You can’t generally tell a book by its cover, but it’s damned refreshing when you actually can. The Anchor Fish & Chips represents itself as a sturdy, reliable, honest, fish and chips-focused pub doing business in Northeast, and what you’re promised is precisely what you receive. The beer menu is suitable if limited, the food menu is brief, focused, and culturally monolithic, and the interior is dark, cozy, and convivial — in short, a non-ironic, un-fusion, completely uncuted-up take on an Irish pub.
You don’t get tartar sauce with your Fish and Chips ($8.50), something that an American might reasonably find annoying. The fish (wild Alaskan cod) is a bit bland, even when dosed with malt vinegar and hit with salt, but it’s moist and clean-tasting, covered in a golden-brown, non-greasy, crispy batter coating. Would the fish be tastier, overall, given the addition of a trendy wasabi tartar sauce or a sriracha / lime mayo? Well, perhaps. Would the intrusion of an Asia-meets-everything-else restaurant aesthetic detract from the elegance and the atmosphere of the Anchor? Most definitely.
About 80 percent of the menu involves fries (“chips” according to the Anchor). Therefore, it’s fortunate that they’re hand cut, and done correctly, with a stout crispness to the exterior and a warm-but-distinctly-potatoey interior.
Curry fries ($4.50) suffer from the same forgivable fault as the fish and chips — they’re a bit too mild, the curry a gentle mughal mixture that’s pleasingly mellow and rich but feels as though it’s missing an element — charred meat, hot chilis, something that would kick the flavor up a notch beyond the softly spoken.
But if neither the fish and chips nor the curry fries are a spectacular culinary event — and, really, they’re both pretty good, and honest as hell — the Shepherd’s Pie ($8.50) is. Similarly unadorned, you’re not getting much more than creamy mashed potatoes atop beef, carrots, and onions. There are little clumps of extra-dense potato present in the topping, the beef is tender and mouthwatering, and the herb / onion kick to the whole dish is brilliantly calibrated. Complicated, no. A slam dunk, yes.
And if you’re really looking to stop the movement in your arteries, a particularly delicious method is the Helicopter Burger ($10), served with Irish cheddar, rashers (strips of pork that are damn near bacon but a bit less crunchy and more ham-like), and a tender fried egg. The smokey kick of the rashers is pronounced but not overwhelming, and the whole thing is deftly balanced. The grass-fed beef is moist and flavorful without being greasy, and even the bun represents an attention to detail and quality that is reflective of the establishment as a whole.
Although newly opened and not yet serving breakfast (it begins this coming weekend), the Anchor feels fully developed — it’s a clear concept with a competent, even passionate execution. Purists will appreciate its honesty and clarity, and everyone else will appreciate the fact that it puts large portions of damn good food on the plate for reasonable prices.
BEST BET: The Shepherd’s Pie is a simple, classic, well-executed rendition of a classic pub dish, and justifies the visit by itself.
The Anchor Fish & Chips
Traditional pub grub in Northeast Minneapolis
302 13th Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
OWNERS: Jenny Crouser, Kathryn Hayes, and Luke Kyle
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes (but “all food items come into contact with meat products”) / No
ENTREE RANGE: $6.50-10