El Ancla brings Mexican fare to Camden Public Landing

By Susan Mustapich | May 14, 2018
Photo by: Susan Mustapich El Ancla, a new Mexican restaurant on Camden Harbor recently opened by kitchen manager Brent Foster and Bobby Morgan, of Flatbread Company in Rockport.

CAMDEN — The owner of El Ancla, a Mexican restaurant at the Public Landing on Camden Harbor likens the launch of his newest restaurant, to a month-long soft opening, in preparation for the summer season.

Bobby Morgan, owner of The Flatbread Company franchise in Rockport, came up with the plan to serve wood-fired Mexican food, after deciding to set up a food bus in Rockport Harbor. "I didn't think it was such a great idea to be serving pizza a half mile from my restaurant every day," he said, "so I wanted to start serving a different fare out of the bus." He was thinking burritos, and about the need for a burrito/Mexican restaurant in the area. That led to Morgan calling a friend who owned an empty restaurant space on Camden's public landing, which features a brick oven.

"It was just a phone call, and the phone call turned into this," he said, as he gestured around the cozy restaurant, where kitchen staff preparing to open for dinner were filling the space with enticing aromas.

He talked to friends in the restaurant business and found a chef, and through word of mouth, discovered Adrain Arvizu, who he calls "an incredible asset." "He's from outside Mexico City and he has an unbelievable background, cooking from his mother and grandmother's recipes and techniques." Arvizu was first hired as a consultant and is now part of the El Ancla team, Morgan said.

The turnaround time from concept to opening for El Ancla was about a month and a half, he said. Morgan, who has been in the restaurant business with Flatbread for 20 years, has done this before, opening the pizza restaurant in Rockport four years ago, in about 30 days. That startup included the building of the restaurant's massive wood-fired pizza oven.

Since El Ancla's doors opened on Cinco de Mayo (May 5) business has been steady, but Morgan sees a grand opening in the future, when the restaurant is fully staffed. He would like to have a staff of 20, and when he achieves that, hopes to be open seven days a week.

Currently, the restaurant's hours are limited by the number of staff Morgan has been able to hire so far. El Ancla is open for dinner Tuesday through Friday, lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday and closed Mondays. At the end of the restaurant's first week, Morgan said he did not yet have a sign, or a phone. He is still training staff, and together they are still figuring out the menu and learning how to plate all of the food, he said. He has not advertised yet, and business has all been by word of mouth.

Morgan sees hiring for restaurants and seasonal businesses as a problem in Midcoast Maine, Portland, and throughout New England. He knows he needs the staff to be ready for July and August. Staffing Flatbread was also a challenge, but "Now that I have an established restaurant there, I have a great staff and that's what I'm waiting for here."

El Ancla is located at 7 Public Landing. For more information, see El Ancla's Facebook page.

The colorful interior of El Ancla, a new Mexican restaurant on Camden Harbor. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Fish tacos (Photo by: Kelsea Anderson)
Spicy Margarita (Photo by: Kelsea Anderson)
Mexican street corn (Photo by: Kelsea Anderson)
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