Memorial Park’s New Patio Bar Is Perfect for a Socially Distant New Year’s Eve

HOUSTON IS UNIQUELY equipped to weather a Covid-besieged winter in one way: This season is the perfect one for socially distant patio bars. And the owners of new Memorial Trail Ice House are counting on Houstonians craving outdoor options, especially for New Year's Eve.


Located catty-corner from the Westcott Street entrance to Memorial Park, the concept boasts a full bar, rotating food trucks, and a 20,000-square-foot outdoor area with lawn games, a brick patio and an expansive dog-friendly "backyard." The building was erected in 1932, and operated as a general store with living quarters for the owners on the second floor.

"This area needed a spacious, outdoor icehouse that brings a different experience than the bars and clubs along Washington Avenue," says co-founder John Shaeffer, who's lived in the Rice Military area for five years, and would drive by the historic building daily before deciding to purchase and convert it. "We want to leverage our proximity to the park as a landing spot for people after they've played a round of golf, run around the exercise trail, or played intermural games."

Schaefer and his team tapped the Ladies of Libation, Kris Sowell and Laurie Harvey, as bar consultants — and the end result is a unique list of handcrafted cocktails, plus 18 beers on tap and a curated wine list. The Bee Someone cocktail, with Tito's vodka, honey lemonade and hopped mint, is a fizzy refreshing treat — and $1 from the sale of each drink is donated to Memorial park Conservancy.

Beverly Shaeffer helmed the interior design, which seeks to retain the character of the nearly century-old building — exposed brick, original concrete flooring — while infusing the space with fashionable updates, a la furnishings chosen by Erin Hicks.

For New Year's Eve, Memorial Trail Ice House is serving $100 bottles of Veuve — and plenty of fresh air.

Food

“I WISH I came here sooner to experience this amazing city,” says advanced sommelier Rachel Van Til of her move to Houston just one year before the pandemic lockdown. When Covid appeared in 2020, along with layoffs and closings, it led to a career swerve for Van Til, a working mom who was a sommelier at Pappas Steakhouse. She took over the wine program at The Clubs at Houston Oaks, a posh (initiation fees can range into the six figures) members-only club northwest of the city with 10 lodges, 17 lakes, 900 acres and six dining options. Speaking of lots of good food and vino, the club’s 2022 Wine and Food Classic is this February 12 — it’s a great chance to taste hundreds of wines from around the world and learn about them from winemakers and professionals. “It’s our largest event of the year and it’s open to the public.” In our Q&A, Rachel dishes on her favorite date night, best wines to try this year and her brush with the me-too movement!

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