When Mark Zientek and Luis Padilla opened The Refuge Bar and Bistro in October 2014, they said they wanted to offer a true craft cocktail bar with high-quality products to a wide customer base, ranging from millennials to professionals.
“That’s what The Woodlands was lacking—a dedicated bar making craft drinks,” Zientek said. “So many people appreciate a good cocktail and a great beer. We’ve been called the ‘Cheers’ of The Woodlands, where you can just enjoy great service.”
Zientek and Padilla both said since opening in The Woodlands their bar and bistro has been welcomed by the community. Customers can try handcrafted cocktails, a variety of aged-infused whiskeys, 12 taps of craft beers, wine and coffee options and an array of food options. Live music is also featured on weekends.
Zientek said he and Padilla like to have a local theme with the food and drink menu, connecting with local artisans to add locally sourced menu options.
“We’re both local and from here,” Zientek said. “We like to feature local breweries, [or a] small local dairy, anything we can do in some way.”
Aside from using products from local sources, Zientek and Padilla make their own bitters and shrubs. Padilla also ages whiskey to make a variety of infused flavors. Padilla said flavors include vanilla honeycomb, peach, apple pie and Kentucky Breakfast, which is bacon- and maple syrup-flavored.
“We use a big ice ball in our bourbon so it’s not watered down, and it’s a great flavor,” Padilla said. “In the future I’m planning a pumpkin-walnut flavor.”
Padilla said along with creating unique infused whiskeys, The Refuge also has its own spin on popular liquors.
“We try to stay away from liquors that are already made, like Fireball, so we make our own,” he said. “We have something called Big Red Gum. It’s cinnamon-aged with bourbon.”
Aside from creating their own drinks, both owners said the creative food options at the bar give The Refuge a gastropub feel with appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches and flatbreads on the menu. Zientek said favorite menu items include the charcuterie board, the smoked pork belly, the white cheddar poblano soup, and the baked mac and cheese potpie.
The Refuge also expands its menu through catering, offering buffets for dinner, boxed lunches and breakfast buffets. Padilla said The Refuge caters for local businesses in the area as well as private events.
Even with an expansive drink and food menu and a catering team, Zientek said The Refuge is still not done growing. The owners are planning on opening up another location in the Creekside area in September that is twice as big as the bar on Waterway Square Avenue.
“It’ll be like The Refuge on steroids that will have both a lounge and a restaurant,” Zientek said. “We just want to be a great place to gather with friends.”
- Squatters Otter Darkness—Russian imperial stout that is an intensely flavored dark ale with a fruity and bittersweet taste ($10.75)
- Bellini—Mathilde peach liquor, peach nectar, angostura bitters, orange juice, grenadine and champagne ($11)
- Aviation—Junipero gin, lemon juice, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Rothman & Winter cream de violet ($11)
- Cointreau Noir Ricky—Cointreau Noir, fresh lime juice, club soda, muddled strawberry and basil ($10)
- Aged whisky—$11
- Food favorites
- Smoked Pork Belly: served with Pure Luck Farm goat cheese, American Spoon jalapeno pepper jelly and a fried egg ($15)
- White cheddar poblano soup: cup ($4), bowl ($8)
- Baked mac and cheese potpie: served and baked under a puff pastry ($10)
24 Waterway Ave., Ste. 110, The Woodlands
Hours: Mon. 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Tue.-Thu. 7 a.m.-midnight, Fri. 7 a.m.-2 a.m., Sat. 2 p.m.-2 a.m.