Every new bar aims to give its customers a reason to come back — a fun theme, noteworthy specials, an upscale setting, or anything that helps to set them apart from the competition. Sometimes these tactics work, sometimes they fall flat.
Sometimes, it doesn't take all that much for a bar to stand out. A simple good vibe and a drink menu I can work with is often enough to make me remember a place, which is why I focus less on what kind of bar I'm in and more on what the bar is like.
Yeoman's Road Pub on Davis Islands has built a steady following for being located in a relatively quiet area with a modest bar scene. There are a few watering holes in the tiny Davis Islands business district, but it's mostly dark in the evenings, so Yeoman's Road is clearly onto something.
As you may have surmised from the name, Yeoman's is a British-themed pub — a theme inherited by current owners Connie and Rick Bond, who took over the '80s-era bar in 2004. But instead of playing up the motif, they decided to focus on service and atmosphere, and it shows.
Some preliminary research before my trip to Yeoman's Road revealed a handful of unanimously positive reviews, nearly all of which specifically cited the service. This is unusual enough to warrant a mention.
Yeoman's Road is fairly standard in terms of looks, though the raised bar area is a cool touch. All the trappings of the British-style pub are present: lots of polished wood, English flags and Union Jacks positioned throughout, even a red phone booth sitting out front.
The place has a divey feel, complete with alarmingly dingy dollar bills plastered on the ceiling and a Megatouch at the end of the bar. Café seating is available outside, and the interior is divided into a separate bar area, booth seating opposite the bar and table seating in front, with a space cleared out to make way for a makeshift performance area where bands and musicians play three nights a week.
Music plays a big role in the scene at Yeoman's Road. They claim to have the "Bay's best open-mic night," held every Tuesday, and live bands perform on Fridays and Saturdays. I stopped by on a Tuesday, and it was one of the most well-attended and well-organized open-mic nights I've been to, more like a tiny music festival in a friend's living room.
The service turned out to be as good as advertised, with the bartenders quick to introduce themselves, chat about beer, make recommendations, and see if it was time for a refill. I'm pretty ambivalent about personalized service in bars, but this really did add to the welcoming atmosphere.
Speaking of beer, Yeoman's boasts 18 taps, featuring a few selections that I haven't seen elsewhere, like Southern Tier's 422 and Green Flash Hop Head Red. The taps rotate on a regular basis, but a regular bottle list of 100 or so additional beers is maintained, with beers organized by name, brewery, style, alcohol content, volume and a brief description of each selection. The range is wide enough to please most serious beer fans, and if one such fan manages to make their way through 90 different beers in the span of 90 days, they get a plaque on the Wall of Foam and a lifetime of happy-hour pricing on select beers.
Although some may visit Yeoman's Road for its British pub theme, they're more likely to return for the great beer selection, lively music scene and quality service.
Like I said, it doesn't always take much for a bar to stand out.