When you talk to restauranteur James Anthony Moore, you’ll note he’s a humble guy. So it’s natural that Anthony’s Grill (1622 St. Michael’s Drive, 560-8889) opened rather quietly in the St. Michael’s Village West shopping center, tucked away between Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Café and rob and charlie’s bike shop. It’s a minute space with a handful of two-seat tables with a safe, suburban-esque decor like you see in Weck’s. It’s wholesome.
And the unassuming nature is part of the appeal, like Moore himself—who left Oklahoma for Albuquerque 14 years ago to work as a supervisor for Hayashi Japanese Steakhouse. Today, Anthony’s Grill is one of the many pandemic projects formed in Santa Fe’s restaurant scene as traditional in-person dining shuttered across the state last year. When Hayashi temporarily closed following public health orders, Moore wanted to stay busy. In August, Anthony’s Grill opened to the public.
“I had a lot of idle time,” he tells SFR, “and I drew up a plan. What if I could do the same thing [as Hayashi] as a take-out and delivery concept? Serving something good, hot and fresh during such a time, and making it affordable for everyone, of course.”
Whereas Asian fusion options are numerous in Albuquerque, Moore saw a void that needed filling in Santa Fe, and one that would cater heavily to the local market. Much of Anthony’s Grill’s menu is gluten-free (minus the fried foods) and does not contain MSG, giving customers a chance to build their own Mongolian-style stir-fry without having to worry about the chemical stuff. Moore plotted a huge menu as well—all told, options add up to over 100 different possibilities across protein and vegetable choices like beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, tofu, squash, baby corn and bean sprouts. Try to choose between Anthony’s 10 different sauces, and you might find yourself haunted by what you didn’t choose. Mongolian, sweet and sour, red chili—they’re all there, among others, and they enhance abundant stir-fry options and more entree-style dishes like fried catfish and chicken wings, plus unexpected sides like hush puppies and fried okra. Moore made room for classic Americanized Asian foods, too, with crowd favorites like orange chicken and General Tso’s chicken.
“A lot of people love the catfish and fries and fried okra, and the wings,” he says when asked what’s most popular, “but I really like the stir-fry with all the different sauces. You can get a different flavor every time.”
For our part, we tried the crunchy chicken stir-fry with broccoli and a teriyaki sauce ($12.95), and a large stir-fry platter of chicken, grilled onions and mushrooms with fresh garlic sauce on a bed of lo mein ($15.95), still hot when we came to pick it up. The crunchy chicken held onto its namesake even after the teriyaki sauce was glazed over it. Seasoned to near-perfection and soft within the crust, it met brilliantly with the sauce for the right kind of tang with a balance of subtle sweetness. The lo mein never became soggy even as it waited for pick-up and through eating, and its garlic sauce partner wasn’t overly reliant on oil. Frankly, I didn’t even taste the oil in any of the dishes—no easy task, particularly in the high-volume, fast-paced takeout game, and the garlic sauce tasted like—get this—real garlic, not that gross fake powdery soupy stuff! The teriyaki and garlic were both complementary rather than overpowering and, all told, nothing from Anthony’s tastes drenched in salt or fat. And our dishes kept well. After all, what Asian-American takeout joint is worth its salt if you can’t get at least one leftover session out of the experience?
And then there are the apple egg rolls, something I’ve never heard of, but felt curious to try just for the novelty. Think of an apple pie that somehow feels and tastes as if it were rolled and fried, though rather than falling into the experimentally daunting world of fair food, it leans entirely on the apple’s flavors and sweetness with dashes of cinnamon. Moore lists these an an appetizer, though they could be a great little dessert if you haven’t found yourself stuffed from the main course.
And that’s only a few items into the menu. Anthony’s Grill has tapped into the very core of what we want or need from food service in times of crisis—like a pandemic. Moore’s workflow is no-fuss, fast and easily accessible with no big hubbub or demanding crowds, and there’s ample parking. When leaving the house becomes a risk, ease of use, quality of life and plenty of parking become huge deals. It’s proven popular for Moore, who tells SFR he’s been seeing plenty of repeat customers since he opened last summer.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for the community,” he says. “Without their support, this wouldn’t even be possible.”