The Anchor has undergone many changes since 1936 — from a pub to a restaurant, to several new owners, new locations and new clientele.
But one thing will always remain the same — its famous Tomato Pie.
The pie features fresh dough, covered in garlic and an olive oil glaze, secret spices on a bed of mozzarella with fresh diced tomato, then Parmesan cheese and basil, with a brush of garlic butter.
The Anchor’s newest owner, Donley Moss, refuses to let the pie leave the menu — which makes sense, because it is his best seller.
“The Tomato Pie — I don’t understand it, but I’m not a tomato person,” Moss said. “Everybody is just so obsessed with the Tomato Pie. Everybody loves it.”
Joe Bonham, also known as “Poppa Joe,” created the Tomato Pie in the early 1950s, shortly after taking ownership of The Anchor and claiming it for more than 30 years.
“We started the pizza pie,” Bonham told the Gazette in 1991. “I didn’t know a pizza pie from an apple pie. Nobody knew what pizza was.”
Pizza was still new to Charleston at the time, and The Anchor was one of few places where it was served.
“I started out cold. Just kept experimenting, making sauce and having people to taste it,” Bonham said. “For a long time, I really didn’t like pizza, so I’d have to get people to tell me whether it was good or bad.”
At the time, The Anchor was more of a neighborhood hangout, the home of bigwigs and blue-collar workers.
While the pub was quite special, his pizza quickly became a staple of the namesake.
In 1985, the pub was forced to vacate its location in Kanawha City to make way for an Exxon gas station.
“The recipe will just have to go with the building,” Bonham told the Gazette in 1985.
But his pizza pie legacy lived on, and Moss hopes to keep it a favorite in the valley.
He reopened the restaurant in late May with his husband, Josh, and is the previous owner of Kylie’s Kitchen on Washington Street.
Moss closed the mom-and-pop shop after about a year and a half to spend more time with his daughter, Kylie.
“I was working open to close, and then I was literally sleeping in my office on weekends, so I closed it because I wanted to be with her more,” Moss explained.
However, Kylie will soon begin pre-K, and he felt ready to take on another restaurant.
When he saw The Anchor was for sale, Moss discussed it with Josh, whose family members were regulars and knew the food was popular.
“I knew that this place did really, really good business, and I said, ‘Let’s go for it and let’s give it a shot,’” he said. “It was a very good idea, it’s doing good business.”
The restaurant is located at 3315 Kanawha Blvd. East, next to the Budget Host Motel near Malden.
The current site was opened in 1998 by previous owner Bill Arthur. He ran the restaurant at a Kanawha City location since 1985.
Arthur was the sixth owner of The Anchor, making Moss the seventh.
“The Anchor torch has been passed six times, and the light from that torch has touched millions of people in this town,” Arthur told MetroNews in 1998 when he reopened the pub as a restaurant.
Moss said the majority of his customers have been regulars at The Anchor for many years.
“The food is amazing and it tastes identical to when the old owner [Arthur] had it,” Moss said. “I’m doing really good with keeping the recipes the same.”
Moss spent time with Arthur learning the recipes and plans to keep the menu mostly the same. However, he does plan to add desserts.
In order to prepare for the restaurant’s reopening, Moss said he spent about a month cleaning and organizing the space to his liking, though he has kept the decor the same.
“I wanted to keep it the way it was,” Moss said. “It’s been around for 80-some years and, just because I’m some young person, I didn’t want to come in and change it all. I wanted to keep the old history and bring new with it.”
Moss plans to grow the business into an all-around family-friendly environment, complete with arcade games.
“When you come in, I want you to feel like family,” he said. “I want to get to know you.”
The Anchor is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and deliveries are available. Call 304-925-9902.
Reach Jennifer Gardner at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1230 or follow @jenncgardner on Twitter.