The Anchor’s Gunther Bilali Skirmishes Over BlackBeard’s Anchor


Blimey! The Anchor, a go-to spot on the West Spring Street strip, is taking itself seriously … I think. Anchor buckos Gunther Bilali and Jason LaGarenne are obsessed with obtaining an anchor off Blackbeard the Pirate’s sunken vessel, Queen Anne’s Revenge. They’re willing to put their treasure chest where their mouth is and spend a million bucks to obtain it. Blackbeard, a notorious scalawag and Scourge of the Seven Seas, has been the subject of many books and films. After a couple of Yo-Ho-Ho’s he grounded Queen Anne’s Revenge off the coast of North Carolina in 1718. It was found, yep, down in Davy Jones’ Locker, in 1996, and 16,000-plus artifacts have been recovered from it, including the small anchor. This anchor was retrieved by a group of students last year. A larger one remains and has the Anchor Bar salivating for it. “We were all disappointed they couldn’t retrieve the bigger anchor, then we saw an opportunity for an incredible showpiece for the bar,” commented The Anchor Bar’s co-owner Jason LaGerenne. “We’re going to have to jump through some hoops, but I think our patrons will think it’s cool to Instagram.” Unless North Carolina has them walking the plank.
The State of North Carolina got wind of Anchor Bar’s attempt and said ahoy and then no way, we’re gonna blow these men down … maybe. The anchor in question is massive, at 13 feet by 8 feet. Anchor Bar wants it. A letter from the Attorney General of North Carolina, acting as any good landlubber would, laid down the law for our hearties, but before anyone could say Shiver me Timbers, Arghhh! or even Aye! a parlay, a possible compromise dependent on a "charitable contribution," was suggested. Maybe Anchor Bar and the State of North Carolina could be mateys! Will the good fellows of Anchor Bar heed this warning or, in the spirit of Blackbeard the Pirate, plunder the damn thing? I think Blackbeard would want it that way but alas, dead men tell no tales. I asked Anchor Bar owner Gunther Bilali to give us the scoop.
Blackbeard’s anchor … Who came up with this idea and how did they get anyone to take it seriously?
The prospect of acquiring the Blackbeard anchor was really the brainchild of my partner Jason LaGarenne, who’s a boat fanatic. Every time he comes back from the Hamptons he tells me we need a "real Anchor… a serious anchor." So when we started reading about the recovery of Queen Anne’s Revenge, we were fixated. 
Do you feel threatened that you got a letter from the State of North Carolina?
We actually thought it was funny that the Attorney General took the effort to send a formal cease and desist letter! However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At the end of their letter, they basically say that they are open to a charitable donation to support an excavation. We are going to re-approach and see if they’d consider loaning us one of the anchors as a consideration. We understand we can’t permanently hold it now, but I think there’s a gray area on a loaner.
The Anchor is … well, along with Ear Inn, the anchor of the neighborhood that once had Don Hill’s. I guess Sway is still there but different than in the Nur days. Has Anchor Bar changed with West Spring Street or is reliability in the brand a driving factor?
West SoHo is a funny area. Yeah, you’ve had venues like Don Hill’s come and go. I think there’s a mystique to the area that has the right combination of excitement and seediness. A certain kind of reveler likes the hideaway feel of this stretch.
This anchor thing will cost a million bucks. Is it worth a million bucks in publicity? At this point you’re getting that publicity without the outlay of loot. Are you that smart?
Plenty of venues spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on artwork, paint jobs, banquettes, and bars that age poorly within a year. You know this, Steve. I genuinely believe the Blackbeard anchor would be a priceless acquisition. 
What else do you giuys have going on? If you say Captain Kidd’s anchor I’m outta here!
We’re starting off a cool event series with Travis Bass and the crew at Kanon (vodka) which should be pretty sick. We’re also going to launching a nautical drink program involving old-timey coolers and house-made mixers. We will also have lobster rolls on premise through the summer through a Luke’s Lobster pop-up we’re launching this month. 
On a related note, on Tuesday June 12, Sailor Jerry Rum will celebrate Sailor Jerry Day, commemorating the day renowned tattoo visionary Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins passed. He’ be 101 years old. There will be 101 free anchor tattoos done right at 3 Kings Tattoos and a party at Matchless right across the road. Almost all the people I know in Williamsburg are sporting some Sailor Jerry flash, including me. It’s almost a rule or requirement to live here. I’ll be there.

