Patrons of Anderton's Restaurant & Oyster Bar probably thought their ship had sailed when owner Robert Anderton closed the 50-year-old Memphis institution in 2005. Local foodies and hipsters alike mourned the loss of the campy seafoam green decor, the pirate ship bar, and those expertly shucked oysters on the half shell.
The bar, the murals, and the lighting fixtures that adorned Anderton's have a new home, thanks to an interior designer, an auction, and some really, really great timing.
Jim Marshall, a Midtowner who'd spent the last two decades in the design business, was burned out. He'd toyed with the idea of opening a true neighborhood bar, "the kind you see everywhere in New Orleans," but the elements hadn't come together. "I knew the key to a successful restaurant and bar would be finding the perfect space. I didn't want anything in a strip mall or anything downtown," he says. "I'd looked, but it just wasn't happening." That all changed in April 2006, when a Realtor friend called with a new listing at 2559 Broad, the former home of the notorious late-night bar the Beer Joint. The place needed work, Marshall concedes, "but it was the deal of a lifetime, so I bought it. I had no clue what I was going to do with it."
Two months later, Marshall stopped by Anderton's, where an auction of everything that could be hauled out was under way. "I had no intention of buying anything," says Marshall. "I was just popping in out of curiosity."
An hour later, he was the owner of the Anderton's bar, as well as the lighting fixtures, and later, the sailor murals that adorned its walls. "Again, it was a great deal, and I thought I'd fix everything up and resell it later," he explains. "In the meantime, I had to find a place to store this enormous bar I'd just purchased, so I hauled it over to my new building."
Jim Marshall had just accidentally created the bar of his dreams.
"When I got the bar in, it looked as though it had been made for the place. Sometimes, I guess, you just have to get hit over the head with your own idea to realize what you've got."
Armed with the basics from Anderton's, Marshall and a team of builders and contractors rehabbed the space from floor to ceiling. Eleven months later, Marshall was ready for his close up. But first, the place needed a name. "I envisioned Broad Street as a waterfront, and this place as a safe, protective inlet. Hence, 'The Cove.'"
Marshall and his staff held a soft opening in December, expecting a handful of people to show up. "We didn't advertise, it was just word-of-mouth. But by the end of the night, the place was packed."
And busy it has remained. Perhaps it's the pirate-chic decor, the Anderton's nostalgia, or the friendly service that keeps the Cove jumping. Perhaps it's the old-school cocktail menu, which includes Rat-Pack-era favorites such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned, as well as creative concoctions such as the Lotus Blossom — a blend of rum, lime and lemon juices, orgeat, and Benedictine, adorned with a fresh orchid — that wins hearts and minds. Maybe it's the oysters, shucked by Chuck Williams, who manned the oyster station for so many years at Anderton's, or the movie nights Marshall hosts each Tuesday. More than likely, it's a combination of all these things.
Whatever the reason, The Cove's neighbors, mostly artists who live above their studios, are happy to see a new business bringing people back to the once-deserted area.
"Opening here has really given this area some buzz, which is a great thing. Business is good, and that's good for everyone. I think a lot of people come just to see what we've done with the old bar, and others come because it's new and different," explains Marshall. When Broad was closed off [from traffic] for so long, the area really suffered. The Beer Joint attracted the after-hours crowd with all the trappings that brings — not particularly a good thing. I think they're happy to see people coming back to the area, and the fact that The Cove is also a place where they can have a civilized cocktail and a meal and enjoy themselves is just icing on the cake."
Of all the people who've spent an evening — or many — at The Cove, Marshall says Robert Anderton's daughter Lisa's recent visit was particularly memorable. "She got tears in her eyes when she saw what we'd done. It was a sweet moment." M