While I think if I had to choose at one of these places before I die, I'd almost certainly go with Club Paris. I'm not about to be executed so this is not one of those situations. Because of its Swiss Army Knife like nature and its ability to suck me in no matter the day or the meal, there is only one choice here.

Bear Tooth...see you in the championship.

The Final Four

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Final Four is here, with the whole thing wrapping up this Wednesday in a showdown between two lucky restaurants. I can tell you what - I'm looking forward to not writing about restaurants EVER again. Okay, maybe that's not true. I'm in love with food. But I may take a bit of time off.

The two remaining matchups before the finals are below:

Bear Tooth vs. Club Paris

Hula Hands vs. Gumbo House

Who will be the greatest two named restaurant in Anchorage? We'll find out on Wednesday!

General Bracket #2 Final: (4) Villa Nova vs. (2) Gumbo House

This matchup finalizes the Final Four, as a classy Italian joint that is supremely underrated (aka Villa Nova) squares off against Gumbo House, a down home southern joint in my neck of the woods. Who wins this vaunted matchup? Check it below.

Villa Nova: This hidden restaurant off International and Arctic stays fairly busy thanks to a few simple truths: great food and great service. While other places may get more rep, Villa Nova goes back to the basics and just makes their meals a great value by loading up on food, giving you a diverse menu to choose from (my favorites: their spinach side, the Tournedos Bolognese entree, the Minestrone, and their calamari), and gives you service that is genuine, friendly and fast. It's like "The Secret" from Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball...it's a simple recipe for success yet a lot of restaurants choose to avoid it.

However, I must note: my most recent experience was not an exceptional one. It was fairly tasty but mitigated my strong feelings from early rounds.

Gumbo House: As I recently said, this place quickly went from a spot I passed often and contemplated eating at to being one of my go-to lunch spots. It even earned the vaunted "birthday restaurant" spot in 2009, which in itself is a hell of a thing. They do it with friendly service, delicious and varied food, a quaint setup, good prices, and awesome proximity to me. It's one of my favorite places in town and definitely one of the most vastly underrated ones, even if it is pretty damn bad for you.

But why must something so bad for me be so damn good. C'est la vie...you only live once. Might as well make the most of it.

The Showdown: Gumbo House...Villa Nova...two restaurants that subscribe to the secret of good restauranteering (made up word?) manage to face off for the last spot in the Final Four. While they're both incredible, the winner has to be the one that is more consistent and the one that I've most recently had great experiences. That means Gumbo House takes it in a close one, winning me over with their metronome like gloriousness.

General Bracket #2 Winner: Gumbo House

Drunk Girls

Friday, March 26, 2010

New LCD Soundsystem is GOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

New album coming May 17th! Coachella performance first night! Yeah!

General Bracket #1 Final: Taco King vs. Hula Hands

The first General Bracket was an eclectic one, which is why it's not surprising that these two highly disparate restaurants made it. However, when you get down to it they make sense: both Taco King and Hula Hands are just damn good restaurants. But which will make the illustrious Final Four of Anchorage restaurants? Let's find out.

Taco King: Anchorage is not a city that is rich in Mexican restaurants, so the exceptional simplicity, superb flavors, and inexpensive meals at Taco King are a delight for me. I long debated with my friends about the superiority of Benny's Food Wagon over this joint, but after eating at both of them for years it became clear that Taco King is just better. Whether you're there to see the King (Burrito) or the Queen (Tostada), you're in for a treat. This is a place that can make some damn tasty food.

Throw in three locations (one is just minutes from my place) AND delivery, and you have a place that's always a winner in my heart.

Hula Hands: Just a recent addition to my dining repetoire, Hula Hands has captured my heart. Since my college experience at Moscow, Idaho's Loco Grinz, I've had an affinity for Hawaiian food. Hula Hands has done the impossible and nearly rivaled that joint in deliciousness, giving me a diverse menu filled with crazy delicious food. Not only that, but it's inexpensive, crazy filling, filled with friendly servers, insanely fast, and they serve beer!

I mean come on, what do they not do?! They even have two locations, including one that is super close to my house, making them all the better.

The Showdown: On paper, this is a tight matchup. Two places that have a lot of positives and almost no negatives, but when it gets down to the bottom line it's no question: Hula Hands wins. I prefer Hawaiian food, it's uniformly great, and it is a truly unique establishment in the Anchorage dining community. As great as Taco King is, it gets shown up in no time by Hula Hands.

General Bracket #1 Winner: Hula Hands

Hippie Bracket Final: (8) Bear Tooth vs. (3) Middle Way Cafe

Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Hippie Bracket features perhaps my most frequented restaurants of all. These two contenders may be the top two most visited restaurants, as Bear Tooth and Middle Way Cafe do a ton of things I like and they do them well. But who is better overall? Who earns my choice when it's on the line.

Bear Tooth: The key to this restaurant is its versatility. Nearly everything it does, it does VERY well. Lunch? Awesome. Dinner? Superb. Bar? Love it. Diverse menu? Hell yes. Two different restaurants with entirely different menus? Why not. Great beer? Of course. Liquor? Let's get drunk. Movies that are inexpensive? You're kidding me?! Occasional awesome concerts? Now this is unfair.

This is a restaurant with more faces than the Dodecahedron from The Phantom Tollbooth. It's like that old "anything you can do I can do better" song, but in song form. I feel like at times this restaurant taunts others with its versatility, menu, and reasonable prices for the meals. It's pretty crazy really.

Middle Way Cafe: This place houses my favorite breakfast item as well as my favorite sandwich in town. That's pretty much all I'd need to say usually, but with such stern competition more has to be said. They also have a diverse breakfast and lunch menu, along with coffee to order and delicious pastries and desserts made in house.

It also has a lot of appeal in that they nearly always have cool (or at the very least interesting) art on display, as well as cool and friendly wait staff. It's incredibly popular, so you can expect occasionally long wait times and sometimes them forgetting about your food entirely (which is a big problem).

The Showdown: What did I say yesterday? Versatility vs. selective dominance...dominance always wins? Oops. I'm already breaking my own rules, but I guess Bear Tooth just dominates pretty much everything. They have no real negatives and a ton of major positives, to the point when I'm not eating there I'm thinking of eating there. While I may frequent Middle Way more often, I prefer the dining experience at Bear Tooth.

Hippie Bracket Winner: Bear Tooth

Fancy Bracket Final: (1) Simon and Seafort's vs. (3) Club Paris

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Here it is...the Fancy Bracket final. It pits the #1 remaining seed Simon and Seafort's against downtown rival for high end dining Club Paris. They both have their advantages, but who earns my dollar when the time comes for reservations? You'll find out below.

Simon and Seafort's: Simon's is the 800 pound gorilla of this bracket, as it carries with significant history, a great location and view, a really nice menu, a bar that is superb, and one of the best happy hours in town. I mean, this place brings it in every facet a restaurant can bring it in. It's earned the praise it has gotten throughout the years and has managed to treat customers with respect even with the towering praise (that was half a Simon's compliment and half a Marx Brothers slam).

But at the same time, their signature dish is the macademia encrusted, crab stuffed halibut...very good, but does it top Club Paris?

