This week, I stopped into Royal Oak to chat with Brant, a.k.a. "The Marshall." Inspired by some Civil War documentaries he had been watching a few weeks ago, Brant cultivated a mustache and chops, adorned his vest with a badge, and got behind the bar. He said that as the night wore on, folks started yelling "get shots from the Marshall," and it just sort of stuck. "Plus," he said, "for some reason, people have a hard time with Brant. B-R-A-N-T. It's just one letter off from a more common name, but I guess 'The Marshall' is just easier."
I got to know a little bit about Royal Oak and The Marshall while sipping one of his signature drinks, the Ginger Slap.
Where are you from? Dallas-Fort Worth. I moved to Houston in '06.
How long have you been bartending at Royal Oak? I started a few weeks after it opened, in December of 2010.
What are some other jobs you've had besides bartending? I spent about a decade in telecom. I really had a passion for wireless because it's always changing. The nerd in me really loved that part.
How would you describe the bar's aesthetic? When we first opened, one of my regulars said "it's like a Montrose ski lodge with killer music." One of the things I like about this place is the different atmospheres in different parts of the bar. You can sit on the back patio on Sunday and watch football, we have the high-energy front patio during Sunday Funday, downstairs is more pub-style and upstairs is the whiskey bar where it's more relaxed. I feel like some bars don't focus, and they end up having an identity crisis but here, it works.
How would you describe the crowd? During the week, it's more service industry and people that are just laid-back. For happy hour, the crowd is, I'd say, young professional. Friday night it's more of a college crowd. The weekends are a little different. Sunday is the busiest. For Sunday Funday, we have a DJ out front, late brunch and really good drink specials. My goal is to get first-time customers to come back and to get repeat customers to become regulars. The people we see a lot become part of the family. I really like the culture here; we get to connect with our guests.
To work at Royal Oak, you have to be able to _____. You have to bring something to the table that will help the team. We've got our speed bartenders, our social bartenders, we've got mixologists...so we all fill a certain role and we make a nice team. We work smart and hard, and we're a big family.
Do you have a specialty or a drink you pride yourself on? My specialty depends on the guest...finding that one drink you can't get anywhere else. I mean, you can go anywhere and get a Manhattan, but you have to come to Royal Oak to get a maple syrup, bacon Manhattan or a pecan Old Fashioned. You can get a blueberry press anywhere but I make it, I call it a Ginger Slap, with Stoli Blueberi, Domaine de Canton, spash of cranberry, sprite and soda. It's nice and light, refreshing and a little sweet, and gives you a little tingle on the tongue.
At the end of my shift, I pour a _____. Rittenhouse 100 on the rocks.
Do you have a favorite menu item? The chicken strips. The sauces make it. We have Buffalo blue cheese with real crumbled blue cheese, Asian BBQ, spicy BBQ...you can always change it up. I can't get tired of them, they're just so good.
**Wildcard** What celebrity never seems to fade away? In my mind, Tom Sellek because of his epic mustache. You can smell his Drakkar Noir from miles away.
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Royal Oak, located at 1318 Westheimer in Montrose, has something going on every night of the week. On Mondays, you can sip $4 martinis, Wednesdays are for $5 Maker's Mark, and you can get $7 mimosa pitchers on Sundays. Stop in and let The Marshall make you a one-of-a-kind cocktail you're sure to love. Check out Royal Oak's Facebook page for more info.