First Taste: Beer is the main attraction, but Witchcraft's burgers showcase thetrademark magic
If there was any dark magic involved with the quick changeover of Dragon Bowl to Witchcraft Tavern & Provision Co., it might be in how many tables owner Ken Bridge was able to comfortably fit into the small corner space.
Witchcraft has a more comfortable vibe than its predecessor, with tufted, high-backed black banquettes lining the walls in addition to a community table and other seating. Distinctly dim lighting from pretty lanterns reinforce the bar vibe.
A chalkboard craft beer menu installed over the former sushi bar advertises the contents of 20 taps featuring everything from locals and seasonals like Buffalo Bayou's 1836 and Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale to Shmaltz' HeBrew Hop Manna and Arrogant Bastard.
Unlike many of the new restaurants that have taken up the new gastropub mantle, the beer selection is the main attraction here.
The fish tank survives, but the rest of the decor pays homage to classic rock music, with photos of Jimi Hendrix and a crazy-awesome collage assemblage of vintage amps wrapping around one wall corner.
Unlike many of the new restaurants that have taken up the new gastropub mantle, the beer selection is the main attraction here, supplemented by a brief menu rather than the other way around. Among the small plate offerings we tried the pot stickers, an unexciting holdover from the Dragon Bowl days, as well as the bone marrow.
The latter dish was served with two smallish cylinders of bone and several pieces of toasted French bread, a presentation that quickly became comical when our repeated attempts to fish more than two tiny spoonfuls of marrow from the center of the bone came up empty. At $9, it was perhaps the most expensive toast I've ever eaten.
Just when I was about to write off Witchcraft as a decent place to drink — but maybe not to eat — my burger arrived. The half-dozen burger options make up about a third of the Witchcraft menu, so the "gastro" part of this gastropub really hinges on whether they are decent. As it turns out, the thick, slightly juicy pub-style burgers are actually more than decent. They are pretty great.
I tried the Stilton burger, with hickory maple bacon, sautéed mushrooms, balsamic onions and Stilton blueberry cheese on a fluffy, buttery bun. Considering how thick the 80/20 Angus patty was, the piquant Stilton cutting through all the rich flavors on the burger was a pleasant surprise, and the way the hints of sweet blueberry waxed and waned only made the experience more exciting.
I've been in a bit of a burger rut, but this was the best one I've had in a while — even if I'm not quite ready to name it a contender for best in Houston buzz.
Not everything at Witchcraft hit the mark, but it is early yet, and with the basics of beer and burgers covered, it seems like it's off to a good start.