Club Paris: Steeped in a history that goes back to the yesteryear of Anchorage, Club Paris has stayed old school as everyone around them has amped up the modern appeal.  It works for them, as the dimly lit dining area, classic bar, and throwback menu (meat...and various forms of it) really accentuates their greatness. I mean, this is a place that just feels like something out of a movie, and it's appeal is entirely understood by yours truly.

Plus, they make the meanest steak in the city as well as the only burger that rivals Tommy's (and possibly surpasses it on some days) with their filet mignon burgers. Sure it's dimly lit, but it is also incredibly delicious.

The Showdown: All around goodness or doing two things really well? It's a toss up, but I'm going to go on the same idea that the actual NCAA tournament goes off of: if you can do one or two things extremely well, odds are you'll win. While Simon's brings B+ game across the board, Club Paris and their two big A+'s make this an easy decision for me.

Fancy Bracket Winner: Club Paris

Coachella Just Gets Better and Better

How can a festival that features LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, Jay Z, Gorillaz, Muse, Yann Tiersen, Thom Yorke, Phoenix, and a disgusting amount of other fantastic bands get even better? I mean really, is that type of music overload even capable of getting better?

Apparently yes.

This year at Coachella they'll have a roller rink open from 10 pm to 3 am Thursday to Sunday in the campsite, and they'll have a DJ playing the best roller rink hits from the 70's and 80's. Given that I had pretty much every birthday party of mine until I was 22 at a roller rink (okay, that may be untrue), I'm pretty much hovering out of excitement. I'm fully prepared for Coachella to be the best weekend of my life. Don't disappoint me!

Now I just have to prepare myself to earn that roller skating limbo championship that has escaped me my entire life. I finally get my chance!

The Elite Eight is Settled

It's down to just eight more restaurants. The final matchups per bracket are below:

Fancy Bracket: Simon and Seafort's vs. Club Paris

Hippie Bracket: Bear Tooth vs. Middle Way Cafe

General Bracket #1: Taco King vs. Hula Hands

General Bracket #2: Villa Nova vs. Gumbo House

This competition is almost over, and the first matchup to decide the Fancy Bracket is coming shortly. Don't miss it.

General Bracket #2 (Round 2): (1) Lucky Wishbone vs. (4) Villa Nova PLUS (6) Tommy's Burger Stop vs. (2) Gumbo House

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Today's matchups pits two of my long time favorites against each other (Lucky Wishbone and Villa Nova) while two recent favorites in Tommy's Burger Stop and Gumbo House square off in a throwdown of deliciousness. The real tourney may be resting but I'm not. This is the last matchup before the Elite 8! Let's see who moves on.

Matchup #1
Lucky Wishbone: Lucky Wishbone is a phenomenal performer and has been for a long time, but is it a restaurant that peaked early in the tournament and may not have anything left for their round two matchup (sort of like Pitt getting beat by Xavier)? Well, it is a premium lunch and dinner spot still just because of the tried and true fried chicken, burgers, fries and milkshake combination. Yet, earlier in my life a week would rarely pass by without me eating there. Now? I go months without it. I'm not sure if their recipe has diminished or perhaps my tastes have moved on a bit, but I don't love it as much as I used to.

Villa Nova: This place was looking like an absolute sure shot for the Final Four until a recent performance. While Villa Nova has long excelled in secrecy due to its exceptional blend of tasty food, decent prices (for what you get), and great atmosphere and service, my experience this past weekend was perhaps...less of quality than I'm used to.

Two of the staples that I'm used to loving in my experience (the Minestrone and the Calamari) were less flavorful and more generic than I was used to (or perhaps just remembered), and this was a damper on the equation. Still, the entree of Tournedos Bolegnese was superb and my friend Joanne really enjoyed her Veal entree. That is without mentioning absolutely phenomenal service (including the waitress bringing us a special garlic topping for our bread). It was a bit up and down, but to be fair, I had eaten lunch late in the day and that may have affected it.

The Showdown: In the tourney, all it takes is one bad experience for a good team to get knocked out in the tourney. Villa Nova is not that team, as they are still a very strong contender even with the recent mediocre experience. Lucky Wishbone is still very good and holds a very special place in my heart, but I genuinely think Villa Nova is just a better place to eat. At least Villa Nova made it out of the second round iny my tourney.

Matchup #2
Tommy's Burger Stop: There's a lot of credibility to be thrown towards a place that has the best burger in town in my book. I mean, I'm a burger guy. I love them in any way: Aloha Burgers, Bacon Burgers, double pattie, triple pattie, hell, I even love the Garbage Grinder in Cooper Landing (it's loaded with ham, bacon, a fried egg and all kinds of other stuff). Burger me and I'm a happy man.

I've also heard their poboys and their philly cheesesteaks are good, but I cannot corroborate that with my own sentiment. I've just never had one. Still, the burger is perhaps enough, even if the service is pretty much standoffish but semi-fast and the sides are not perfect in any way.

Gumbo House: Service with a smile, a really nice mix of southern foods (poboys, gumbo, jambalaya, catfish and red beans), beer (BEER!), and a great and entertaining location make this place a personal favorite. Really, when I recount my experiences there, perhaps the only real negatives tie into the fact that people are sometimes jerks in the winter and leave the door open for way too long. Outside of that, it comes up roses for this quaint and delicious joint.

The Showdown: As much as I love my burgers, Gumbo House is just top to bottom a better establishment. I've never had a bad experience there and the people who run it are just outstanding. Plus, the food is awesome. For my birthday last year, my celebratory lunch took place here. That's how you know it's good. So it's Villa Nova vs. Gumbo House to decide this bracket!

Yo La Tengo!

Monday, March 22, 2010

For the past month and a half or so, my Multiversity Comics co-writer Brandon Burpee and I have been filming exercises in absurdity in which we drink beer and talk about comics. We call it 4 Color News & Brews, and it has been slowly but surely taking off as we've gotten more views this week than ever before. Yeah!

Not that this will necessarily help, but I emailed Yo La Tengo (a band I very much enjoy) to see if we could use their track "Periodically Double or Triple" as the theme to our podcast. Surprisingly, I received an email back within three days saying sure. This is a band who has been around as long as I've been alive and is playing the absurdly huge Coachella Music Festival this year - they're pretty big time. Hell, I even randomly came up with a dance with Joanne to this song at my dad's birthday party last year. That's how you know they're good. Maybe this will earn our podcast some new Yo La Tengo friendly viewers, or perhaps the band some new fans. Who knows?!

Thanks to Yo La Tengo for being so damn cool about it, and I'm hoping we get the track added to our intro this week. If you're lucky you might get to see me cut a rug in the podcast too.

General Bracket #1 (Round 2): (1) Dish vs. (5) Taco King PLUS (6) Hula Hands vs. (7) Bombay Deluxe

Today we have the two second round matchups in the first General Bracket, as we have a showdown between the king of Anchorage Asian dining in Dish and the Mexican delight Taco King, and a matchup between the Hawaiian favorites Hula Hands and the tops in Indian food Bombay Deluxe. Lots of matchups, lots of delicious, but there can only be two to leave this showdown to make the Elite Eight of Anchorage restaraunts. Who will they be?!

