The Aristocrat offering a fresh, Southwest take on bar food

Mason Crowson.

The building at 1001 Washington Street is a familiar spot to Columbia locals, after being known as Kelly’s Deli and Pub for almost 15 years.

When Kelly’s closed, the venue became reinvented under new ownership, and was called The Aristocrat.

Now, The Aristocrat has undergone a reinvention of its own, being newly run by Texas native, Mason Crowson. Crowson said he decided to keep the name, even though he and his team have recreated the menu and style of the restaurant.

The restaurant’s main focus, according to Crowson, is providing scratch-made bar food.

“It’s very much a healthy take to bar food,” he said. “Anything from baked avocado fries to stacked cauliflower bites tossed in our house-made wing sauce.”

Crowson said they’re bringing a little Southwest flair to their menu. “We’ve got a margarita with cilantro in it, we do queso and guac, and quesadillas as well,” he said. He described the taste as “seriously fantastic.”

So far, Crowson said the restaurant has been very well-received. “We’ve had one couple who’s been in 11 out of the 13 times we’ve been open so far,” he said. The (new) Aristocrat has been acquiring some regulars, and others have said they’re excited to tell their friends about the restaurant, according to Crowson.

He and his family, along with two of the chefs, made the 18-hour trip from Texas to Columbia, to move for their new restaurant. Now that it’s about to officially open Friday, Crowson said it’s hard to believe. “It’s kind of surreal. We’ve just got to take it one day at a time, and the to-do list is never empty,” he said.

Crowson said he and his crew’s goal for the bar is to feel approachable, and neighborly. “We want people to be able to come in and we’ll know their name,” he said.

The Aristocrat’s grand opening is Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight, with happy hour specials from 4 to 6 p.m.