Hard to miss it, really. It’s a complete revamp of what was Jack Quinn’s. The French doors and bronzed sign hint at high-end food and craft beer inside.
But this particular spot, along one of downtown Norfolk’s most bustling corridors, ran aground repeatedly since promising to open for business last year. The restaurant officially opens March 12, but owner Philip Smith and his brother, Glen, hit several snags that postponed plans to open in the summer, then for Oktoberfest and then during downtown’s Grand Illumination.
“Our biggest setback by far was the HVAC system, which needed to be completely replaced,” said Smith, 52, of Buffalo, NY. “We brought in a couple of mechanical engineer firms, the first of which said it couldn’t do the job. Then we had to hire an installer.”
Brick Anchor hit another snag in early February. The fire alarm system was rewired in the building housing the pub.
“We found out very quickly that there was no clear guideline or checklist for opening a restaurant in the city,” said Smith, who has worked in the corporate world since retiring from the Army in 2007. “There were things we didn’t know we didn’t know.”
Despite the delays, Smith and general manager Michael Gassett appear determined to bring something different to the area. Brick Anchor will offer 60 craft beers on tap (about half of them devoted to local and state brewers), with about 30 other selections in bottles and cans.
“One of the reasons I didn’t go with a franchise model was the restrictions on the types of beer I could serve,” said Smith, who considered opening something along the lines of a Brass Tap franchise. “I decided instead to create something that could inevitably be franchisable, yet welcome any new craft brewers in the area.”
Brick Anchor’s interior is industrial meets historic mariner, with doors you’d imagine on a sunken ship. It has a relaxed setting with high ceilings downstairs and plenty of ambient light. The pub has 6,400 square feet of space with an upstairs area for special parties and a retractable video screen. The venue also will host live bands and an occasional comedian.
The beer list will be a bit more user friendly than most brew pubs, Gassett said. “We categorized our selections by flavor profiles such as hoppy-floral, strong-spiced, dark-strong and fruity-lambic. That way the customer can zero in more easily on what types of beer they like.”
Brick Anchor also will offer what Gassett calls a Brick Fusion, allowing the consumer to have the flavor of the beer customized through an on-site filtering process using hops, grains or fruit.
If you’re familiar with beer mixing, such as the Black & Tan – mixing a pale beer with a dark one – expect that concept to be taken to another level. The bar will feature several Bier Mashups, with a selection of about 15 combinations.
Smith says he believes the business will draw the area’s condominium owners, who eat out frequently. Before settling on his menu, Smith sent out 2,500 mailers polling residents on their preferences.
“We received about 300 responses, which informed our menu and beer choices,” he said.
Brick Anchor’s food menu is not typical bar fare. There are short ribs, roasted chicken, yellow fin tuna and a seafood potpie on the entrée list. For vegetarians, there’s an asparagus and four mushroom risotto on the menu. Entrees range in price from about $13 to $25.
There are seven salads on the menu and several small-plate selections, including ricotta gnocchi and lobster-shrimp ravioli. There are several sandwich options, charcuterie plates and four dessert choices. Prices for these run between $9 and $14. And for $30, you can take part in a rotating beer-paired three-course menu, which will change weekly.
All food choices, including desserts, come with beer-pairing suggestions.
Smith said he made sure to have wings on the menu as well – and for good reason. “Anchor” in the venue’s name has a double meaning: not only a nod to the naval heritage in the area, but also to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, home of the original Buffalo chicken wing.
If that wasn’t enough of eat and drink, Brick Anchor will have about 30 specialty cocktails, a modest wine selection, and you can build your own Bloody Mary.
The pub is also developing a mobile app as part of a loyalty program. There will be levels of membership, patron incentives and trivia questions for free beer. Also, you’ll be able to use the app to book reservations for beer dinners as well as click on a beer and get routed to its website where you can learn more about it.
Brick Anchor sits kitty-corner to Tap It Local, another beer house on Granby. Smith says he isn’t fazed by the competition though.
“If we build a loyal base, we’ll weather any storm,” he said. “The establishments in the area are more a force multiplier.”
Brick Anchor Brewhouse, 241 Granby St., Norfolk, Va
email: firstname.lastname@example.org I website: brickanchor.com