The industrial town of Superior, Wisconsin unfurls like the opening of a Steinbeck novel. It’s a mood, a taste, a color, a smell. Grain silos and refineries loom over the waterfront, and tiny watering holes, storefronts, and restaurants crouch in the shadows of museum ships and factories. It’s not exactly charming, but it has its charms.
Save for the rusted ship anchor resting on the front sidewalk and a flimsy paper sign declaring that “as of November of 1977 we do not accept credit cards” posted on the door, Superior’s Anchor Bar seems to offer little in the way of charm.
But inside, the windowless room creates that singular dark, comforting dankness of a waterfront dive bar. Every square inch is covered in maritime detritus. More anchors, miniature lighthouses, sailor statuettes gazing into the wild blue yonder, ancient, patina'ed scuba gear, weathered lifesavers, stuffed fish, phantom helms. If it was made with aquatics in mind, the Anchor Bar has requisitioned it and mounted it.
And while the place is also emblazoned with the sardonic text of many a good dive bar ("Beware of Attack Waitress!"), there is nothing lackadaisical or offhanded about the service. Instead, the staff are on the move: marrying ketchups, delivering checks, popping the tops of a good many bottles of beer, arming aprons with rows of juicy Bic pens, making change, and constantly, constantly flipping burgers on the flattop and dunking hand-cut fries into the deep fryer.
When a place is as busy as this, you gotta be ready, or go down in the proverbial flames.
Hordes of locals and tourists storm the place to drink, yes, but also for the cheapest and best (when you consider the value) half-pound burgers possibly anywhere. While we've encountered $4 and $5 burgers in the past, they didn't arrive with the thud that these do. Generally, you order the others in a pair. At the Anchor Bar, you say a silent prayer for endurance in hopes of finishing the one.
The cheeseburger, cooked properly to just past medium rare, accompanied by a mountain of beautiful hand-cut fries is a true commitment; one that we didn't mind rededicating ourselves to with every bite. Virtually the entire menu menu, including their specialty olive and cream cheese and cashew burgers, falls at, around, or under five bucks.
But if you've got true bravado, order an Anchor Burger, at two-thirds of a pound of meat ($6.25), or a full-pound triple cheeseburger ($7.25).
For drinks, check out the "List of Beers We Might Have," which includes some craft selections that they've added while "still manag[ing] to keep a small neighborhood type atmosphere." (So no beer snobbery please). Monday is $3 pitcher day, and while prices aren't listed on the other labels or handles, you don't have to ask because you can probably afford it.
Just make sure it's cash you slap down. Like pretense, plastic has no place here.
The Anchor Bar
413 Tower Ave., Superior, WI