From New Jersey-style burger-and-dog shack to upmarket grill house, St. Anslem is still kitted with a dust-bowl collection of rusty saw blades on the walls and light fixtures supplemented now with banners from an old Masonic temple. But the food these days is much more ambitious than cheese fries and artisanal brats.
Owner Joe Carroll (Spuyten Duyvil, Fette Sau) swapped out the griddle and fryer for a blazing gas grill and created a well-rounded menu, heavy on veggies, that combines Mediterranean, Asian and all-American flavors—the fiery preparation tying them all together. The kitchen aces the grill, adding wood chips like seasoning, moderating heat so the sear is always right for the job.
Among the many delicate, flamed small plates are charred fresh sardines with ponzu and pickled lotus root, littleneck clams drizzled in rich garlic butter, and miniature fire-roasted eggplants with fried goat cheese and honey. It's all smart and sophisticated but soulful, too.
The grill touches nearly every hot dish, and many cold ones, too—even the most unlikely ingredients benefit from at least a quick sear. A big, bracing salad of pea greens and long beans comes with delicious, smoky slabs of grilled halloumi. A bright spin on caprese combines creamy burrata with Greenmarket tomatoes kissed by the flames.
The main-event proteins, meanwhile, are just gilded enough to be interesting but not so encumbered you can't taste the grill. There's cool, minty yogurt enhancing a beautiful thick-cut lamb saddle, and garlic-steeped butter on a gorgeous whole trout.