New Downtown Bar

Worth Watching: New addition to downtown bar boom in historic building focuses on classic cocktails

Worth Watching: New addition to downtown bar boom focuses on cocktails

Houston Watch Company downtown bar Erik Bogle
Co-owner Erik Bogle shows off his strawberry shrub. Photo by Eric Sandler
Houston Watch Company downtown bar
A look down from the balcony towards the first floor. Photo by Eric Sandler
Houston Watch Company downtown bar
The back bar will grow over time. Photo by Eric Sandler
Houston Watch Company downtown bar
A safe occupies one wall of the women's restroom. Photo by Eric Sandler
Houston Watch Company downtown bar Erik Bogle
Houston Watch Company downtown bar
Houston Watch Company downtown bar
Houston Watch Company downtown bar

Downtown Houston's bar boom shows no signs of slowing down. In the last few months, the bar scene has grown beyond its home on the 300 block of Main with new arrivals like Henke & Pillot in Market Square, the duo of The Commoner and The Boulevardier in the former Clutch City Squire space, craft beer joint Bovine and Barley and the relocated Barringer Bar.

Last weekend, another new establishment has joined their ranks.

 "Our plan is to be the new Warren's," Bogle says. "Maybe not to replace it, but to add a second Warren's to the neighborhood." 

Meet Houston Watch Company. Located in the lobby of the Bayou Lofts on Franklin St., the bar is named after a retail establishment that occupied the space 100 years ago. Co-owner Erik Bogle is a veteran bartender, with stints at places like Rudyard's and Catbird's. Bogle met his business partner Ryan Clark when he left the hospitality industry for the stability of oil and gas, but both men decided to ditch their office jobs and open a bar together.

"I'm happy to be back in the bar business," Bogle tells CultureMap. "It's like a homecoming for me." 

Inside, Bogle and Clark performed the restoration work themselves; they've had the keys to the property since August, but the renovations took time. Improvements include removing paint from the oak-paneled walls and carpet from the wooden stairs. Both the railing along the second story balcony and the tile floor are original. The upstairs features a lounge seating area as well as chairs purchased from the Petroleum Club auction.

The women's restroom features a two-ton safe that originally stored watches (I knocked before entering to grab a picture).

For now, Houston Watch Company's focus is on delivering well-executed classic cocktails, including four variations on an Old Fashioned made with different base spirits (rye, sotol, rum and bourbon). Bogle and Clark have plans to grow their offerings over time with more housemade ingredients, but patrons are already responding to two things they're making.

The bar serves a strawberry shrub made with fruit that Bogle and his wife picked during a visit to farmers market favorite Wood Duck Farm in Cleveland, Texas. Bogel's coffee bitters have proven so popular that the rum Old Fashioned may come off the menu for a bit in order to allow him to make more to meet the demand. 

Five taps feature craft beer, which is supplemented with a tidy selection of bottled beers that on Sunday included the highly coveted Saint Arnold Bishop's Barrel No. 9. Former Mark's sommelier Cat Nguyen is helping craft the bar's wine list. 

During its soft opening, Bogle says most of his customers came from either the 100-plus unit loft building above him or neighboring offices. He and Clark are certain enough they'll be able to build on that support that they purchased the space outright, condo-style, rather than sign a lease and risk increases. 

"Our plan is to be the new Warren's," Bogle says. "Maybe not to replace it, but to add a second Warren's to the neighborhood."