July 21st, 2009
Anvil – Bar & Refuge: Where Forgotten Cocktails Go to Thrive
In 8 Words: Hand-Crafted, Sazerac, Rye, Hemingway, Concoction, Traditionalist, Exposed, Temple
Rarely does a bar open in Houston that falls completely outside my paradigm. When we began preparing for The Loop Scoop experiment, we cast a wide net in regards to bar types. Even with 20 classifications, I feared that I had not cast a wide enough net. Upon arrival at Anvil, I immediately knew that my fears were true. In order to truly appreciate the place, I give you one piece of advice: forget everything you ever thought you knew about bars. Accepting that little nugget is integral to your understanding of the experience at Anvil – Bar & Refuge.
Navigating the slow and sometimes perilous curve of Westheimer near the traffic light at Mandell, you will recognize Anvil by the single neon blue tube that traces it’s eave. In its former incarnations, the address has played the role of tire shop, daiquiri factory and most recently, a bar called Slider’s, before transforming into it’s current state. It is fair to say that the regulars of the aforementioned Slider’s will find nothing familiar about the newest resident, as the space has benefited from a thorough face lift.
There is a small parking lot across Windsor that is shared by Anvil and its attached-at-the-hip neighbor, a lounge called Etro (which we of course will experience soon). The lack of parking is a bit of a hurdle. Beware the warning signs posted. The tow trucks crouch around the corner, eager to flee with your illegally parked vehicle. If you have to park a couple blocks away, do not be troubled, the walk is worth it. I recommend finding a spot next to Cherryhurst Park on Missouri to leave your car.
Once you do find parking, follow the undulating sidewalk along Windsor all the way to the patio gate on the Westheimer side of the establishment. Don’t try to enter through the locked gate on the opposite side, a mistake I’ve seen too often. If you arrive after 10PM on the weekend, you’ll probably encounter a line a few people deep waiting to get the nod from the doorman. The line moves quickly and serves to keep the crowd by the bar manageable rather than making the venue seem more exclusive.
The rest of your night at Anvil will be one completely invented and composed by the owners, who will be waiting behind the bar they welded into place. They also fabricated the tables and customized the lighting in order to design the entirety of the experience. The name, Anvil, truly embodies the aesthetic of craftsmanship and creation. The owners have sculpted their ideal vision of a bar so that they could present it to you as proud artisans. You experience this all before you even manage to order your first drink.
The owners/operators are self-proclaimed “drink freaks.” A simple glance behind the bar at the wall of amber-glowing bottles and it’s easy enough to buy into that title. Never before have I seen a bottle of rye grace a bar in Houston, let alone the seven or eight here. Rye was something I had only encountered through Hemingway protagonists.
Thankfully, dispersed throughout Anvil are menus providing a helpful key to their specialties. Most are foreign to the eye of the unlearned bar patron. On my first visit to Anvil, ushered in by the recommendation of a friend from high school, I found my favorite. The Dark and Stormy was a drink that immediately struck out at me (it has since received the Anvil original twist and is named the “Border Stormy”). Not since my year in St. Croix had I even heard someone mention the D&S. After a patient wait for my handcrafted drink, I was back on the crystal blue water of the Caribbean reliving a fantastic day boating in the British Virgin Islands
Your order may not send you into such throes of nostalgia, but it will touch something much more than your taste buds. The selection of liquor is vast and the creativity of the bartenders is unmatched. This is not a place to order Jagerbombs or Heinekens. I have a hard time utilizing the term “mixology” as an explanation of the art that Anvil embodies with their product, but it’s difficult to find any other way to describe it.
Anvil has even put a spin on ordering a beer. Twelve taps stand at attention behind the bar with only a number to differentiate them. On the wall to the left of the bar is a chalkboard telling you what brew to expect to pour from the spigot and the next keg to be tapped in it’s place when that one runs dry. The list is always revolving, so don’t develop a favorite too soon. Trust the judgment of the men and women serving you that the next arsenal of ales and stouts will be more than adequate.
The drinks will definitely take a swipe at your wallet. The art of the perfect drink or pour does not come cheap. Beers range from $6 to $12 and the specialty drinks are similarly priced. Anvil does have a selection of small bites available as well, but to be honest, I haven’t made my way past the first page of daily alcoholic offerings.
Anvil is quickly becoming a favorite option for a group of my friends and it doesn’t seem to be losing too much steam as a common suggestion for a place to meet on the weekend. For a night of sophistication; drinking a Sazerac or Pimm’s Cup, or just to unwind with a serving of Eau de Vie de Poire, Anvil should be one of your targets.
Where – Montrose (1424 Westheimer, Houston, Texas 77006) View Map
What – Shrine to Potable Concoctions
Wear – Class It Up, But Casual Will Get You Through The Door Too
Who – Anyone Willing To Trust A Master Bartender
How Much – Reach For The Deep Side of the Wallet
When – 5:00PM-2:00AM Every Day
Web – http://anvilhouston.com/
Tweeters – Follow Bobby
Bloggers – Drink Dogma