Sea To Shining Sea
1330 Industrial Blvd., Mpls.,
WHAT A COMELY city Minneapolis is, I thought as I recently drove down 35W, catching glimpses of fast food restaurants, flat-topped buildings, and weird pieces of scrap metal through my rearview mirror. The ugliness along Industrial Boulevard is particularly unsettling--the kind that could only fascinate those who hold degrees in urban anthropology. The Anchorage restaurant lights up the horizon here with a bit of neon, shining like a white horse in a grim, gray chamber of horrors.
The first thing we came to love about the Anchorage was its vast lounge, one of a dying species. Lit darkly enough to obliterate any facial blemishes, it features a long wood bar, a multi-tiered floor, low-slung armchairs, and a happy hour buffet table decorated with straw baskets and silver tureens filled with meatballs and other such treats. On stage, a man bathed in blue neon light plays doleful love songs on a Yamaha keyboard, occasionally testing the working order of the microphone by blowing his nose into it. "I sure like that picture of the boat over there," I said to my friend, pointing to a darkened photo of three boats sailing into a sunset. "Which one?" queried my friend; I had somehow managed to miss that the lounge walls were covered with pictures of boats. This is, after all, a seafood restaurant.
The dining room exudes elegance, with genuine silver (or a close imitation anyway) and red rose blossoms floating in thin glass bowls; the tiny votives with ships cut into the glass are a nice touch, too.
Take note: The Anchorage is one of the few places in town that I know of where you can get raw oysters. I tried to discover where the seafood served here comes from, but was given circulatory answers. No matter; the eastern oysters on the half shell ($8.95 for an order of six) tasted lovely, presented on a glass plate with crushed ice, lemon wedges, a tangle of fresh parsley, and a side of zippy cocktail sauce spiked with horseradish. If you can't take it straight, you could try the Oysters Rockefeller ($8.95), served on the half-shell stuffed and baked with parmesan cheese and spinach. These weren't the best I've had, too cheesy and clumsy for my taste.
On the other hand, the shrimp and crab Louie salad ($8.95) had us blushing with happiness. The kitchen split the plate for us, and even the half-order could have sufficed as an entire meal--a vast plate of fresh lettuce topped with perfectly steamed spears of asparagus, fat Bay shrimp, slices of hard-boiled eggs, robust tomatoes, and lots of fresh, chilled crabmeat served with a side of raspberry vinaigrette.
After such delicate seafood, we had no taste for the more cumbersome fare on the menu; no surf 'n' turf (market price), cold lobster tails with drawn butter (market price), or salmon picatta (batter dipped and served with a lemon caper butter sauce; $17.95) for us. Instead, we choose to split an old-fashioned dish--the Anchorage Bouillabaisse ($25.95; serves two with plenty to spare). Presented to us in a gigantic glass bowl with a plate on the side bearing lemon wedges and slender silver picking forks, the bouillabaisse was magnificent. The seasoned broth was fragrant and scrumptious by itself; heaped with clams and mussels in their shells, crabmeat, lobster parts, thick Bay scallops, fish, and jumbo shrimp made it all the more glorious. Add a couple of pieces of garlic toast and side orders of steamed vegetables and linguine with clam sauce, and it was a meal to savor in these gnarled, landlocked parts.
Our very gracious and droll waiter (who, incidentally, sounded exactly like Cary Grant) made our evening particularly memorable. He was thick with class and made us feel likewise. At the end of our leisurely and splendid meal, he asked us about dessert. Could we just have a piece of cake? Without questioning us about what kind of dessert we wanted or listing tiresome prices and ingredients, he simply bowed a bit and returned with a light three-berry torte ($4.95), a pretty piece of white layer cake topped with a light white frosting and stuffed with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. A classy end to a lovely evening.
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