Don’t expect a massage or a facial when you walk into Anchor Spa, unless you consider the relaxing effects of a perfectly mixed cocktail. Anchor Spa, formerly known as Anchor Bar has been a New Haven classic since it opened shortly after prohibition in the 1930s. The storied dive bar has been transformed by owner Karl into a sleek and trendy drink spot. While cleaned up and renovated, the bar maintains much of the original Art Moderne facade and interior. The original tin ceiling has been maintained as have the original sea blue booths. Combine this vintage decor with some old photos, beautiful lamp fixtures and a gorgeous bar and the ambiance of the Anchor Spa is nostalgic and trendy — an intimate and friendly space.
Anchor Spa is first and foremost a bar. The drink menu, printed on a copy of an old map, is themed as a way to sip your way around the world with drinks inspired by major port cities. Every drink we tried was delicious, balanced, and refreshing but we were particularly impressed by the “Heading West”, inspired by England. The drink is lime green, covered in a salty foam with an image of an anchor printed on top. Two of the fruitier drinks, the Brazil and the Crescent City High Woman (New Orleans) also expertly walked the fine line of being fruity and refreshing without being too sweet.
Anchor also takes bar food up a notch by offering a mix of bar food classics as well as some more adventurous small plates. We started our meal with cheeseburger sliders topped with store ground aioli and an incredible sweet and smokey bacon marmalade. Next we tried the Escondido de Carne, a Brazilian Jerk Beef “hidden” in cheese. The cheese was creamy and comforting and the beef was soft and flavorful. Our all-time favorite, however, was the Greek-style grilled octopus. Perfectly tender with a simultaneously fresh and smoky taste, this dish pushed Anchor’s menu past hearty comfort food into the realm of fine dining. When speaking with the owner, Karl emphasized that there’s something for everyone at Anchor Spa. While their cocktails and seafood are out of this world, if you want a slider and a rum and coke, they have you covered. This makes Anchor a perfect spot for a special date or a long-catch-up with friends. With the bar’s trendy and nostalgic feel and a menu full of hearty snacks and unusual plates, Anchor Spa is the comforting but trendy new spot that the New Haven food scene had been missing.