Matchup #1
Dish: Much to the chagrin of my coworker Dale, Dish took the first round win against Thai Orchid. To me though, it was a fairly easy matchup to decide because Dish just doesn't really do anything too wrong. They have a diverse and quality menu, their service is friendly, nice atmosphere, good location (close to my work), and are not too horribly priced. Plus, they're great with big parties.

One of their big problems though is they really don't blow me away that often. Save their extremely fresh tasting fish (unagi!), nothing stands out for them. Plus, there is the immediate issue with sushi for me: I simply don't want to eat it all of the time. It's more of a whimsical choice for me, which isn't their fault but a natural issue with their establishment.

Taco King: Ohhhhh Taco King. You're so reliable. Taco King is methodical in its crazy consistency, always being good, always being fairly inexpensive, and seemingly always hitting the spot. Plus they deliver, have three locations, and are fairly close to me. Throw in the fact that they have a go-to dish for me (Queen Tostada for the win!) and this is a pretty spotless little guy. While it's not a place where you're like "oh man, this is the best food I've ever had", there is something to be said about being always good. Taco King - you are always good.

The Showdown: For the simple reason that Mexican food is more consistently on my mind than sushi, Taco King wins. It's more consistent, it's way more inexpensive, it's crazy fast (I once ordered and ate in 9 minutes at Taco King), and they deliver! Taco King just does more right. I know many will disagree, but too bad. This is my competition after all!

Matchup #2
Hula Hands: Hula Hands has quickly jumped up the ranks of my go-to restaurants for a lot of reasons. Inexpensive and delicious food, go-to meals, surprisingly great beer list, close proximity to my place, extremely quick turnaround, plus I just love Hawaiian food. They also have almost absurdly friendly service...the place is just a gem. I can't really find any negatives in their formula, and for that reason they are a sneaky awesome contender of this tournament.

And for those that haven't eaten there...shame on you! This place is awesome. Get on that!

Bombay Deluxe: While I really enjoy Bombay Deluxe and their tasty meals and the crazy good Naan, they have huge negatives like the scary service that is the norm at their establishment. I'm not even going to pretend this is close.

The Showdown: Complete and utter domination. This is like Cornell versus Wisconsin. Hula Hands is a near perfect lunch/dinner spot for me, while Bombay Deluxe has more holes than the Indiana Pacers roster. Which makes me sad because I'm a Pacers fan.


(1) David Harper

Sunday, March 21, 2010
When I was little I'd comb through Wizard Magazine (a comic magazine) with the diligence of your finest Sunday Schoolers, but my innate belief system was not aimed at highly regarded deities of any sort. Rather than that, I would obsessively look through it thinking "Oh man! Giant Size X-Men had the first appearance of Nightcrawler, Storm AND Colossus?!" or some other fascinating revelation about the initial look at any of my favorite comic characters. I'd often imagine what it'd be like to see my own (1) David Harper some day, but given the fact that I'm an actual person and not a mutant or something of that sort, my day would likely never come.

Yet thanks to the wonderful Emi Lenox, that day actually did come. Today I made my first comic appearance, as Emi put me in her always adorable and frequently hilarious diary comic Emitown. Given that I'd been praising it ever since I started writing at Multiversity Comics, it was a thrill to make it into one of her comics. Thanks so much to Emi for that.

Of course, I do want to point out something about the situation in which I was spotlighted for. When Brandon and I first made it to Emerald City ComiCon, we staked out the Green Lantern line in hopes of coercing Geoff Johns (a rather prodigious comic writer) into doing an interview with us. While waiting I told Brandon I was going to "find Mike Allred" which actually means "introduce myself to Emi Lenox and Natalie Nourigat." I was very excited to meet the two of them because they're super friendly and awesome cartoonists (plus I had a rad "Ghost of DJ Roomba" sketch waiting for me from Nourigat), and in true David fashion, I managed to bumble my initial meeting by pointing out that Emi's (great) contribution to the ECCC charity art book Monsters & Dames didn't make the final version.

She was sad. I was ashamed. Then, stupidly enough, I actually made the decision to hide away for the next day and a half to not revive the bad feelings I brought Emi's way (even though I was totally going to do an all plaid interview with her on the second day for our podcast!). Which was a bummer because she was great AND I ended up getting none of her mini-comics (nor Natalie's). But hey, I guess it all worked out in the end because I ended up making my first appearance in a comic because of it. Yay!

Thanks to Emi for making five year old (and twenty six year old) David's dreams come true. You're a saint! Now everyone, go read Emitown. Especially you Erik, Katie and Sheri! You guys actually live in Portland...I feel like there should be a natural connection there.

Hippie Bracket (Round 2): (8) Bear Tooth vs. (4) Tap Root Cafe PLUS (2) Middle Way Cafe vs. (3) Snow City Cafe

My laziness knows no bounds, and I'm going to wrap this up a bit speedier than I intended. Thus, you'll now get two matchups a day for the rest of the campaign until the final!

Up first, we have giant slayer Bear Tooth versus the sneaky good Tap Root Cafe, along with the battle of the esteemed midtown/downtown hippie cafes as Middle Way Cafe squares off against Snow City Cafe. Who will win in these epic showdowns? There is only one real answer...our stomachs and taste buds.

Matchup #1
Bear Tooth: This restaurant is the number one giant slayer in the tournament, playing the Northern Iowa to Moose's Tooth's Kansas. While Bear Tooth doesn't have anything as hysterical as a six foot tall guard from Iowa with brass balls named Ali Farokhmanesh, it does have a lot of things that make it every bit as awesome. A diverse and delicious menu, great beer and liquor, fantastic service, the option to watch a movie while eating anything on their menu (in the words of Marv Albert...YES!!!), and just a great set up all together.

This place is the bees knees, and from this industry analyst to you, I think them taking out the Tooth was just the tip of the iceberg.
Tap Root Cafe: This is a great first round team, bringing excellent breakfast and lunch options to the table, plus an aweome selection of beer. It's a sneaky delicious combination, sort of like UDub's squad this year - you don't know it's great until they beat you by 18 like they did New Mexico. I've discovered recently that they have some of the best biscuits and gravy in the city, which to me is the equivalent of UDub's coach realizing they had a 6'10" point forward who had great handle with both hands and had automatic range out to 23 feet. That's a pretty big deal.

Yet, their negatives are big enough to make dispatching them fairly easy if a very talented faces them in the tournament. You know, like next round when West Virginia is going to murder them or this round when Bear Tooth salivates as they look at Tap Root's slow service, luke warm water, and oddly cold set up.

The Showdown: This is a blow out, as Bear Tooth is just a mega powerful contender at this point. As much as I love Tap Root, Bear Tooth brings its A game in almost every facet of the equation. Which, you know, is very unfortunate for Tap Root. Bear Tooth is movin' on!

Matchup #2
Middle Way Cafe: This joint is bringing it like the Baylor squad of this year's tourney. They everything well, but they throw in one thing that they do excellently and that acts as the tipping point. Middle Way Cafe's tipping point is my go to breakfast order for the entirety of the city - breakfast burrito with avocado. That thing should be illegal for how delicious it is. I crave it in nearly every situation, breakfast...lunch...dinner...3 am, randomly at my desk during the day. You name it. It's the great x-factor of this bracket.

