January 4th, 2011
2010 Bestus Prospectus: Libations Bearers of the Year
Surprisingly enough, we wrote more about restaurants than bars in 2010. I say it’s surprising if only for the fact that we definitely went to more bars than restaurants. But that’s the fun part about “research.” While you’re “researching” a bar, it’s pretty easy to hit that writer’s block which is associated with hitting the bottle a bit too hard. On with our favorites of the year.
Depending on the night you head up to McElroy’s, you’ll either be met by elbowing masses trying to maintain their authority over a square inch of space at the bar, or nobody at all. We love it no matter which version we run into. With most of McElroy’s seating smack-dab in the middle of the bar, you’re never too far away from the next group of party lovin’ fools. That is unless you have decided to take advantage of the private escape of the back patio which has a feel all its own. They have an internet jukebox by the door, which is usually a black eye in our minds, but luckily the people that usually pick the playlists have a decent enough ear. Just keep the Abba to yourself, buddy.
9] State Bar
Downtown Houston isn’t the trendy hotspot that you’ll find in other major metropolitan areas. As a matter of fact, after 5PM, downtown becomes a veritable ghost town. However, if you look hard enough, you’ll find a few gems scattered around the downtown streets. One such place is State Bar, just upstairs from Sambuca. While the stairs can be difficult to manage when you’ve had one too many, it’s worth the risk to enjoy the atmosphere. With the dark wood, exposed brick and leather upholstered seating, you’ll be a power player, until you have one too many of their specialty martinis and are asked to leave. But all will be forgiven, right State Bar?
8] Hudson Lounge
It’s pretentious. It’s over the top. It’s out of your league. It’s damn fun. Hudson Lounge represents all the things that we usually stand against, yet we can’t seem to hate it. Maybe you won’t want to pull up that old ‘89 Chevy Celebrity up to the valet stand. We totally understand that. Just find your friend with the newest/cleanest car, shine up your shoes, dust off that corduroy blazer and prepare to make a night of it. If you’re not in with the “scene” you will enjoy the people watching and feeling comfortable in the fact that you won’t run into anyone you would rather not. If you’re in with the “scene”, well, you already probably know about it and if you don’t, shame on you.
7] Blue Moose Lodge
Upscale hunting lodge might not seem like a classic combination, but Blue Moose manages to pull it off. As Washington Avenue continues to ramp up the douche factor, Blue Moose is a bar that sets aside pretentions in favor of a laid back place to enjoy a few drinks, watch some sports or listen to some good live music. We can all get behind that, right?
6] Big Star
This is “come as you are” at its purest. It’s got old checkered vinyl flooring, beat-up couches, regulars, Turner Movie Classics playing muted on an ancient TV, shitty bathrooms, and a plethora of the cheapest good beer in Houston. Those are reasons enough to happily disappear amidst this unique little dive. But let me elaborate a bit further. I’ve never heard a bad song on the juke box and there have recently been food truck sitings in the evenings. AND again the beer is cheap, cheap like that college you went to in that smallish town.
5] Hans Bierhaus
First, the disclaimer: I hate the Village. That withstanding, Hans’ Bierhaus is one of the redeeming stops in that area. I’ve been heading to Hans’ since my earliest college years and still enjoy it’s charms. A good selection of beers, good music on the jukebox and bocce ball out back. What else could you ask for? Sure, you might not like it if you live next door, but I’m a fan.
4] 13 Celsius
We’re not going to say that we have the most distinguished wine palate. That would be a downright lie. We definitely feel a little more “in the know” after a trip to 13 Celsius. If the thought of an extensive wine list gives you fits of anxiety, just ask the people working for a recommendation. They’ll pop a cork of their finest (or just fine enough) vino. You’ll be surround by a lowkey vibe perfect for the soft conversations of reminiscing or future endeavors. Oh, it can host a party too, but how many people are you going to want to tell about 13 Celsius when you realize you can have it all to yourself?
3] Anvil Bar & Refuge
Paul first wrote about Anvil Bar & Refuge back in 2009. He frequently references the place here on this site. It made last year’s Bestus Prospectus, handily beating its way to the top. I’ve recently been a few too many times, trying a couple different drinks with each outing. My stand-by is the Diplomat. Delicious! However more recently I’ve tried the Jet Pilot, Fourth Legion, Old Fashioned, Sazerac and a couple of others. Aside from personal taste—not a fan of rum—I’ve been more than impressed with each. It makes no difference whether it’s a slow Thursday afternoon or during a loud and rowdy Saturday night, the quality in taste is consistent. That’s difficult. My hat is still off to you, Anvil.
There’s something to be said for walking into a bar and being asked what you like in a cocktail and then being surprised with a drink. I appreciate that kind of personal attention and service, which adds to the experience and why Hearsay Gastro Lounge is on this list. The downtown establishment takes as much pride in their cocktails as they do their food, and it shows. A great spot for happy hour, dinner or drinks, Hearsay appeals to a wide range of regulars who you can find scattered around the bar. Sure, the service is part of the charm, but people wouldn’t keep coming back if the food and beverages weren’t top notch. While Hearsay is not your typical Houston bar, the upscale lounge provides great cocktails without the pretense of some of Houston’s other cocktail establishments.
1] Liberty Station
On the gentler side of Washington, Liberty Station makes putting “cornhole” on your e-Harmony profile somewhat more acceptable. (That’s what the throw-the-beanbag-in-the-hole game is officially called, by the way). Every weekend, Liberty Station imparts a little playfulness onto a gag-me trendy strip with big-kid bar games, tellies aimed at various sporting tickets and a solid beer selection. Go on a night when ‘Zilla’s around and you’ll really feel like a kid in a candy store.