Austin’s Nickel City is opening its third Texas location in Houston early next year — and it’s coming with a rum-focused patio bar and the first in-house kitchen for any outpost.
The award-winning neighborhood bar, known for its abundance of spirits and good vibes, will take refuge at 2910 McKinney St, Suite 500, joining several other new businesses in the former building of Abrasives & Allied Products. Once renovated, the East Downtown building will include a mix of office and retail shops.
Culturemap Austin reports that the bar, which is slated to open in early 2023, will take up 3,200-square-feet of the warehouse space, and will be designed by Primozich with the Houston-based interior design team Lizzy Bufton and Stephanie Russel of Taft Studio leading the project.
Tober, a Buffalo, New York native, also told Culturemap that he plans to bring Nickel City’s signature “Rust Belt Chic” aesthetic to Houston, while also adapting the “bar inside a bar” concept from the Fort Worth outpost. A unique highlight for Houston, however, is the patio bar — capitalizing on Houston’s love of imbibing and dining al fresco — with a specific emphasis on rum.
Tober said that with Houston being a “big rum town,” known as one of the top rum-consuming cities in the country, it made sense to dive into the spirit, but in a more lighthearted way.
Though a tiki bar theme intrigues Tober, who has a penchant for Florida beach bars, “it’s a lot of work,” Tober tells Eater Houston. Instead, he’ll incorporate some aspects of his favorite parts of Key West, with a rum-focused patio with flirty drinks and a “tropical” vacation vibe. The patio, itself, will also be a newer focus with the Nickel City team, says Tober, who with the help of Primozich, recently redesigned Nickel City’s other patios with new furniture.
And for inquiring minds, Nickel City’s boozy coffee drinks, including its best-seller frozen Irish coffee, will still be on the menu. “That’ll never go off the menu,” Tober says.
Nickel City’s signature Del Rey Cafe food truck will also get a major revamp, with it moving indoors — creating an interior kitchen, a first for any of Nickel City’s outposts. Guests will be able to order at the walk-up area or from the bar.
The quest for Nickel City’s perfect Houston location began around a year ago, Tober says, with him and his team touring local neighborhoods, including Montrose and the Heights. Houston’s East Side, though, screamed Nickel City, Tober says — particularly with its older brick buildings that encapsulate the bar’s aesthetic and with so many local bartenders calling it home.
And Tober feels like he’ll be in good company. He notes that Nickel City will be close to restaurants like Nancy Hustle, and just a quarter-mile from the soccer stadium. He’ll also be closer to his longtime friends Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel, who are slated to open a new restaurant in Galveston later this year.
“We’re just really excited to be in that city. I consider it one of if not the best food and drink cities in the United States, and definitely in the world,” Tober says.
“I’ve always looked at Houston with amazement, just seeing how amazing the community is there,” he says. “Houston is long and storied, and we hope to keep it going.”
Nickel City is the brainchild of Tober, Primozich, and brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt, who together own pizza joint Via 313 in Austin. The four opened Nickel City’s first location in Austin in 2017 to rave reviews, and then a Fort Worth outpost amid the pandemic in 2020.
Update, May 24, 2:13 p.m.: This story has been updated to include comments from Travis Tober.