Not only is Luke Kyle the brains behind the menu at Anchor Fish & Chips, he also provided much of the brawn -- literally -- to convert the former art gallery space into the newest new restaurant near the now bustling intersection of University and 13th Ave. NE in Northeast Minneapolis. Kyle, who has his own construction business, also served as contractor and carpenter for the build-out of the space.
Drawn to its seafaring, distinctly Irish feel, he and co-owners Kathryn Hayes and Jenny Crouser even appropriated the name of Kyle's construction business -- Anchor Construction -- for the name of the authentic Irish chippery.
The influence of his native country -- Kyle is from Belfast (Hayes hails from Tipperary) -- pervades Anchor's menu, which is populated with dishes like black pudding, rashers, pasties, and shepherd's pie along with the restaurant's signature fish and chips. Pasties -- round, battered and fried patties, usually of meat and potatoes -- are unavailable even in the south of the country. They are a unique, distinctly Northern Ireland dish, similar to but distinct from the baked pasty you would find in England or Scotland.
The restaurant has been open almost two months now and by all accounts things are going extremely well. On a recent night, waiting diners were told it would be 50 minutes for a table, and most chose to stay, grabbing a Black and Tan or a Guinness from the bar. Kyle, whose older brother is Ben Kyle, lead singer for the local band Romantica, is soft-spoken, with a slightly detectable Irish drawl, peppered with the occasional swear word, sat down for a few minutes with Hot Dish recently:
1) What did you have for breakfast? "A cup of coffee and a cigarette."
2) How did you get interested in cooking professionally? "I always loved good food and I've always liked working with my hands too, and I guess there have been a few restaurants that I fell in love with as a kid -- fish and chips being at the top of them all. I think that's what inspired me to get into it. Also just the happiness, the joy that food brings people. My first job was at the Band Box, a neighborhood, small joint. I liked going in there, the community and family, seeing what people eat and drink together, strangers becoming friends. I just thought, 'I want to be a a part of making that happen.'"
3) What is your favorite cooking tool? "I'd have to say the spatula." Kyle uses a steel spatula with a wooden handle -- "three inches wide, maybe 10 inches long."
4) Are you reading anything? "No, I'm not reading anything. I read the newspaper for first time in about six months last week."
5) What restaurant(s) do you go to on your days off? "I try to go to new ones each time. Last week was Bar La Grassa. I love Northeast Social -- those guys are good friends, and I go there quite often. I have a new love for sushi -- never thought I would have -- so I've been checking out a lot of them lately."