Lunchbox: Crossbar

The Crossbar serves this cured pastrami sandwich ($14), which comes with a cup of coleslaw but can be upgraded ($2) to add a cup of soup seen here, fries or a small salad. Fountain drinks are $2 apiece.

2830 C St.
$7-$16 per plate
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

I’ve been a bit behind on Lunchbox entries due to news, but I’m finally back on the hunt. With a recent excursion to Seward’s Folly in South Anchorage still on my mind, I swung by another national restaurant converted to a local eatery.

The Crossbar is tucked into an eclectic block at Northern Lights Boulevard’s intersection with C Street, alongside an Arby’s fast-food restaurant and a GCI store. Although the turn in from C requires threading between the latter two buildings, the Y-shaped parking lot which flows around the restaurant offers plenty of spaces at any hour of the day. Not much of the building’s exterior has been changed from its days as a Boston’s Restaurant and Sports Bar which closed in August -- but in a nice hockey-themed touch the front door handles are fashioned from ice-skate blades, which made me smile on my way in.

The Crossbar’s layout doesn’t vary much from its predecessor, with the same blend of tables and booths in a relatively open central area before the kitchen. Some of the smaller waist-high walls that separated tables at Boston’s appear to have been removed, creating an arena-like space in the center of the dining room which accommodates flexible seating or special events. In keeping with the rink-like motif promoted by the white walls and black ceiling, a quartet of TVs hanging above the room emulates an overhead scoreboard; a generous supply of cased hockey jerseys and even a few video and air-hockey games near the bar round out the joint’s focused theme.

One major change visible at the Crossbar is a much more modest lunch menu, the small book left sitting on tables at Boston’s replaced by a lone double-sided card sporting about two dozen dishes, roughly a quarter of which are appetizers. Sandwiches and salads lead the meal choices, rounded out by a token few soups and entrees; it’s a fairly straightforward list of options, roughly on par with many newer restaurants in town. After a few moments to deliberate, I settled on a house-cured pastrami sandwich ($14), opting to add soup ($2) off an upgrade list that also included fries or a small salad; the kitchen didn’t seem terribly taxed and the soup came out in about 10 minutes, followed by the sandwich in another 15 or so.

Setting aside the necessity of an upgrade charge to add a side to a sandwich, the two bucks I paid for a cup of the Crossbar’s Alaska-grown potato chowder represent one of the best investments I’ve put down for a side in recent memory. One of the rare soups which makes you regret not ordering a bowl, the chowder drew me in with a thick and decadent cheese-based broth, carrying potatoes light-years beyond fries in their quality and flavor. With added hits of taste from traditional baked-potato toppings like shredded cheddar, green onions and bacon bits, I barely had the presence of mind to scoop some up with the two included planks of flatbread, an unexpected and added treat.

The sandwich itself was no less sublime, its degree of simplicity speaking to an utter confidence in the ingredients it used. In a minor change from the dish as listed, I’d ordered it on a baguette rather than its usual rye-pumpernickel bread, as a test of its intriguing components. A generous portion of the pastrami -- no conventional lunchmeat, but rather spiced and caramelized cuts of beef brisket -- was more than enough to carry the sandwich unaided, even before the addition of a stone-ground beer mustard that put the meal over the top on my taste buds. While the meat was every bit as salty as you’d expect from a good cut of pastrami, once I tore into it I didn’t stop for a drink until the last bite was gone.  A small cup of coleslaw on the side was an unlisted addition to the plate, but its simple cabbage-carrot-mayo recipe didn’t do much for me beyond cleansing the palate; if you're at all hungry, I’d still add a side.

All things considered the Crossbar comes up a little on the expensive side, but its kitchen puts out some well-crafted food that I enjoyed and can’t help but recommend. The central location in Midtown definitely helps my impression of the establishment, as does my aversion to seeing another local building left empty after a pullout by a chain restaurant.  While you might be undecided about whether to regularly visit the Crossbar, I’d suggest stopping by to give it a try; as a great philosopher once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”