Photo by JOSHUA BOROUGH / Anchorage Daily News
Doriola's restaurant has a comfortable atmosphere with different seating options. The front of the restaurant has plush sitting chairs and a comfortable couch. If the couches aren't your scene or you're in for a quick bite with friends there are many sitting tables to choose from.
Secluded spot serves up fresh breakfast, lunch with flair
Published: March 22, 2006
You've driven by Doriola's a dozen times and never realized it.
You've cruised past in the morning on your daily drive-through coffee quest.
You've passed it at lunchtime during the race to Applebee's, T.G.I. Friday's or Sea Galley.
You've sailed by while heading to the airport or Kincaid Park.
Too bad — you were missing out. I recently realized I was too.
It's not our fault, really. Doriola's is hidden in a business center well off bustling Tudor Road. You'd never notice Doriola's unless you live or work in the C Street and Arctic Boulevard neighborhood or if you'd heard word-of-mouth. Or if you explore strip malls. Even if you saw the sign, it wouldn't inspire you to pull over.
Me? I received an e-mail from a reader recommending Doriola's as a great lunch spot, even using statements like "absolutely fabulous" and "you won't be disappointed." I investigated; this reader had discovered a gem.
Before a friend and I visited on a Tuesday, we hit its Web site (www.doriolas.com). All pertinent information was listed, including printable menu, that day's specials and location map. We knew exactly what we were eating and where we were going before we even departed.
The menu is light (nothing is fried), primarily soups, salads, sandwiches, baked snacks and coffee, with a curveball of quiches ($3 for a small slice, $7.50 for a large). The sandwiches — build-your-own deli style and specialty — mostly cost around $4.50 for a half and $7.50 for a whole. Grill-pressed sandwiches are $8.50. There's also a kids' sandwich menu. The owners/operators, sisters Janet and Vivian Hickok (they named the place after their mom), rotate a handful of intriguing daily specials, including the popular meatloaf sandwich and crunchy noodle coleslaw salad.
We arrived just before noon. Apparently a few people have learned about Doriola's since its December opening — many of the black tables and chairs were occupied. We found a table and settled in.
Your mom and grandma would love Doriola's. It's a cozy, even quaint, cafe reminiscent of a bed and breakfast commons. There were even two reading nooks where you'd almost expect to find some teddy bears. But the decor avoided cutesy — I couldn't smell any potpourri or hear any Celine Dion. Business folks seemed just as comfortable as the older ladies at the nearby table. So did the guy in Carhartts.
We certainly were, and our friendly server facilitated that. Prepared, we ordered: I chose the $10 complete meal, allowing me to select from the day's specials of soup (a cup of five-hour Hearty Beef Stew), salad (the Wall Street, consisting of lettuce, rings of red onion and whole cherry tomatoes topped with a vinaigrette/blue cheese combo) and half-sandwich (roast beef and Tillamook cheddar on white). My date went with a 12-ounce vanilla latte ($2.25) and the corned beef on marbled rye sandwich special ($8.50), served with a few ridged salt and pepper potato chips.
We couldn't see the kitchen, but only three employees handled the busy counter and floor. Service never lagged and was always affable and attentive.
The latte arrived quickly and was followed directly by the lunches. They were visually stunning, an unexpected treat for a high-traffic lunch place. My complete plate was loaded with a bright bowl of colorful veggies and blue cheese crumbles, a tiny cup of reddish stew and a big white sandwich wedge packed with roast beef, lettuce and bell peppers hanging out from the sides; my friend's marbled rye looked almost too pretty too eat. Almost.
Unlike my overflowing roast beef sandwich, the corned beef sandwich was a compressed package. Inside, flavor, rich and tangy all at once. A modest layer of corned beef was covered with a thin layer of Swiss cheese, a bit of sauerkraut and just enough Thousand Island dressing to provide taste but not overwhelm or make a mess. The rye was warm and soft but held up well to its juicy contents. What a great sandwich.
My stew was hearty as advertised, though the serving was small — this literally was a cup. But the cup was packed with big meat chunks and plentiful veggies (mostly carrots, onions and potatoes), all softened by a long swim in the thick, rich soup. I instinctively reached for the salt and pepper but tried a spoonful first. This was seasoned perfectly — no seasoning or hot sauce required.
My salad was crispy and zesty. The vinaigrette and blue cheese clumps blended for an exciting bite and made this simple lineup of lettuce, red onions and cherry tomatoes sing.
My roast beef sandwich was a complicated monster of taste and texture. Each slice of thick white bread held a slice of Tillamook cheese inside. The middle was stuffed with an inch-thick serving of roast beef, topped with zesty sweet cherry peppers and crunchy lettuce slivers, red onions and yellow bell peppers. Then there was the addition of mayonnaise and wasabi, though I couldn't taste the latter.
While filling and flavorful, there was too much going on here in taste and volume. The poor white bread couldn't hold it together. The last few bites of the sandwich ended up crumbly and soggy.
I couldn't mourn the sloppy decline of my sandwich for long, though. The bill arrived with two fresh chocolate chip cookies that beat any mint or hard candy. The cookies put an exclamation point on the end of a great lunch.
I returned to Doriola's the next morning to grab coffee and quiche on my way to work. The place was dead, just two employees milling about. That made for a quick delivery of my 16-ounce mocha ($3.25) and a small slice of the traditional quiche Lorraine ($3). Before I left, I wanted to leave a tip but there was no jar on the counter — this was awkward. Do you leave the change on the counter? Do you keep the change? I asked. The young server said the tip jar was behind the counter. I gave her my change.
I couldn't believe the quiche. The inch-thick base of egg and cheese was of custard consistency and full of flavor, especially when I came upon the rich bacon crumbs (I later learned even the bacon is baked). The razor thin layer of top crust didn't factor in, but the bottom and back crust was light and flaky. On the side were three thin slices of kiwi and an orange wedge. What an excellent breakfast.
My mocha was the standard treat, reliable and tasty.
I later talked to Janet Hickok, a longtime chef who runs the kitchen. She said business has been unpredictable — some days the place is hopping, some days it's slow. She's considering radio advertising to get the word out.
I'm not sure that's necessary. A treasure like Doriola's can't stay hidden for long, even if it is tucked away from traffic.
Got a restaurant tip, a new menu, a favorite dish or a chef change? Contact Daily News food reviewer Josh Niva at firstname.lastname@example.org.