July 12th, 2010
Shady Tavern: Biker Bars and Other Strange Decisions
I don’t condone much physical activity, at least any that requires more dexterity than making a sandwich or throwing rocks at your neighbor’s cats, while intoxicated. There’s a strange, purgatory-ish between-season in Texas that occurs in February and March each year though, and when it’s finally shattered by the sunlight of a Houston spring, I throw a little logic out the window. In a prime example of Houston spring insanity, I hoisted myself onto a two-wheeled death machine, known to most as a bicycle, and journeyed from the heart of Montrose to Shady’s Tavern on 1206 W. 20th St.
I would probably look much cooler roaring up to Shady’s on a sleek Harley-Davidson Softail (with or without fumanchu and Viking helmet), but I instead settled on huffing and panting my way there on a 60’s replica beach cruiser. Yes, it even has a bell. Don’t judge. Funny thing about it is that no one batted an eye as I arrived completely out of breath. There were no snide remarks as I surrendered my remaining shards of dignity after showcasing my inability to dismount without brutally scraping my shins and no one scoffed as I clumsily dumped my bike on its side before figuring out the quantum physics behind a kickstand.
Maybe that had more to do with the fact that the only patrons visiting Shady’s at 3 p.m.were an ancient couple smoking Kools and playing chess on the cedar plank picnic tables and a welder-capped pool shooter grooving to Silver Bullet Bob Seger. No matter their reasons for withholding scornful glances and forgoing eye rolls, I had an epiphany. The temptation for any business is to buddy up with the young, credit card milking Lexus brigade, and all things considered, that’s a pretty solid business model. But, to get a gauge on the real mettle of a bar, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a museum or any other public venue, just take a look at how they treat the patrons who show up on foot or via two wheels, sweaty, dusty, often in ratty jeans, a ball cap and thirsty as hell.
Shady’s sits just a block down from bustling Cedar Creek, tucked into a grand grove of oaks and pecans.However, instead of idolizing a city they don’t do business in to a near pathetic extent(no offense, Austin), Shady’s is a perfect extension of the Bayou City. Simple. Gritty. Working class. Instead of a pseudo-artsy, Starbucks barista, fake Cuban military drab serving you a chardonnay with your leek salad ala the place down the road, Shady’s employs real bartenders that actually give a crap about your day.
There’s a big back yard for pooches and a large patio for Parcheesi. A barbecue pit that looks more like Optimus Prime, gets lit up for special occasions and the grub that comes off it is top notch. Shoot pool in what is, unmistakably, a converted mechanic’s garage, complete with sliding tin doors. The brew is cold and there’s no better place if you’re in a Lone Star or PBR frame of mind. If you really need a gigantic selection of micros and drafts, you may want to look elsewhere. Their BYOL (liquor) policy is just another way they refuse to price gouge visitors, and a gigantic projector screen for Astros and Rockets games seals the deal for anyone with PWSD (Post Work Stress Disorder).
If you’re looking for their happy hour (which includes some serious Americana backyard grub) prices and a schedule of events like chili cook-offs and live music, good luck. It would be a shame for me to plug the place like any other pop-up, scratch-and-sniff dive bar replica. Shady’s is a genuine Ice House, so trust me when I say that anytime you show up, they’ll have a cheap cold one for you, but for more information you’ll have to give them a buzz at (713) 869-7000. Or, you can check out their My Space page at http://www.myspace.com/theshadytavern. The fact that these guys use a My Space page as a website only reinforces their casual, who-gives-a-damn style, and I love it. No Twooter. No Farcebook. None of it; they poke people and friend request them the good old fashioned way when they walk in the door by showing them a good time and asking them to come back any time. Don’t believe me? Try it out…on two wheels.