1041 E. 76th Ave.
$6-$19 per plate
11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday
Many restaurants in Anchorage focus on a single set of dishes, with the occasional competitor attempting to pull ahead of the pack by adding a second specialty to the menu. Given the diverse choices already out there, it’s hard to differentiate a new place -- but one restaurant is trying.
The Tri-Grill in South Anchorage advertises itself as offering not one or even two sets of cuisines but three: Chinese, Italian and Southern fare. You’ll find it in a quirky light-industrial area just east of Mr. Prime Beef, at the intersection of 76th Avenue and the Old Seward Highway -- there’s plenty of parking at the strip mall that houses it, one benefit of its somewhat offbeat location.
Once you walk in, the Tri-Grill’s space is eclectic, to say the least: while it’s got about a dozen tables and some art hanging on the walls, an open set of doors to one side leads directly into an adjacent pulltab parlor. The ceilings are surprisingly high, and the dining room felt drafty enough to make me keep a coat on while I ordered. A big-screen TV over my shoulder, turned up loud enough to dominate the room, played the final moments of “The Truman Show;” as Jim Carrey discovered that his entire world was a facade for a reality show literally built around him, I had a moment to reflect on the fact that I was the only diner present when I arrived.
The Tri-Grill’s menu presents a wide variety of standby dishes in each of its specialties, ranging from fettuccine alfredo to Mongolian beef to fried chicken. There aren’t really any crossover dishes that draw from multiple cuisines, however, so rather than order three entrées I decided to order items I could more easily sample across the board. Ultimately I went with a 14-inch barbecue-brisket pizza ($15.95), with appetizer orders of egg rolls ($5.50) and fried dill pickles ($3.50); the kitchen was relatively quiet, and I had everything on the table in about 25 minutes.
The brisket pizza completely lived up to an intimidating but intriguing pile of ingredients -- small pieces of barbecued beef and onion ring on mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan cheese, all served atop a garlic crust coated with barbecue sauce. The sauce did tend to drown out any hint of garlic flavor from the crust but I was hooked from the first bite, the onions a surprisingly welcome addition to the sweet/savory/spicy baseline of the brisket. I wouldn’t recommend it as anything more than an occasional indulgence, though; it’s the kind of food you feel guilty for eating, even though I only had two slices at the restaurant.
There were four big egg rolls on the plate which arrived alongside the pizza, each about the size of two more conventional examples side-by-side. The one I tore into had a healthy mix of bean sprouts, other vegetables and bits of pork beneath a crisply fried outer shell, with the size of the roll making it feel surprisingly light since the filling was discernable from its exterior. I did try a small cup of dipping sauce next to the rolls, but it was a nondescript fire-engine-red sweet glaze that didn’t add much of anything to an already fine dish.
Perhaps the least impressive bit of the spread was the fried pickles, a piece of Southern culture occasionally replicated far from its source to varying degrees of effect. The Tri-Grill’s version came as a large pile of kosher-dill spears, chopped roughly into thirds and breaded before being fried; while some restaurants serve intact spears and only yield a few servings, the presentation lent itself to being readily sampled by a whole group of people. I found the breading fairly coarse and liable to fall off the pickles, although a small container of tangy dipping sauce helped accentuate their rich-yet-briny flavor.
I didn’t eat everything I ordered at the restaurant, but the meal wasn’t finished yet. I asked for leftover boxes and took much of the food back to the newsroom, where reporter Rebecca Palsha gave a slice of the pizza a rave review, assignment editor Kortnie Horazdovsky wolfed down an egg roll and sports photographer Kari Bustamante declared the fried pickles “addictive.” My waitress enthusiastically recommended that I take a take-out menu, the leftovers didn’t last 30 minutes and everybody at the station asked where I’d gotten the food -- a trifecta of events that leaves me recommending you visit the Tri-Grill and give it a try.
Contact Chris Klint