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Culture / Foodie Events

A Cooler Icehouse

New Heights Bar In a Historic Gas Station Revolutionizes a Texas Tradition

BY // 01.21.16
photography Jenny Antill Clifton

When reflecting on the classic Texas icehouse, beer often comes to mind. But bourbon takes center stage at Eight Row Flint, an icehouse of sorts, and the latest venture from chef Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber, the duo behind Coltivare and Revival Market.

“I love the idea of the icehouse culture in Texas, but most of the icehouses that I’ve visited or that exist don’t pay a lot of attention to detail,” says Weber.

More than 100 bottles — mainly bourbon — are the start of the bar’s burgeoning collection. Hence the name of the Heights restaurant, which refers to the first variety of corn used in the making of whiskey in the United States. Weber, a champion of the storied libation, elevates Eight Row’s cocktail program with the addition of proprietary single-barrel bourbons, complete with custom-made pouring spouts.

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Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek and Old Grand Dad only scratch the surface of Eight Row’s bourbon list.

“Before 1880, the normal way that bars would get bourbon from Kentucky would be in a barrel,” explains Weber. “Growing up watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood films, a guy walks into a bar and there’s always barreled bourbon on the back bar. So we wanted to have a little fun with that.”

But bourbon isn’t the only swig on tap. Pre-batched carbonated cocktails — known as draft swigs (think tequila and tonic) — are accompanied by 16 craft beers. More than 50 bottled brews and frozen cocktails, like Eight Row’s signature margarita and frozen gin and tonic, round out the bar’s offerings.

“We definitely didn’t want to go super craft cocktail bar, because that tends to slow things down. The idea here is to get a really high-quality drink to your face as fast as possible and do it in a variety of different mediums,” Weber says. “Over the last 20 to 30 years, frozen drinks have really gone through a rough time, but they’re delicious. Also, it’s Houston, so it’s literally hot all of the time. So we wanted to rethink the variety of frozen drinks.”

Holiday Gifting

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A bourbon-centric theme flows throughout Eight Row Flint, which is located in what once was a Citgo gas station. Woodworker Steve Walters outfitted the space, which features a bar front fashioned of donated staves from Buffalo Trace, Jim Bean and Four Roses; highboy tables covered with barrel tops; and pendant chandeliers made from barrel stays.

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Cocktail trio: From left, Eight Row margarita made with Agavales overproof tequila, Pierre Ferrand dry curacao, lime oleo, fresh lime, egg white, and salt; frozen gin and tonic, a mix of Citadelle gin, grapefruit sherbet, lime sherbet, mint cordial and Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic; and tequila and tonic, a carbonated drink made with Lunazul tequila reposado, Bibatio Pacharan Sloe, clarified lime, St. Germaine, Fever-Tree elderflower, ras al hanout bitters

“I used to have a house off 27th St. and Shepherd Drive. I would come down Yale whenever I was driving to Revival and pass this Citgo gas station that had been around for 50 years,” Weber recounts. “I used to think, if this ever goes on the market I want to talk about it.”

In the establishment’s parking area, food is served from the bar’s namesake food truck. Chef de cuisine Stephanie Harmon offers tacos wrapped in organic heirloom-corn tortillas made in-house, alongside guacamole, white queso topped with caramelized onions, salsa and chips. Personal favorites include the Brussels sprouts taco topped with radish, charred onion, crema, queso fresco and cilatro; the roasted chicken taco, which is topped with cabbage, pickled onions, cabbage and guajillo; a Berkshire pork taco made with tamarind, charred scallion, cabbage and lime; and the house-made guacamole, which contains nothing but avocados, onions, cilantro, salt and lime.

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