During a trip to Wichita earlier this year, I had a chance to get some lunch before I had meetings in the afternoon. I had read about a place near downtown Wichita that had a good beer selection, as well as a good burger, a place called The Anchor. I ended up going there for lunch on that particular day.
Schane Gross had a pretty interesting background story before she ended up as the owner of the Anchor. An army brat who moved from place to place as a youngster, she started working in the restaurant business at a Wichita area Mexican restaurant when she was 14 years old and decided that she hated it. She felt overworked and underpaid working at a restaurant. But after stints working at various auto parts stores around Wichita, she ended up as a tattoo artist/piercer, eventually owning her own tattoo/piercing parlor in the city - Hell Bomb Tattoo and Holier Than Thou Body Piercing.
Gross leased the space for the tattoo/body piercing parlor in a building along E. Douglas Ave. with her husband. One day, the landlord came to her and said that the rent for the space was going to go up precipitously. Gross made a counter offer - she wanted to buy the building from the landlord. The deal went through and suddenly Schane Gross found herself as a commercial property owner.
The space next to the tattoo parlor was open and the space was perfect for a restaurant/bar. She went to the bank to get money to open her new business, but they didn't give her all the money she needed to open a full restaurant. She opened the Anchor as a bar only in October of 2004. A few years later, Gross expanded the Anchor into food service.
Pictured right - Schane Gross. Photo courtesy Wichita Eagle.
Gross got burned out on running both the tattoo parlor and the Anchor, so she sold the tattoo/piercing business to her ex-husband who continues to run the operation next to the Anchor. In March of 2014, she opened up Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, a high-end boutique-style butcher shop in the same building as the Anchor and the tattoo shop. And in the fall of 2014, Gross opened a new restaurant in Wichita's College Hill neighborhood - Fork & Fennel, a French-style bistro that featured farm-to-fork foods. However, less than two years later, Gross closed Fork & Fennel because she said she wanted to "focus on the Anchor. That's where my heart is."
It was during the noon rush when I pulled up to the Anchor on E. Douglas just east of Washington. (see map) There's on street parking, but I was able to get the last space in a parking lot on the west side of the building.
Inside the restaurant, it featured a tin ceiling, exposed brick walls and an old-style bar. I ended up sitting at the bar and was greeted by Daniel, the bartender. He gave me a food menu and I ordered up a Stone IPA that they had on tap - one of over 50 beers the Anchor features on tap.
At the top of the menu at the Anchor, you'll find a number of interesting appetizers including beer-battered jalapeño caps, truffle fries, and applewood-smoked chicken wings. They also had a number of salads including a baby wedge salad, as well as chili and a soup of the day. Also prominently featured toward the top of the menu was the Anchor's roasted mac & cheese - cavatappi pasta made with four different types of cheese and topped with garlic bread crumbs. Extras that could be added to the roasted mac & cheese included ham, bacon, grilled mushrooms, kimchi, pulled pork and grilled salmon.
I had gone into the Anchor with the idea of trying one of their burgers. The Butcher's Grind burger featured end cut Black Angus Certified Beef from the Douglas Avenue Chop House butcher shop and wrapped in bacon, then topped with white cheddar cheese and a Chambard onion jam. The Anchor also featured an Akaushi Beef burger - a Wagyu-style beef raised in Kansas by Texas-based HeartBrand Beef. The Akaushi Beef burger was ground in house, grilled and topped with pimento cheese, garlic aioli, and blackened tomatoes. They also had a smoked beef burger topped with aged cheddar, bacon, smoked caramelized onions and a barbecue sauce.
In addition to their burgers, the Anchor also had some pretty interesting sandwiches. They had a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich made with sliced Creekstone Farms beef and topped with provolone cheese, caramelized onions and grilled green peppers. They had a smoked pastrami sandwich that caught my eye, as well as a couple of sandwiches - a pulled pork and a panko-crusted pork tenderloin sandwich that were made with locally-raised lean Red Wattle pork.
Suddenly, I was in a quandary. While the burgers sounded good, they weren't my only option. The smoked pastrami was calling my name, but a couple of other things - fried flour beef tacos and a smoked maple/bourbon Red Wattle pork chop - caught my eye. When Daniel came to take my order, I was at a loss as what to get. I took a page from my wife when she finds herself not knowing what to get at a restaurant she's not familiar with and I asked Daniel what they were known for. "The reuben is probably our best seller," he told me. "Our burgers are great, but the reuben is my favorite thing on the menu."
And that's what I ended up getting. It was a basic reuben - slow-cooked corned beef topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and a house-made reuben sauce. It came on marble rye bread and was lightly grilled. A side of hand-cut fries came with the sandwich, but there was a large amount of beef on the sandwich and the fries basically became a throwaway as soon as I started to dig into the sandwich.
The beef was tender and flavorful - I love a good tender corned beef. And this was very good. Even though it was a messy sandwich - it was a multi-napkin affair - the bread held together very well with the juicy beef, sauerkraut, sauce and the Swiss cheese all blending together. Daniel came over to check on me and asked if his recommendation was worth it. It was - and then some. This was a very good reuben sandwich.
I'm hoping to get back to the Anchor at some point to try a burger, but I was thoroughly impressed with the top-notch reuben sandwich that I had on my first visit. I liked the atmosphere of the restored building, the service at the bar was very good, and it was tough to beat the beer selection they had. The Anchor is one of the more popular restaurants in Wichita - a city with a surprising number of good restaurants. And it's easy to see why with the meal I had this particular day. The Anchor is a great little pub-style place with a laid-back vibe.