No Anchor's exterior on Second Avenue would be somewhat nondescript, if it weren't for the patio, which juts outward from the building like the prow of a ship. Inside, however, the walls are paneled in walnut and the built-in glass curio cabinets seemingly go on forever, filled with creepy monkeys bought on Etsy and other crazy trinkets.
It looks nothing like Rob Roy, its sibling cocktail haunt just up the street, but it's easy to spot the connection: A space meant for convivially low lights, but still lovely when viewed with the aid of sunlight and sobriety. A tricky balance of being deadly serious about the craft of drinking while still having fun.
Anu Apte-Elford strikes this balance so perfectly at Rob Roy; now she and husband Chris Elford are applying it to beer. Elford worked at some impressive Manhattan cocktail spots before moving to Seattle in 2013, but he's also a certified Cicerone and thinks a lot about how beer culture and cocktail culture differ, and where they converge. No Anchor's 17 taps sport a mix of local and far-flung brews; the beer list is organized by serving temperature and aided by an infographic that plots each gose and coffee stout and saison on a grid, from approachable to esoteric, and modern to traditional.
Lest this sound confusing and precious, consider the tasting notes: The Chuckanut pilsner is a "legendary NW crusher"; the Breakside Wanderlust IPA is a "hazy fruity juicebomb." Elford is a self-confessed infographic nerd, "but I wanted people to be able to ignore it entirely."
A cool beer program was a given. But No Anchor's food is a surprise; the Elfords snapped up former Spur chef Jeffre Vance, who put together some fancy bar snacks that feel unexpected in a town full of fancy bar snacks: smoked and pickled mussels, radishes with a parmesan custard dipping situation, and the hit of the soft open, a bowl of fried hen of the woods mushrooms. Thick slabs of rye sourdough arrive topped with either smoked trout spread or charred eggplant, each dotted with herbs and pretty damn elegant for bar food. Entree-ish dishes like eared duck breast or grilled Wagyu show up for the dinner menu, along with desserts like sunchoke ice cream.
And because cocktails are in this bar's DNA, a lineup of draft and bottled drinks make use of beer-based ingredients. Across the small courtyard, work continues on Navy Strength, the couple's non-kitschy tiki bar.
No Anchor is open daily at 11am. Here's the website, which should soon have more details.