Visit Decatur Bar & Pop-Up Factory for a New Way to Dine in Houston
Decatur Bar & Pop-Up Factory is now open at 2310 Decatur in the former Beaver’s space and Houstonians are happy that this pop-up is going to be around for longer than an evening. Decatur is the brainchild of Axelrad owner Adam Brackman and James Beard Award-nominated chef Monica Pope of T’afia and Sparrow Bar and Cookshop. The innovative restaurant concept that earned the attention of the New York Times features a chef-in-residence who does not yet have a restaurant for six months. The experience allows the chef to run a restaurant kitchen and showcase his or her culinary skills before opening a brick-and-mortar business.
Houston has no shortage of talented chefs, and Decatur is an excellent way for the next generation of up-and-comers to bring their cuisines to the public and hone their skills to someday have restaurants of their own. The first chef-in-residence is Evelyn Garcia. She attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York and then gained experience at Spice Market under Jean-Georges Vongerichten and at Masak, a Singaporean restaurant under chef Larry Reutens. In addition, she has staged in kitchens around the world to develop expertise in a variety of cuisines. In 2014, she landed a win on the Food Network show “Chopped.” Closer to home, in Houston she’s known for her pupusa pop-ups at Axelrad and, on Saturday mornings, at Memorial Villages Farmers Market.
Decatur is two experiences in one. Walk in without a reservation and enjoy Garcia’s small bites, such as roasted beet hummus, five spice pork rillette, chicken liver pâté, rice crisp with crab, pork larb salad or cheese and charcuterie boards, alongside cocktails crafted by Leslie Krockenberger, a finalist in the prestigious USBG and Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender competition and winner of CultureMap’s 2018 Tastemaker Bartender of the Year award. Some of her and her staff’s must-try standouts include the Banana Stand, a play on the Old-Fashioned featuring banana chip-infused Jack Daniels and the Fords G&Tini with Ford’s gin and Marcona almond orgeat for a touch of sweetness.
Krockenberger also created a rotating “Asian Persuasion” cocktail menu to play alongside Garcia’s offerings. Don’t pass up the Thai Islay Tea, which combines Monkey Shoulder scotch, Olorosso sherry, Lapsang Souchong tea and tapioca pearls. The name implies the use of a peated whisky from the Islay region, but this cocktail actually gets its smokiness from the tea leaves, which are traditionally smoke-dried over a pinewood fire.
The full-fledged experience, though, is enjoying Garcia’s tasting menu in an intimate, beautiful dining room with only 30 seats. (Of course, cocktails can be ordered from the bar to pair alongside.) The pop-up dinner costs $65 excluding drinks and gratuity. Reservations are available online and can be made up to a month in advance.
Decatur is even more than a rotating pop-up venue with a killer bar program though. It also hosts interactive, educational events such as cooking classes, guest chef pop-ups and other workshops. The special event schedule is on Decatur’s website. Also, Decatur is working on and soon announcing Free-Co-Working, where entrepreneurs, neighbors or even cube dwellers who need a change of scenery can grab a seat at the bar to use the WiFi and enjoy complimentary bottomless coffee.
Decatur Bar & Pop-Up Factory is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m. For additional information or reservations, please call (713) 389-5008 or visit the website.
Josh Armendariz is the beer and cocktail writer at Houston Food Finder. He can often be found on a stool at your favorite bar, sipping a hoppy craft beer and talking about the Astros with anyone who’ll lend an ear. Follow him on IG @drinkwithjosh.