Since it opened one week ago today, there's hardly been a moment when the Anvil Pub's "OPEN" sign wasn't on that I didn't pass by and see the place brimming ever fuller with enthusiastic patrons overjoyed to have a proper pub in Deep Ellum. Opening up on a strip of Elm Street that hosts two of the finest bars in town -- La Grange and the Black Swan Saloon -- the Anvil has a lot to live up to.
But live up it does, and how -- thanks to its adventurous menu, extensive beer selection and group of curious and conscientious staff and owners. We've sampled the Anvil's gastropub-style menu twice in the past week and have been gastronomically thrilled by successes and enthused by a staff eager to know when and where it misses, and how it can improve.
Sunday night, it was a group meal with fellow Ellumites and an Uptown carpetbagger. I grabbed a place at the bar while waiting for the rest, and the staff were still in full celebration mode, taking shots of whiskey with the parade of friends and family coming through the door to celebrate the bar opening.
Once everyone in my party gathered, we found we were all charmed by the bar's wood paneling and thoughtfully placed brand mirrors and minimal neon signage. Beer bars can easily descend into Sherlock's or Chili's territory when it comes to schwag, but the Anvil gets it just right. Naturally, we then beelined out back to assess what is perhaps the most important part of a good Texas bar: the patio. And we weren't disappointed by the small but airy deck, perfect for grabbing a puff of air, whether fresh or nicotine-filled.
When it came time to order, the chicken fingers were pleasantly bready with a creamy, flavorful gravy. I had a packed grilled cheese sandwich piled with roasted peppers, tomatoes and several cheeses, including a brie to die for. Others had the chicken and brie sandwich on focaccia, fries on the side. The verdict: good, not great -- and that's exactly what we told our server when she sat down with us to get our feedback. The grilled cheese needed more melting, the sandwiches more cheese. But the fries! No, the fries were perfect thin, spicy little strips.
The Man O' The Hour and I returned last night to stock up on pub grub before heading out to see the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The English-style Anvil is a perfect precursor to Potter series -- when I go see the film again, and you can be sure I will, I'll be sure to stop by the Anvil first and grab a Boddington's instead of a Shiner.
This time, we went for Anvil takes on classic American bar food: pizza and wings.
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The Deep Ellum Wings were a deep, brown barbecued business so tender they were falling off the bone before I could get them to my mouth, most times. But the skin remained crispy and hot, cooled by dabs of a chunky, creamy blue cheese totally absent the cheap-dairy whang present in so many lazy bar pantries. Nothing too surprising, of course, from a foodie-booze joint. I'd expected no less than deliciousness. (Man O' The Hour called the wings "a force of nature," for the record.)
I was, however, thoroughly surprised by the Man O' The Hour's Texas Sage Pizza: surprised by the dish itself, and even more surprised that I really loved it. Tasting like nothing so much as a spicy Monte Cristo sandwich-turned-pizza pie, the dish features a crackery crust slathered with raspberry jam, topped with melted Jack cheese and -- wait for it -- jalapeno peppers. Precisely the kind of thing I'd typically turn my nose up at as being adventurous for the sake of it, and not for the taste of it. But slice after slice, I kept returning to the MOTH's plate for more. MOTH was less enthusiastic, noting he "hadn't had anything remotely like it since dessert pizza at the Pizza Hut buffet," which is, I think, not meant to be a totally unkind evaluation. He thought it worked better as a novelty dish than anything else. Me? I'd take that novelty dish every day.
I feel like nothing I've written here really conveys the warmth of the Anvil Pub and the convivial atmosphere. There's plenty of adjustable seating for groups of any size, a long bar at which you'll not be sitting at for long before a bartender extends a hand, and a full glass front window that opens on to Elm Street. The Anvil feels like a pub that's belonged in Deep Ellum for ages, even though it's only been open for a matter of days. A solid place to meet old friends and make new ones, amid pints and shots of delicious whiskey.
Let's see, the place opens at 4 p.m. today.Think y'all can get off early?