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Anchor Sushi Bar Is a Little Bit of NYC in Dallas — Lure Fishbar, to Be Exact

Customers of both noticed similarities. And then they started texting photos.

The interior of a restaurant full of people looks like the inside of a boat.
Is it Lure Fishbar or Anchor Sushi Bar?
Mercer Hospitality
Courtney E. Smith is the editor of Eater Dallas. She's a journalist of 20 years who was born and raised in Texas, with bylines in Pitchfork, Wired, Esquire, Yahoo!, Salon, Refinery29, and more. When she's not writing about food, she co-hosts the podcast Songs My Ex Ruined.

It all started with a few text messages to Lure Fishbar owner John McDonald, from some of his friends and customers. They were in Dallas for various reasons — business, to catch a Mavericks game, what have you, over the past few months. New York-based McDonald tells Eater Dallas that these folks were confused, and a little shocked. They wanted to know if he owned a place in Dallas called Anchor Sushi Bar that they were unaware of.

“I’d never heard of it, and I’m not upset about it,” McDonald says. “I think it’s hilarious. Not only did they do the floor, the tried to copy the roster chandelier, the table lamp, the exact bar stool — not even a different color, the same bar stool. The carpets — it’s remarkable.”

And, it turns out, the Vandelay Hospitality team and the design firm who created Anchor Sushi Bar, Foxcraft, did take inspiration from Lure Fishbar.

“Of all the restaurants we visited, Lure was the one from which we took the most inspiration,” Patrick Hallberg, Vandelay Hospitality’s chief marketing officer told Eater Dallas in an email. “We loved the yellow-striped nautical floors and the cadence of combining two distinct words into a name, and we took inspiration from them placing an onion ring atop their burger, which we thought was really cool (though our recipe is significantly different, as we use wasabi cream and Thai chili aioli.)”

McDonald noted the onion ring atop the burger when he spoke to Eater Dallas, as well as the similar dim sum dishes. “We started doing dim sum 10 years ago, and they magically have dim sum that looks almost identical with the red sriracha dotted on top. That in itself is nothing, there is dim sum in a million places. But it’s funny that it’s part of their program, and also something we do.” He also notes similarities in the painted floors with a stripe, the use of teak, the table lamps, and even the layout of the back bar.

Hallberg noted that the stools and red lamps in Anchor Bar were sourced from a subcontractor if its design firm and made in Dallas. He also shared other places from which Anchor Sushi Bar drew inspiration, including Ralph Lauren stores, James Bond movies and visuals, Terry O’Neill photography, the Upper East Side of New York City, Nobu Malibu, and Sugarfish — “As well as standard Vandelay design elements that we carry throughout all of our brands, including plaid carpet, chinoiserie, lacquered wood, and brass light fixtures.”

Lure Fishbar, which as been open for 20 years, was designed by Serge Becker, a man the New York Times calls a “nightlife impresario” in the city and one of the minds responsible for notable locals including the Mercer Hotel, the closed and iconic-in-its-era Tunnel nightclub, Joe’s Pub, The Box, Volume Club, the Beekman Hotel — a murderer’s row of NYC nightlife spots. In addition, Becker has designed hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs around the world.

“I don’t claim to own anything that’s architecture,” McDonald says. “I don’t want to make it seem like I invented the specific aesthetic by any means, it’s just that no one else had done it.” He goes on to note that the team behind Lure Fishbar did historical research and had specific references in mind when they created it. “A friend of mine [who saw the photos online] who used to be at Architectural Digest told me it was fascinating ... It almost makes me ask if they have the architectural blueprints.”

And it seems that’s exactly what the people behind Anchor Sushi Bar intended. “We are happy that people see some similarities!” Hallberg says. “Lure has elements that are powerful, notable, and beautiful, and we admire Mercer Hospitality tremendously. They are one of the best and most imaginative hospitality groups in the business, and we’re proud to pay homage to their institution.”

While it was a bit disconcerting for McDonald, he ultimately appreciates the homage. “It looks like they did a great job of it. I’m happy it’s a well-executed version and not a poor man’s version.”

Correction: November 20, 2023: 8:49 a.m.: This article has been update to reflect that Becker is not a co-owner of Lure Fishbar.