New York Opening: The Plaza Food Hall

It’s been something of a rollercoaster these last several years for New York’s most storied hotel. But The Plaza’s unquestionable bright spot has been the Food Hall, the first phase of which was unveiled in summer 2010 as The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English. Now known as The Todd English Food Hall, the superstar chef’s section, with its widely popular Pasta Bar, remains an anchor. But now comes this impressive new expansion, which puts the totality of the offerings under the concise moniker The Plaza Food Hall.

Added to the existing culinary delights is the Tartinery French bistro, the retro Americana style Billy’s Bakery, the heavenly FP Patisserie by Francois Payard, as well as Kusmi Tea, Lady M cakes, La Maison du Chocolat, Luke’s Lobster, Pain D’Avignon, Sushi of Gari, No. 7 Sub, WIlliam Greenberg Desserts, YoArt (chic frozen yogurt!), Creperie NYC, and David Burke’s casual and cleverly named Burke in the Box. In addition to the epicurean glories, new lifestyle shops include Town and Country Living, the Plaza Boutique, and perhaps NYC’s most high-profile purveyor of petals, Gramercy Flowers. A living green wall brings a bit of nearby Central Park indoors, for those who prefer a bit of lovely with their yummy. 

New York City Will Be One Long Food Festival This Summer

It’s no secret: food events are all the rage. This couldn’t be truer than in New York, where dining alfresco has taken on a whole new meaning with the rise of food trucks, markets, and whole days dedicated to eating from little stands, festival or not.

Already this summer the New York Times has dedicated two articles to these events. In last week’s Sunday paper, they talked about the artisanal side of eating, small businesses, and the hunt to try foods first at these gatherings. The other one hit on the trend of music festivals turned in to food extravaganzas, the most recent example being the failed GoogaMooga a couple weeks ago (though props to them for refunding the VIP tickets). The complaint surrounding that event, and with a many food-centric gatherings, is waiting in line.

This problem isn’t so bad at weekly gatherings like Saturday’s Brooklyn Flea Market in Fort Greene or the all-food bazaar Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At the Flea, they have nibbles like vegan Faux Gras by The Regal Vegan, Sam Mason’s Empire Mayonnaise, and tiny cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery. The year-old Smorgasburg has more vendors than we want to list here, but some of my favorites include First Prize Pies, Rick’s Picks, and Kings County Jerky. You can also get your grub on at Hester Street Fair, which features lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster, artisan ice pops from La Newyorkina, coffee from Café Grumpy, and a whole slew of other bites.  

If you just want to hit up a bunch of seasonal food trucks, try the Red Hook ballpark in Brooklyn, an area famous for its taco and papusa stands. In Manhattan, the Highline has spattering of snacks you can buy as you walk along its lovely, urban-meets-organic path. Also, for you beach goers, nothing is finer for a beach body than stuffing your face with Rockaway Taco and DiCosmo’s Italian Ice at the famous Rockaway Beach in Queens.

As for up coming food, music, and fun festivals that you will probably have to wait in line for, June 9 and 10 brings the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in Madison Square Park. For a decade they have been hosting this meat and music fest. This year they have Jon Langford, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, and Southern Culture on the Skids to strike a cord as people chow on barbecue from the hottest spots around the country including Scott’s Bar-B-Que, Ed Mitchell’s whole hog roast, and Pappy’s Smokehouse.

Another event coming up is popular party host Dances of Vice’s Rockabilly Night Market at the DeKalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn on June 22, which will have music by Eddie Clendening and the Blue Ribbon Boys, plus tons of food from the vendors there. Governors Island also hosts food-happy events like their Cook Out NYC on July 7 and 8, which features a burger cook off, a kimchi eating contest, and lots of local craft beer.

So, go forth you hungry people and enjoy this popular way to eat outdoors, listening to music, and walking around our fair city. Is there something on your list this summer that we forgot? Please share and may the lines ever be in your favor. 

