May 22, 2014 – It looks more club than restaurant. Lighted bar. Lights in the dance floor. Laser light beams flashing all around. Fusions Southern Food & Bar in Anchorage exudes energy. Excitement. Fun.
I was there with my friends Dave Gransbury and Carol Holder. I had checked out the menu earlier. Any restaurant that has okra, chicken & dumplings and collard greens on the menu gets my attention. And this menu reads like Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s house.
A very pleasant woman named Sharon showed up at our table to take our drink orders. I was reading the menu again and was interested in “Robert’s Famous Red Hot Fried Ribs.” I love ribs. I like red hot. Couldn’t ever recall having fried ribs. Sounded like something I should try. I asked Sharon who Robert was.
“He’s the owner,” she replied, then turned and waved over a young man who turned out to be, indeed, the owner.
Like so many of our residents, Robert Alexander arrived in Alaska with the military a few years ago. Since leaving the Air Force he has been busy developing into quite the entrepreneur with multiple businesses. He’s a busy man.
I was right about the club atmosphere. Robert said they serve food in the early evening. Later the band arrives and the dance floor fills up. Tonight, he said, was Motown night. He said they do karaoke on Wednesday night. Dave said he wants to come back for karaoke.
I asked Robert about the ribs. He said they’re spicy. I said I like spicy. But, he said, the ribs aren’t the best thing on the menu. What is the best thing, I wondered.
“Have the oxtails,” Robert said. “They’re slow cooked for five or six hours. And if you can’t eat it all I’ll be here to help,” he laughed.
I’ve eaten oxtails. I’ve cooked oxtails. And I know when done right, they are amazing. I took Robert’s word and ordered the oxtails.
But first, we asked for fried okra and fried pickles for appetizers. Both were just great. Crunchy on the outside with the wonderful flavors of okra and dill pickle on the inside. For me, both are like potato chips. You can’t eat just one.
When our entrees arrived, I discovered that Robert was right. The oxtails were astonishing. Large chunks of slow-cooked meat with just enough gelatinous quality to make them even juicier. Fork tender. Served with rice and gravy. A deep, dark astounding gravy. The chef who prepared it knew a little something about making a roux. It was as good as I’ve ever eaten.
Carol had ordered fried catfish and let me taste it. Thick slices of the delicate, snow white fish with a nicely spiced breading. Fried perfectly. Another stunning dish.
Her catfish came with what was described as a “spicy” coleslaw. She let me sample that also. It was spicy. It was very good.
Robert was right. I couldn’t eat all the meat on my plate. Besides I was saving room for dessert. It was a wise decision. Fortunately Robert had left the building to attend to other business so I had plenty for the to go box.
The large helping of nutmeg-scented peach cobbler placed in front of me was shockingly good. I savored every mouthful. Each bite taking me back to those Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house.
Dave hadn’t said much. He had ordered the giant fried pork steak and then the peach cobbler as well.
Near the end of the meal he took time to say, “Gordon, this is good.”
And then a moment later, “I’m coming back for karaoke night.”