Midtown's booming bar scene has a new arrival that promises to be a little different from some of the larger, very popular concepts that are currently dominating the neighborhood. Wooster's Garden opened quietly Wednesday night on Milam in a location near long-time Vietnamese staple Mai's with a simple goal.
"We have one true direction. That's to educate people about craft beer and craft cocktails," partner Rusty Delk tells CultureMap. "We want to be the non-snooty, non-pretentious place for people to learn."
Wooster's strives to achieve this goal in a variety of ways. On Tuesdays, the bar will host classes led by brewers, distributors and other experts in all things boozy and fermented. Topics wil range from styles of beer to the differences between bourbon and Scotch.
"We want to be the non-snooty, non-pretentious place for people to learn."
A chalk drawing on the wall shows the many different varieties of ales and lagers. Delk hopes customers will see it and start to understand how whatever they're drinking is connected to another beer they might want to try.
Delk is well-suited to the task. He worked as a specialty leader in beer, wine and cheese at Whole Foods; his background also includes a stint as a kitchen manager for expansionist taco chain Torchy's.
Full of reclaimed wood and repurposed materials, the new bar space has a clean, modern look with a variety of seating areas. A floor to ceiling sliding glass door runs the length of the space, or patrons can sit at either picnic tables or cabanas on the patio. Inside, a variety of seating options are able to accommodate large and small groups. Delk describes the atmosphere as "a smidge below elegant."
"We're trying to give to people the idea that this is Mid-trose. We want to appeal to both Midtown and Montrose," Delk explains. Asked about what aspects appeal to each neighborhood, Delk says that "the visual are Montrose; the cocktails are as well. The beer selection is Midtown: all craft beer. No domestics."
What about the substantial, 30-plus space parking lot that's a welcome addition in the cramped neighborhood? "The parking is almost Waco it's so good," Delk says with a laugh.
On the beer side, the 49 craft taps are divided up between local favorites like Karbach and Buffalo Bayou, Texas mainstays like Real Ale and national brewers. "How do you say no to North Coast Brewery," Delk muses.
Former Kata Robata beverage director Steven Salazar created the cocktail menu. Salazar originally left Kata to join the team at Anvil, but left when his doctor discovered a heart valve problem that's exaccerbated by stress. After taking some time off, "I'm feeling great and helping to train everybody," he says.
Delk has given Salazar a partnership in Wooster's, and they have plans for additional projects down the road, "but we'll talk about that another time," Salazar says.
In addition to applying the Anvil ethos of using fresh juices and updating the cocktail menu seasonally, Salazar has also committed to having at least one beer cocktail on the menu at all times. Currently, it's a drink he calls "Fizzled Tropics" that blends rum, lemon, lime and pineapple with a Belgian wit ale.
A selection of 10 wines by the glass and a tidy menu of "upscale bar food" like sandwiches and cheese plates rounds out Wooster's offerings, but the focus is squarely on beer and cocktails.
Thursday marks the first time Wooster's has announced it's open to the public, but December 11 has extra importance for Delk — it's also his birthday.
Wooster's Garden is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.