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Anchor Bar (Hamilton)

Posted by Libby Roach / Reviewed on March 7, 2013 / review policy

Anchor Bar HamiltonAnchor Bar is a landmark restaurant in Buffalo, NY that has recently expanded north of the border, though not quite to Toronto just yet. The first location, and the subject of this review, is in Hamilton. But with another one planned for our fair city later this year, I thought it worth offering a sneak peak of what to expect by trekking out to Steeltown.

If you are a dedicated chicken wing connoisseur, then you've probably already made the pilgrimage to Buffalo at one point or another. If not, the Hammer shaves off half that trip; just be warned that it'sa confusing place. 2 King Street West, for instance, happens to be next to 116 King Street West. Ah yup, welcome to Hamilton.

Anchor Bar recently usurped the previous tenant 'Waltz Live Music', which occupied the corner of Jackson square for close to a decade. According to legend, the owners of the original location, Teressa and Frank Bellissimo, created the first Buffalo style chicken wing on March 4th, 1964. Pride runs deep at this family institution. And with a James Beard award under their belt, all the boasting, rest assured, is quite warranted.

On the menu there are many interpretations of the mighty chicken wing, whether it be stuffed into pasta, infused in soup, slipped into sandwiches or turned into lollipops. There are also smoked meat sandwiches, rack of lamb, tabouli and chick pea salad. By all means indulge in this fare, but just make sure to also get the wings.

Anchor Bar HamiltonWhile the original Buffalo restaurant is showing its age, this one month old Hamilton hotspot is pristine. Highlighted by a massive California Redwood bar, the interior is rather posh compared to its predecessor. Exposed brick ads a layer of coziness, and the rope knot lighting is a subtle nod to the restaurant's nautical name. Dotting the walls are the customary vanity licence plates, autographed pictures of pseudo celebrities (Trish Stratus eats wings! Gasp!) and chicken wing nostalgia, including a trophy case filled with their many various awards.

Beer choices offer the usual suspects, five domestics competing with imported Guinness, Rolling Rock and Heineken. Bar shelves are lined with deluxe spirits and a slim wine list offers predictable by-the-glass and bottle options.

Anchor Bar HamiltonPreparing for an onslaught of grease and dietary misery, we start with the healthy and impressive Quinoa salad ($10.99). Cucumber, sliced cherry tomatoes, chunks of red peppers, slivers of red onion rest atop a pile of arugula and spinach. A crown of grainy quinoa adds a good amount of crunch, and the sprouts brighten the dish up.

Anchor Bar HamiltonNormally I'd stick to wings, but with their Italian heritage and a toasty wood burning oven I felt obligated to try the Canadiana pizza ($12.99) with mushrooms, pepperoni, and salty double smoked bacon. The crust was thin and bubbly, barely containing the greasy cheese and generous toppings. Not bad for a wing joint.

Chicken wings come mild, medium hot, spicy hot bbq, and suicide for an extra $.99 or all in with the 'Abandon Ship' for an extra $1.99. That's right, no honey garlic. We snagged a single order (about 8 wings for $11.99) of hot and medium, which comes with a pile of celery (What? No carrots!) and a ramekin of creamy blue cheese.

Anchor Bar HamiltonCrispy yet moist on the inside, the wings were off the charts. The flats pull apart easily, resulting in an eruption of greasy deliciousness. Although the sauces weren't spicy enough (hot is more like medium, and medium is more like meh) the buttery aftertaste completed the finger licking experience.

Anchor Bar HamiltonA side of poutine ($7.99) is a soupy mess. The gravy to cheese ratio is completely off, but as an American chain, this foreign delicacy must be hard to master. But, hey, even bad poutine can still somehow be good.

Anchor Bar HamiltonOne, however, should completely avoid the Anchor burger ($12.99). Served on a hoagie style submarine bun, cheap Kraft cheese slices are slathered atop a rectangular doubled up burger patty with an uneven smattering of red onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and a mixture of two sauces that should never go together: chipotle and hollandaise. Maybe this was supposed to be a joke, or perhaps it's actually popular south of the border.

But I should have taken my own advice and just eaten more wings, so who cares about the burger? If you're headed to Steeltown (Copps Coliseum anyone?), these are amazing wings and well worth a pit stop. Or you could just patiently wait for the onslaught of franchises to occupy the city, Five Guys style.

Anchor Bar Hamilton



Chris / March 7, 2013 at 04:16 pm
I didn't find the wings to be way better than any other wing I've had.. but the Beef on Weck is unique to this place as far as I know and it's to die for.
v79 / March 7, 2013 at 04:26 pm
I guess I'll reserve my judgement of the Canadian locations until I try them, but the original Anchor Bar had some of, if not THE worst wings I've ever had. All they have going for them is the nostalgia aspect of being the originators. I can name dozens of places in Toronto that outdo them by a mile, and judging by these pics, I fear the new locations will be no better.
And / March 7, 2013 at 04:48 pm
Let's see how long it will take before someone says "Hamilton isn't Toronto!!!!!"
Stella replying to a comment from And / March 7, 2013 at 04:55 pm
Well, it's NOT Toronto. If I wanted to know about Hamilton, I'd go to blogHamilton. Can't find anything to write about here? Or do your friends own that place?
Lioness / March 7, 2013 at 05:09 pm
They have beef on weck? Hooray! That is truly hard to find outside of Buffalo.
sw replying to a comment from Stella / March 7, 2013 at 05:13 pm
*Facepalm* You're ridiculous. It is definitely interesting to a LOT of people when a hallowed restaurant like Anchor Bar crosses the border into close-to-Toronto territory. Your bitterness is tired.

