Eight Row Flint, a new icehouse from Agricole Hospitality, officially opened at 1039 Yale on December 26, but it hasn’t taken long for the crowds to find the casual digs in a former gas station. The first Saturday after opening, it was comfortably full of patrons enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.
Agricole Hospitality is led by chef Ryan Pera and business partner Morgan Weber. Both are known for their other establishments, Revival Market and acclaimed restaurant Coltivare. Eight Row Flint is named after an ancient variety of heirloom corn cultivated before colonial times by Native Americans. It was also the first corn used to distill whiskey in the United States.
Here, the focus is on simple Mexican foods, whiskey and beer. While Pera and Agricole’s culinary director, Vincent Huynh, are overseeing the culinary program, it’s executed from an onsite food truck by chef de cuisine Stephanie Harmon, who previously cooked at Coltivare. Weber has taken on the role of beverage director. (Fun fact: Weber helped open Anvil Bar & Refuge, so he’s no stranger to bars.)
Out of the truck and onto diners’ tables go excellent tortillas and homemade chips (made from the namesake heirloom corn), tacos, guacamole and queso.
There are five kinds of tacos ranging from $3 to $5. All are good, but even at this early stage, the braised beef cheek and Berkshire pork renditions are truly exceptional. The pork comes with tamarind, charred scallion, cabbage and lime, while the beef is made from meat that comes from Texas ranch 44 Farms and curtido, a type of lightly fermented cabbage slaw with Central American origins.
Eight Row Flint has 16 beer taps and stocks about three times as many bottled beers. There’s no snobbery here. If you want Miller, you can get it, as well as some more interesting and ambitious craft beers.
With the way Eight Row Flint’s drink offerings are structured, even a whiskey aficionado can come in and have a good time — and ditto for his easygoing friends. There are about 100 kinds of whiskey to choose from, including some hand-picked bourbons served straight out of the barrel. These are the ones Weber is most proud of.
Take, for example, the Weller Antique from Buffalo Trace. Weber worked for more than 18 months to get his hands on the rare barrel. It’s an expression of what the old Rip van Winkle distillery would once have bottled as “Old Fitzgerald.”
For people who don’t need rarity to be happy, there are really good daily deals on whiskey. The “Cheap Thrills [and a Beer]” is a shot of whiskey that changes daily and is only $3. Feeling fancy? Add a cheap beer (think a Miller High Life shorty or Lone Star) for a buck.
In fact, there are many lighthearted offerings for folks who want to just come in and drink, like the Short Pulls. These are half-pints of beer that come with a shot that can be dropped into the glass. Just one example is the Sangre de Cristo, a shot of tequila or mezcal with a shot of sangrita (a spicy-sweet concoction intended to compliment the spirit) and a glass of Coronita.
The bar also sells frozen cocktails, including margaritas and “bracers”: powerful little cocktails served as shots or on the rocks. Among them is the Uppercut, a combination of Barton Bonded Bourbon, Laird’s Jersey Lightning, Cocchi Americano, Becherovka and Apple Bitters. Proceed with caution.
Local craftsman Steve Walters, whose work includes The Hay Merchant and Blacksmith, spent a significant amount of time on the interior. Among his most artistic contributions to the space are the custom beer taps made from an oil field pipe and the copper lighting system over the bar.
Speaking of the bar: The big, horseshoe-shaped gathering spot is topped with a six-inch-thick slab of East Texas pine. The front is adorned with bourbon barrel staves donated by Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam and Four Roses distilleries.
From those same barrels, the tops have been repurposed as the surfaces of the highboy tables that dot the front of the room. To complete the setting, Weber and former Houston Press and current Houston Chronicle writer Craig Hlavaty of Vinyl Ranch have both contributed vinyl records from their collections for the overhead music.
Eight Row Flint is open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. The icehouse is hoping to add weekday lunch service in the beginning of 2016.