Note: this establishment is now closed. - RPG 10/19/12.
It was big news when the Anchor Bar opened up on East Avenue in 2009. After serving up the original Buffalo chicken wings for over four decades, Buffalo's Anchor Bar was opening a second location! In Rochester!
Well, then the excitement seemed to die down. There were reports that the wings weren't as good, the atmosphere wasn't the same, and so on.
At least some of that could be attributed to the usual backlash whenever a place opens to a lot of hype. And frankly, anybody who thought that they were going to find a duplicate of the original Anchor Bar was bound to be disappointed. Some things can't be copied. There's a reconstructed version of the Parthenon in Tennessee, but I doubt that seeing it is really a satisfactory substitute for going to the original in Athens, even if the latter is relatively dilapidated.
So when a third Anchor Bar opened in Marketplace Mall in late 2010, there was a lot less buzz this time around. I had to wonder if the Anchor Bar wasn't damaging its brand by overextending itself.
Then I noticed that the Rochester locations had become the "Anchor Sports Bar," and that their logo differed from that of the original. Were they still even connected in some way?
Apparently, yes. According to the D&C spinoff, Metromix, Michael Ranalletta, general manager of the Henrietta location,
explains: "We are a franchise of the Buffalo location, and the only
reason we changed our name to Anchor Sports Bar and Grill and changed
our logo was because when we first opened up, all anyone ever talked
about was the wings. It was wings, wings, wings — that was what they
thought of when they heard the name 'Anchor Bar.' We wanted to be known
for more than just chicken wings." Ranalletta added that "We buy the same wings, and we
fry them the same way," although the Rochester locations offer different sauces from what you'll find in Buffalo, including one from Uncle Ralph. (How many ways are there to fry a chicken wing, by the way?)
All of which is a long-winded introduction to saying that the Rochester Anchor Bars also differ from the original in one other respect: they offer pizza. And that's what led me recently to the Marketplace location, where I tried a medium pepperoni pizza, along with some wings.
My medium pizza had a medium thick crust, with screen marks underneath. It was just very slightly oily to the touch, and firm but not particularly crisp, although there was a slight crunch along the edge.
The crust's interior was somewhat bready, if a bit dense. It was topped by a fairly generous layer of thick red sauce, which had a subtle sweetness that was offset by some distinct herbal notes. The melted, slightly browned mozzarella was sprinkled with small shreds of what I believe was Romano (although it could've been Parmesan - I'll probably never learn to distinguish between them), which gave it a distinct tanginess. The wide thin slices of pepperoni were unremarkable but complemented the other components well. As a whole, this was a very flavorful pizza, so much so that the crust tended to fade into the background.
The wings weren't bad, but it's been a while since I've been to the original Anchor Bar, so I won't opine whether they were as good as the ones you'd find there (which arguably aren't as good as those you'd find as some other establishments in Buffalo, but that's a matter for another day). They were adequately coated with a medium hot sauce, but not doused, so whether you consider that a good thing depends on whether you like your wings "wet." While not scrawny, these were what I'd call fryer rather that roaster wings. Again, that may or may not be a good thing, since it means a little less meat but a higher ratio of skin and sauce to meat. We asked for them crispy, which is how they came - nice and crisp, but not overcooked.
The Anchor Bar offers pizza in small, medium and large sizes, and three specialty pizzas (chicken wing, white, and veggie), as well as pizza and wing combo deals. They also serve sandwiches, burgers, and, well, all the usual bar food (the menu is on their website). I haven't been to the East Ave. location, but the Marketplace AB is spacious, with high ceilings, lots of TVs, and a U-shaped bar off to one side.
Despite the tenuous nature of its relationship to the original, when I hear or see "Anchor Bar," I still think immediately of wings, and it's hard to imagine going there to get anything else. But, it is not the original, and apparently the owners are trying to get away a bit from the wing thing.
So should you consider the pizza, if you go? Yeah. It wasn't bad. For a slice or two, or to get a pizza to go, I'd head over to Cosimos in the food court, but if you want to have a meal or some drinks, Anchor serves up some decent bar pizza. I'll give it a C+.
Anchor Sports Bar & Grill, Marketplace Mall. 272-9333
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.,
Sun. noon - 2 a.m.
Also 355 East Ave., 861-6475
(opens at 5 p.m.)