Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Anchor Bar still a legendary Detroit sports personality

You won’t find a half-dozen flat screens hanging from the ceiling. Nor a team of thin blonde waitresses wearing umpire uniforms. But long before sports bars were conjured in marketing boardrooms, the Anchor Bar in downtown Detroit was meeting the same consumer demand. Give the hometown fans a hometown tavern, a place to gather outside the arena, ballpark or stadium.

Standing in the shadows of Joe Louis Arena, the Anchor is naturally a gathering spot before and after Red Wings’ games. But like many of downtown Detroit’s more popular sports hangouts, the Anchor wears its authenticity proudly. While scanning the dark, high-ceiling bar on West Fort Street, you’re more likely to find a faded, black-and-white 8x10 of Gordie Howe than you are a Henrik Zetterberg Fathead.

Included in the Anchor’s legend are tales of a day when Detroit’s sports heroes were not only celebrated at the bar – they were patrons of the bar. The stories were born when the Anchor lived around the corner from its current location, in the basement of the newly remodeled Fort Shelby Hotel on West Lafayette. The hotel closed during the ‘80s, but the Anchor survived in its original space until 1997, when it moved into its current spot in the Mercier Building. With it came the sports artifacts that helped make it famous, sports photos and memorabilia that to younger patrons now give the place a museum quality.

For that reason alone, the Anchor warrants a look. And for its choice burgers, it warrants a taste. You best arrive early to get near the place when the Wings are playing, especially if they’re playing at home. But for an off-night place to hang, shoot a little pool, and revisit the glory days of Detroit sports, the Anchor is an authentic, unpretentious reminder of what sports bars were before we started calling them sports bars.

For more info: Visit the Anchor Bar at 415 W. Fort St. in downtown Detroit, or call 313-964-9127.