Review: Anchor OTR

shrimp tacos I am starting to get confused.

People are talking about the Anchor– and, you know, people have been talking about the Anchor for years, except they were talking about the greasy spoon in Covington, and not the hip, straight-from-Brooklyn eatery in Over-the-Rhine. Now, instead of hearing about griddled goetta and eggs-over-easy, I’m hearing about lobster rolls and oysters.

Either way, sounds good to me.

Run by Derek dos Anjos, a Wilmington native who ran a similar restaurant in Brooklyn, this relatively new addition to the neighborhood focuses on seafood.  Now, hold it right there, naysayers: you can get good seafood in Cincinnati.  We have amazing things called “airplanes” and “refrigeration” that allow landlocked Cincinnati to get seafood from the coasts that are very good quality.  It’s a little more expensive than getting a lobster roll in Cape Cod, but it’s a good experience.

Anchor, on a corner storefront across the street from Washington Park, is the first restaurant to open near the park, soon to be followed by Zula’s across the street and a top secret project in the old Enzo’s space.  It isn’t as crowded as some of the Vine Street restaurants, and also take reservations (a rarity, I assure you).

I’ve nibbled my way around the menu, both solo and with friends.

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Their cocktail service is great– a few good, solid drinks that are well-balanced.  They do a solid Bloody Mary (even virgin): spicy and fresh-tasting.  Their take on a Dark and Stormy is also really nice, with some house-candied ginger as garnish.  In fact, I’ve mostly eaten at the bar– let’s face it: the bar is the place to be (and the head bartender, Chrissy, formerly of Taste of Belgium, is fantastic).

My first visit was for lunch.  Their lunch-exclusive shrimp tacos are how shrimp tacos should be, and should certainly be served on the dinner menu.  The plate was bright and inviting, with guacamole, spicy mayonnaise, lots of pico de gallo and perfectly grilled shrimp.  Two tacos is a good lunch portion.  I also tried the kale salad, which I liked so much I ordered it again:  kale, a citrusy dressing, Parmesan and an unexpected pop of crunchy hazelnuts.  I don’t know what they do to the kale– and mind you, I like kale already– but this is a heavenly salad.  It was a great, healthy “nibble” when I went out with a friend for happy hour, where they have drink specials and $1.50 east coast oysters.

The oysters, which I’ve had three times now, are great.  They’re really fresh, and the staff is knowledgable about the different varieties.  Price is around $2.50 per oyster, and they also have seafood plates to share that include Jonah crab and lobster.  They’re served with mignonette, house-made cocktail sauce and some extra horseradish in case you need an extra kick.  Combine that with a Bloody Mary and you might blow your tastebuds out. Whew!

kale salad The Better Half and I have sampled a few of their dinner menu items.  Their fish special (the night I went, branzino) can be ordered prepared a couple of different ways. I went Thai-style, and they’ll happily debone it at the table for you.  The branzino was good, but I gave The Better Half the side-eye the entire time, jealous of his highly recommended (by the bartender) Trout BLT: fried trout, bacon, lettuce, tomato, great bread.  Amazing.

This was the same night that we went a little crazy on sides:  their onion rings, freshly beer-battered and piled sky-high, are tremendous; some of the best I’ve had anywhere.  Hush puppies were good, and brussels sprouts, caramelized and a little spicy, were outstanding.

The main complaint I’ve heard about is price– particularly around the lobster roll, which I haven’t had.  For two of us for a gluttonous dinner, our bill was around $100– not inexpensive, but not out of line for the Gateway Quarter.  Seafood isn’t cheap, but when I had dinner recently with a friend of mine from Boston, I asked him: “What would you pay for a really good lobster roll in Boston?”  His response?  ”$22, at Amrhein’s.”  So, considering they’re right on the water (and we– well, we’re on the water, but there are no lobsters there, I hope), the $24 or so for the lobster roll at Anchor isn’t bad.

The Anchor on Urbanspoon

  • Laura

    They had a grapefruit drink I really liked–the salty dog?

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      Yes! Love salty dogs.

  • delilah j.

    I went a few weeks after they opened and had the market price lobster roll, which was utterly saturated in mayo — it was like eating a $28 mayo sandwich. Super disappointing since I was hoping they’d be the go-to midwest spot for a decent lobster roll, even at that price point. I wonder if they’ve changed this or if anyone else has had this experience? If you go the lobster route, stick to in-shell, roughly the same price sans the cup of mayonnaise.

  • Todd

    My wife and I have eaten there several times – always great drinks, food and service!

  • Vudutu Vudutu

    I was unimpressed except for the cool charred paneling. Service was fine, drinks overpriced and small. My fish and chips order was small just OK not great and expensive. We went because they posted they had fresh sardines. We had hoped for grilled or nicely fried, as I recall it was on a salad and unimpressive.

  • Joe in Montgomery

    Julie, the Clam Box in Ipswich, MA ( Boston North Shore) has one of the best Lobster Rolls I’ve ever had and it is priced at $17.95. Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, ME has a great one as well for probably a dollar or two less (it’s take out only and a must in the summer). Finally, much maligned Legal Seafoods in Boston, chain that it is, also has a good one for $24.95 served on a brioche. I’d say Anchor is really pushing it while understanding the shipping charges.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      My guess is that if it doesn’t sell, the price will drop or it will drop off the menu.

      That said, every time I fly out of Logan I hop into Legal for a crab roll. :)

  • Guest

    $12 gets you an amazing lobster roll in Bar Harbor. Unfortunately it will cost you a couple hundred bucks to get there from here. $25 for a poor Cincinnati version is just ridiculous though. My advise- if you are couple drop a bill or two for dinner, you can do much better than the Anchor. The quality of independent restaurants in the city has increased tremendously over the last 5 years, which means no longer can someone open up an average restaurant and get away with premium pricing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.cronin.10 Bob Cronin

    $12 gets you an amazing lobster roll in Bar Harbor. Unfortunately it
    will cost you a couple hundred bucks to get there from here. $25 for a
    poor Cincinnati version is just ridiculous though. My advise- if you
    are going to drop a bill or two for dinner, you can do much better than
    the Anchor. The quality of independent restaurants in the city has
    increased tremendously over the last 5 years, which means no longer can
    someone open up an average restaurant and get away with premium
    pricing.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      I agree– if it’s a bad version, $12 is too much.

  • Viggin900

    Comparing prices for a lobster Roll in Boston to prices in Cincinnati makes no sense? Everyone knows New York City and Boston prices for drinks and food are outrageous compared to the money we make here.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      Everyone also knows that seafood is one of the things that is way cheaper in Boston than it is in Cincinnati– even with cost of living factored in. They don’t have to overnight it in– they can pick it up directly from fishermen or distributors– and that keeps the price down.

      Comparing the price of steak or a cocktail? Yeah, that makes no sense. But seafood is an OK comparison.