Besides that, they have incredible baked goods, a varied lineup of tasty sandwiches, good service (although occasionally horrific times in terms of receiving your food), and a full array of coffee for those that like their breakfast or lunch to be super charged.

Snow City Cafe: In many ways, Snow City is a sister shop to Middle Way. They do a lot of the same things. Focus on breakfast and lunch, trendy and friendly waitstaff, primo location, art friendly...you name it. Their menu may be even more balanced, as their lunch isn't just sandwiches but a variety of tasty treats (like the pesto chicken).

However, here's one thing that they're missing out on that is necessary to move out of this round - a go-to meal. You need something to rely on and something to always bring you back. Snow City doesn't have that for me, which is no good indeed.

The Showdown: In an epic matchup and one of the closest ones so far, Middle Way wins simply because it has two go to meals (the aforementioned breakfast burrito and the delectable avocado melt) while Snow City has none. To use a little of Bill Simmons NBA Trade Value column logic, when I took the two head to head, who would I take? Middle Way every time.

Prepare for an epic showdown next round...Bear Tooth vs. Middle Way for a spot in the Final Four! It's going to be a barn burner baby!

Top Five Records from February (and part of March!)

Friday, March 19, 2010
I had a period of time where I wasn't really crashing the new record bins. Let's call that period of time "February", which is why you haven't seen a continuation of my ongoing count of my favorite records of 2010. This countdown will be from February 1st until...let's just say today. These five records are the albums I've loved the most over this stretch, along with one record that I wanted to talk about it because it is something I simply don't understand, plus one song that I LOVE.

In other words, this is a post about something besides food. Begin rejoicing!

Note: I forgot Portugal The Man's American Ghetto. It'd probably end up at number five on this list, knocking off Freelance Whales. Still, I'm not taking FW off because I wanted to share that nugget about Pitchfork's review. That's right.

1. Broken Bells - Broken Bells

This selection shouldn't really be a surprise if you really think about it. Take the production and the eclectic and eccentric mind of Danger Mouse and pair it with the thoughtful musings and beauteous vocals of James Mercer, and odds are you'll have a solid album. This album is a lot more than that, progressively growing on me since I started checking it out. When you listen to tracks like "Vaporize" or "The Ghost Inside", you realize you're listening to the mad genius work of two A+ pop songwriters.

It's a delectable fusion that I connected with from the very beginning, and that connection has just grown and grown with each passing listen. Which is a lot because it's basically all I've been listening to for a week.

2. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

The first Gorillaz record was produced by Dan the Automator, and it was a big funk blast of an album. The second was from Danger Mouse and it was a hodgepodge of eclectica and delicious pop. Now, they're back with Plastic Beach and head Gorilla (or really the only constant member) Damon Albarn is taking a turn producing it. What came out was a whirlwind that features some big names (Snoop Dogg, Paul Simon, Lou Reed) and some of the most diverse pop tracks of the year to date.

Whether it's lead single "Stylo" featuring its creeping synth beats and yin & yang vocals from Mos Def and Bobby Womack, "Some Kind of Nature" with its ambling rhythms and simply cool vocal tracks from Lou Reed, or "On Melancholy Hill" and its oddly beatific melodies and forlorn and loving structure, this album touches on all kinds of different pop milestones and does an exceptional job with each and every one of them. Plus, it's infectious as all get out! I just don't know how you can't love a Gorillaz record.

3. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

This record, to me, sounds like an interesting blend of the vocal harmonies of Fleet Foxes, the sunny disposition of The Elected, the hyper evident and driving percussion of The National, and the arrangements and southern flair of My Morning Jacket. So if you're scoring at home, to me:

Local Natives = Fleet Foxes + The Elected + The National + My Morning Jacket

I'm not great at math, but I'm pretty sure that means this record is awesome. Interestingly enough, I like, not love those four bands in the equation. Yet this record seems to take my favorite aspects of their sound and create alchemic blend that I absolutely adore. It's one of the more out of left field albums this year for me, but I love it all the same.

4. Four Tet - There is Love in You

For an electronic album, this is a beautifully spare and affecting release. One of the greatest accomplishments found on it is that Four Tet managed to take a track like "Angel Echoes" or "Plastic People" and find power behind the moments of silence as well as he does on the ones where there are gorgeous explosions of sound. It has the sound of someone who has been cultivating their sound for a long time and really has found out what works and what doesn't, as there is a real sense of confidence in it. No schizophrenic loops or cuts, no spastic breakdowns, just driving, hypnotic jams that stay with you for days on end.

Another thing I think is very interesting about this album is the live instrumentation that is used within. While listening to it, it almost feels like it has an ambient, lounge sound. It's inviting and danceable, but the fact that you can source the sound back to instruments you recognize adds a layer of power to it. It's a beautiful piece, and something I was surprised to like as much as I did.

5. Freelance Whales - Weathervanes

While this album is still not technically out in physical release nor has much changed since I originally reviewed it in January, I had to talk about it for one reason.

This is a joyful and well crafted album from a young band who is really putting themselves out there. While I have come down from my previous high esteem of the record a bit and I do agree with the lyrical triteness of the record that Pitchfork referenced, Freelance Whales were pretty much assassinated in their review. Sometimes, I wonder if Pitchfork listens to music to enjoy it or to lick their chops at an opportunity to slap down something with burgeoning hype. To those who tossed the record away, I say pick it up and defy Pitchfork. It's a good record that deserves attention, even if it is "derivative."

Why is this loved?!: Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me

I want to like Joanna Newsom. I really do. I just don't get it. Sprawling, spastically arranged tracks about god knows what that occasionally touch on what I look for in music are what I find, while others listen to it and hear pure gold.

When I listen to tracks like "Easy", the lead track off this album, I see a little of the glimmer that others see. Yet, when I find myself confounded through the three discs worth of other songs as she plays with her harp and sings in her creepy beautiful voice, I find myself eagerly anticipating its culmination. Please, someone tell me what I'm missing.

It seems like every year features one record that I do not like at all that everyone else loses their minds over. Last year was Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest...I think this year it's going to be Joanna Newsom. Coincidentally, she was the winner of this prize in 2006 as well with Ys (which is even creepier).

Best Track: Raaaaaaaandy and Dave Sitek - Aaaaaaaangry (with Eight A's)

Between his Funny or Die stuff, his random roles in movies, his stand up work, and Parks and Recreation, I've somehow become a bit of an Aziz Ansari fanboy. Basically everything this guy touches entertains me to no end.

Now he's working on a mixtape with Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio and I'm loving it as well. This first track finds Raaaaaaaandy (his alter ego from Funny People) calling out all of the rappers who were supposed to contribute to the mixtape but didn't. It makes me laugh every time, like when he calls out Kid Cudi for his ridiculous song titles, shuts down Drake for his Hotmail account, and ESPECIALLY when he calls out Kanye for the inane nature of his blog ("ohh...here's a picture of a dope treehouse in Scandinavia").

