The Refinery Burgers & Whiskey opened in 2012 on the corner of West Dallas and Heiner Streets. It was a no-frills bar and restaurant—as advertised, they served burgers, more than 30 whiskeys and local brews. Fast-forward five years and the brain trust behind the Refinery, 86 Hospitality Group, has replaced it with the South Bank Seafood Bar. Not that the team has rested on its laurels: It also owns Bovine & Barley, Rose Gold Cocktail Den, the Fish and HTX Fan Tavern.
“Refinery was a great neighborhood bar, but we wanted to step it up a notch and attract more people, make it a destination bar,” says Gabe Luna, general manager of South Bank. And step it up they have. If The Refinery had a blue-collar look and feel, South Bank is leaning more towards a seaside vibe. With large picnic tables occupying the massive, climate-controlled open patio with an unobstructed view of the downtown skyline, you’ll want to spend your summer days and nights out there.
The new menu? Seafood galore. Appetizers include basics like oysters, (a half dozen raw or grilled with cocktail sauce and lemon) and shrimp-and-crab campechana; but also dishes unique to South Bank like cornflake-covered Shrimp Balls and Clam Chowder Fries, creamy chowder, bacon and chives dumped on crispy fries.
Main courses include standard seafood baskets, and crawfish, shrimp and snow crab leg boils. The sandwich section of the bill of fare includes a fried shrimp po' boy, lobster roll, crab roll and fish tacos. And for those missing the previous tenant or hoping to avoid seafood, there's the Refinery Burger. There are soups and salads, too, running the gamut from seafood salad with lobster, lump crab and jumbo shrimp over greens, to gumbo made with turkey neck and crawfish.
As at the Refinery, the bar is still a centerpiece. Houston-made brews from Real Ale Brewing Company, 11 Below Brewing Company, Karbach Brewing Company and Buffalo Bayou Brewery are on tap. Local beers can be found in cans and on draft, and the rest of the beer section includes Austin Eastciders, Dos Equis, Bud Light and Miller. Cocktails are also on tap, including Watermelon Fresca, Strawberry Mule, False Idols, Hurricane and Sex On the Beach. But if you're not looking for a tap cocktail, they're also available mixed to order.
South Bank is currently in its soft opening phase. "We’re thinking mid-July, still some things we have to work out,” Luna says of the grand opening. So if you’re looking for brews, views or a fun time, South Bank is a destination, even before its official unveiling.