October 16, 2015 – The blackboard in the bar at South said the day’s sparkling wine was Mumm’s.  OK.  I’m in.

The cocktail menu boasts a French 75.  A favorite.

And anyone who knows me knows my kinship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his legendary character Sherlock Holmes.  They would understand why the Basil Rathbone cocktail got my attention.  Cucumber, basil, lemon peel, pink peppercorns, Bombay Sapphire Gin & Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Tonic.  It could become a favorite.

South is bright.  Vibrant.  Glittery.

I want to go back in the evening for cocktails.  But today was about food.

South is the latest restaurant opened by Laile Fairbairn and her partners.  It joins Snow City Café, famous for its breakfasts, and Spenard Roadhouse, that cozy, family-friendly eatery that reminds me so much of growing up in what was then the south part of town.

There’s the feel of a French bistro about South.  I asked Laile if that was their intent.   “We were definitely thinking European,” she told me.  “French, yes.  But evenings have more of a Spanish influence.”

General Manager Tyler Crenshaw has done a good job of creating an atmosphere that encourages friends to meet for lunch.  Or even better, brunch.

Executive Chef Shane Moore has developed a brunch menu that features European classics alongside southern standards.  (Biscuits and gravy anyone?)  Spanish-influenced dishes like Huevos Divorciados.  (Eggs over corn tortillas with black beans and pico de gallo.)   And what Alaskan restaurant wouldn’t offer Crab Benedict on a brunch menu?  It’s our own classic.

I was meeting my long time friend and colleague Marnie Brennan.  Her husband, the journalist and author Tom Brennan, had been scheduled to join us.  But as it happened he had doggy duty that day.  His job, Marnie explained, was to take their two dogs, Bonnie and Clyde (both females, by the way), to the doggy hotel to demonstrate that they could play well with others.  As one with a King Charles Cavalier who sincerely believes she is a princess I fully understand doggy duty.  Still it was Tom’s loss.

Milan, the young man assigned to tend our table, greeted us with a cheerful, “Bonjour!” thereby adding to the French bistro feel.  Milan is from Serbia.  He’s been in Alaska for about a year now.  He says Alaska is a beautiful place to be.

He also said the chef was offering a seafood New England style chowder.  I had to try a cup.  Good decision.  The small bowl was brimming with Alaska seafood.  Shrimp, crab and cod in the traditional milk-based soup.  The chef accomplished a difficult task.  The milky liquid of the chowder gave body without being floury.  Sliding noticeably but subtly beneath the milky texture was the distinct flavor of the sea.  Terrific.  Just Terrific.

Marnie decided to be good.  As in healthy.  She ordered the egg white omelet with zucchini, asparagus, kale and tomato.  Sprinkled heavily with feta and arugula sprouts.  Since she had made the moral decision to be good and be healthy, she wasn’t expecting great flavor.  She was pleasantly surprised.  Delectable, she said.  Packed with flavor.  Healthy can be tasty.

When it came to ordering an entrée I was very much into French bistro mode.  The menu has both a Croque Monsieur and a Croque Madame.  Traditional bistro dishes.

A Croque Monsieur is simple.  A grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

A Croque Madame is the same but more.  It traditionally is served open faced, topped with a fried egg.  At South the Croque Madame is presented on brioche with Black Forest Ham, grilled asparagus and caramelized leeks.  Covered with a pungently delicious Gruyere Mornay sauce.  Topped with the traditional fried egg.  I asked for smashed potatoes on the side.

It was not only delicious, it was beautiful.

On our way out someone called, “Hey, Marnie.”  So Alaska.  We always think of Alaska as a very large land mass with the feel of a small town.  It’s wonderful to find a place like South that still has that old Anchorage feel.  That Alaska hominess.  Where you still run into people you know.

I can’t wait to go back for dinner.

And, by the way, if you’re in a hurry and want something light, on the other side of the maître d’s desk is South’s Coffeehouse.   Pastries, light sandwiches and Kaladi Brothers coffee.