Shaking Up the Bar at Provisions

Categories: Bar Beat

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
The War Room cocktail at Provisions. See more in this week's slideshow.
It felt somewhat incomplete writing up this week's cafe review of Provisions -- the casual half of dual-restaurant concept The Pass & Provisions -- without mentioning the bar program. After all, much of the large, multi-roomed space at Provisions is devoted to its sleek bar. And much was written of the program (not to mention the amazing wine program) when it first kicked off last September.

But the problem is that nearly all of the original bar staff is gone.

Aaron Lara departed first, and can now be found splitting his time between various projects such as the rather remarkable Ronin Cooking outfit in Bryan. Zach Adams is helping to open the new Clutch City Squire, a sort of downtown version of Grand Prize Bar on Main Street. Alex Gregg was recently hired as bar manager at upcoming ramen shop Goro & Gun. And bar manager Sebastian Nahapetian recently put in his two weeks at Provisions as well.

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Now, understand that industry gossip isn't my area of interest. And although all manner of information -- savory, unsavory, scandalous, boring or simply amusing -- makes its way to me, that's not what I'm interested in reporting as a blind item or otherwise. Because most of it is idle workplace gossip, not hidden sweatshops on the second floor of a restaurant or pâté made from mouse parts. Water cooler talk that's best left at the water cooler, ya heard?

So while I'm not terribly interested in the various reasons why each of these gentlemen has left, I was sad to see a bar program I was invested in lose a bit of its luster.

Half of my visits to Provisions kicked off with a clever cocktail from Gregg or Nahapetian or Adams, creative and sometimes boundary-pushing cocktails that perfectly mimicked the unconventional yet delicious food that chefs Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner serve to diners. The bar program fit seamlessly with the food in a way that is rarely encountered, especially in Houston. The most we usually hope for here is a thoughtful wine list with a considerate mind to back it up.

Provisions has that too, of course. And while the bar reassesses itself, it's sommelier Fred Jones' wine list that I've been leaning on -- and enjoying -- quite a bit. And in the meantime, most of those clever cocktails are still on the menu, although original creations such as the Switchblade Swizzle and The War Room -- a bitter blitz of a drink with Campari, Barolo Chinato, seltzer and orange oil -- have been sucked up to cocktail heaven. Will Provisions hire the talent necessary to keep creating these inventive drinks? Time will tell.

While the amazing food at Provisions certainly won't be affected by this shake-up, I do hope that everyone on the wet side of the house lands on their feet. The bar at Provisions was shaping up to be my favorite new watering hole in town. The selfish pleasure of being able to enjoy it side-by-side with one of my favorite new restaurants was just an added bonus.

For more on Provisions, read this week's cafe review or browse through our slideshow to see its warm dining room and bustling, colorful kitchen.


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Location Info

Provisions

807 Taft, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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17 comments
texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

Do they have a different bar menu if you just feel like eating at the bar? 

susanterrywilhelm
susanterrywilhelm

I must be one of the only people in Houston that is not inamored with bar concoctions.  I like my drinks pretty straight forward -- Crown & Water - lots of ice, crushed makes it even better.  When I visited the Pass, I was all ready for new creations from the kitchen, but really disappointed that they do not even offer you the choice between your standard and something they create.  For diners like me, and those that typically are with me, this is a major drawback.  We love to come earlier than our reservation, sit at the bar for a cocktail or two prior to our meal.  Unfortunately, we really didn't get to enjoy our bar experience, and believe me, Zach tried to win me over!

imissmrwalsh
imissmrwalsh

I don't understand the point of this article at all. But to say P&P is the only restaurant in Houston with a bar program that fits seamlessly with the food that is "rarely encountered in Houston" is insulting to some amazing cocktail programs in Houston. Maybe you should stop eating and reviewing the same 5-7 places at nauseum. Get out more, stop being a restaurant groupie and experience all there is to experience in this city. Pointless writing. I miss objective, informative food/cocktail writing!!

