June 2nd, 2010

H-Town Showdown: Bourbon St. vs. Washington Ave.

After a weekend trip to New Orleans I got to thinking, “how do some of the frequented tourist attractions around the country match up to Houston.” Sure, this isn’t a fair question in a lot of regards based solely on the lore. But when it comes down to it, we have a lot of comparable areas in town to those that grace the lips of bachelor party partiers all over the country. So, to that I offer you Bourbon Street and Washington Avenue and ask the question “who ya got?”


Contender #1: Bourbon Street
There isn’t a strip in the country that offers the level of debauchery that resides on Bourbon Street. Men and women stumble into and out of bar after bar, strip club after strip club and from Lucky Dog stand to Lucky Dog stand. There is flashing, same sex make-out sessions for beads and plastic cups shaped like deadly weapons. It’s not all just test-tube shots and second rate strippers, though. There are a few decent eateries (have to go a couple blocks away for the good stuff) willing to serve the drunks food (and hopefully a couple more daiquiris) and music… oh, the music. New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz and they sure do show it. If you’re not distracted by the cover bands or open mic karaoke, you’re sure to come across some of America’s own musical genre. The street itself is ancient and full of tradition. Old buildings dating back to the 1700’s stand shoulder to shoulder. The Hurricane was born at Pat O’Briens, supposedly… And did we mention the music?


Contender #2: Washington Avenue
Before you write this off as a one-horse race, let’s consider Washington’s Seabiscuit to Bourbon’s War Admiral. Washington Avenue has it’s fair share of drunken antics, but it offers up some class restaurants as well. Catalan could be considered the flagship of these at the moment. The heralded El Rey and Laredo Taqueria along with the new Les Grival are sure to be having people chowing down before cutting the carpet. And if you want drink there is that too. Sure, the waitresses don’t tend to be trotting around toting shots in laboratory equipment, but who needs that? As Washington grows and attracts more bars and clubs, long walks from bar to bar become non-existent. Oh, and you want music? How about the Houston institution Walter’s on Washington? They don’t need old stand-bys to come and wail on a trumpet every weekend. National acts and local up-and-comers are there every night.

The Final Jabs
- Addition by Subtraction: Ever been up early on Bourbon Street Sunday morning? Washington never has to deal with that smell. Trust me. That’s a good thing. A real good thing.
- Remember, this isn’t the French Quarter vs. Washington Corridor.
- With the above mind, Catalina Coffee blows anything on Bourbon St. off the dike.
(You’re Cafe Du Monde argument is moot)
- Have you been into any of the strip clubs on Bourbon Street? Yikes.
- Drinks classic to New Orleans? Hand Grenades, Hurricanes, etc.
- Drinks classic to Houston? …anyone?…
- Shall we include that Abita vs. St. Arnold fight in this showdown… sure, why not?
- Oldest bar on Bourbon Street: LaFitte’s.
- Oldest bar on Washington Avenue: Darkhorse(?)
- Newest bar on Washington Avenue: Liberty Station.
- Newest bar on Bourbon Street: Howl at the Moon (yes, really).
- Bourbon Street has plenty of cops ready to arrest you for public intoxication.
- Washington Ave. has plenty of cops ready to arrest you for driving while intoxicated.
- Washington has plenty of attorneys advertising their DWI services… point goes to Washington?
- Let’s talk about that Bourbon Street smell a little more…

— Paul


tim — Wednesday, June 2, 2010 3:18 pm

Great read – it made me rethink about the potential Washington has for sustaining Houston as more of a (inter)national entertainment spot.

That said, I’m not a fan of either street so it’s like choosing between burning alive or drowning myself. This vote goes to the one that smells less like pee.

PS – Don’t forget the cops on Washington are ready to taze at will on a noise complaint.

