This bar just opened up at 1424 Westheimer in Houston, and the early look has it shaping up as a solid joint. And how can you not dig the name? Anvil Bar & Refuge. To relax, it behooves folks to look for a spirited refuge. Anvil is a welcome addition to the Houston bar scene -- a scene that, incidentally, is so much more attractive since the advent of the smoking ban a couple years ago. Who wants to go to happy hour after work, only to get your suit infused with Marlboro stink?
Anyway, aside from the extreme decibel level (will someone, somewhere please invest in acoustic panels?), Anvil is a terrific, relaxing bar. A lot of reclaimed materials have gone into the bar, its decor, and the furniture. But it's a comfortable, dark, leather-sofa kind of atmosphere with plenty of candlelight. Perhaps a bit noisy for a romantic after-dinner stop, but certainly a good place to unwind with coworkers or friends anytime.
The wine list is small but intelligently selected, without ridiculous markups. For example, the excellent 2007 W.H. Smith Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast is $48. You can pick up the same bottle at Spec's for a hair under $30. The beer list is a strength. Everything is from bottle, and the selection is superb -- from a handful of the usual big brew suspects to a big selection of microbrews and genuine ales. There is even a barleywine/strong ale section on the menu.
Anvil's purported speciality, however, is cocktails. They are going for a throwback cocktail style, with current selections listed on on a chalkboard. Each of them is interesting and true to its ingredients. Some of them are intense without being overbearing. Particularly good are the Mexican Fizz, Bee's Knees, and First Growth (beware of the potent St. Germain liqueur here). They are made smartly and priced at $8 each. Not too outrageous, although per ounce of alcohol, you probably do better with wine.
The crowd was mostly professional, with a lot of sportcoats in attendance. That's kind of expected since the buzz for this place seems to have been generated mostly on Twitter. In any case, Anvil is here. It's worth a look.