Having spent a significant chunk of my 20s at The Anchor Bar in Superior, I was instinctively prepared for anything when I parked my car alongside The Anchor Fish and Chips in Northeast Minneapolis Thursday night. A table with barber chairs? A pool rack with three 14-balls? An ambush kiss by a double-tat-sleeved waitress? Whatever this Anchor had in its jack-in-the-box, I was ready.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet: My wife and I are knocking out the City Page’s Top 10 list of burgers in the Twin Cities. The Anchor landed at number six.
The Basics: Find their menus here. Apparently, they’ve got a food truck roaming the Metro area. Want an Anchor Fish and Chips onesie for the little one? They’ve got your baby covered. Through March 31, they’ve got a great donation program going on.
I stepped in through the door, through the thick maroon curtain inside the door, and was met by a décor less than expected with a name like The Anchor.
The interior looked like Victory 44’s bar section connected to The Blue Door’s booth section inside of a decaying dance hall. The unbalanced lighting made the red walls look brighter on one side, and the only nautical design was a wood-surfaced wall with boat windows near the back door. It sat opposite a bookshelf, reminding me of Superior’s literary section. Otherwise, the walls are festooned by local art for sale and the sundry sort of posters you see at every Twin Cities dive-bar try.
Unlike many establishments down here, The Anchor caters to no crowd specifically. Hipsters, hard workers, cussers and grandmas sat side-by-side in their little spaces and talked. Seating is sparse at The Anchor, so don’t come if you’re in a hurry. Our party of four waited roughly 15 minutes for a booth.
The menu presented me a quandary: “Fish and chips” is in the name, but I was here for a burger. Well, the burger comes with chips, and a slab of fish was $6.95 by itself …ah, screw it, bring me all of the above!
The Anchor only has two burgers on its menu, a Plain Jane and the mysteriously-named Helicopter Burger. The Helicopter comes fitted with cheddar cheese, ham, and an egg. It sounds like a burger Justin Lin would direct, but the origin of its name yet escapes me.
The wait wasn’t a factor, and the Helicopter Burger was placed before me. As usual, I plowed through every chip sitting between the burger and myself. They’re good, hefty, wedge-shaped fries that stand out among the hoi potatolloi of the Metro area.
But then …
The fries were cleared, the background phased out and the Helicopter Burger and I made our first contact. I snatched up the bun with both hands, and I could feel grease soaking through the bottom bun and dampening my thumbs immediately. It was … kind of romantic, actually.
The first bite caught all of the Helicopter’s elements: The ham, the cheese, the egg, the burger, the bun, the detonator. The ensuing bites freed up fluids and they oozed down the patty like mutagen down a sewer drain. There was yolk on my hands, ketchup on my face, everything soaked into the bottom bun, and a stream of grease from my palm all the way to my elbow. I had to reach up my shirt sleeve to wipe it all up. The only thing it was missing was a Double Dare flag.
And it was marvelous. I bit the spot with the yolk hardening, bit the spot with the ham hanging off, and bit the spot with no bun left covering it. The last bite was the classic “It’s too big for your mouth but you’ll have no bun left after this bite so you squirrel that S.O.B.”
After the burger was put away, I tried the fish. It was underwhelming. Back to the burger.
Today, I’d say the Helicopter Burger is the fifth-best cheeseburger I’ve had in the Twin Cities. That doesn’t sound too flattering, but consider that 1) I’ve tried cheeseburgers at 21 places since moving here; and 2) the four ahead of it (The Vincent, The Perfect, the Chubby Cheddar, and the Bacon Blucy) are 500-pound gorillas.
The revised Burger Power Rankings are almost complete, but the Helicopter will rest solidly at the seven spot. Sadly, I don’t get to this area often; but I wouldn’t advise entering and exiting northeast Minneapolis without stopping there. The Fish and Chips are the single they play on the radio, but we all know that’s never the best song on the album. The best song is usually the one that’s too messy for the radio, and the Helicopter has enough juice to short your circuits.
Just make sure you have a napkin handy. Or a towel.