Surprise! Bobby Heugel and Peter Jahnke Are Opening A 25‑Seat Bar In Downtown Houston
Bobby Heugel of Anvil Bar & Refuge, The Pastry War and other Houston bars just dropped a bombshell. With no preliminary announcements, he says he and Peter Jahnke are opening a bar called Tongue-Cut Sparrow, with a soft opening starting next week. Jahnke (a can-do kind of guy who has not only been an Anvil bartender but a butcher at Revival Market and Underbelly as well) will be general manager.
However, don’t go rushing over there yet. The bar is flat-out not available to anyone except family and close friends until Wednesday. At that point, Tongue-Cut Sparrow, which Heugel is calling “an ambitious formal cocktail bar and event space,” will be in soft-opening mode through the following Saturday. Of course, Super Bowl week in Houston certainly adds complications to the mix, so the official opening is on Wednesday, February 8.
There are only 25 seats in the bar. “We have a lot of people who have been supportive of us over the years and we really, really hope that they will understand that we can’t get everybody in at once,” said Heugel. To help control expectations yet accommodate people, half of the seats will be reserved and half will be first-come, first-served. To reserve a seat, call or text 713-321-8242.
If you were fortunate enough to attend the Japanese bar service at Anvil Bar & Refuge last Valentine’s Day, you essentially got a preview of what to expect from Tongue-Cut Sparrow. The cocktail focus is strictly classic and Heugel thinks the space is perfect for the concept. “Rather than retrofitting a space to fit what [the concept] is, this really is built around that type of service,” he said.
Also, don’t worry if you’re not dressed to the nines. “We will dress up for you, but we never expect our guests to dress up for us,” said Heugel on Facebook.
He elaborated by phone, “I don’t like dress codes in a city that has historically used dress codes to deter different minority groups from frequenting their bars. So, I’m opposed to dress codes in Houston. When we choose to not have dress codes, we’re saying that it’s not necessary for any bar and that de-legitimizes policies that are holding our city back.”
Sixteen classic cocktails, “done exceptionally well,” will be featured on the drink list. “We’ll have glassware that Houston has never seen, with accessories that we brought back from Japan. Every glass will be extremely frozen, with perfect ice from Alex [Gregg] at Ice Age,” says Heugel.
Attention to detail does not equal pretentious service. “Something that bars around the country are lacking is humility when it comes to service,” said Heugel. “By focusing on classics, we’re trying to remove the focus from ourselves and say that our goal is just to provide you a perfect drink and a space that focuses on service. We don’t need it to be our original cocktail. We don’t need to try and put the focus on us as bartenders. The focus is on you.”
There will be no food at Tongue-Cut Sparrow but there will be complimentary bar snacks. (The truly ravenous might consider stopping in at The Pastry War before or afterward for some excellent pork tamales.)
For those not in the mood for cocktails (we don’t understand, but okay), the bar will also have “classic styles from France for wine and local offerings for beer,” according to Heugel. Some very nice Champagne will also be on-hand for those who want to celebrate special occasions like job promotions, anniversaries and birthdays.
Despite the nature of the space, don’t call it a speakeasy. As quoted in a press release, Heugel asserts, “Speakeasies didn’t have Instagram accounts, and it isn’t 1928.”
Wondering about the significance of the name? We were, too. It is that of a Japanese fairy tale, which you can read online. To make a short story shorter, it’s about the importance of grace and hospitality—and how some people get exactly what they deserve based on their actions towards others.
Tongue-Cut Sparrow will be open Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to midnight and Thursdays through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. It’s also available for private events seven days a week. Email for more information.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.