Ansari is also a sneaky good MC, and Sitek lays down some awesome beats. Really, this has to be one of my favorite hip hop tracks I've heard this year and I'm not entirely sure it's meant to be serious at all.

Now hurry up and listen to these albums. You're slower than mayonnaise!

Fancy Bracket (Round 2): (3) Club Paris vs. (7) Mixx Grill

Thursday, March 18, 2010
We have quite the showdown today as bracket stalwart Club Paris goes up against a hot up-and-comer Mixx Grill today. While it's surprising Mixx even made it here, does it have enough firepower to unseat the great Club of the Paris? Let's find out what advantages each restaurant brings to the table.

Club Paris:
  • Best steak in town
  • They can stuff their steaks with bleu cheese if you ask (thanks Sara!)
  • Better beer
  • Awesome Rat Pack sensation if you park in the back lot
  • The place is steeped in history
  • Awesome bar
  • Crazy good lunch - filet mignon burgers! 

Mixx Grill:
  • Doesn't feel like an interrogation room
  • Better service overall
  • Better dessert
  • Occasionally really cool music 

The Showdown: As much as I enjoy Mixx Grill, it's hard to really call this a showdown. Club Paris is a contender this year like Kentucky - they systematically take their opponents to pieces and show serious pro potential while they're at it (sort of like DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall today against a lowly 16 seed). Mixx Grill, you're great, you really are. You're just no Club Paris.

Fancy Bracket (Round 2): (1) Simon and Seafort's vs. (4) Orso Ristorante

Two of the absolute titans of Anchorage dining square off today, as Simon and Seafort's bring their historic greatness up against Orso Ristorante and their hip mix of the new and old classics. Who will win this battle for the ages? Let's break down the advantages each restaurant brings to the equation.

Simon and Seafort's:
  • Go to meal in the crab stuffed, macademia encrusted halibut
  • Better Happy Hour
  • Fantastic View
  • Slightly better parking situation
  • More seating (arguably)
  • More expansive menu

Orso Ristorante:
  • Better overall atmosphere
  • Less stodgy
  • Better desserts
  • Slightly better bar
  • Better wait staff (aka cuter)
The Showdown: Each restaurant brings their own advantages to the table that makes them good options for the discerning restauranteer (I may have just invented that word), but it's a simple fact to me: Simon's makes better food. While Orso is perhaps better for drinks and dessert and extremely casual meals, if I have a hankering for a damn tasty meal that only Chad Ochocinco dollars can handle, Simon's is near the top of my list.

Round 2 Begins!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The first round of action is now complete, with a lot of big time upsets (including #1 overall seed Moose's Tooth going down) happening. Round 2 is filled with some top notch performers, but this is where it's going to get even more difficult to pick. Let's get to it shall we?

General Bracket #2: (2) Gumbo House vs. (7) Harley's Old Thyme Cafe

I have a soft spot for down home food. Something about fried foods and epic portions really gets to me (wonder what that could be?), and those are two things that Gumbo House and Harley's Old Thyme Cafe do with incredible skill. But who is better at slowly but surely clogging my arteries while making me smile ear to ear? Let's find out.

Gumbo House: This tiny little place is located in a house on 9th and F and has long drawn my interest. I drove by it over and over and always wanted to try it out, yet never did. Well, until I did...and then I fell in love.

This spot serves classic southern style poboys with ranges of meats in them: fried chicken (off menu, but always on for my dad and I), blackened halibut, oysters, shrimp...you name it. They also serve gumbo, jambalaya, catfish with red beans, and all kinds of other southern classics, and I am glad to say that they are all remarkably tasty.

The service is also consistently great, with the owner doing almost all of the serving himself and almost always remembering repeat visitors. It's kind of like a homecoming every time, and not just because it's in a small little house. Pricing is decent and hell, they even deliver. This is a place that doesn't have a lot of negatives, save for the fact it is most definitely not healthy (which is a pretty big negative in today's more health conscious world for me).

Harley's Old Thyme Cafe: This is the most underrated breakfast place in Anchorage, as it once was great because of the best brunch in town and has quickly transitioned into being the best place for classic breakfast foods in town. I dare you to go to Harley's on a Sunday morning and tell me that this isn't about as good as you can get for breakfast staples in town. Their Country Bumpkin Breakfast that comes loaded with chicken fried steak, hash browns, three eggs, your choice of toast or biscuits and gravy (BISCUITS AND GRAVY!), AND a Harley Cake (only on Sunday) is perhaps the best way to clog your arteries in town. Sure, you may feel like you need to have a quadruple bypass by the time you're done, but it's a small price to pay to satisfy your taste buds in such an incredible way.

However, their lunch is not quite as phenomenal. While the breakfast is what I go to them for, I have tried the lunch before and it was far less impressive. While they do have an almost absurd amount of sides to choose from, nothing on the menu really impressed me so far. Evidently quantity does not make quality. Throw in some occasional service hiccups (speed, not niceness), and we have some negatives in there that are hard to ignore.

The Showdown: In the battle of down home joints, the spotless appeal of Gumbo House brings in the quick win against Harley's. While I love me some breakfast, I prefer to have my arteries clogged and my reaction times assassinated later in the day, thank you very much.

General Bracket #2: (3) Arctic Roadrunner vs. (6) Tommy's Burger Stop

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Here it is: The Great Burger Off of Anchorage. On one side you have Arctic Roadrunner, the long loved joint off International and Old Seward that has long sated the desires of the burger loving folks of Anchorage. On the other side you have Tommy's Burger Stop, the hidden spot off Benson and Spenard that houses some mighty fine burgers themselves. But where can you get the best burger in town?

Arctic Roadrunner: This restaurant has been a staple of Anchorage culture for almost as long as the city itself has existed, and visiting its main location off International is like walking into a museum of Alaskana but better...because it serves delicious burgers and tasty shakes. It's burgers are highlighted by thick and tasty beef patties and some incredible home made buns. This place does the classics of a drive thru joint very well, as the standard fair is exceptional.

The biggest problem for the spot is that the meals aren't satisfying and original enough to merit the price, and their sides rarely hit me where I want them to (right square on the taste buds). While the burgers are pretty damn tasty, I want some crazy good fries or onion rings to go with it and to be honest, I just don't love their sides. They also don't take cards which is a pretty big demerit in itself.

Tommy's Burger Stop: This is the best burger in town. Well, they have a number of the best burgers in town. Whether you're looking for a simple cheeseburger, a garden burger, to the Aloha or Stella Bleu burgers, this place can hit the spot. That they also throw in incredible poboys and philly cheesesteaks really seals the deal of pure unadultered deliciousness.

Just like the Roadrunner though, their big demerit ties in to the lack of included sides. Instead of the flavor being the big negative associated with them, their problem is the price. $5 for onion rings? Come on now. Throw in pretty much no seating if it isn't summer time and the patio isn't open and we have some pretty major issues.

The Showdown: In the battle of burger joints, the winner is decided by one simple factor: who makes the better burger? While Arctic Roadrunner has the longevity, the fact of the matter is Tommy's completely and utterly nails the art of the burger quite unlike any other place in Anchorage. They have a wide variety of them and each and every one of them are more inventive than what the Roadrunner has to offer. Victory goes to Tommy's.

