June 16th, 2010
McElroy’s Pub: Ready Your Drinker’s Passport
In 5 Words: Capitol, Sandman, Pub, Crimson, Escapist
Perception and reality don’t often coincide. We all live in our own little bubbles. In my bubble Kei$ha doesn’t exist, hockey is a popular sport, Coldplay tore up their songwriters’ license after “Yellow” and people know about McElroy’s Pub. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with introducing a new place to friends, but with power comes responsibility. Maybe I want to keep the place to myself. If that’s the case, I probably shouldn’t offer up McElroy’s on my short list when my friends ask me where we should go for a drink.
Hanging out around the corner browsing albums at Cactus Music during the Summer Fest poster extravaganza, I feel the itch for (another) cold one. The two free St. Arnold brews are not going to be enough on Friday night. Having three bars within a few paces of the record store, the transition should be easy.
“Where do you guys want to go after this,” I ask, already knowing where I’m going to persuade the group of music fans to hunker down.
“We can go to Stag’s Head,” says one of the uninitiated.
“We could do that, OR we could go to McElroy’s.”
“I’ve never heard of it, is it good?”
I scoff. Is it good? First of all, the day I recommend a bad place to go is the day I surrender my drinker’s passport. Secondly, if I’m going to recommend a place other than Stags Head – a perfectly good pub in its own right – then you shouldn’t be questioning me. Thirdly, how have you not heard of McElroy’s?
Sandwiched in between the quixotic Davenport and the reborn Cactus Music, McElroy’s sits on Sandman without much fanfare. A chalkboard outside the front door is all that displays anything special about the pub behind a solid door.
I usher in our group past the internet jukebox just inside the door. It is the only bit of high technology in the bar besides a handful of flat screen TVs shoved into dark corners. Everything else in the bar is solid wood, shiny leather and low lighting. We’re well early of the witching hour which leaves us to share the bar with only a handful of regulars.
A wall of mirrors facing the bar makes McElroy’s look much larger than it actually is, but the back patio triples the seating capacity easily. It’s a place for the escapists and smokers, if you follow the bar past the final cooler and Manchester United jerseys into the open air.
Every time I wander out to the back patio (which happens to be quite often during every trip to the pub) I wonder why they ever stopped playing live music back here. The Might Orc wasn’t always monopolized by The Big Easy. If the reason is because of noise complaints; that’s a shame. If the reason is because nobody wants to book acts anymore; that’s even worse. This was one of the intimate places to catch a decent band, that didn’t feel like a bar pretending to be a music venue. It felt natural.
The drinks are not cheap at McElroy’s. During the weekdays there are specials on your usual brews, but if you’re downing Smithwick’s – as I am tonight – you’re going to be dropping $6 every time you saunter up to the bar. Lone Star, which is always a strong choice, rings up at $2.50 a bottle all day, every day. We grab our drinks deciding to skip a chance to play our amateur style of darts and head out to the patio. We find an added benefit tonight with someone taking our drink orders from the table. Good for the belly, but bad for the bank account.
Visiting the loo leaves a little to be desired for the men. Privacy is not a premium. These visits might be the only blemish on an otherwise solid experience. Everything else about the bar oozes style and cool (the furniture is from the Rice Hotels Old Capitol Club). Looking around you might think that it reminds you of just another Irish pub, but think of how many “Irish pubs” you’ve been to that completely bastardize that concept in the name of selling O-Bombs – I’m looking at you Tipsy Clover and friends.
For everything that McElroy’s has going on, it manages to still remain hidden from the mass consumer. It’s a place for friends and regulars perfect for a low-key weeknight of dart throwing or the bump and grind your way to the bar claustrophobia of weekend parties. For me, it’s usually just a few cold pints with a few good friends which is exactly why I’ll continue to bring them here without the fear that McElroy’s will sell-out like the empty, decades old cigarette machine hiding behind the bathroom door.
Where – 3607 S. Sandman, TX 77098 (View Map)
What – Beer, Irish Whiskey, Scotch, Good Times
Wear – Suits, Ties, Suits and Ties, Sandals and Shorts, It’s All Welcome
How Much – $2.50 Lone Star, Prepare to Pay for Everything Else
When – Every Day 3PM to 2AM
Web – Homepage