Tourists come and go, but ask any restaurateur and you’ll find that the thing that keeps them going are their regular customers.And, as I witnessed recently one dark morning, Snow City Café has a solid crew of regulars. How could I tell? A non-regular? A waitress being so familiar with a customer that she recognizes when he shaves off his facial hair is one way. When servers, as they walkthrough the restaurant, address customers by name, is another. Yep,this place has a local following.
I’ve been to Snow City a half dozen times since moving toAnchorage. It is one of the “must do’s” for any newbie. And while it is a haunt for regulars, it is also the kind of place that those same regulars bring their out-of-town tourist guests. It has definitely got a certain mojo happenin’.
It always seems like there’s a wait at Snow City. That’s one of the considerations people have when thinking about going there.During summer it’s especially true. But this time of year, expect to wait only on the weekends. Now I don’t want to discourage anyone; the wait is worth it. The comfortable front area has everything a local community café should have: a bulletin board, as tack of used daily papers, a fresh rack of, ahem, the AnchoragePress and other publications. If those things don’t keep you occupied, you can let your mouth start to water looking at the baked goods in the counter display, order up a coffee at the to go counter or just people watch.
Before I get into discussing the food, I want to get my one gripe about the place out of the way. On more than one occasion,there seems to have been a disconnect between being sat by the host or hostess and getting first contact with my server. Something is lost in that transition. While mostly it is quick, that first hello from the waitress, I have sometimes felt awkward sitting there with a menu, having chosen my desires, and still waiting a few more minutes before someone comes over. I don’t know if anyone else has this problem or if I look like Mr. Hyde and they’re purposely avoiding me. But it doesn’t happen other places so I presume it might be within their communication system between hostess and servers. I must say that I have never had bad service there. Once I have been adopted by a waitress as one of her hungry foster children, I am loved and cared for. The check might come a little slow, but it makes me feel like they don’t want me to go. I get all warm and fuzzy inside knowing I am loved.
I didn’t have a host-waitress transition problem one recent morning. “Hello, darling,” my waitress said, cheering me up faster than a four-shot latte. Being a southern boy, I am used to being called “honey” by waitresses, but “darling” was a close enough approximation to break down that wall between two strangers. I expected to look up and see a sultry dame in a velvet dress with a filtered cigarette and elbow length gloves. She wasn’t quite that,but I wasn’t disappointed. I order up coffee, OJ and a plate of theSnow City Scramble, scrambled eggs with Black Forest ham, cheddar cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and red onions. I’ve already tried almost all of the variations of eggs Benedict on the menu on previous occasions. Snow City is famous for them and you can’t go wrong. Try the traditional, the Eggs Florentine, the B.o.b (best of both) or, my favorite, the Ship Creek Benedict, using salmon cakes in place of ham. You can’t go wrong because, as an old friend and chef once told me, putting Hollandaise sauce on anything makes it taste better. I poured a little Hollandaise on his grave when he died of congestive heart failure, but I think he was speaking the truth.
While breakfast is king at Snow City Café, lunch (after 11 a.m.)is no slouch. Can we say “comfort food”? Sandwiches, salads and two daily soups give plenty of options for a hungry lunchtime customer.While my lunch partner opted for the Crabby Omelet (with real Snow crab), I went for the Grilled Meatloaf with Mac and Cheese. A cup of the daily soup (creamy tomato) accompanied my lunch. The mac and cheese was baked in a small dish, elbow macaroni in a bath of cheese sauce with a hardening layer of crusty cheese on top sat next to a mini meatloaf with ketchup drizzled on top. I began eating them separately, but then opted to crumble up the meatloaf and mix it all together.
While many of the comfort foods on the menu will quicken your way to a quadruple bypass, there are numerous healthy options as well. For breakfast, they have oatmeal (one variation named for a regular), fruit plates, yogurt and granola. At lunch, an assortment of salads (half portions available) and vegetarian sandwiches are also a good choice. Of course, if you want a big plate of French toast at noon, go for it. You won’t be disappointed.
This review originally appeared in Anchorage Press, November 29, 2007