Houston Cocktail Bar Anvil Tests Opening While Plans for Reviving Tongue-Cut Sparrow Evolve

Bobby Heugel at Anvil

After closing the doors for several months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, two of Houston’s most acclaimed cocktail bars are working on reopening plans. Anvil Bar & Refuge has tentatively reopened while plans are underway for Tongue-Cut Sparrow to temporarily relocate to the former Penny Quarter space. Coffee shop and wine bar Penny Quarter closed due to the pandemic earlier this year.

Anvil Bar & Refuge

Bobby Heugel
Bobby Heugel of Anvil Bar & Refuge, Tongue-Cut Sparrow and more. Photo by Julie Soefer

Bobby Heugel, who co-founded Anvil Bar & Refuge, is testing the bar’s reopening over the next few days before making a decision on whether it’s a permanent reopening or a temporary one. “I wish I had firmer answers to this, but we don’t. We’re open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. this weekend. We will see how this weekend goes and then make a decision about hours and days going forward,” he said. 

anvil logo
During Anvil Bar & Refuge’s downtime, Letterset designed a new logo for it that nods to the building’s existence as an audio shop from the late ’50s through at least 1968. Courtesy image.

To adjust to the COVID-19 era, capacity is being reduced to “below public standards to be cautious”, according to Heugel. In addition, a six-table patio has been established for those who wish to enjoy their drinks and bar bites al fresco. Those planning to head out to Anvil should be prepared for the reality that capacity is reduced. “We are first-come, first-serve at Anvil with limited seating. We aren’t doing reservations at Anvil, but will be doing them at Tongue-Cut Sparrow,” said Heugel.

While the Anvil Bar & Refuge, which opened in 2009, is credited for spearheading the return of craft cocktails, Heugel recognizes that it can’t stand still. For example, guests will find that over the COVID break, it acquired a new, clean-lined logo, designed by Letterset and inspired by the audio shop that inhabited the building in the late 1950s and 1960s. 

“We really just wanted the logo to match the building’s construction era and also move past the ‘throwback/antiquey’ font that dominated cocktail bars a decade ago. Anvil was always a more modern cocktail bar as opposed to a tiny hipster speakeasy,” Heugel explained.

An audio store that once stood in the space currently occupied by Anvil. Archival photo courtesy of Bobby Heugel.

Also: for the first time, guests can support the bar not only by ordering its legendary cocktails but also by purchasing branded merchandise online. There’s a hat, T-shirt and sticker all bearing the new Mod-inspired logo. (Cocktail nerd alert: big, beautiful clear ice cubes can also be purchased online for home use.)

During the next few days of this test opening, to-go orders of bottled cocktail purchases are being suspended, but Anvil intends to resume these next Tuesday. 

Tongue-Cut Sparrow

Tongue-Cut Sparrow
Tongue-Cut Sparrow is temporarily relocating to the former Penny Quarter space, which allows for more social distancing. Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

Houston’s least-secret speakeasy for the past few years, Tongue-Cut Sparrow, usually nestles above Heugel’s agave and tequila bar, The Pastry War. (As Heugel noted upon opening: real speakeasies don’t have Instagram accounts.) With limited patrons allowed at a time, knowledgeable bartenders, a bowl of complimentary Japanese candy for every party and moist towels, Tongue-Cut Sparrow’s visitors received a level of hospitality not found anywhere else in the city. The exquisitely prepared cocktails and impeccable service resume again after Thanksgiving — but, temporarily, in a different, much bigger location. 

Starting on Wednesday, November 25, Tongue-Cut Sparrow, under the watchful eyes of head bartender Tom Hardy (no, not the actor) will serve out of the former Penny Quarter space (and before that, Etro), just behind Anvil at 1424 Westheimer.

The current pandemic and size restrictions of the original space were big factors in the move. “We are opening Tongue-Cut Sparrow in the Penny Quarter space for the time being until the virus subsides and it is able to return to the small room downtown,” said Heugel. “We simply aren’t able to do socially distanced service in a room that size.”

Heugel has also confirmed that unlike Anvil, Tongue-Cut Sparrow will be accepting reservations. Check out the bar’s website closer to November 25 for more information.

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