July 29th, 2009
The Dubliner: Washington Avenue’s Perfect Pour
In 7 Words: Guinness, Parking, Subtle, Pop-rock, Pub, Patio, Fáilte
Washington Avenue has been undergoing the transition to the new “it” spot in Houston for the party-people. Every block a new structure has sprung up announcing itself in glitzy flashing lights and a line around the corner. Some have chosen to overhaul the old, buying out the established but decaying scene in an attempt to break into the market. The Dubliner is one such bar, choosing to sneak onto Washington without the confetti and fireworks.
Across the street from the ever-popular Pearl Bar stands one of Washington’s only subtle gems. Only last year Chaise Lounge was the name above the door. The folks who own The Harp decided there was no better investment than reintroducing their brand to the Houston population. By leasing a spot on the newest strip of bars in town, their Celtic charm is brought to bar patrons unaware of their previous success’. In fine dive style they have taken a decidedly different approach than their neighbors.
You won’t find a velvet rope or valet standing proudly in front of the doors of Dubliner, but they do possess an anomaly on Washington; their own free parking lot fit for about 15 to 18 cars. Couple that with the perfect pour of Guinness and you are hard pressed to find a challenger that could match their distinct niche.
The back-lit bright-green sign traced in white and orange is a relatively new addition to the exterior and is really the only fanfare outside of the pub. Walking inside requires a bit of adjustment after looking at the marquis; the walls are dark, the lights are low and the room still feels like an old dive. The intimate bar practically meets you at the door begging you to order a Lone Star or Irish Car Bomb. Glancing into the cooler I see they serve Pacifico in which I choose to indulge, passing on shots, the “National Beer of Texas” and the tried and true choice of Guinness.
There are a couple of small, round pub tables on the recessed floor of the bi-level establishment. A group of friends, fresh off a stint at a wedding rehearsal dinner, sets up camp at one as we figure out where the rest of our party is hiding. There are several more tables two steps up from us in the area that ultimately leads to a booth in the back and the rear patio door. Just after 10PM The Dubliner is half-full on this Friday night as more come in the door for drinks and some of the tables find willing occupiers.
There is an internet jukebox along the back wall that seems like it has been turned off for the night. But, tunes from another source are a fitting blend of classics and new British pop-rock, just loud enough to notice and soft enough to allow conversation. My exit music is supplied by the Arctic Monkeys as I leave my friends and head to the patio out back. The corridor lined with tables and chairs is darker than the rest of the barroom and the music is slightly louder. A couple groups sit together at tables leaning in closely to exchange stories as I pass the cigarette vending machine and push open the back door.
The patio is deceivingly large. Tiled tables seemingly stand on every square inch of space, patrons lounging back, smoking cigarettes and laughing with their friends. I’m surprised to see a few people I know sitting in the corner beneath the shadow of the nine-foot fence that encloses this outdoor haven. There are only two exits: a wrought iron gate – steadfast and locked – and the ceiling of stars above. Typical sheet metal beer signs are screwed into place along the fence, a reminder that you’re at an Irish pub.
My friends wave me over and I dodge errant chairs on my way to their stuffed corner. There are a couple of new faces and the introductions revolve around the circle after which I get a chance to look around. Half of the people outside look as if they had bigger aspirations tonight at some of the “trendier” spots along the strip and settled at Dubliner, content to have a night of conversation instead of dancing and grinding. But, all look happy with the eventual choice. No one moves from their seats outside, tables once occupied stay occupied, a sure sign that the night is going well.
There is a girl in the opposite corner who keeps looking over at our group, specifically a friend of mine who traveled in for the wedding everyone will be going to tomorrow. She looks familiar; specifically, like an old flame from college. Blazing red hair, narrow vibrant eyes, tall and slender, I can’t help but keep glancing at her. My friend gets up to go inside and the lookalike follows him. He returns a half hour later with a smirk and a scrap of paper.
We drink our way into the night; a few beers and a shot or two are all the fuel we need. As the lights come on we head for the door, but our group needs to know what happened to sate the need to live vicariously through our friends. As we get into the parking lot my friend finally folds. He tells us the name of the flirtatious redhead and that she is on vacation to Houston from Dublin, Ireland. No further validation will ever be needed for another trip to The Dubliner. If it’s good enough for the natives, then that’s all the excuse I need to come back.
Where – Washington Heights (4219 Washington Ave, Houston, Texas 77007) View Map
What – An Understated Pub in the Heart of Washington
Wear – Comfortable Attire or Glitzy Accessories
Who – The Impatient Washington Crowd and Almost Locals
How Much – Right in the Middle
When – 5:00PM-2:00AM 7 Days a Week
Web – Only Here on The Loop Scoop!