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Rumors are swirling that new downtown bar will reunite Oxheart duo

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Pretty Salty Cotton Exchange Justin Yu Vann
This TABC notice has been posted in the window of the Cotton Exchange Bar on Travis St.  Photo by: Eric Sandler
Pretty Salty Cotton Exchange Justin Yu Vann
It's a historic building just north of Market Square.  Photo by: Eric Sandler
Pretty Salty Cotton Exchange Justin Yu Vann
What's going on behind these doors? No one's ready to say yet. Photo by: Eric Sandler
Pretty Salty Cotton Exchange Justin Yu Vann
Pretty Salty Cotton Exchange Justin Yu Vann
Pretty Salty Cotton Exchange Justin Yu Vann
The Cotton Exchange Bar & Lounge (closed)
Get Directions - 202 Travis St. Ste. 100 Houston

One of the disappointing aspects of Justin Vann's decision to leave his role as Oxheart's sommelier and pursue his PSA Wines consulting business was that it separated Vann from Oxheart chef/owner Justin Yu. The Advanced Sommelier and Food & Wine Best New Chef have been friends since high school, and their manic energy gave Oxheart, and the Money Cat brunch pop-up that preceded it, a manic energy that's been absent since Vann's departure. 

Maybe the change is mostly in my head. After all, the staff at Oxheart is still hospitable and welcoming, and Vann still helps picks the wines for the dining room. Additionally, PSA Wines has done good work, too; it's made The Beer Station on Richmond a place to find funky, off-beat wines and provided restaurants like Mala Sichuan and Banana Leaf with wine lists that are as sophisticated and polished as their cuisine.

And yet, part of me has always wanted them to reunite for a new project. When I caught wind of rumors this weekend, I began to do a little digging. 

Posted in the window of the Cotton Exchange Bar on Travis is a TABC application notice for Pretty Salty Apiaceae, LLC. Pretty Salty's registered agent is 06 Restaurants Inc, which is owned by Justin Yu. Apiaceae, according to Wikipedia, is the scientific term for the carrot family. Oxheart's name refers to a type of carrot. 

I presented the results of my research to Vann and Yu via text message. While Vann declined to comment, Yu wrote back: "We're opening a bar. We're too far out to say anything else definite though."

Maybe it isn't the casual, Money Cat-inspired brunch spot of my Houston restaurant dreams. Maybe it won't serve food at all. Still, a bar that the Justins are opening sounds like a place I want to drink at. That's good enough for now.

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