SCHENECTADY — You know you’re in Schenectady when the fish fry place has pierogies on the menu.
Anker’s Fish House on Altamont Avenue has pierogies and much, much more. There’s fish, mostly fried, served on rolls or as dinners with sides; also fish dinners broiled and baked. You’ll find chowder, and steamers in season. Add country fried chicken and a long list of munchies, from crab cakes to hushpuppies.
The takeout menu doesn’t list everything. Wherever you turn inside the restaurant there are more offerings on chalkboards and poster board.
One sign touts rice pudding and cakes and pies by the slice. The daily specials board one recent day featured oyster po’boys and and broiled salmon.
A fish fry on a roll is $5.10; the fish and chips goes for $6.25 (small) and $8.25 (deluxe). A lobster roll is $19.50, with the note next to it reading “MKT price.” Ten chicken wings go for $9.25. On weekdays, the lunch special is $9.99 for a fish fry meal, with fries and drink.
The Anker’s cheerful seashore decor includes buoys, lots of colorful nautical rope, a life-size swordfish on the wall and a smaller one in the logo — even portholes along the side of the building. You can eat inside at one of the spaced aluminum tables, or outside on the covered front patio. We elected to bring dinner home. It was no worse for the drive.
There were folks waiting to pick up their orders when we arrived and a steady stream of people flowed through while we waited. Anker’s food is made to order. At 6:15 p.m., some of the specials, like stuffed shrimp, were sold out. Staff and guests all wore masks, and everyone was congenial.
We came home with three bags of food. The order was exactly right: two dinners, two desserts and lots of sides. We stashed the food and lit the fire, and had a cocktail before dinner.
Husband Eric started with the creamy clam chowder ($3.25), with diced potatoes, celery and carrots, and small chunks of clam, “or it could be bacon,” he said.
I was thrilled to see Anker’s sign out front that read, “Anker’s Fish & Chicken House” because there is nothing I love more than fried chicken. I ordered a three-piece meal ($11.25) of one breast, thigh and choice of wing or drumstick. “I love wings,” I told the nice person who took my order. And perhaps consequently, there was an extra wing in my order.
Anker’s chicken was extra brown and crispy, with a delicious shell-like coating that encased the pieces and kept the meat moist. I ate the crispy wings first, then tried the breast to be sure the meat there was moist as well. It was, and it was again the next day after I heated it up in the microwave. For breakfast the next day, I heated up the thigh in the toaster oven to keep the coating crispy.
I chose onion rings (50 cents extra) and french fries for sides. The rings were breadcrumb-coated with sweet onion inside — not outstanding, but good enough to finish as leftovers.
The crinkle-cut fries weren’t salted and they got limp on the ride home. They didn’t revive as well as I’d have liked: In the toaster oven the next day they got oily and didn’t crisp up. But there was plenty of other fried food that I loved, like corn fritters.
I seldom see corn fritters ($5.50) and couldn’t pass them up. My mom’s deep-fried corn fritters made from the Betty Crocker recipe were legendary. These were a decent, smaller approximation, hushpuppy size and shape with soft, eggy dough and lots of whole kernel corn. Mom served hers with maple syrup — why, I couldn’t tell you — and Anker’s fritters had a sweetness to the coating as well. I drizzled some maple syrup over for old time’s sake. We really enjoyed them.
Eric ordered a baked haddock dinner ($17.99) with butternut squash and rice pilaf. The fish was draped over a scoop of shrimp and crab stuffing, topped with sliced green onion and served in a buttery sauce. The portion weighed 14.4 ounces, almost a pound. “More than generous,” observed Eric. I ate a white flake of fish that came off when I transferred it to a plate. Coated in buttery sauce, it was delicious.
Eric said Anker’s stuffing was dense and moist. He didn’t like the haddock as much as I, and thought it needed more flavor. That’s the thing that makes haddock so versatile, I think. His first choice, stuffed shrimp, was sold out. “It was good,” he decided.
The butternut squash was gingerbread-sweet, creamy and smooth, which made it go down quite easily. He liked it very much, as he did the rice pilaf made of white and wild rice with bits of colorful vegetables.
He also finished the piece of cornbread that came with my meal, downing it with plenty of butter. It wasn’t at all crumbly and had a nice firm texture, but he thought it could have been more sweet. Sweetness is a northern construct, said my friend from Tennessee. It’s not a requirement.
We shared a slice of carrot cake the next day. It was a moist, tasty cake made with cinnamon and other spices, chopped walnuts, raisins and bits of carrots. We liked it a lot; Eric loved the cream cheese frosting, which was too sugary for me.
It took another day to get to the cheesecake. “How much of this do you want?” asked Eric, when I had a taste. The thick, graham cracker crust tasted of cinnamon and nuts; the cake was creamy and dense, and browned on top. “Good,” said Eric, who polished off the rest.
Anker’s gets points for packaging the meals carefully. I watched as the fried chicken was placed on foil, put into a Styrofoam takeout container, topped with more foil, and holes poked in the top of the container to let out steam and keep it crisp.
The tab for all this food, much more than we’d normally order, came to $49.97. I also left a tip.
Anker’s does something new I’ve seen twice in the past week: pass on a service fee of 4% to cover credit card costs. I don’t blame them, but heads-up. There is an ATM available if you don’t want to use plastic.
Anker’s has been in business for more than 60 years, so let’s keep them going. You don’t want the only fish fry around to be a sandwich from the fast food place.
Anker’s Fish House
WHERE: 420 Altamont Ave., Schenectady; 518-382-8842
WHEN: 12 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 12 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday through Tuesday. Hours may vary.
HOW MUCH: $49.97 for dinners, desserts and lots of sides
MORE INFO: Mastercard, Visa, Discover. Service fee of 4% with credit cards. Children’s meals available. Parking lot off street.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected]
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