It’s been a long time coming, but the husband-and-wife team behind Belltown’s respected cocktail bar, Rob Roy, and the new (and already lauded) No Anchor beer bar are finally ready to roll out a tropical sibling. Chris and Anu Elford’s Navy Strength is ready to serve you summer in a glass starting on Thursday.
The light-filled, tropical space next door to No Anchor is the Elfords’ take on a Tiki bar, with thoughtful yet approachable drinks and a food menu somewhat reminiscent of a “1950s backyard barbecue,” as Chris describes it.
“This whole thing could be like a Fourth of July Tiki-themed party,” says Chris. “It’s not a full-on Tiki bar, because that’s already been done. And we like making things our own.”
The establishment can seat 95 at bar stool and tables — much bigger than No Anchor. The finishing touches are still being put on Navy Strength’s space, including the arrival of live jellyfish to populate two small tanks built into the wall behind the bar.
The drinks menu is separated into three sections, starting with “Tropical.” This section includes six original cocktails, like the namesake Navy Strength, described on paper as a “mysteriously silky concoction of cognac, rum, roasted tropical fruit, and bitters,” and the Amulet’s Glow, “a romp through the tropics on a sailboat, with a basket of guavas, a bottle of pisco, and a jug of mezcal.”
“We take modern flavors and squeeze them through a Tiki lens and see what comes out,” Chris says.
The middle section of the menu is dubbed “Travel,” and its theme will flit from country to country, borrowing flavors and inspiration from around the world. The opening lineup pays homage to Anu’s Indian roots, with cocktails that feel thematically appropriate for the bar but also push the limits a bit. The Masala Coffee Grog, for example, boasts “a fiery blend of rums, coffee grog batter, and spices;” it’s joined by a garam masala whiskey Collins and a chai old fashioned.
The third section offers classic Tiki drinks, for patrons craving a mai tai or a planter’s punch. The entire drinks menu will change every six months.
There’s often a lot that goes on behind the scenes of each drink, including modernist techniques, that aren’t elaborated about on the menu. That means you can nerd out with your bartender should you choose, or you can just sit back and enjoy a well-made cocktail without getting into the minutiae. And that’s the ethos of Navy Strength, which, like No Anchor, involves significant forethought but neither feels needlessly ambitious or assertive, nor lacking in substance.
Don’t worry — there’s a food menu, too. The “sneak peek” version of chef Jeffrey Vance’s menu, available at launch, includes smoked clam dip, beef heart tartare with taro chips, fish-sauce Caesar, a curry rice bowl with pork belly, a barbecue duck sandwich on a sweet Hawaiian roll, and a crispy pork belly sandwich.
For now, the food menu is a bit limited as the team warms up, but expect a full menu roll-out as soon as this weekend. The cuisine skews lower-key than that of No Anchor, where Vance is also in charge of the kitchen. Still, meals here promise to be memorable; after all, No Anchor was a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in this year’s prestigious James Beard Awards, and a less-ambitious approach for the food doesn’t mean the kitchen will be slacking off.
“It’s not as adventurous as the menu next door, but the food will still be beautiful,” Chris says. “We want this to be the type of place where people can let their hair down.”
Navy Strength puts its twist on happy hour, too, visiting the same country featured in the “Travel” category. In this case, there’s an “Afternoon Tea”-themed menu, served from 4 to 6 p.m., involving a tea-style punch service and tea sandwiches.
Chris and Anu have quietly been working on an additional project, too: Navy Strength Coffee and Juice, an espresso and juice bar that lurks behind the jellyfish tanks. You can enter from the street, or from the building’s lobby. The cafe space adjoins the open kitchen and will be open during the day before Navy Strength turns on the lights, so you’ll be able to watch the team at work. And you can sip juices that make use of the fruits and syrups that also appear in the cocktails.
Chris also anticipates selling wraps and salads, but the space isn’t ready yet — he’s still waiting on an espresso machine.
The Elfords have been waiting a while for this project to wrap; they originally announced No Anchor and Navy Strength in December 2015, and had hoped to open both last summer. But they struggled to fund the projects, and Navy Strength, in particular, saw significant delays. With the help of family and friends, though, the Elfords pulled the financing together, and they’re especially proud of the finished product.
“I’m excited to work at both of these bars for the next 20 years,” Chris says.
2505 2nd Ave Suite 102, Facebook page. Open Monday to Saturday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.