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A braised beef belly Philly is on Anchor's new menu.
By John Mullen
November 3, 2017 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA) – The Cuban had grown to almost legendary status on the Anchor Bar and Grill’s menu. And it’s a short menu.
Chef Jonathan Kastner opened in October 2015 with the concept of a simple menu and bar food done right. His cuisine and chalkboard specials and choice beer, wine and liquor specialty dinners have since left an indelible imprint on the island culinary scene. Anchor is located on the dock at Hudson Marina at the south end of Wilson Boulevard in Orange Beach.
What you get there are gourmet twists on foods traditionally found on a bar menu. Wings, nachos, tacos, salad, a specialty sandwich – including the famous Cuban – a hearty burger and this time around, a tuna gravlax poké.
There have been nine menu changes in just more than two years and through most of those, the Cuban made the cut, but Kastner is giving it a break in the latest offerings.
Anchor Bar Philly Cheesesteak
Make way for the Philly cheesesteak with the Anchor Bar touch.
“This is the first thing I’ve found that I think is better than the Cuban,” Kastner said. “The Cuban always made it through. Like the burger this time. We didn’t replace it because I wasn’t able to come up with something better.”
It’s a savory take on a traditional American sandwich.
“We’re taking a beef belly and we’re braizing it, and then as we braise it we press it to take that braising liquid out,” he said. “After we cook the beef belly and onions and bell peppers on the grill, then we hit it with that braising liquid and it caramelizes on there. Then we slice it real thin and put it on the flat top with onions and bell peppers. Then we add the cheese on top and it melts down, it’s a Havarti cheese.”
The lone holdout on the new menu, the More In Than Out Burger, pays homage to the iconic West Coast franchise, In and Out Burger. It’s Anchor Mustard seared Louisiana wagyu beef topped with American cheese, iceberg lettuce, caramelized onions, Chef Jon’s famous tomato jam and Wickles mayo spread.
Anchor Wings
With his wings, Chef John has concocted another tasty recipe. He’s had a variety of eclectic tastes on the wings from pretzels to chipotle to the previous menu’s local touch of Alabama white barbecue sauce. The pre-cooking brine has changed with almost every variety of the wings.
“We brine them in fresh thyme and lemon zest,” he said. “Every season we’ve changed the brines. We’ve done beer brines, this past one was a whiskey brine. This one we wanted to insert a lot of fresh herbs and make it kind of rich. That’s a lot of thyme in the brine.”
It comes with a mushroom inspired recipe that has a little bit of Indian flavoring.
“It’s a king trumpet mushroom butter sauce,” Chef Jon said. “It kind of draws influence from tikka masala, which is an Indian butter sauce for chicken. We wanted something rich and a little bit heavier for the fall, but not so heavy that it weighs you down.
“It comes with the mushrooms tossed in with the wings and the mushrooms are the same size as the wings. They get tossed in there with ‘em so they’re a lot of fun.”
Making a big splash when they opened the doors were the brisket tots, Chef Jon’s take on bar nachos. Some of the same toppings return on this menu, but it’s definitely not your standard bar nachos.
Anchor Buffalo Tots
“The buffalo tots, I’ve got a new farmer in the southeast corner of Alabama, Green Acre Farms, and they are raising American bison,” he said. “We’re making meatballs and we’re making a smoked tomato jam and adding jalapeno to it. For the cheese, I’m still going to go with biretta, which is a creamy mozzarella. When you cut into, it just flows out there. And we put a little basil salt on the top.”
Chef Jon loves experimenting with Mexican molés sauces and the new taco taste will be based on his own version, topped with fresh Gulf shrimp.
“We’re going to olive oil poach the shrimp,” he said. “I’m fascinated by molés. This is going to be the third molé, a Mexican style sauce, on the menu. The first shrimp tacos had a molé on it. It’s a pepper-based, so it’s dried peppers, it’s got pacias, New Mexicos and you soak it in beer. We toast ‘em, soak ‘em in beer.
“We make like a paste with the pumpkin seeds and it’s got onions and garlic and tomatoes and it’s got the peppers. We blend it all up and it’s spread on the bottom, then put the roasted pine nuts and pickled vegetables. And we make a house hot sauce using the same dried chilis with charred lemons.”
Anchor Tuna Grazlax Poké Bowl
Other offerings on the new menu are the Tuna Gravlax Poké Bowl and an Autumn Kale Salad. The Poké Bowl comes with house-cured tuna gravlax, red onions, capers, dill cream cheese and bagel chips.
“We still serve it like a Poké which is raw cubed tuna, but it’s very lighted smoked,” Chef Jon said. “It’s like a lox bagel, but our version of it.”
The Anchor’s salad is topped by miso glazed salmon, kale and wheat berry with Alabama apples, pickled cranberries, walnuts, goat cheese and creamy squash vinaigrette.
“I think this menu is one of the more fun ones we’ve done in a while,” Chef Jon said. “We’re taking traditional flavor combinations and we’re putting our little twist on it and making it a lot of fun.”