The concept behind the upcoming Porter Ale House & Gastropub may sound simple–a South Austin neighborhood pub with quality food and a solid craft beer selection, but it’s the nuances in all these departments that pledge to elevate the joint to another level.
The pub, which is situated on the ground floor of the new Tree Apartment Complex on South First St., is slated for an
early to mid December January opening. It’s helmed by Neil Joiner, Joe Bixel and Trevor Lane, a trio whose shared love for craft beer could perhaps only be eclipsed by their even more passioned culinary pedigrees.
The owners’ commitment to quality permeates throughout the bar’s planned menu offerings. Take the Porter Burger, for example. Far beyond a classic pub patty sandwiched between two buns, the signature burger will be comprised of freshly ground short rib, filet and hanger steak topped with triple cream brie and crispy pancetta. And Joiner, Bixel and Lane’s thoughtfulness goes beyond what’s on the plates, as even the restaurant’s serving dishes and charcuterie boards themselves embody an elevated aesthetic, a result of the fact that they were carefully forged by local artisan woodworkers and potters.
Joiner and Bixel first met roughly a decade ago in New York, where they both worked in the kitchen of the Ritz Carlton Central Park. Their culinary paths remained intertwined, and soon both found themselves working as sous chefs at the Waldorf Astoria. Joiner, a Texas native, eventually made his way back to the Lone Star State, and took a job as the Chef de Cuisine at Stories, a fine dining establishment at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort here in Austin. For years Joiner tried to convince Bixel to make the move down to Austin, as he was starting to see exciting things happening in both the city’s culinary and brewing movements. By the time Bixel eventually caved and packed his bags for Austin, also taking a job as a chef at the Hyatt Lost Pines, Joiner had already met Lane, a former intern at the resort who would go on to manage every restaurant on the hotel’s property over the course of his five year career there. As homebrewers and foodophiles, the trio immediately formed a shared bond both inside and outside of the kitchen.
“We were just always talking about food and craft beer,” Lane said. “I think that’s how we all started to really come together and understand the passion each other had for this industry.”
It wasn’t long before Bixel and Joiner became set on the idea of opening up their own craft beer and high quality food focused pub, and Lane seemed like the perfect fit to run the front of the house. When Bixel casually approached Lane and asked him if he would like to open a gastropub together, his answer was essentially “yeah, that sounds good.” The group was so emphatic that it didn’t take much for them to all commit to the project once they sat down to have their first meeting about it.
“It was about a three minute conversation,” Bixel said.
Since that initial meeting, they’ve spent the last nine months or so working to make their shared vision, one rooted in quality food and relaxed ambiance, a reality.
“We wanted to take all the aspects of that kind of high end restaurant environment that we really liked and put it into this environment that Austin is really good at nurturing, one that’s casual and accessible,” Joiner said.”If done perfectly, it’s that place you can go to on a date night or for a special occasion, but it’s also the place where the guy who lives upstairs can come down for a pint and a snack.”
To Joiner, it’s a concept that Austinites tend to readily embrace.
“You can go into the fanciest restaurants in town here in flip flops and we loved that,” He said. “That was one of the things we wanted to capture.”
The pub’s menu will be divided between snacks (like truffle popcorn with parmesan), small plates (like beer cheese fondue with apples, a freshly baked pretzel and endive) and large plates (like Chatham Cod “Fish N Chips” with dill pickles, malt chips and Meyer melon remoulade). A daily specials board will offer additional, constantly evolving selections.
On the beverage side of things, the bar’s tap wall will accommodate 30 drafts. Two of these taps will be reserved for wine (Bixel is also a sommelier), and perhaps a draft cocktail or two will join the lineup–the rest will be reserved for craft beer.
In keeping with their focus on quality, the aim is to reserve many of these taps for some of the best craft beers being brewed right here in Austin, while leaving the rest for other renowned craft beers from around the United States and abroad. Customers will have the opportunity to try many of these brews at once, as the pub will also be offering mixed flights.
“We’re all about quality product with a lot of thought put into it,”Bixel said.
As for a specific local beer you could definitely expect to see on their tap wall:
“512 Pecan Porter is a must,” Lane said.
December January launch, Porter Gastropub will initially be open for dinner, with a condensed menu running into late night, before eventually rolling out lunch and weekend brunch offerings down the line.
While the pub is currently deep in the throes of construction, upon opening, the interior will feature charcoal black cement floors, reclaimed barn wood, a cutout ceiling adorned with chandeliers, a long bar and a community table that will accommodate more than 30 people. All in all, the pub will boast an excess of 100 seats, including a roughly 30 seat patio.
Rumor has it, patrons may be greeted with a free hug from Lane upon entering the pub. Is this true? Guess you’ll just have to stop into Porter Gastropub once they open their doors to find out.
Update 1/17/14: Porter Gastropub is now open! Hours are currently 3p.m. to midnight Monday through Sunday.