Doc's, a small chain started in Austin with three locations, has expanded to Houston. Last night, there was a soft opening at Doc's Motorworks Westheimer with food, drinks and a staff ready to answer questions about their new restaurant.
The decor was labeled as a "DYI" aesthetic: Much of the bar's inside is decorated in wood and tin; at least some of the wood, repurposed from an old barn. Some of the tables and seating in one section were handmade, the seats designed from old oil barrels, and the tables from spindles. It's a neat twist on the more wood-and-metal, industrial-throwback aesthetic seen in other relatively new bars and coffeehouses around town.
The seating available at the location that was formerly home to a Wendy's is surprisingly large. It's aided by a deceptively large patio that wraps around three (well, more like two and a half) sides of the bar. When the weather permits, the large glass doors can open to let fresh air in, similar to how the "indoor" space opens directly to the outside at, say, Cottonwood. Eventually, they'll be offering more bar games, such as shuffleboard and a life-size Connect Four.
For sports fans, televisions are plentiful and the sound system is set up in a way that different sections of the bar are supposed to be able to have sound from different games.
Of course, decor is nice, but it means little if the food and drink isn't of a piece. And Doc's is impressive in that regard, not only for the sheer variety of the options, but for their quality.
Doc's has 50 beers on tap, and most impressively, 38 Texas beers, with virtually every local brewery represented. They have five taps which contain either liquor or cocktails, and four wine taps. And it serves Mexican martinis, common in Austin but little seen here. They're a welcome alternative to the sweeter margaritas.
The Houston Sipper, a cocktail made with vodka, elderflower liquor, and "Mexican Fresca" has a light, crisp citrus flavor. The Bottoms Up, made with gin, grapefruit liqueur, lime juice, and a splash of soda, was also good with well balanced flavors.
Doc's offers a pecan-infused Canadian whiskey. They take Revel Stoke Canadian spiced whiskey and infuse it in-house. (Revel Stoke makes a pecan whiskey, but that's not what Doc's serves.) The pecan flavor was delicious, well balanced with the whiskey, and not too sweet. While a little sweet on the nose, the actual whiskey itself managed to be rich and flavorful without being cloying. The pecan taste was delightful and maintained the right amount of intensity throughout each sip.
The food is bar food, but it's high-quality bar food. Doc's offers a substantial menu, from traditional bar appetizers, to burgers, to salads, to breakfast food, to entreés both familiar and unique.
The pork carnitas sliders were fine -- solid cole slaw, pork that was tender and not dry-- and the buns stood out as rich and buttery and an unexpected treat. The breading on the chicken fried avocado -- a fried avocado stuffed with chicken and cheese -- was light and crispy, appropriate for an avocado, and preventing the meal from getting too heavy considering the amount of cheese that was already in it. The bacon on the fried egg sandwich was just the right texture.
The "White Wings", jalapeno poppers stuffed with chicken and wrapped in bacon, were hearty and substantial, an ideal bar snack. The menu describes them as "tossed in buffalo wing sauce," but the sauce tasted more like barbecue sauce. That was a better choice, as the jalapeno alone was enough to provide sufficient heat throughout the duration of the dish.
Doc's seems like a fine place to watch a game with friends, or just enjoy a few cocktails and (eventually) play some shuffleboard.It'll be interesting to see how it functions once they're catering to a full establishment of customers, and what being there will be like when the place is packed.
Doc's opens Thursday, November 20, at 1303 Westheimer and has a Happy Hour from 3-8 p.m., as well as late night food specials after 10.