December 13th, 2011
Cecil’s Pub: Subtly Hidden Good
In 7 Words: Jukebox, Candles, Dark, Paneled, Wood, Cheap, Montrose
Cecil’s Pub on West Gray was pitched to me by fellow Loopster, Tea on a frosty Houston night in a December like any other we’ve had in recent years. I’d never heard of Cecil’s, let alone ever noticed her on any number of countless times I’d careened down West Gray.
Needless to say, after heading up the stairs of the near wrap around deck, beyond the paint chipped doors and into the candle lit cavern, I felt as though I’d gotten that subtle wink you get from the older folks when they’re in the midst of a fraudulently dry joke. You know the one. It’s the clue. The clue to that fun that alludes everyone else. The fun of course, Cecil’s.
Houston is at its best when nearly deceitful. Cecil’s Pub, like the Big Top or Big Star Bar, calmly sit, hiding in the darker places, waiting for you to find them. In the open area just in front of the bar, standing on the wood floors long ago bereft of their shine, I conspired with Tea as to what drink this chilly night called for. Only a pitcher of Saint Arnold Christmas Ale would do and the faster the better.
After banter with the bartenders, mostly coming from Tea, as he used to frequent Cecil’s more than his wallet ever allowed, when living within walking distance; we grabbed our glasses and pitcher, spilling our beverage each step of the way.
Most places of somewhat dingy repute, like those few mentioned above, offer cheap beer. Some even go as far as to have cans of craft beer. Not only had we found cheap craft beer at Cecil’s, but it was on tap. On tap! I was having a “Hobbits are made aware that the Prancing Pony serves pints” moment.
Tea told me that on most nights it was a fairly thin crowd. Indeed, it was a Friday evening and even with the spillover from PJ’s Karaoke Night, there were only maybe 35 people present. Only one of the three pool tables was being used, by a couple in their mid 30’s as unassuming as the very building they occupied.
As our conversation hopscotched from movie quotes to the best one hit wonders of the 90’s and then back to movie quotes, my attention was split when I heard the Arctic Monkeys on the speakers. Get out of town! Not that I listen to obscure music, but they’re from Scotland.
Off to the corner was an older CD juke box. Think clacking plastic with each push of the arrows, the ink on the buttons scratched by thousands of fingernails, and a selection worthy of the hodgepodge crowd that calls Cecil’s home. After I perused the the selection, over and over and over again, I eventually chose all Arctic Monkeys. I’m a stubborn creature of habit. The biggest surprise of the fancy music box, Bran Van 3000. Seriously?
With dollars in and my diverse mix on its way, we headed to the deck for a smoke. Weathered picnic tables, with their occasional bird shit from the nesting pigeons just above, lined the entire front side of Cecil’s. A grill sat unused only half enveloped by it’s protective cover.
After our cigarettes are reduced to their filters, the cold wind sets in. With a few empty pitchers in our past and motor skills slightly slower than we’d like, we figured it was time to foot the bill. I was more than happy to lend my signature on that bar soaked piece of paper, after the reasonably priced beer was reiterated.
Heading back out through the paint chipped doors for the last time that night, I could only smile to myself, as I realized I was now clued in. Cecil’s, Houston, I’m on to you.
Where – 600 West Gray Street, Houston, TX 77019
What – Whatever you want
Wear – As long as your clothed, let’s say style or lack there of is not criticized
How much – Cheap
When – Closed until 4:00 PM; Monday through Sunday: 4:00PM to 2:00AM; Friday & Saturday: 4:00PM to 2:00AM; Happy hour is 7 days a week from 4:00PM to 7:30PM
Web – Facebook