Mike — Wednesday, June 2, 2010 3:41 pm

First of all great article. Secondly, Houston is my home and I love this place like no other but for being the 4th or some say the 3rd largest city in the country, our nightlife sucks! The problem is we are too spread out and the club owners are like vampires. They bring in these clubs, hire any half assed promoter with a hundred friends on myspace/facebook/twitter and let them do all the work. Once the place falls apart they close up shop and move to the next trendy part of town. We have seen this over and over with the move from Richmond Ave, Downtown, Midtown and now Washington Ave. It seems like these people are only in it for the quick money. Sure we have a few great bars in Houston but it can’t compare as a whole to cities like New Orleans, Austin and I want to vomit just saying this but even Dallas has a better nightlife. Houston is too busy trying to run the bars and clubs like this is New York or Miami. I worked in the nightlife industry for a long time here in Houston so I know the dirty deeds going on behind the scenes. We are freaking Houston, Texas and it’s time we do something about it. Houston is constantly being known as a place of failure. Every great idea is failed in the end because of poor management and planning. We have the biggest arts community next to New York and a ton of great bands but the problem is we lack the support. Why is it that Austin is always coming up on top for being the best place to live in Texas? Why not Houston? I’m sorry for getting way off topic but you have to admit Houston is slacking when it comes to nightlife. Isn’t it bad that even Houstonians have renamed Washington Ave, Douchington Ave? Come on Houston let’s make things happen!

Paul — Wednesday, June 2, 2010 4:31 pm

Mike, I appreciate your zeal. Also, I have to say that I agree with parts of your argument, but definitely not the full thing. There was a day when I was disturbed by the way the club segment of nightlife is managed in Houston, but no more. It’s the way it’s done all over the country when it comes to the “trendy” places to be. They’re constantly changing along with the “trends.” With people chasing the trends, that just gives me more quality time in the bars that are worth frequenting. Stop watching the skeezy club promoters on facebook and start reading The Loop Scoop. We’ll show you the way.

One last note… the nightlife is spread out because the city is spread out. That’s not going to change, nor would I want it to. If you know where you’re going every trip you make will be well worth it.

We’re making it happen, Mike. I promise.

Mike — Wednesday, June 2, 2010 11:32 pm

Oh trust me I know. Sure I sound a little bitter with Houston like I said this is my home. I still have my hands in the nightlife but not like I use to. I dont waste my time with these kids throwing parties. I have a love/hate relationship about how Houston is so spread out. I personally believe that we need to revive Downtown and get rid of all those ghetto bars/clubs. Downtown should be the mecca of entertainment in the city but its not. Downtown is practically dead now adays and most people are too afraid to want to deal with it. Mainly Houston needs to step up with parking. While the new area around Discovery Green is nice and the addition of the Houston Pavillions we need to bring back Main St. and finish what the Bayou Place was ment to be. When that strip first opened it was suppose to be what Houston Pavillions is but it never amounted to anything. We need to stop doing things half ass and make things happen. I love the Loop Scoop and I think your doing a great thing but this is where Houston and the business owners come in. We need more in Houston!

Wave — Thursday, June 3, 2010 3:27 am

Okay, let enter the Wave to both this conversation and Houston nightlife. We too are from Houston & love it. It is spread out, but so is Chicago, but people who visit, are able to get around without the necessity of renting a car or taking 100 taxis in one day. Yes, we are aware of our fickle nature, but we believe this time, with Houston’s 1st & ONLY permitted jitney shuttle company in town, we can have Bourbon St, 6th St, 4th St, SoHo, Sunset Strip, all in Houston, Texas. With the Washington Corridor being sandwiched b/w a 1503 acre park, Memorial Park, which happens to be larger than Central Park, and the downtown of the soon to be 3rd largest city in the country, we are destined for great things. If the people who live in the Washington Corridor, like those who live in the highly attractive French Quarter had a way to get around in their own neighborhood without having to drive, or those in Midtown or the Heights, or any inner loop area, then we can make it happen. And herein lies one of the missions of the Wave. We offer two FREE parking lots right now, with more in the works, one with a taxi stand in it, and very nice shuttle buses that roam within the Washington Corridor, Midtown, and now part of the Heights too. We will be adding to our fleet and expanding our service area soon to help not just Washington Ave (Bourbon St.), but Midtown (6th St), Downtown (5th St), EaDo (SoHo), Upper Kirby (4th St), etc come back to life and stay alive. You can find out more on our fanpage http://facebook.com/washingtonwave or follow us @washingtonwave or thehoustonwave.com

By the way, agreed, amazing article and we LOVE Loop Scoop too!!!!!

ashley — Friday, June 4, 2010 8:54 am

I myself find Bourbon street to be a little past it’s prime these days, or maybe I’m just getting old! I usually like to pick up a tried and true hand grenade and walk down to Frenchman Street where the action is a little more refined than shoulder to shoulder tourists (barely, but barely is just enough)

I also agree with the Cafe du monde coffee statement, and if you try to buy it from the can in your own home, it’s even worse. However, they are open all night and serve the most amazing beignets!

I guess washington for me based on its potential?

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