WITH so many new bars popping up in the city’s Northern Quarter, it’s hard to keep track.
The Brunswick, Shuffledog and Bar Soba are just a few of the latest venues to open in the area in the past six months.
A bit of friendly competition is only a good thing, and keeps other businesses on their toes.
But it also means some of the stalwarts may need to re-think their strategy and up their game if they want to stay afloat.
That’s a concept that much-loved bar The Reform is rolling with. After 12 years, the Merrion Street favourite has undergone a complete transformation and has become a Deep South dive bar.
It now sells all things Texan, from bourbon-based cocktails and pulled pork pizzas to beer made with hops imported all the way from the Lone Star State.
It’s also been re-branded as the Mean Eyed Cat – taking its name from a Johnny Cash song.
Ben Smith, bar development manager, said: “It was difficult to see The Reform go after so much time but we wanted a fresh start and wanted to do something a bit different.”
Walking inside, you feel like you’ve left God Own County and stepped into the Deep South.
Gone are the Chesterfield-style sofas and gentlemen’s’ club-feel. Now the bar boasts 12ft-tall, hand-painted artwork, neon signs, walls made from reclaimed wood and a corrugated metal roof.
It has a cool, laid-back vibe with a rock ‘n’ roll feel and has little gems hidden on the walls, from Elvis and Johnny Cash posters to guitar murals and even a lit-up cinema sign displaying the cocktail menu.
There’s a great range of bourbon-based cocktails, from a ‘Key Lime Pie’ to a ‘Tennessee Mudshake’.
House cocktail ‘The Smokey’ uses bourbon, Martini and cherry liqueur and is served with wood smoke billowing out of the glass to infuse the drink.
The same attention to detail has been paid to the craft beer, with several exclusive Mean Eyed Cat brews, including the chili-infused Ring of Fire pale ale, an Indian pale ale and a namesake beer.
Owner Phil Harrison came up with the idea for Mean Eyed Cat after a family holiday to Texas.
Speaking to City Buzz, he said: “It’s impossible to import any quality craft keg beers from the Deep South, so we found a Texan based in Leeds at Wharfe Bank Brewery who imports his hops from Texas.
“The craft beers are awesome.
“There’s also an array of craft beers from the likes of Anchor, Goose Island and Founders, alongside Mexican lagers.”
For the more adventurous among us, there are also boilermakers (ale with a shot of bourbon in it), flavoured moonshines and picklebacks (a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine).
The food is very much a Texan affair too, with pizza topped with chipotle meatballs, pulled Texan barbecue chicken and pumpkin and sun-blushed tomato.
Rumour has it that they’ll soon be dishing out some of these tasty pizzas for free with every drink bought from 5pm to 9pm every night (keep an eye on their Facebook page for details).
We’re sure this new venture will be just as successful as The Reform was over the years.