ANCHORED ON WATER STREET

Community-focused eatery open daily, late

Laura Jean Schneider
ljschneider@ptleader.com
Posted 12/17/21

 

 

She’s more than 130 years old, but she has good bones. And a history as a gathering place.

This time, her name is the “Anchor,” a laid-back bar and restaurant …

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ANCHORED ON WATER STREET

Community-focused eatery open daily, late

Posted

 

 

She’s more than 130 years old, but she has good bones. And a history as a gathering place.

This time, her name is the “Anchor,” a laid-back bar and restaurant that owner Benjamin “Ben” Cooper hopes will become a community hub.

Settled in the Fred Lewis Building at 628 Water St., which formerly housed El Sarape, a Mexican restaurant, and the Tunnel Tavern, Anchor opened quietly in late November.

Locals can rejoice: finally, an eatery open seven days a week until late (10ish) with a menu $14 and under.

Cooper hired local chef Woody Scanlon to serve up made-from-scratch ala carte dishes that allow a wide range of customization; a small anchor icon on menu items hints at items perfect for adding house-made whiskey onions, gravy, “Mama’s hot peppers,” or green chile pork.

Cooper calls Anchor’s menu “grounded in reality,” crafted especially with the working person in mind.

In pursuit of his own take on traditional comfort foods, Scanlon’s version of clam chowder adds bacon, andouille sausage, and red potatoes. There’s a broccoli cheese bake topped with crisp gratin, and a 4-ounce smash burger garnished with homemade pickles, special Anchor sauce, and good ‘ol American cheese on a brioche roll for just $6.

“Everyone loses their mind when they try the food off the menu,” Cooper said.

Wash down the deliciousness with a pint of Rainier for $5, or enjoy craft beers on tap for $7. (The daily happy hour is from 5 to 6 p.m., with $1 off beer and well drinks, and Tuesdays are “industry night,” where anyone in town working in food service gets $1 off beer and wells from 5 p.m. to close.)

For those with the munchies, there’s a “roller” hotdog; just the basics in a bun, available for $2.50 after the kitchen closes.

It’s easy to see how Cooper admitted “this place is kinda the inside of my head right now.”

On a slow afternoon last week, two women sat a two-top, conversing between bites of generous portions. Someone had ordered the classic wedge salad, which comes served on large black stoneware plates left over from El Sarape’s heyday.

A bartender with a bleached blonde mohawk served two men at the bar. Through the ticket window, Scanlon and his helper could be seen prepping something surely tantalizing.

Cooper, 39, is new to Port Townsend. Sort of.

“I came out here a million times as a kid,” he said with a smile.

After spending his early childhood in Sequim, his family moved to Issaquah where he completed school, and promptly enlisted in the Marines. He attended officer school at the same time, hoping to eventually become a pilot. But a knee injury disqualified him, and he found himself disillusioned and a bit unmoored.

Along with the help of a friend, he learned the language of computers and worked as consultant for 15 years, eventually landing a position as the technology and innovation director at Spokane-based 509, a leading manufacturer for snowmobile gear and accessories.

Encouraged by his sister in Port Townsend, Cooper discovered the Tunnel Tavern was for sale this summer.

He went out on a limb and bought it.

When the housing market exploded in Spokane, he sold his house, making nearly enough to purchase the business outright. Packing up his two Jack Russell and Chihuahua mix dogs, he headed to Port Townsend with a vision: “To make a place that I would want to be in.”

“I basically live here,” he said of the restaurant, and laughed. “My life is this now.”

Cooper’s put a good deal of elbow grease into renovating the interior of the Anchor with his brother-in-law, a general contractor. The high ceilings and exposed brick walls draw the eye to local artwork; a former storage space above the kitchen has been transformed into a platform band stand.

The owner’s face lights up when he talks about hosting live music, and bringing a variety of genres to the mix.

“I’d rather just have a community-focused space,” he said, than of attempting a high-end endeavor.

By keeping the doors open and the menu affordable, the Anchor is really a manifestation of Cooper’s own ideals.

“It’s me putting my money where my mouth is,” he said

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