Co-written by guest author Anna B Albright and editor-in-chief Alara Degirmenci
If you’ve walked through downtown New Haven, you’ve noticed Anchor Spa. An unconventional facade hides a Black-owned Caribbean-style restaurant and creative bar. Named after the Milford, Connecticut beach where it first opened during Prohibition, in its halcyon days The Anchor became a favorite watering hole for actors, artists, poets, writers, and Yalies, and the after-work boîte for bartenders and staff from other bars. (Read more about their captivating history at here)
The Anchor Spa began its long, legendary run as a cocktail bar well before Downtown New Haven became a commercial hub. After a brief closure in 2015, Anchor Spa was reborn when Yale alumnus Karl Franz Williams revived the beloved establishment to create something timeless. He also transformed the menu to introduce inventive dishes and cocktails that blend sophisticated flavors from across the world, with a focus on Caribbean cuisine, a food niche which was unoccupied in New Haven, and elevated the cocktails using unique flavors like lemongrass, smoke, and hibiscus. This creates a balance between sophistication, high class, and accessibility.
We came for the cocktails, but we will return for the laid-back conversation with their many engaging servers, community feel, and delicious Caribbean food. Continue reading to hear more about our favorites from the menu:
Two Way Plantains (Maduros and Tostones)
Fried plantains are always delicious. This is so universally true that it’s almost a law of science. However, they can be too heavy and greasy. This dish avoided that challenge by pairing the rich plantains with acidic and light pickled cabbage that was so good I wanted to eat it plain. Also a happy hour item, this costs just $5 and provides a generously-sized twist on a classic Carribean snack.
These chicken wings covered with the house specialty “sexy” sauce turned us onto wings. I tend to avoid chicken wings, assuming they’ll be dry and boring but this dish proved both of these concerns wrong. The wings were cooked perfectly well to maintain the juiciness of the meat and the “sexy” sauce was anything but boring with multitude of different flavors from sweet to spicy packed into it. Best of all? Their price. During happy hour Wednesday through Friday five of these wings cost just $5!
Bake & Shark
Sandwiched between sweet and crispy fried coconut baked bread, every layer of these sandwiches was in perfect harmony with another. The crispy fried shark complements the fresh and juicy cabbage slaw and the avocado introduces a hint of sweetness to balance the acidity of the citrus flavors coming from lime salt. This is a great dish to share with friends since it is served in four individually cut servings!
Akara & Collards
Caribbean food tends to be meat and fish-heavy, so when our server mentioned that one of their most popular dishes was vegan, we were excited. Tender, flavorful collard greens are paired with mango chutney and crispy black eyed pea fritters, creating a harmony of flavors and textures in a nutrient-packed dish.
Jerk Chicken Skewers & Stir Fried Rice
The stir fry rice that embraces the Chinese influences on Caribbean cuisine is a celebration of cultures. The rice fried rice was cooked incredibly well with perfectly crispy grains and not soaked up in oil. It is also packed with seasonal vegetables that bring in an extra layer of deliciousness.
Shrimp & Yam Sauce
Served in a pristine bowl, these shrimps take you to the water side with their freshness. Covered with the unique flavor of the yam sauce, biting into these meaty shrimps was a festival of the West African flavors.
Curry Goat & Roti
Curry Goat & Roti is yet another festival of cultures and cuisines you can get at Anchor Spa that features a stew made with goat meat and array of spices from curry powder to garam masala. Being especially popular in the Jamaican region, this dish blends together flavors from the Caribbean, Indian, and Southeast Asian cuisines. The spices and the regional flavors come through each bite into the tender goat meat that absorbed all of the delicious flavors that it cooked in.
Carrot Cake w/ Ginger Icing
On our way to the Anchor Spa, we walked by Claire’s Cafe and couldn’t help but look at the slices of their delicious carrot cake. Little did we know that Anchor Spa was about to amaze us with their own carrot cake at the end of our visit. The carrot cake was perfectly paired with the ginger icing that gave it some extra moisture without making it overwhelmingly sweet. After the long lineup of food and drinks we had we thought we were full but the carrot cake was so good that it was gone in a matter of a few minutes.
Bursting in botanical flavors, Color Purple is truly a dance in nature. The sweetness of the elderflower and black berries is paired perfectly with the bitter lavender undertones and the gin. It is the perfect summer drink for those who like the refreshing flavors of fruit without the overpowering sweetness.
MANHATTAN AFTER DARK
Cigar smoked infused Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Fonseca Port, Domaine de Canton, B&B, Angostura Bitters
Needless to say, this cocktail wins the audience with its unique and magnificent presentation. For every order of this cocktail, Raasikh prepares and lights up a wooden box of . As he majestically opens up the box, the fumes and the fragrant smell of the wood captivates you into this special creation. One can not only smell but also taste the smoke flavors packed into this drink, the unique experience can almost be described as drinking straight from the barrel.
BOOTLEG RUM PUNCH
This drink puts all punches to shame. With a mix of five unique spices, fresh fruits, and Caribbean rums, this rum punch is anything but the simple punch one is used to getting at parties. If anything, calling this sophisticated drink a punch is an understatement to its sophisticated flavors. What’s more is that you can get an hour of this bottomless punch for just $20 at Anchor Spa every happy hour.
Like the other cocktails, Kentucky Refresher speaks to the craftsmanship and talent of the bartender team at Anchor Spa by serving us a drink that is packed with a wide array of spices and flavors yet still feeling very refreshing and smooth. With the ginger being the star of this cocktail, the flavors of cardamom seeds, sage, and lemon still shines through the undertones, making each sip pleasantly complex.