Becoming a successful neighborhood bar is almost an art. Sure, a number of bars open in neighborhoods across Houston every year, but very few of them really seem to “get” the concept of their particular neighborhood. For every Wakefield Crowbar (Garden Oaks), Big Star Bar (Heights) or Under the Volcano (Rice Village), all bars that encapsulate and have a feel for their respective neighborhoods, there are many more that don’t.
The New Potato, fortunately, seems to understand its little corner of East Downtown even if it is taking a chance of sorts with regard to its location. Whereas some bars like to open in areas where foot traffic and commerce are plentiful, The New Potato is surrounded mostly by warehouses and recently developed communities.
This was good news to residents of those communities, who turned out en masse for the bar’s grand opening on December 10. Owned and operated by Paul Redmond — formerly head bartender at The Harp on Richmond — The New Potato offered a little something for everyone. Locals braved the bitter cold (by Texas standards, at least) and were treated to an indoor bar, an outdoor bar, a massive outdoor picnic area, live music, food trucks and much more.
Whereas some bars cater to the craft-beer or cocktail crowd, The New Potato appeals to both. The bar’s small indoor space doesn’t feature much seating aside from a few stools and a couch, but the menu serves up a number of cocktails. On a recent trip, I ordered up an Old Fashioned, mostly because it’s the cocktail I’m most familiar with, and thus in the best position to judge. I was not disappointed. The New Potato’s Old Fashioned was not only expertly prepared – the old searing-the-orange-rind trick works every time – but expertly mixed as well, with the proper amount of sweet flavor not totally drowning out the whiskey.
On this particular day, with temperatures in the 40s, The New Potato’s indoor space was quite busy, particularly as the day wore on. Those in attendance – including families; yes, this is a kid-friendly bar – witnessed kitschy decor, such as a set of Mr. Potato Head figures, an “NP” stained-lass figure and some sort of creepy Halloween get-up that pops out of the door next to the restroom. Here’s a tip – the restroom is located in the room farthest toward the back, not the one before it, lest you avoid the scare.
The bar’s outdoor space, meanwhile, catered to those who wanted to bring their dogs (yep, it's dog-friendly too) or have a smoke, or those who simply don’t consider Texas cold to be all that cold anyway. The New Potato’s outdoor bar is devoted more to the craft-beer scene, and features beer on tap from local breweries like Saint Arnold, Karbach and Eureka Heights. The outdoor bar portion – like the inside – is fairly small; however, it's located adjacent to a massive grass lot complete with picnic tables, a live-music stage, lawn games and plenty of room to roam. This place is going to be a hit with family types and dog owners alike.
As many bars are doing these days, The New Potato will feature a food truck on-site. At the grand opening, it was Boombox Taco, which is never a bad thing. Pizzas can also be ordered from the indoor bar at around $12 a pop. The parking lot is somewhat small, but fortunately, thanks to the bar's location in a somewhat remote area — as Inner Loop joints go, anyway — there is plenty of street and nearby parking.
Judging from the crowd of folks mostly in their thirties and forties, many of whom came with kids and dogs in tow, The New Potato will cater to families and more laid-back types in the EaDo area. This is not a bar that will be a part of a “scene,” or one that will feature much in the way of debauchery. That's a good thing; while those bars certainly have their place, a neighborhood bar isn’t one of them. And as quality neighborhood bars go, The New Potato certainly qualifies.
The New Potato