450 W. Fort St., Detroit;
Open 7 a.m.- 2:30 a.m. Monday- Saturday, noon-2:30 p.m. Sunday
Known as a hangout for local journalists, the Anchor Bar is something of a legend around Detroit. Rows and rows of framed photographs hang above the nearly black wood bar, reminding patrons what the 50-year-old-plus bar stands for.
You won’t find a staggering number of taps. You won’t find an overabundance of locally made brews. But you will find a nice selection of the standards, along with some choice local beers, namely Atwater’s Dirty Blonde. And you will find someone to talk to.
Though we came alone seeking little more than a cheeseburger and a beer, we didn’t find we were short on company. The bar wasn’t packed by any means, but those that were there were lively, bantering about the Tigers game and the World Cup. The bartender greeted us quickly, making the sort of small talk one can relate to rather than the average chatter about the weather.
Our cheeseburger arrived within minutes, looking delicious, replete with a heavenly host of condiments, including the requisite ketchup, mustard, and mayo, along with the holy trinity of accoutrements: banana peppers, onions, and pickles. Coupled with a High Life, the meal was simple and wonderful, free of pretension and damn delectable.
While noshing on our burger, we noticed the liquor selection behind the bar includes local spirits, including Grass Widow from Two James Spirits, along with whiskey favorites and national brands. A bright spot on the liquor shelf was a glowing blue bottle of Hpnotiq, adding one more thing to the long list of what we love about the Anchor Bar.
The antithesis of a hipster bar, the Anchor is authentic in its design and aesthetic. The near 100-year-old building sports exposed brick, an original mantel, and high ceilings. The opposite of a curated space, the Anchor Bar’s aesthetic is what it is.
The only modern conveniences are a few flat-screen TVs that were showing sports while we were there. However, unlike many sports bars, folks didn’t sit silently staring at the set. There was quite a bit of hootin’ and hollerin’.
Upon being alerted to our presence, owner Vaughn Derderian came out to chat us up, and we found the third-generation proprietor to be generally and genuinely gregarious and talkative. Telling us about the Anchor’s past, how it came into his family’s possession, and the history of the building in which it resides.
The fourth home of the Anchor, 450 W. Fort St. is now owned by Derderian and his family, so it doesn’t look like they’ll be moving again soon. However, originally planned for construction before the Great Depression, it was actually supposed to be a much larger building. Built at two stories high rather than five, the upstairs was originally inhabited by a jewelry wholesaler, so it features two enormous walk-in safes that the current tenant uses for storage.
Built by a brick mason, much of the interior and exterior brickwork was meant to showcase his skills, which explains the mosaic of different types of brick found on the building’s exterior wall and the beautiful exposed brick found inside.
Devoid of affectation, rich with history, and complete with delicious food and drinks, the Anchor Bar will be a local favorite for years to come.