Oh, well. Once our appetizers arrived (which they quickly did), my frustration disappeared. The food far outclassed what I've come to anticipate in the way of bar cuisine. But what else should I have expected, really? After all, Monica Pope is the one behind this operation.
There was a field green salad delicately doused in a nutty vinaigrette and laced with thin, sour green-apple wedges. There was a mess of cornmeal-battered fried calamari with an edgy, cilantro-charged ranchero sauce. I could actually taste both the calamari and the cornmeal in the batter! There were three Mediterranean-style dips to be spread on triangles of striped-from-the-grill flat bread: a sweet, briny, ink-colored olive tapenade and two kinds of roasted red pepper spread, each with a subtly different color and flavor -- one orangey and sweetly mild, the other crimson with a bit of a pepper bite. (I had ordered hummus on that appetizer plate as well, but it mysteriously never arrived. The substitute dips were so good, though, that I ultimately didn't care.)
And, for the perfect touch on an early Houston evening, there were cotton candy pink clouds to be viewed from just inside the French doors of a bar that's decked out like one might imagine a bordello in Haight-Ashbury to be: shabby-chic with worn leather armchairs, mix-and-match damask upholstering the banquettes and psychedelic patterns painted on the walls.
Pope wanted to bring the Montrose corridor a bar reminiscent of what one might find in New York, a place to just hang out, early or late, and have a snack and a drink. In the b-bar, she's succeeded in creating a welcoming space conducive to just that. And for any patrons lingering till the wee hours, the bar's nooks and crannies might also be conducive to some serious snuggling.
b-bar, 4319 Montrose Boulevard, 524-6922.
cornmeal-fried calamari $7.95.