Bars have their own personalities. In the case of a pair of drinking spots on Oak Street in the Riverbend, two different styles complement each other across a simple, chic courtyard.
Ale, a new beer-centric pub on Oak Street, offers a cozy spot to grab a beer, watch the game or sample the snack menu. It shares a patio with Oak Wine Bar, which boasts more generous dimensions and a selection of hundreds of wines by the glass.
Ale, four years in the making, originated in its upscale sister Oak just one door down, owner Patrick Winters said.
As a bartender at Oak, Winters saw a niche not filled by the wine bar. While most Oak customers were content to have a tony space for sipping craft cocktails and wine, others were calling for more beer and whiskey.
Winters also sensed that some customers wanted a more relaxed and intimate space than the cavernous, all-white Oak. When the lease next door became available, Winters and Oak’s owners — his sister, Katie Winters, and Shawn Haddad — saw the chance to create a connected but distinct space especially tailored to beer and scotch lovers.
The result is the best of both worlds: two knitted bars, each with its own identity.
The patio connecting Oak and Ale means patrons can bring drinks from one bar into the other. Likewise, wine and beer lovers can meet in the middle at one of the outside tables. Or not.
“We wanted to make a place where people wanted to come back to,” Winters says.
With charcoal walls, floors salvaged from the Dixie Brewery and a decidedly smaller footprint than its neighbor Oak, Ale’s look is “upscale dive,” Winters says. On Fridays and Saturdays, Ale’s kitchen stays open till midnight; popular menu items include lamb sliders with feta and mint chimichurri ($12); debris fries with white cheddar ($9) and duck confit queso fundido ($11). Vegetarian options include fried tofu tacos with crema, peanuts and slaw ($9) and a soft pretzel with beer cheese fondue ($6).
Oak’s menu tends toward small plates: there’s a St. James Cheese Co. plate with seasonal accompaniments ($14); grilled eggplant bruschetta with whipped goat cheese ($8); and marinated olives ($6).
Winters notes that the bars’ Carrollton location means that principal trade comes from locals, not tourists. And having grown up a stone’s throw from Oak Street, Winters could not be more familiar with the clientele.
Since Ale’s opening in July, steady patrons include employees from Ochsner Medical Center; a women’s beer-drinking club; and teachers, who appreciate the Friday afternoon hours when the bar opens at 2 p.m.
Unlike the nearby Maple Leaf and Carrollton Station and even its sister bar Oak, which offers music three nights a week, the narrow Ale is not big enough for live music.
Ale’s local feel extends to its drink offerings. Of the 30 beers on tap, 10 are produced within a couple hours drive. Overall the selection runs the gamut from Budweiser to craft brews.
And on Mondays, Ale offers inexpensive beer flights. The extensive whiskey and scotch selection includes what Winters calls “entry level” options and caps with Talisker 1985 at $75 a glass.
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