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Burger Friday: Anchor Fish & Chips

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Restaurant reviews Updated: September 13, 2013 - 11:35 AM

The burger: Yes, the namesake menu item at the Anchor Fish & Chips is all that. But sometimes the Burger Siren calls, and when she does, this perennially popular Northeaster knows how to answer. And then some.

It's a blue-collar kind of burger: A brawny, gets-the-job-done formula, with just enough bells and whistles to keep it interesting without betraying its working-class bonafides. 

At first glance, the base price, $9.50, hovers towards protetarianism's upper limits. But this isn't about mark-up, it's about covering costs, because the Anchor has the good sense to use premium grass-fed beef from Thousand Hills Cattle Co., and that smart choice doesn't exactly come cheap (its retail price gravitates towards $9 per pound). But it's a decision that makes for a don't-miss burger.

Order it the way the kitchen prefers to prepare it, which is to say, medium-rare. That translates into a no-nonsense (as in, a salt-and-pepper seasoning, and nothing else), third-pound patty. It's seared on a flattop grill into a softly charred exterior that surrounds a supremely juicy interior, one that hovers somewhere in between pink and scarlet, with that lean, richly flavorful meat leaning towards a cool, near-tartare state. 

Along with a melts-just-right slice of white Cheddar (Irish, of course), a side of pert pickle chips, tangy raw onions and a cool tomato are the only garnish. Unless of course you choose to glam it up, Anchor-style, by adding a fried egg (order it slightly runny, and not that the burger needs the extra moisture, but because that oozy yolk only accentuates the burger's outrageous juiciness) and a slice of fried ham, which hails from another primo Minnesota animal protein purveyor, Fischer Farms of Waseca),

The bun? Generously buttered and grilled, and both large enough and sturdy enough to handle that third-pound monster without becoming overwhelmingly bread-ey.

Whenever I visit the Anchor, my appetite reflexively gravitates towards the kitchen's superb fish and chips. No longer. Now I'm thinking the place ought to amend its name and call itself Anchor Fish & Chips & Burgers.

By the way, my iPhone images were so lousy -- they're darker than your average George de la Tour masterpiece -- that I'm reluctantly reverting to a Burger Friday first: No pictures. Not that the Anchor burger isn't a looker, because it is. Instead, I've included this shot (by my Strib colleague Tom Wallace) of Anchor co-owners Luke Hayes and Kathryn Hayes, in their dining room (minus their partner, Jenny Crouser).

Fries: They're chips, thank you very much, and fantastic: Thick, hand-cut and wonderfully potato-ey, and the kitchen is generous when it comes to portions. Oh, and vegetarians and vegans, beware: To the delight of meat-eaters everywhere, the deep fryer relies upon flavor-enhancing beef fat.

Price: As previously mentioned, the basic burger goes for $9.50, and the "Helicopter Burger" (that's the one with the fried egg and ham) goes for $12.50.

Two tips: It's not an exaggeration to say that I can't recall ever visiting the Anchor and sailing (sorry, I couldn't resist) into an open table at this reservations-free hot spot, which goes to show that diners know a good thing when they see one. Oh, and the restaurant's crowd-pleasing food truck? Keep in mind that it's a burger-free zone.

Another tip: I find it impossible to visit the Anchor without ordering the mushy peas ($4). The name says it all: mashed peas, laced with plenty of butter and so darned satisfying, in a baby-food-for-grown-ups kind of way.

Address book: 302 13th Av. NE., Mpls., 612-676-1300.

Talk to me: Have a favorite burger? Share the details at rick.nelson@startribune.com.

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