Our favorite restaurant of 2020 is Tchefuncte’s, the upper half of the building that was formerly Friends in Madisonville. The lower half opened before Tchefuncte’s, and it is very different. The restaurant is called The Anchor, and it is the antithesis of Tchefuncte’s, casual in every sense.
The Anchor is a seasonal restaurant, and it was closed for the harshest part of the winter. The entire space is outdoors, with most of the seating under roof, as well as additional tables in the sunshine at the water’s edge.
There is a bar, and a side area with outdoor games and play equipment for kids. The Anchor is great for the whole family, though diligent kid-watching is required. The signs at the docks advising “no feeding the alligators” might be tongue-in-cheek, but there’s no need to test it.
The Anchor opened last year before Tchefuncte’s, and the menu was small and manageable. It just reopened for the season early this month, with a new and much larger menu. We went last week while Jude was visiting, and we sat in the sun on deck chairs with low tables. This arrangement is far better suited to drinks that eats, but the sunshine was irresistible.
We started with two appetizers, roast beef debris potato skins and a jambalaya hand pie. Entrees were fish and chips, a cochon de lait and boudin poor boy, a fried oyster platter, and a smoked chicken sandwich. All of these came with fries.
Potato skins, a hot item in the 1970s, are rarely seen on menus now. But I love them, and get them any place I see them. In my opinion, potato skins shouldn’t veer too far from the original concept. Simplest is best. Crispy skins, a thin layer of potato, some cheese and maybe bacon, with a garnish of green onion and a side of sour cream for dipping. These were way over-thought, over-stuffed, and generally forgettable. The roast beef was very generous, as was the cheese, but the potato was lost in all this.
Conversely, the hand pie was a winner. Chef Michael Gottlieb hails from a bakery background, so we automatically get excited at anything offered that has a pastry component.
A turnover filled with jambalaya is as popular right now as it is carb-heavy. But there was nothing heavy about this pie. It was flaky, and everything else a dough should be. The jambalaya inside was well-seasoned and riddled with crawfish and sausage. This was a very nice bite of food, accompanied by a remoulade sauce with a dollop of chili oil in the center. Good stuff.
Tom’s fried oyster platter was exactly the right size. The oysters were large and crispy, fried well in cornmeal, and flanked by a pike of ordinary fries and two much better hush puppies.
The smoked chicken sandwich was piled high on a brioche bun with pulled chicken smothered with creamy coleslaw. Another great sandwich, very filling and totally satisfying.
My plate of fish and chips was pretty, though I would call it a fried fish plate. Two very generous filets sat atop another pile of these ordinary fries. The fish was also nicely fried, totally greaseless, and not traditional (meaning no tempura fish and chips batter) at all. This was a fried fish plate, Louisiana-style. Nothing wrong with this, except I asked too late what kind of fish it was. Redfish was the not-surprising reply. This was a good plate of food, but I’m no fan of redfish. The tartar sauce and remoulade sauces were good, creamy, and spicy. Cocktail sauce, barbecue sauce, and Meuniere sauce came with all this, along with more ordinary fries.
The cochon de lait sandwich was laden with chunks of smoked pulled pork. The pork was less soft than usual, which I consider a good thing. Pork that is too soft is unappealing to me. The coleslaw that came with this was the same as on the chicken sandwich, creamy, chunky, and just spicy enough. More uninteresting fries.
One of the things I loved about Anchor when they opened last year was the fresh cut fries, which came as cheese fries with thick-cut lardons in lieu of bacon. The fries were great the first time I had them, less so the second time, and by the third time I didn’t like them. My expectations of these are lower this year. Absolutely all the stops are being pulled out upstairs, and stellar fries at a place like The Anchor just aren’t necessary.
I missed the ham salad and pimento cheese spreads with crackers as an appetizer, but most everything made it back this year. I’ll have to try the new things.
It warms my heart to see two great restaurants in a space that most people worried might never be filled. We will be regulars both upstairs and downstairs here.