Address 6501 Wayzata Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-345-0505
Don’t let the scenery along I-394 (used car lot, used exercise equipment store, Fuddruckers, Bennigans) dissuade you. Alaska Eatery outclasses this strip. Just follow the scent of wood smoke to the open kitchen where chefs sizzle steaks, chops, and fish over wood-fired grills. Inside, the former Shelley’s Woodroast doesn’t look much different. The bar is hunt club casual, while the brawny dining room, with its timbers and mounted game over the mantel, is rustic and relaxed with a crowd of older couples, families, and groups of singles-akin to what you’d find at any lakeside resort.
The food and roaring fire in this faux northern lodge are for real. The menu of steaks, chops, and seafood is punctuated by eclectic specials-rich lobster-shallot ravioli, mac and cheese gussied up with white truffle oil and lobster claw. Brick-grilled chicken, crisp and succulent to the picked bone, and rotisserie leg of lamb showcased chef Josh Hedquist’s knack for getting simple things right. The double pork chop stuffed with smoked Gouda, bacon, and apple was worth its hefty price. Flame-kissed fish-trout from nearby Star Prairie Farm, line-caught Alaskan salmon-was moist and firm and shone in garnishes, ranging from red pepper coulis to rosemary-lime butter.
Tiny bone-in lamb chop “lolly pops” with a snappy chimichurri on wheat berries made a bountiful starter. Salads were big and bold-gold and red beets with lardons (OK, bacon) on peppery baby arugula and a giant seafood Louis combo were lighter options in portion and price. I was not impressed with the overwrought truffle oil Parmesan fries, the cheddar-heavy polenta, and clamless chowder. The menu is a bit short on sweets, but Alaska Eatery is long on genuine charm. Servers are swift, savvy, and happy to navigate the long, sensible wine list (more than twenty chardonnays, plus twenty wines by the glass, some at $6 a pour). Seated with my back to the crackling fire, sated and relaxed, it was easy to linger awhile.
“Mown hay,” “leather,” and “roses”-if these define scotch, then Shawn Jones, bar manager at Alaska Eatery, is the poet laureate of whiskey. Just ask him about the fifty-plus labels running long and deep. Sure, there’s MacArthur’s and Whyte & Mackay, but try the “merchant bottlings”-aged in independent merchants’ casks for different lengths of time.
As with wine, a spirit’s personality is influenced by location, water, and maker. Take Auchentoshan, a typically light Lowlands malt whiskey from the Kilpatrick Hills northwest of Glasgow. “Nicely balanced-a little grass, a bit sweet, perfect for chasing a damp chill,” says Jones, who notes that Highland scotch tends to be heavy with peat and smoke.
Look for upcoming scotch tastings in the Glacier Bar when you can sip the “waters of hospitality and brotherhood.”
GETTING THERE, GETTING IN: Reservations are recommended on weekends. There’s a parking lot.
HOURS: M-Sa 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Closed Su.
NOISE LEVEL: Low to moderate.
KIDS: The space and menu are both kid-friendly.
CARDS: AmEx, MC, Visa.
ENTRE PRICES: $16-$30.
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