Looking forward to making the trek out to the Hammer for some OG Buffalo wangz!
v79 / March 7, 2013 at 05:19 pm
Didn't notice they have Beef on Weck either. That's a much more exciting addition to the area's culinary scene than over-rated, at best average wings. I'll head to the hammer just for that.
David / March 7, 2013 at 05:20 pm
The price ($64.99) for 50 wings is outrageous, when the price for 50 wings at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo is $43.00
O.G. replying to a comment from v79 / March 7, 2013 at 05:29 pm
Beef on weck? Hand sliced roast eye of round on a too-salty bun? Worth making a pilgrimage for? I think not. Not Buffalo's greatest gift to the culinary landscape, in my humble opinion. I just don't get the pile of salt on the top of the bun.
Joe replying to a comment from Stella / March 7, 2013 at 05:30 pm
And the rest of the province wants to hear less about Toronto's collapsing condo balconies and gun crime. Get used to hearing the truth: life is better outside TO.
Theo / March 7, 2013 at 06:37 pm
Be patient, the Hammer will be a part of Toronto once we amalgamate it in a move to surpass New York's population.
R.G. / March 7, 2013 at 07:05 pm
Nice to have them here. Great casual place for before or after a Bulldogs game or other Copps or Hamilton Place event. Come slummin down the highway to visit your little gritty average joe Brother! Wear your casual shoes (if you can find them).
And replying to a comment from Stella / March 7, 2013 at 08:51 pm
You seem stressed, go smoke a joint and calm the fuck down. Wow.
Mike L / March 7, 2013 at 08:51 pm
I still like the beef on weck in NY state better. The one here has cheese (!) and gravy (!) and is not on a kumelweck roll (salt and caroway) which I guess they don't make in Ontario. In NY state they usually dip the top of the roll in the au just sauce before serving-no gravy or cheese needed
McNut / March 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm
Wow - I thought Hamilton was only known for unemployment and teenage pregnancy.

now we can add shitty looking wings to the list.
Sean / March 8, 2013 at 12:05 am
Is this a franchise, or merely a wholly owned outpost? There's an Anchor Bar at Buffalo's airport which is as good as the original Main Street location, but with Sam Adams on tap rather than Genesee (Rochester) - I spent a few hours there waiting for my Megabus ride back to Toronto. What's on tap at the Hamilton location?

Buffalonians are split on their favourite wing - the US border guard I last spoke to at the Rainbow Bridge prefers Duff's (we have three locations in the GTA), but recommends Anchor Bar for the experience.

My favourite Hamilton watering hole is the Winking Judge on Augusta Street - they have decent wings, plus a great selection of Ontario craft brews rivaled by few (maybe only Bar Volo and C'est What?).
Sean / March 8, 2013 at 12:10 am
Oh, I checked. It's just MolsonCoors offerings on tap, plus Guinness. Not a great beer selection. I'll likely stick to the Winking Judge when I'm in town.

New question: how does it stack next to the Toronto Duff's locations? (Which have Beau's and Mill Street beers as well a few corporate brews).
jd / March 8, 2013 at 12:43 am
Maybe they wrote the article because, as they mention at the beginning "one planned for our fair city later this year".
John Dough replying to a comment from David / March 8, 2013 at 05:45 am
Not to mention a pitcher of draught in Buffalo for $10.00 and a bottle of wine for $20.00.
Eddie / March 9, 2013 at 11:07 am
Better place for wings in Buffalo is the Washington Square Restaurant. Might be a hole in the wall but far better wings and beer.
Mikey replying to a comment from David / May 7, 2013 at 03:55 pm
The Anchor Bar will not survive in Hamilton. $11.99 plus tax and tip for 8 wings is ridiculous. People here will not pay that for much longer.

PS. I've had the wings, they are probably the best in the city, but this place won't survive with those high prices.
Chucky replying to a comment from Mikey / June 10, 2013 at 12:45 am
a great Bar heart of the city selld wings for 1 buck more than downtown .. you are wrong .. poor people that wheel and deal in hot dogs and chep pizza wont keep up with these prices .. but guess what tight ass .. the Professionals that want a bite to eat with clients dont care about the price for great food . go buy a 3 dollar sub . or order the besat wings in town at a great venue with great food and great staff . bout time the poor people just left . so us rich people can enjoy the best wings in hamilton without the rif raf .. try chucky cheese fucker. you may find a future wife .
Chucky replying to a comment from Chucky / June 10, 2013 at 12:54 am
The only people that dont get "you get what you pay for "are poor people ! if you wanna buy 3 dollar subs down town .. go for it ! if you want to eat great food in the heart of the city for under 20 bucks eat at Anchor Bar. dont compare apples to oranges . this food is fresh and great . i have never had a bad experience here apart from people like Mikey complaining about prices and taking a table complaining all the time .. if you dont like it .. LEAVE !! the 50 people behind you that can afford it will gladly take your place
AJ / January 6, 2014 at 11:55 am
Anchor Bar, whether in the Hammer or U.S. is still the best wings around. Where else can you have wings shipped to you (in the U.S.only now) Must be good!!!!!! Price is comparable to other wing establishments, so going to the Hammer is well worth it.
Killing Floor cracked / December 12, 2014 at 01:25 am
Restaurant games are also quite common.

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