General Bracket #2: (4) Villa Nova vs. (5) New Cauldron

Monday, March 15, 2010
This matchup is about as disparate as two you can get. You have Villa Nova, an Italian restaurant ideal for big group togethers or dates, and then you have New Cauldron, a forgotten restaurant that is uniformly awesome and oddly charming. Two restaurants that are easily forgotten in the mix of restaurants across the city, and two that should never be forgotten.

Villa Nova: Villa Nova...oh how I love you. I've went here with my family, I've went here with friends, I've taken dates here...you name it. This place is a remarkably charming place that serves some of the best Italian food and steaks in town, and it has an incredible wine selection. I mean, this place is good. That's right...it deserves bolding.

Every experience I've had there has been transcendant, always standing out for one reason or another. In fact, the last time I went there was just with my mom and I could not decide what wine I wanted. Instead of just telling me about what they were, the waitress walked me through the menu, helped me whittle it down to three, then basically poured me three full glasses and said "pick your favorite and we'll go from there." She charged me for exactly zero of them. If I did that at Marx Brothers the waitress would likely accuse me of theft and I'd probably end up in jail.

The service and atmosphere are insurmountably impressive to me, reaching the peak of those categories in this competition for me. The food is excellent...in short...I love this place. If only it wasn't in the most random and sketchy location ever.

New Cauldron: This is my sneaky favorite lunch spot. My mom and I have been coming here for years, and we've went from eating pretty much entirely by ourselves when we started to eating in a packed restaurant. The difference between now and 2002 is insane, as every lunch day is now packed. It's totally worth it too, because they have some incredible food that is also often quite healthy. My favorite dish is their teriyaki chicken plate that comes with brown rice and steamed broccoli - really healthy, really tasty, and moderately priced.

They also feature one of the best Club House sandwiches I have ever eaten. Scratch that, it is the best I have ever eaten. While it should come with a complimentary replacement heart, it is epic in its deliciousness. Their salads are almost enormous and dense with all of the good things you want in them, and perhaps the most "worth it" salads you will ever find.

Not only are those positives huge, but they also have some of the most personable service ever. Our waitress doesn't give us menus, comes by and confirms our meals (we have a few rotating choices), and then she hooks us up shortly thereafter. It works like clockwork. It's pretty incredible.

The Showdown: Two restaurants with very few negatives and tons of huge positives, militant followings, and oddly poor locations. These are as close of competitors as you can get. However, here is where the difference is: there is simply more potential for delicious and more options from Villa Nova. They both do what they do about as well as anyone does in town, but when you get down to it the 'Nova comes out on top in a squeaker like this past week's West Virginia/Cincinnati game.

General Bracket #2 Breakdown

Saturday, March 13, 2010
It's General Bracket #2 day! We're just four days until the second round and being that much closer to this competition wrapping up. This bracket may be my favorite in the competition, fusing a lot of down home, burgers, and one rather classy joint together for a hodgepodge of deliciousness. Who will escape the category and make it to the final four? We'll find out soon enough.

General Bracket #2: (1) Lucky Wishbone vs. (8) Humpy's

Friday, March 12, 2010
This pits two of the biggest staples of Anchorage dining against each other, as one of the oldest restaurants in Lucky Wishbone goes up against one of the most popular bar/restaurants in town in Humpy's. It's two pretty classic menus showing down to see who does the basics better. Who will it be?

Find out after this.

Lucky Wishbone: When Rachael Ray came up to Anchorage, this is one of the places she went. Why would you she go to a drive thru, down home, old school Anchorage restaurant? Because it's delicious!

This restaurant keeps their menu to the basics: burgers, fried chicken, fries, and milk shakes. While there are other foods, those are the basics and what they do best. I go there for the burgers, and I love this place so much that I actually went there for my post high school graduation dinner. I always get their jumbo cheeseburger with a side of fries, my mom normally gets the MOM (an assortment with fried chicken with fries), and my dad normally gets the POP (a bigger assortment with more fries) and a mileshake.
I mean, this is without fail. This is a place that is all about comfort food, and it's all about familiarity

Lately, I've been going after my pallete has expanded a bit and it isn't quite as good as I always wanted it to be. However, it's hard for it to escape the love I once had, so I continue returning and enjoying the experience.

Humpy's: This restaurant was featured on Travel Channel's Man vs. Food, and it had Adam "I don't wash my hands" Richman taking down some makeshift contest that never existed before then. It's one of the best places to get beer in town, as it has an eclectic and robust beer list to go with a pretty large menu. Want fish and chips? Got that. Want burgers? Got that. Want a nice salad? They've got that. They have a little bit of everything, and most all of it is pretty darn good. Better yet, the service is almost always remarkably solid for how busy they are.

Their big negative is the prices. While a lot of their food is good, it's awfully ridiculous to spend $16 on Halibut Tacos (that aren't as good as Bear Tooth's - suck it Eric!). Often their food is a tier or two below other similar options, so unless I'm going to drink it's a rare occasion that I'll stop by there and eat.

The Showdown: Two classics, two Anchorage constants...but who comes out on top? They both have big positives and big negatives, but when you get down to it the years of consistency from Lucky Wishbone make it come out on top. Maybe if Humpy's regulate on their prices some day they'll take the lead, but not yet!

General Bracket #1: (2) Panda vs. (7) Bombay Deluxe

Today is a battle between two more massively under represented food types in Anchorage. Well, that may not be true for one of the choices. Still, Panda is a titan of Anchorage's Chinese food scene while Bombay Deluxe is the best of the very limited selection of Indian restaurants. But which of these choices should be your choice and almost certainly is always mine? Let's find out below.

Panda: This restaurant was called by one of the Top 10 places in the country to dine by USA Today in 2005. Let that sink in. Out of the thousands (millions?) of restaurants in the country, one of the allegedly best ten in the country is a Chinese joint in Anchorage, Alaska. Now that is surprising.

Especially, when you get down to it, considering that Panda is the apex of Chinese dining in a depressingly bad Chinese city, that isn't exactly saying much. While their food is fairly good and moderately priced, nothing really stands out as remarkably good about it. A lot of coworkers order it for delivery at my office and I'm always confused as to what the horrible stench is, and then bam, it's Panda. While it's highly regarded and nearly always busy, I've never been able to figure out what the big deal is with Panda.

Bombay Deluxe: I'm going to start with a major negative: the service. The service, at times, is mean spirited. I've been there with friends before where the server will come by and we will literally fear their presence as they roll their eyes and willfully ignored us.

Past that, the food is uniformly tasty and nicely priced. The Naan (Indian bread) blows me away each and every time I have it. Their beer and wine lists are nice, and everything compliments each other very well. One of the coolest things about this restaurant is each and every time it feels like I'm having my first experience again, because I always seem to try something new (besides the Naan...which is a must). You can't say that about a lot of places, and you have to appreciate a perpetually new experience disguised as a tiny restaurant in a very random strip mall.

