Escape away and join the circus — if only for a drink — at this pop-up bar in Houston

What if Willy Wonka suddenly decided that candy was no longer the end game? Long time friends, Ben Mowbray And Robert Munglecombining the former’s experience as a professional waiter and comedian, and the latter’s as a chef, to create St Julian’s Social Club, a fun circus-themed bar located at 1617 Richmond. They create Candy-filled drinksAnd do it with substance and style.

The owners of Saint Julian’s had been researching and toying with the idea of ​​opening a bar for a few years, using the pop-up as an opportunity to generate interest and further develop the idea. Mowbray is a comedian and podcast host who recently celebrated his 20th anniversary as a bartender. He has worked at a variety of popular Houston establishments from dives to full-fledged restaurants including Grand Prisse Bar, Goro and Gun, Moving Sidewalk, Houston Watch Company, Downhouse, and Toasted Coconut.

Mungle, who is also a comedian (and voice actor), has worked as the chef at Red Dwarf and Outlaw Dave’s Motorcycle Bar. Aside from the ringleaders, there’s also a diverse supporting cast that includes a professional makeup artist/clown, an acrobat who spends as much time walking on her hands as her feet, a close-up magic specialist, and another charismatic local comedian. .

The Movie Butter Popcorn is a popular drink - and a personal favorite - at St Julian's Social Club.  Photography by Ryan Baker.

The Movie Butter Popcorn is a popular drink, as well as being a personal favorite at St Julian’s Social Club. Photography by Ryan Baker.

The bar is a pop-up concept that operates from now until Halloween night. fall between Nonna’s family pizza bar And Toasted coconutthe space was previously home to the short-lived Speakeasy and Restaurant calm. Saint Julian’s features a 14-seat bar, standing room for more than 20 people, walls now completely decorated with photographs, offbeat paintings, circus memorabilia and a shrine commemorating Saint Julian, “the patron saint of circuses, innkeepers and murderers.” The overhead red lights create the illusion that you are under the big top. In the spirit of tiki bars, the idea is for the decorations to constantly evolve. Guests can win prizes by playing one of two carnival games: spinning a giant prize wheel or dropping tokens into a Plinko board. Spinning the wheel instantly activates the room, and the entire house cheers at every spin. Each play costs $5, and prizes include a handful of candy, a tote bag (more candy, but also toys, party favors or other novelties) or even a cocktail of your choice from the menu (and we all love $5 cocktails, right? like that) ?

Mowbray’s goal when developing the menu is to put fun first and fully adhere to the theme of the bar. Most of the drinks are made with homemade, candy-infused spirits, including favorites including Tootsie Roll Vodka, Sour Bubblegum Gin, and Skittles Tequila. Fortunately, Mowbray’s long experience as a bartender in Houston at establishments like Moving Sidewalk and, more recently, Grandprize Bar, has given him the perfect skill set to balance craziness and flavor. Surprisingly, despite the infusion of sweets, the drinks are balanced and not overly sweet as you might expect.

Christopher Huang of Ninja Ramen and Narwhal Jousting Club displays the prize wheel at St. Julian's Social Club.
Christopher Huang of Ninja Ramen and Narwhal Jousting Club displays the prize wheel at St. Julian’s Social Club. Photography by Ryan Baker.

The most popular drink in St. Julian’s Popcorn butter movie cooler, which is also a personal favorite. Made with buttered vodka, popcorn, sparkling wine and candy garnish, the drink offers a silky texture and vibrant yellow color. Peep showMezcal, a mixed drink, is another popular drink that uses mezcal to hit on the savorier side of the spectrum while still using the candy-like circus peanut drink.

For those who prefer lively cocktails,… cookie Monster Made with black rum, Averna, and his top secret cookie syrup Tolu Kavelisresulting in a spiced biscuit flavor spin on the Black Manhattan. Favo the clown (The acronym is short for F***around And Find Out) It doesn’t have a menu description because it’s a random Mowbray drink being made for the day. People who want to enjoy more traditional cocktails are not left out thanks to a shortlist of classic cocktails, and there are also a few beer Options. It can be difficult at first to navigate the unfamiliar, dessert-filled ingredients on the menu, but the staff is great at playing tour guide and helping guests figure out which drinks will best suit their tastes.

Beef and pineapple chili pie by Chef Robert Mungle in St Julian's.
Beef and pineapple chili pie by Chef Robert Mungle in St Julian’s. Photography by Ryan Baker.

With no overhead openings, Mungle’s task of creating a menu faced some hurdles. He still manages to create a small but fun collection that includes Beef and Pineapple Chili Piegrilled cheese with a cup of our award-winning chili, and assorted fillings French toast Options like Oreo cookies and peanut butter and jelly. In addition to making the whole room smell wonderful when he cooks, he is also tasked with telling a short biography of St. Julien every hour or so.

Twice a week, Saint Julian’s also allows guest bartenders to conduct a circus and design their own dessert-inspired drinks. Guest star appearances include notable acts such as Sabrina Poe (Rose water), Daniel Rocha (grestworks), During it Cafes (moving sidewalk), Sarah Ip (Double Trouble Caffeine and Cocktails) and Priscilla Gonzalez (Bluedorn).

A coloring book and dessert cocktail created by one of St. Julien's guest bartenders.
A coloring book and dessert cocktail created by one of St. Julien’s guest bartenders. Photography by Ryan Baker.

According to Mowbray, creating a fully immersive atmosphere and cocktail menu comes second to creating a bar where everyone feels welcome. As usual, he seems to be succeeding. Each week sees many visitors return for the first time from the previous week, as well as a large number of industry professionals who have made St Julian’s a new hangout. He’s gotten (a little unhinged) Cheers.

Are you a clown? If so, remember that the last day for the pop-up is Halloween. St Julian’s Social Club is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 6pm to 10pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm to midnight.

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