Charlou

Charlou Sign

Soft Opening & Beyond

May 11, 2019

Welcome to Charlou‘s soft opening! As a La Bodega club member, I was invited to enjoy the evening of discounted food in return for reviewing my experience afterward. Being me, I jumped at the chance to bring Derek on a different kind of date night.

Same Place, Different Place

The location will be familiar to Alaskans as it has housed many restaurants in the past. Most recently, La Potato. Most memorable, The Fly by Night Club. Parking was a breeze due to the large parking lot on site. After a quick walk, we were greeted by the hostess warmly and pointed to the bar because the kitchen was running behind schedule. We took our seats on the bright red leather stools and took in the comfortable, bright atmosphere. The remodel was welcome as it wasn’t too loud or a bit dark and sketchy as in previous incarnations. Children would definitely be welcome and some were already there. A quick glance at customers behind us revealed familiar La Bodega faces, and two open tables. Due to this observation, I made the assumption the owners wanted some feedback from the bar and therefore recommended our seating as such.

Charlou Decor
Charlou Decor
Charlou Wine
Charlou Wine

A Bit Behind…

Our bartender greeted us with a friendly introduction and we were told a second time the kitchen was running behind, but she was quick to offer wine tastings. I always find this to be a nice, upscale touch. After making a wine decision, I took the time to peruse the menu. Even though it was limited, everything available had delicious descriptions. Derek ordered the AK Bacon Burger, and I ordered the Hot AK Halibut Sandwich.

As time passed without food we were checked on not just by our bartender, but by owners and servers alike, and there was genuine concern in everyone’s voices. At one point, about an hour into our wait, the bartender apologetically said, “I have no idea when your food is coming.” I saw this as a plus because at least it was honest. Although I have to admit an offer of a free appetizer would have gone a long way. It’s important to note we weren’t upset in the least. We knew what to expect from a soft opening and the staff was excellent. A snack just would have been a nice gesture.

Wonderful Staff

During our wait, it was clear the staff was very concerned about getting things right despite the struggles they were facing in the kitchen. Derek and I had reservations at 7:30 and we received food at 9:47. That taken into account, I’d still call the team on deck that night superheroes.

Hot AK Halibut
Hot AK Halibut

Wonderful Food

The star of the show was the Hot AK Halibut. It was the perfect amount of sweet and spicy, and the portion of halibut was almost too large for the sandwich. Most Alaskans get perturbed if their serving of fish is too small- it was not the case here. The bread struggled to keep things together, but it was so delicious I didn’t mind the “fork to face” situation.

Derek left satisfied with his burger, and though he was a bit worried about the beet ketchup, he ended up enjoying it a lot. Sadly, he didn’t have any over-the-top review for this burger. To be forthcoming, he happens to have a favorite burger in town that nothing has surpassed so far… tough standard.

Review Time
Review Time

Final Thoughts

Final service lacked a bit as all hands were not “on deck” for water and plate clean up. We saw employees look at plates which were clearly “finished” and walk away without picking them up. Although I think this could be easily remedied.

We will be back- it’s hard to beat and Alaskan Chef is using locally sourced food.

Second Visit
Second Try

July 18, 2019

We’re back for dinner with friends! Our group of four opted to sit outside this time, and there was no trouble due to the lack of customers. (Pause for “uh oh”.) We were greeted with a smile and quickly visited by our server, Ty. The group was offered samples of drink choices before commitment was required- a welcome carry-over from the soft opening. Also, it should be noted that Ty wasn’t afraid to say he needed to check with “smarter” people about possible drink pairings. I considered this a major positive at a restaurant owned by a very formidable local liquor store.

Wine/Sake
Wine/Sake
Beer
Beer

All of the menus had increased in variety of options as expected. I opted for a Rose’ as Derek was going to order beer. Ty was attentive and both selections were enjoyed and refilled promptly.

Small Plates

Halibut Ceviche
Halibut Ceviche

I want to take time to discuss Charlou’s small plate selection. It’s quite varied and enticed two of us to order only those for dinner. We each ordered two small plates. I will focus on my choices, the Halibut Ceviche and the dressed Oysters in vodka with watermelon.

First, the negative. For small plates, that were actually small, the price was a bit high: $7-$12. Second, the positive. The presentation was beautiful and the flavors were awesome! My ceviche was light and fresh with a little kick of heat, and my oysters (which I usually enjoy plain and raw) were a delight in my mouth as the watermelon snapped crispy and juicy between my teeth. It was a hot day and both of my plates satisfied.

Oysters
Oysters

I don’t want to spend much time on what the boys ordered because they matched what our order was at the soft opening. Derek had the AK Bacon Burger, and our guest had the Hot AK Halibut. Both stood out as meals they would reorder. The only difference I noted this visit was the addition of homemade chips. Very tasty.

Good Luck & Cheers!

It’s easy to say that Charlou has more than potential, but it’s a hard market in Alaska. I highly recommend going for after work drinks and small plates. Hungry for more? Stop in for one of their main courses. You’ll love the staff and the food, and please ask them about their wine, sake, and beer offerings. They are one heck of a knowledgeable crew.

Cheers!
Cheers!

*Apologies for the odd formatting. I had to switch back to the classic editor and, well, it didn’t like that. 
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