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@texmex01 Nope - it's the full menu, which is either really nice or slightly overwhelming depending on how you look at it.  :)  Some of the items on the menu work really well as bar bites, though, like the Ham o' the Day, any of the bread/cheese pairings, the pizzas (if you're there with a friend) or especially those Everything Chips with smoked salmon before they were taken off the menu. Hoping they make a cameo appearance every now and then...

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

@susanterrywilhelm You asked for Crown and water and they refused to sell it to you? What do you mean by not having a choice?

bentley35
bentley35

@imissmrwalsh

If you're looking for trendy and insular and uninsightful reviews, Houston seems to specialize in this form of media. The Press, to be sure and to its credit, isn't among that gloppy-sloppy group. Whether the coverage is coming from Katharine, Robb, or Alison Cook before him, the Press gets my vote for the city's best food & drink writing. 

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@imissmrwalsh p.s. I find the "you never review anything but trendy restaurants!!1!" argument particularly amusing, as people who bring that one to the table tend to conveniently forget about or overlook any coverage I provide of other, non-trendy places. Most notably in the last few weeks:

The entire Burgers Off the Beaten Path series: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2013/03/burgers_off_the_beaten_path_bl.php

Last week's review of Nazif's, a Turkish restaurant in west Houston: 
http://www.houstonpress.com/2013-03-07/restaurants/nazifs-turkish-grill/

The week's review before that of Charivari: http://www.houstonpress.com/2013-02-28/restaurants/dumplings-to-die-for-at-charivari/

Or the one before that of Mytiburger: http://www.houstonpress.com/2013-02-14/restaurants/mytiburger-shawn-salyers/

Or even recent blog posts like 10 crawfish dishes to try at a whole slew of non-trendy yet very interesting restaurants: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2013/03/peeling_is_for_suckers_10_craw.php

Restaurants near Hobby Airport: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2013/03/top_10_restaurants_near_hobby.php

Restaurants in the Third Ward: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2013/02/top_10_restaurants_in_the_thir.php

Or this profile of Joyce's Seafood & Steaks, a cool old place off San Felipe where I found some terrific Creole-Mex cuisine: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2013/02/discovering_a_new_old_favorite.php

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@imissmrwalsh Houston has 11,000 restaurants and counting. I can list off the number of restaurants that have amazing cocktail programs which integrate really well with their menu (Down House, Triniti, Haven, Hearsay, TQLA, Shade, Benjy's, Coppa and Line & Lariat just to name a few), and although it's a great amount of places -- it's ultimately a drop in the bucket of those 11,000 restaurants. That's my definition of "rarely encountered," although your mileage may vary.

Also, I'm not sure how I'm reviewing the same places ad nauseum I've formally reviewed roughly 150 restaurants since I started and never reviewed the same place twice. But again, YMMV.

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

@kshilcutt Cool, will have to check it out Monday afternoon, hate taking up a table if its just me....

susanterrywilhelm
susanterrywilhelm

They don't stock Crown nor many other high volume/major distillary liquors.  They focus more on the small batch.

NotBeingInsulting
NotBeingInsulting

@kshilcutt @imissmrwalsh I don't agree with this, I have definitely read some restaurant reviews where kshilcutt has mentioned she might review the restaurant again. Not saying I don't think she makes a significant contribution to the quality food Houston offers, or that this is a personal attack, or that her description of food isn't varsity level, but I have been reading Houston press for a minute now (8+ years). I think it was a Mexican restaurant.

essenvolljetzt
essenvolljetzt

@NotBeingInsulting  I think the Press has been reviewing our local restaurant scene since 1998 or so, and maybe Katharine has revisited and reviewed a restaurant that past Press critics reviewed, like Charivari recently. (Kudos for that btw). But I can't think of another off-hand, although I'm sure some restaurants that were the subject of past reviews have gotten coverage on the EOW blog. Then again, I see about 5-10 blog pieces per day, which aren't reviews, and range in subject matter all over the place, from new chefs and menus to new events that are upcoming or went down recently. Review overlap isn't a problem because it doesn't exist.

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