Two Austin industry veterans will open a bar with a serious focus on cocktails, wine, and ice downtown. Josh Loving and Brian Stubbs will take over the former Mike's Pub space on 7th to open Small Victory. Loving helped craft the drinks program at a number of notable Austin restaurants and bars, and currently runs the ice program at Half Step. Stubbs runs hospitality bookkeeping and consulting company Genuine Article, which works with many of Austin's best restaurants.
Eater spoke with Loving about Small Victory, whose concept is still developing. Loving does know that unlike many other craft cocktail bars, his project will also have a serious focus on wine. They won't offer a huge inventory of wines by the glass like a traditional wine bar. But Small Victory will definitely expand beyond the small four or five bottle list maintained by cocktail-focused establishments. Sherry, which Loving first developed a passion for as beverage director at FINO, will be a big part of the drinks program as well.
[Rendering: Dick Clark Architecture]
The location is only 800 square feet, so designing the bar is a game of Tetris. The current architectural renderings do not necessarily reflect the final design, but are intended to help conceptualize the limited space. Right now, the biggest challenge is fitting in a Clinebell ice machine. Originally designed for ice carving, the Clinebell is an increasingly popular tool at high-end cocktail bars, including both at Weather Up and Half Step.
Loving is passionate about ice, which he calls "the most overlooked ingredient in a cocktail." Far from a theatrical embellishment, ice can make or break a drink. "An old fashioned with a big clear piece of ice, made with filtered water, is completely different from the same drink made with ice machine ice. It's like comparing grass fed and [feedlot] beef." The same commitment to a cocktail's least glamorous ingredient will shape Small Victory.
In terms of food, the bar will offer light bites: olives, nuts, cheeses, and charcuterie. While the menu might sound familiar, Loving points out it's familiar for a reason. "That's the way people have been eating and drinking for hundreds of years," he says. "The cultures who developed beer and wine created this tradition of cured meats and cheeses." While patrons could potentially make a meal out of the menu, the main goal is to offer "great bar food."
Right now, Loving is working on the project on his own time, while continuing to work at Half Step. He describes Stubbs as an ideal business partner; they honed their style of working together while at Fino. The opening date is "a moving target," but construction is definitely underway.
· All Josh Loving Coverage [EATX]