The Showdown: Considering I basically said I do not like Panda, it probably isn't much of a surprise that I take Bombay Deluxe. But the win isn't just because Panda is not great, it's because Bombay Deluxe (besides the service) is fantastic. It's uniformly good and often surprising. If you haven't tried it yet, get on that!

Kid Cudi + Ratatat + MGMT = Gold Mine

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Today a new video for the Kid Cudi track "Pursuit of Happiness" that features Ratatat and MGMT was released, and it's a fairly entertaining one. However, I really enjoy the song and love the fact a hip hop star is finally using Ratatat to create beats finally. It's been a long time coming, and it's unsurprising that my boy from How To Make It In America was the one to do it. Check it out above.

David Petersen Interview

This past weekend I interviewed David Petersen, the Eisner Award winning and New York Times Best Selling creator of Mouse Guard., for my comic blog Multiversity Comics. He was a great guy to talk to, and it was a perfect first shot at practicing an in-person interview right before Emerald City ComiCon. The videos are below...check them out and see how goofy I look!

General Bracket #1: (3) Falafel King vs. (6) Hula Hands

This throwdown features two of the more forgotten types of food in Anchorage: Middle Eastern vs. Polynesian/Hawaiian. Both are epic in their deliciousness. Both are poorly represented in the city. Yet both of these restaurants are great. Who will win in this showdown between Falafel King and Hula Hands? The answer may surprise you.

Or not. That remains to be seen.

Falafel King: This tiny, tiny joint off of Gambell and...street that will not be named is a pretty simple one in options (falafel, schwarma, schnitzel), but definitely not simple in flavor or in serving. I mean, whether you're throwing down any of their three primary foods, you know you're going to be filled when you're done. Their schwarma is so packed to the gills in meat, veggies, more meat, tahini, more meat, and veggies that you'll a) need to wear a bib and b) grow a second stomach to handle the amount you get. Not only that, but everything is mixed and matched perfectly to hit the apex of tasty, satisfying you to the very last bite. Plus, it's served with a smile generally, as the main woman who works there is very sweet.

The biggest problems with this place is that it is often impossible to predict when it will be open. I'll go there during regular hours and they will have a sign that says "returning in 5 minutes" that rarely actually reflects the amount of time they will be gone. On top of that. I wasn't kidding about the bib. This is maybe the single most messy food in town. If you can successfully eat a lamb schwarma without evacuating its back end all over yourself, you're a greater person than I. A bib probably isn't a proper recommendation. A hazmat suit might be more fitting.

Hula Hands: Just typing those nine letters made me hungry. That's how you know it's good. This place serves Hawaiian classics (note: my all-time favorite restaurant was a Hawaiian place in Moscow, Idaho) like Kahlua Pig, Pehelu Chicken, Spam and Eggs, and more, and all of it is absurdly delicious. Meals are paired with the classic combination of white rice and mac salad, and it's as delectable and simple as you can get. On top of that, it's inexpensive and remarkably fast - I once got my food in 3 minutes on a packed evening. Crazy.

They also have an amazing beer and wine selection for such a small place (La Fin Du Monde!), have incredible service, and are located two minutes from my place. Are there negatives to this place? ARE THERE??!

The Showdown: I love me some Falafel King. It fills a niche that I haven't really met since I left Europe, in which little shops like them are on every street corner. Yet, Hula Hands hits one of my favorite food varieties and does it as negative free as everyone with a lot of roaring positives. As I mentioned, I have a bit of a Pavlovian response just to their name and may actually be forced to eat there today because I love it so much. Sorry Falafel King, you went up against one of the fastest risers in the entire tournament.

General Bracket #1: (4) Benny's Food Wagon vs. (5) Taco King

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
This has been one of the fiercest debates of my life amongst my friends: Benny's or Taco King? I've long belonged to Team Benny's, as I've been "eating it since (I) was in the womb" as my mom used to say, but have the years of Taco King love split the difference and made me a disciple of the King Burrito and the Queen Tostada? Let's check the tale of the tape and find out!

Benny's Food Wagon: This is the most endearingly unassuming restaurant in all of Anchorage, hiding off Northern Lights across from Taco Bell and Sweet Basil Cafe and serving a small but well crafted menu of classic Mexican treats at very affordable prices. My go-to meal is the Burrito Special, which comes with two chimichangas and a side of rice and beans (and lettuce!). I've been eating it for pretty much the entirety of my existence, and it comes as ingrained into my persona as anything I've ever eaten.

But I have to admit...it has fallen off since it moved away from its old location where Embassy Suites is now. They lost their old cook who made the rice as delicious as any I'd ever tasted, and they have long been trying to recreate the magic. While all of the other elements are mostly the same, with the rice being such an intregal part (somehow becoming my favorite aspect in later years) the once mighty Benny's has taken an epic downturn. Even the old stand-by employees that worked there have been replaced with late teens girls - very disappointing. But it still is met with a deep sense of nostalgia and esteem, and I will likely eat there for as long as I live in Anchorage.

Taco King: I always held strong against its charms, but the authentic(ish) menu and inexpensive meals eventually won me over. Taco King is a place that has something for everyone, and in a city that is so dreadful when it comes to Mexican food it is nice to have some guaranteed delicious in the town. Whether you're looking for guaranteed awesome from the very filling King Burrito or the epic-in-its-tastiness Queen Tostada, or perhaps something a bit more sweet like buñuelos or fried ice cream, this is the place for you.

It also has a number of locations placed very strategically across town (off Tudor down by the police station, off Huffman, and off A St. and Northern Lights), and the service is always superb, with the employees being extremely friendly. Plus, they deliver now!

The Showdown: As much as it shames me to admit it, Taco King takes Benny's down now. If this was 2004, it'd be Benny's by a landslide, but the mighty have fallen and the King has risen. If Benny's ever fixed their rice and brought back some of the charm that has seemingly been misplaced, I'd revisit this showdown. But as of now, the once and future King of Anchorage Mexican is here to stay.

General Bracket #1: (1) Dish Vs. (8) Thai Orchid

Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Now this is where things start getting interesting...throwdowns between restaurants with completely different styles and niches. Gone are the rather straightforward apples to apples comparisons. This isn't even apples to oranges, this is sushi versus curry, as Anchorage's preeminent sushi spot Dish and their most delectable Thai restaurant Thai Orchid square off in what is sure to be a very close competition.

Dish: This restaurant is new to the scene, but their ascent to the peak has been quick for a number of reasons. Pete's Sushi Spot had most of their staff defect to Sushi & Sushi and then burned down, Sushi & Sushi picked a terrible location that practically forces you to go to Moose's Tooth, and I <3 Sushi went through a dreadful remodel and menu redesign that neutered their quality. Oh yeah, and Dish is hellaciously good.

Dish excels at a few things, but when you go to a sushi joint one of the biggest differentiators is the freshness of the fish that they use. While some restaurants taste like they actually dug their product out of Dish's trash after it went bad (*ahem* SAMURAI!), Dish manages to bring some of the most phenomenal flavors out of their unagi and ama ebi simply due to the fact you know it was freshly cut. Their unagi in itself is an experience, as it is the best I've ever tasted. You also have a wide selection of rolls to choose from, a great bar, and an eclectic mix of other foods like various forms of (meat) teriyaki and (meat) fried rice. It isn't just a Japanese experience, it's a full Asian foods experience.