Five Music Festivals That Will Keep New Yorkers At Home This Summer

With Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza both coming up in the next few months, we’re afraid that our festival budgets are already maxed-out. But we here at BlackBook think there’s plenty more fun to be had and jams to be shared, and there are plenty of local music festivals this summer that will help us beat the heat and save some cash. No airfare or accomodation fees? We’re there—we just need to know where to go! Here are five upcoming events that will keep us having fun at home.

GoogaMooga: May 19-20, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park

Headliners: The Roots, Holy Ghost!, Hall and Oates, Fitz & the Tantrums

Special features: Food, food, and more food, including Momofuku Milk Bar, Kutsher’s Tribeca, The Spotted Pig, Dinosaur BBQ, Mile End, Vinegar Hill House, DuMont Burger, and for those health-conscious festival goers, Juice Press! Additionally, the festival will have a wine tasting tent featuring over 100 wines from around the world and a beer tasting pavilion featuring over 30 different domestic and foreign draft beer makers.

The gist: Eating Momofuku crack pie and drinking artisanal beer to the tune of “Rich Girl” sounds like my idea of a perfect Saturday.

Camp Bisco
: July 12-14, Indian Lookout Country Club, Mariaville, NY

Headliners: The Disco Biscuits, Skrillex, Crystal Castles, Atmosphere

Special features: Camp Bisco will feature three days and nights of music on five stages. Boogie away to top international dance acts as well as in the silent disco, where listeners tune in on wireless headsets. And the most fun part? Camping! Pull up in your RV or pitch your tent, and enjoy the fresh air of the great outdoors. Buy a VIP ticket for access to a VIP lounge and showers, plush toilets, and complimentary massages! VIP Platinum ticketholders get extra perks including a backstage Surf and Turf with members of the Disco Biscuits and other artists. I’m sold.

The gist: Camping in the unsullied upstate air, upbeat dance tunes, plush toilets, showers, and MASSAGES! What else would I need!?

: July 28-29, Randall’s Island

Headliners: The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg, TV on the Radio, Girl Talk, Cold War Kids

Special features: A silent disco will also be featured at Catalpa (seeing a new trend here?) There is also an Ultimate VIP Cabana and Hot-Tub Package for a group of ten with bottle service and other special accommodations. Frisky’s Church of Sham Marriages is setting up a basecamp within Catalpa. Looking to get married during the festival…or at least fake-married?? This 60-foot inflatable church is available for all of you lovers out there to get hitched. Great way to test (read: scare) your boyfriends, ladies! Don’t worry: rings and veils are provided! There’s also a raggae stage procured by High Times Magazine, which is sure to provide chill vibes. 

The gist of it: Snoops Dogg performing his seminal Doggystyle in its entirety, celebrating the sanctity of marriage, and cabanas with hot tubs, Catalpa will surely not disappoint.


Governors Ball Music Festival: June 23-24, Randall’s Island

Headliners: Beck, Passion Pit, Kid Cudi, Modest Mouse, Fiona Apple, Chromeo

Special features: An impressive roster of food offerings, which includes Luke’s Lobster, Asia Dog, The Taco Truck, Food Freak Grilled Cheese, and Hill Country. Lawn games include ping pong (presented by Spin New York), beer pong, bocce ball, and croquet. There will be a silent disco room (Yes, again!). VIP ticketholders will receive massage services, shaded seating, and more. The kicker? No overlapping sets! 

The gist: Eating Luke’s Lobster while getting a massage while playing beer pong whilst listening to Beck. I’m up for multitasking.

Electric Zoo: August 31-September 2, Randall’s Island

Headliners: Steve Aoki, Skrillex, Benny Benassi, Tiesto, David Guetta, Above and Beyond, A-Trak,

Specials features: Last year 85,000 people attended this special event and we are expecting a large turnout again! VIP passes include access to air-conditioned bathrooms, plush furniture, complimentary food, and an open bar. For all of you on a budget, Electric Zoo is offering a payment plan for ticket purchasers. You can now pay in installments over time. How thoughtful!

The gist: Three days of house music, electronic vibes, and thousands of festival-goers fist-pumping on Randall’s Island. Tiesto under the stars? And pay later? Done.