Oil broker Bill Gulsby, 55, has felt compelled to visit Upper Kirby's newbie gastropub Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen (2712 Richmond) more than once in the last seven days. His reason for this might surprise you.
"You could eat off of the floor of the bathroom," jokes the beyond-outgoing Gulsby. "I didn't," he adds, "but I'm considering it."
He and his company are sitting on Queen Vic's patio, apparently a popular pastime these fall evenings. Even on a weekday night, most of the tables are occupied.
The phrase "Keep Calm and Dine On" is painted among the filigreed wallpaper on one wall of the bar's smallish anterooms. It's an adaptation of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster the British government designed during World War II, and a fine summation of the entire establishment.
Queen Vic's decor — lots of dark wood, a brick accent wall, some of those nifty Edison light bulbs — is rich and obviously well thought-out. It feels like it's an important part of the bar, which is a handy feat for a new place to accomplish.
The patio is sublime, and the staff is as accommodating and intelligent as both the drinks and the food selection all but necessitate. The crowd, typically older residents of the well-to-do surrounding neighborhood, is mostly warm and friendly, and seems right at home whether clad in shorts or casual dress shirts with askew ties.
Let's ask Gulsby what he thinks.
"This place is like Anvil (1424 Westheimer) but without the attitude," he says, referring to Robert Heugel et al's acclaimed drinkery. "Anvil attracts the 25-year-olds, and they ruin everything. The bartender promised me that won't happen here."
If neighborhoods were people, Upper Kirby would be someone like Martha Stewart: self-concerned, conservative and kind of snooty. You might expect any new bar there, especially one frequented by area residents, to be the same.
Somehow, though, Queen Vic isn't. Lots of people have been saying lots of nice things about the gastropub since it opened this past September and, as far as we can discern, most of them are true.
"I love it," says 46-year-old first-time visitor Tammy Reese. "One, I like the company I'm in. I wanted to go to a place where I could hang out and talk with the people I'm with, and this place has an environment conducive to that.
"And also because the bartender is hot. He met my needs," she adds about her drink order...we think.
Reese does have one tiny gripe with Queen Vic, though.
"The parking isn't great," she says. "It's doable but not fun."
Upper Kirby didn't necessarily need a new bar to open up to help establish its identity. That would be like saying Target needs to open another store to really get its name out there.
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But now that Queen Vic is open, the neighborhood is better off. This place is plenty royal.
Admittedly, our general knowledge of jazz is about as impressive as our ability to speak Cantonese. But you don't need to own more than one Miles Davis album (Kind of Blue, no doubt) to understand that Pasadena's Henry Darragh is an exceptionally good jazz musician. He plays just about everything — piano, trombone, heartstrings — and sings in the same affable, earnest manner that Michael Bublé used to before he started reading about how awesome everyone thought he was. See Darragh in person Friday at Chelsea Wine Bar (4106 NASA Pkwy.) and online at www.henrydarragh.com. Good stuff.