But there are downsides: it's rather expensive and kind of streaky (but that is mostly the type of food you're dealing with - sushi is so oriented off of mood it is unbelievable). Plus, there is the personal downside in that I always see people I know there, and that isn't something I'm looking to do. No basketball references here, as Dish is like a D2 school somehow getting into the tourney due to unforeseen circumstances amongst a lot of the main contenders, and then making it rain like they are Reggie Miller against the Knicks.

Thai Orchid: To me, the competition for "Best Thai Restaurant" in Anchorage is no competition at all. Thai Orchid obliterates everyone simply because they make tastier food. Try their curry, try their pad thai, try their fresh rolls...it's all phenomenal. This is one of the few restaurants on the list that is exceptional only for their food, but it's a contender no less. Everything I've had there is better than its counterpart at any other local Thai joint, and for that reason Thai Orchid is one of my go-to lunch spots. Plus, holy crap they give you a lot of food.

However, there are some major negatives here. It is the single tiniest restaurant on the planet and corroborates my theory that all Thai restaurants must reside in a strip mall of some sort. If it's winter time, every new patron freezes out the people that are eating. The service is abysmal and at times can be mistaken for indifferent or even mean spirited. Thank god the food is good.

The Showdown: As much as I want to give Thai Orchid some love, they have huge negatives on the table. While they definitely have very good food, it doesn't stop the fact that Dish brings a lot more than just good food to the table. When that is factored in, this is no contest at all.

General Bracket #1 Breakdown

This section of the General Bracket contains some very interesting contenders, ranging from the preeminent sushi and Thai places in town (Dish and Thai Orchid), the best in quick Mexican dining (Benny's and Taco King), more niche oriented ethnic food (Hula Hands and Falafel King), and the most popular Chinese and Indian restaurants (Panda and Bombay Deluxe). Quite the mix of types of food, so this more so than the other brackets will likely be a complete mess. But...you know...in a delicious way.

Hippie Bracket: (2) Middle Way Cafe vs. (7) Organic Oasis

Monday, March 8, 2010
Today in the Hippie Bracket we have a match up between one of the most popular breakfast/lunch spots in all of Anchorage versus one of the best kept secrets as Middle Way Cafe and Organic Oasis square off. Seperated by just a short distance and fighting for the same niche (vegetarian/vegan eaters or those who just like delicious food), MWC has long outdistanced Organic Oasis in terms of popularity. But is it deserved?

Middle Way Cafe: This restaurant is arguably my go-to weekend breakfast spot and my go-to lunch spot. Their almost comically delectable avocado breakfast burrito hits me in a way that almost no other meal in the city does, kicking my weekend off in grand fashion each and every time and setting me up for a great couple days (I clearly like this burrito). Then, if I'm headed their for lunch it's hard not to go for the Avocado Melt, a sandwich that is every bit as good as the best sandwiches in town and synonymous with the restaurant as a whole. It's ingrained into the discerning Anchorage diner's repetoire as much as possibly even Moose's Tooth pizza is.

They have a wide variety of breakfast and lunch options, all of which are quite tasty. Their soups and baked goods are also exceptional, almost always sucking me in to make a bad decision (aka eating too much).

I only have a couple beefs with this joint: on numerous occasions they've lost my order and had to remake it, or after waiting for a lengthy stretch they come out to inform me that they are out of avocados. To a person eager to eat, that is devestating news. I'm also not a fan of their coffee, as I find it difficult to reason to myself that I should drink their brew while I could walk three doors down and pick up some Kaladi coffee for less.

Organic Oasis: This place is sneaky good, in that you don't think it would be good until you eat it...and then it is. On numerous occasions I've been blown away by my meals, finding their chicken stuffed with portobello mushrooms and their vegan high protein wrap to be particularly good. As perhaps the single most green restaurant in town, I was a bit skeptical of what their dessert experience could be, but I'm not going to lie - their brownie ala mode (vegan) is near the peak of my dessert experiences in town. To throw in another major positive, they even have a nice beer selection.

On occasion, they have solid concert experiences. That in itself is a major positive and something that really adds to the overall quality of the spot.

However, there are a number of big negatives. A lot of their meals have been described by friends and yours truly as "bland" or even "completely lacking flavor." Never a good thing. On top of that, their service and atmosphere is odd and their hawking of random vitamin packs and strange alternative medicines is a bit off putting. While a lot of their meals are good and their juices are great, they are all massively overpriced.

The Showdown: Anyone who knows me knows that this isn't a competition at all. Middle Way is a VERY strong two seed (like Duke will be this year) and Organic Oasis is a low seed with a lot of holes (like...every low seed really). If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, Middle Way has very much captured my love. My biggest problem is stopping myself from eating their daily.

The Weekend Edition (Getting Nerdy)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

This weekend was one of the nerdiest ones of my life. For someone who is perpetually nerdy, this is quite the statement. Why was it so nerdy? See below:
  • Filming another podcast with Brandon (subscribe to our YouTube channel here!)
  • Dinner over at Cate, Darren and Eric's and watching The Box (horrible!)
  • Mellow morning/afternoon catching up on things (and reading Bayou - incredible)
  • Going over to Brandon's to plot our interview with Mouse Guard creator David Petersen
  • Mouse Guard interview going off without a hitch! Well, besides fleets of people
  • Dinner at Moose's Tooth with Colver and Brandon
  • Going to the Buck to play darts with Colver
  • Star Wars exhibit at the Anchorage Museum with Colver
  • Destroying my knee once and for all playing basketball
  • Making a tasty dinner (chicken stir fry with peanut sauce)
So, besides that second to last thing it was a very good weekend, and one that was highlighted by the nerdy experiences. I'm really enjoying filming the podcast, and getting that David Petersen interview in before next weekend's Emerald City ComiCon was a very good thing.

I have to say David and his wife Julia were two amazing people, and both Brandon and I were incredibly thankful to get our first live interview experience with such warm and wonderful people. The Captain Cook helped out as well, giving us access to their top floor to film at which was great. The only problem were the people flooding in and out, often into shot and making a racket. But I had a great time sitting down with David. I'll post the videos from it once both are up (or you can subscribe to our YouTube channel!).

After we wrapped up, we had David sign a couple books for us (one for Brandon and one for a contest winner we had at Multiversity), and I also asked him if he'd be able to doodle something for me real quick. Well, instead of doing a quick job, he actually put together an illustration of my favorite character from Mouse Guard in his new form. Lieam took over as The Black Axe in the last book, and in a way I have an illustration that represents his first appearance. I was so thankful to David for that and for the opportunity. If you have the opportunity to meet him, I highly suggest it.

I also went and checked out the Star Wars exhibit at the Anchorage Museum today, and I was immediately turned into a kid again. Seeing X-Wing models, Chewbacca's costume, and the Millennium Falcon was an experience I never even imagined getting, and I did thanks to my sister Bobbie and her awesome birthday present. Thanks so much Bobbie! Also, fun fact: they didn't tear my tickets so I'm going to go again not on a weekend so I can get the full experience. Yeah!