I drove home from dinner tonight with a tune in my head. One that I hadn’t heard on the radio lately, or wait, maybe not ever. One that I more likely heard at some fraternity party in the early 90s while I swilled beer out of clear plastic party cups and never worried about what I was going to have for dinner. It was good old Public Enemy and the song that reverberated in my skull was Don’t Believe the Hype.
What could this possibly have to do with fish and chips? Well, nothing really. I think what prompted this 1991 flashback was the fact that I have heard people talking about “Anchor” for a year and a half now. I have had friends tell me that I’ve “just gotta get up there”, “up” referring to “all the way up in Nordeast”, right? Anyway, I haven’t heard a bad thing about the place, but I just haven’t gone out of my way to get there, I guess…until tonight.
Tonight I made the effort. I waited in the line that told me this place was gonna be as good as I’d heard. I waited in a line that promised crispy, delicious, fried fish on a Friday, and well, every other day, I suppose. I waited, packed in to a hot, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd for what I was sure was going to be a basket of greasy heaven, because truth be told, a well-executed fish fry can be pretty damn good.
So I waited. And waited. An elderly woman I made friends with as time slowly ticked past told me that she’d been there recently and waited so long she ended up having to leave, “but”, she assured me, “that time the line was down the block.” I almost drooled thinking about good this was gonna be.
About 40 minutes later when it was my turn for a chance at slightly salty, crispy, mild deliciousness, I eagerly leapt in to my assigned booth and thanked the heavens that I hadn’t even had time for lunch because I was about to seriously tear up an order of the fish and chips. I ordered as soon as the server asked me if I wanted a beverage. No need for delayed gratification here! Two orders of the fish and chips and 2 Summits, my dining companion and I declared. I salivated thinking about what was to come. My fish loving friend threw in a ringer and ordered an appetizer of the curry fries. I just thought that was unnecessary. Bring on the fish!
Our fries arrived quickly and with one look at the gelatinous blob of curry gravy slopped on to our fries, I kinda figured I’d take a pass and save my appetite for the real deal to come, but I did try a couple. The fries were soggy from the curry gravy and honestly, there wasn’t much flavor to the whole unappealing mess.
Thankfully the fish arrived shortly after. The serving size was plentiful and the outside of the fillets looked crispy and browned, just like I like. I cut the end off of one of my fillets and tore in to it while they were still scorching hot. I couldn’t be forced to wait a minute longer. A burned mouth was something I was willing to sacrifice.
My first couple of bites caused a pause in the action. It was like time stopped and the buzzing background noise of the small, noisy place faded to grey. I glanced up at my dinner partner. “You try yours yet” I asked. “Yeah” he replied. No further deets offered. That’s bad. That’s very bad. I was hoping there was something uniquely messed up about mine, but that he’d kindly share his heavenly portion with me. “Um, what do you think” I asked hesitently. And then it happened. “Meh”, was all I heard. Oh no. Say it ain’t so! “Yours kinda bland?” I probed further. He nodded the affirmative.
Gah!! It was true. We’d fought our way through the wait, pressed in like sardines, waiting to dine on what just had to be the best fish in town, only to find that it was not even close. Not even the $8.95 price tag appeased me or made me feel right about going a little easy on them. The truth is, I found the breading, though it was crispy on the outside, to be mushy and, well, boring on the inside. The fish itself was also lacking and left the whole thing just plain old…well, plain! The tartar sauce, which is an extra .50 charge was also pretty bland and didn’t do anything for the tasteless mess in front of me. I didn’t end up finishing my order because of it’s overall lack of appeal and that was okay because the pre-teen busboy at the end of my table came around every 2.4 minutes to ask if he could clear our plates, obviously trying to shove more people through the tiny space as quickly as possible.
Now, clearly the wait reflects that a lotta people are hip on this joint. Clearly the constant chatter about the place 2 1/2 years after they opened means something, but as for me, I’ll be in my car, listening to some Public Enemy on my way to Sea Salt to have some fried fish.
$8.95 for a large portion of breaded, deep-fried cod and some decent but not fantastic fries.
$4.50 for a Summit
For a little under $15 I got to spend 40 minutes shoulder-to-shoulder with a crowd of other hungry folks and an additional 30 minutes drinking a Summit and wishing I’d gone somewhere else.