Danny Meyer knows that Anchovy Social, the rooftop bar his esteemed hospitality company is opening atop the Thompson hotel in Navy Yard tonight, has a name that will elicit chuckles. That’s exactly the point.
‘What a goofy thing to picture an anchovy drinking a cocktail,” Meyer says. “That is a goofy idea, but that’s where we’re going with it.”
“I think we want a bar that is much more about fun than it is about intellectual cocktails you’ve never heard of,” he adds.
The name plays into the loose, relaxed atmosphere that Union Square Hospitality Group is working to create at the 125-seat, indoor-outdoor space with a grand, wraparound view of Nationals Park and the Anacostia River. On the lobby level at Maialino Mare, the Roman-style, seafood-focused trattoria USHG opened a few weeks ago, the menu includes plenty of Italian names (spigola, mistacanza) for dishes that will merit further description for most guests. At Anchovy Social (221 Tingey Street SE), a short lineup of snacks, dips, shared plates, and pizza is almost entirely in English.
The menu, developed by hotel executive chef Jorge Chicas, had to follow a simple set of guidelines from Meyer, the hospitality figurehead behind Shake Shack and iconic New York brands like Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern.
“Something that I don’t need a knife and fork for,” Meyer explains, “that I can share with people, that makes me want to take another sip of my drink.”
Chicas, who most recently worked for chef Cathal Armstrong at hummingbird and helped José Andrés open Zaytinya and Oyamel, has responded with snack-size portions of marinated olives of potato chips flavored in cacio e pepe. The chef is making his own chips for now but working to source an Italian brand.
A section of dips and spreads includes all the expected ingredients, Chicas says, with roasted eggplant and melted cheese served with a focaccia crostini. A smoked trout dip that folds in mayo and sour cream comes with pickled Cipollini onions.
Heartier shared plates include deviled eggs whipped up with a Maryland blue crab filling, sprinkled with Old Bay, and served atop lemon aioli. Cherry-shaped peppadew peppers are marinated in olive oil, vacuum packed with Sicilian oregano, and stuffed with Spanish tuna and anchovies.
The bar’s namesake fish come from a tin for now, but Chicas says the bar will stock fresh anchovies when Meyer’s preferred variety hit their peak season. The tiny, salty fish show up on a shared plate — with fingerling potatoes and salsa verde — and with creamy Stracchino cheese on one of four slices of square, Roman-style pizza with a focaccia-like crust. At $48, a seafood tower is meant to feed four.
The cocktail menu includes a shareable thermos of hot toddies and a Bonfire Old Fashioned served with a smoking cinnamon stick that perfumes the whole bar. The Town Beach (bourbon, black tea, honey, amaro) was as popular order at a friends and family night. The Palumbus is a Mexican-meets-Italian riff on a paloma with aperol and St. Germain in addition to tequila, grapefruit, strawberry, lime, and soda. The bar is bringing in local spirits from One Eight Distilling and Don Ciccio & Figli.
Like all USHG properties, Anchovy Social has a no-tipping policy, incorporating the price of labor into its menu. So cocktails are $16 and beers are $9, but wines sourced primarily from Italy, Spain, and France are a reasonable $12.