Restaurant Review: Restaurant Review

North Loop neighborhood bar touts creative cocktails and an unusual wine list


207 E. 53rd, 512/614-6683,
Mon.-Thu., 4-11pm; Fri.-Sat., 3pm-12mid; Sun., closed
Restaurant Review
Photo by John Anderson

Drink.Well American Pub

207 E. 53rd, 614-6683
Open daily, 4-11pm

Husband and wife duo Jessica and Michael Sanders opened this laid-back neighborhood spot in March 2012, embracing a unique concept that focuses on Amer­i­can craft cocktails, wine, and beer. Judging from the crowds I've encountered on every visit, their idea has translated into an undisputed favorite neighborhood hangout. To achieve their dream, the Sanders assembled an expert team, starting with local spirits and cocktail expert David Alan, who teamed with lead bartender Tacy Row­land to source high-quality, mostly American spirits (many rare and hard to find) and design their seasonal specialty cocktails.

While the spirits are decidedly top-shelf, the prices and the playful nature of the combinations are not. Try summer refreshers like the Dead Man's Party ($9), a twist on the tiki classic "Zombie" made with white, rye, and bourbon whiskey, cherry liqueur, fresh lime juice, cinnamon syrup, and Bitter­mens Tiki bitters. Be careful with El Diablo ($7), though. This concoction of tequila, fresh lime, blackberry cordial, and ginger brew disappears in three thirst-quenching pulls of the straw. For those who like it boozy, their version of the Vieux Carré ($9) will put a smile on your face. We love their use of Kold-Draft ice, which keeps the drinks perfectly cold without watering them down. From the new summer menu, the Fear and Loathing ($9) is a drink after my own heart: tequila, Wahaka Espadin mezcal, cherry brandy, Paula's Texas Lemon, fresh lemon, Angostura bitters, Bad Dog Bar Craft's Fire & Damnation bitters, and bitter lemon soda.

The wine program is Jessica Sanders' baby. The certified sommelier is proud of her American-only list that features few of the usual suspects. Instead, you'll find cool and unusual picks like the 2009 Salmon Run Pinot Noir from the Finger Lakes appellation in New York, or the Barboursville Vine­yards Pinot Grigio 2010 from Monti­cello, Virginia. She also features small production, offbeat selections that change frequently. To my great surprise, I was able to enjoy a glass of Arizona Stronghold's Tazi White 2010, a lip-smacking blend of Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay from the twisted mind of Maynard James Keenan. Yes, the frontman for Tool.

The food at Drink.Well is simple, but everything we've sampled has been outstanding. We were wowed by a plate of charred brussels sprouts ($5), seasoned with crispy bacon, sherry vinaigrette, and sea salt, and a sinful dish called Crack and Cheese ($9): orechietti pasta doused in cheese sauce with duck bacon and cracklins. We hope those will return when the weather cools off, but for now, there are new summer items to try. An order of tangy and spicy Buffalo wings ($6) with fresh veggies and homemade blue cheese sauce was as wonderful and messy as the best we've had, and the Texas Kobe burger ($9.50) was a true revelation. Cooked to order at a perfect medium rare, it came piled with cheddar, lettuce, chopped tomato, house made pickles, smoked onion marmalade, and a side of paper-thin, house-fried chips. Next time we'll make sure to try the crawfish-stuffed fried green tomatoes and the Texas gulf shrimp salad. If you are of the dessert persuasion, check this out: the only dessert served here is a homemade Twinkie, in flavors that change daily and seasonally, including a fantastic tres leches. They only make 24 of them each day, so get them while you can.

We love Drink.Well for the drinks, the food, the atmosphere, and the superfriendly yet professional and knowledgeable service. We'll come back as often as possible. Now, can someone please open a similar place in the 78745?

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Drink.Well, Jessica Sanders, Michael Sanders, David Alan, Tacy Rowland, Twinkies, Kold-Draft ice

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