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eat & drink
Imagine it isn’t easy for a bar to cater to the craft beer and cocktail crowd without alienating the Bud Light contingent. But Pour House, the new bar and eatery at 19th and Q in midtown (formerly the site of Whiskey Wild), just might have what it takes. Starting with an interior warmed by weathered wood, exposed brick and stunning Edison lights, Pour House is a come-one, come-all type of establishment that strives to please nearly everyone.
The egalitarian approach starts with the beer list. I haven’t seen a lot of menus out there on which Coors Light shares the page with, say, Ommegang Abbey Ale Dubbel. But this joint seems intent on being the sweet spot where both devotees of corporate beer and the artisanal-obsessed can find something to like. The selection of 100-plus bottles and draughts ensures that whether the mood calls for a Pabst Blue Ribbon or a Rodenbach Grand Cru, your drink awaits you.
Along with Vini Wine Bar in Davis, Pour House is one of the only bars in the area with self-serve tap handles. That’s right: You can pour your own craft beer or Jameson shots right at your table. (Within reason: A computerized system tracks and limits consumption.) It’s a fun novelty that’s sure to attract the curious and the gadget fanatics. Me? I’m old-fashioned: I’ll take a conscientious server over a DIY tap any day.
Whiskey lovers will delight in Pour House’s impressive selection (bring your reading glasses—the menu is 10 pages long), while fans of scratch cocktails will find much to love. Expect well-executed classics along with newfangled concoctions such as the Burnt Apple, made with Irish whiskey, housemade smoked apple butter, apple liqueur, lemon juice and simple syrup and topped with wheat beer. Who knew smoke and ice could marry so well?
Bar manager Jason Poole describes Pour House’s approach to cocktails as “quick craft,” meaning high-quality ingredients go into every glass, but with more make-ahead elements than at other craft establishments. One example: a barrel-aged Old-Fashioned in which the ingredients—orange peel and all—meld for six to eight weeks in an oak barrel. The result? A handmade drink with complex flavors that can be served up quickly and without fuss.
Where the front bar is open and airy, Pour House’s backroom bar has an illicit, speakeasy feel to it, with its ornate wallpaper, dropped ceiling and dim lighting. The sharp Prohibition-era garb of the bartenders—suit vests, fedoras, tweed caps—adds to the vibe. This mellower space is where special programs including Monday craft beer night and Wednesday whiskey club will be held, says Poole. There’s also an open-air patio just feet from the railroad tracks, cleverly outfitted with steel I-beam tables. Shots of Jack Daniels drop to $2 whenever a train rumbles by.
The kitchen at Pour House is operated by Coast to Coast Sandwiches, which draws largely from its food truck lineup of comfort foods. My pulled pork sandwich and sweet potato fries were pleasing enough, but the straightforward fare (salads, sandwiches, burgers), while tasty, doesn’t match up to the ambitious libations quite as well as it could. I have high hopes that Coast to Coast will feel freer to experiment over time to bring diners something unexpected.