Anchoring the hood
BY CARLA WALDEMAR
Anchor Fish & Chips
302 13th Ave. N.E.
You know something? The folks of 13th Avenue South are pretty close cousins to those on 13th Avenue Northeast—maybe not the very same tone of skin under their blue collars, but both are born of hardy, hardworking immigrants who’ve enriched our city. Both love good food, good times and good value.
While on South 13th you’re more likely to hear the warm-weather tongues of Spanish and Somali, on Northeast 13th, it’s frost-bitten Ukrainian and Polish—and, what’s this? Was that an Irish brogue?
And why not? The neighborhood’s friendly and no stranger to home cooking, so bring on the fish and chips. The new spot is called The Anchor, straight off the streets of Dublin: same warm welcome, same cold Guinness, and the same un-gussied, non-pretentious pub food that keeps stools filled all across the Emerald Isle.
“You’re very welcome here,” sang a colleen named Jenny as she seated us at the counter. The lads cooking behind the rail were Irish, too. The tables were loud and crowded. The tin ceiling rang with cries of “Slainte!”—Cheers. All the place lacked was a squeeze box and a fiddler. Well, they couldn’t have squeezed in, anyway.
They don’t fiddle around with the classic pub-grub menu, though. And the fryer behind the counter was making all the sweet music we needed. From it emerged the best thing that ever happened to a lowly cut of cod. It’s served as scorching-hot as a lashing from a fishwife’s tongue, and not greasy at-all, at-all, as they say. The fillet itself—thick-cut and pearly-white—arrives moist and tender as you please, with a flavor so subtle even seafood-haters will hardly know they’re eating fish. The batter itself is done with an expert’s hand—filmy as a film star’s undies and so light that it turns crisp in mere seconds when baptized in the bubbling oil—exploding into crunchy little craters that levitate like tiny Frisbees from the tasty fish.
Same story for the fries at its side (er, chips, as they say in Ireland). The kitchen’s burly, hand-cut spuds come piled high in the serving basket, too. Add catsup if you must, but that’s just so McDonald’s. The Irish way of enjoying the dish is to perfume the whole shebang with a wake-up spritz of malt vinegar.
Those same substantial chips attend the Anchor’s excellent burger, too, made from beef that led the good life at 1000 Hills Farm: “Ridiculously good,” claims the menu, and the Irish wouldn’t lie to ye, would they?
And I won’t, either. The shepherd’s pie is simply a beyond-bland hot dish rimmed with mashed potatoes; skip it. And those who crave dessert are out of luck, unless you talk sweet to the hostess. Unlisted on the menu, and brought in from home by one of the staffers, it’s as illicit as a swig of an outlaw’s potsheen: a chocolate cupcake triple-flavored with the Irish trinity of Guinness, Jameson and Bailey’s. To combat the fumes, stick around for a full Irish breakfast, come morning. Not a bad idea anyway: Since they don’t take reservations, you’d be foolish to surrender your seat and head out in the cold.