Hole out from the rain and/or the heat in these low-key Houston hideaways.
Spring is often Houston weather’s sweet spot. Not too hot, not too cold: perfect for an outdoor margarita in the sun. But it also brings flurries of spring showers, which can literally dump cold water on the patio experience. Houston thankfully, has plenty of places to hole up during such cases: whether to escape the weather, shoot a round of pool, or to play a song on a jukebox, here are our 10 favorite dives in Houston. [Featured image: @somanycorgis]
1. Grand Prize
Grand Prize is tucked in the east edge of Montrose north of Museum Park. Driving by, the bar first gives off the vibe of a low-key house party – what with the front porch, music, and the colorful array of lights twinkling in the front window and all. In sunnier, warmer, and less pandemic-y times, bar patrons can be seen having a couple beers on the second story balcony. On cold, dark, and wet days, Grand Prize is the ultimate hole-in-the-wall to crawl into and stave off the storm.
2. Poison Girl
As with its moody interior, deep red walls, scant lighting, and shrine of spirits, so does the Westheimer haunt offer an idyllic atmosphere for various drinking moods. Whether you want to take the edge off after a day at work, straight drown your sorrows, smooth over first date jitters, or catch up with friends – all forms are doable at Poison Girl. The bar is stocked with a proper whiskey selection with bartenders that know how to mix a cocktail. Plus there’s pinball machines and a spacious back patio.
3. Big Star Bar
Good music, good people, and ridiculously cheap beer: that’s Big Star Bar. The retro-fitted late-night dive in the Heights is fitted with pool tables, a dance floor, and a big back yard when the weather’s fair. If you’re winding down for the night or turning up, Big Star is the place to do so.
4. Lola’s Depot
Lola’s has been a Montrose institution for the past 30 years. A no-frills down and dirty dive with cheap drinks, vibrant crowds, good tunes, a back patio, and a couple of pool tables.
5. Neil’s Bahr
The gamer-themed East Downtown bar is Houstonian’s place to geek out. Fit with a library of comic books, free play-arcade games and “all the Simpsons” – not to mention a full bar – the 21+ bar makes for a solid place to hang out, converse with like-minded people, and play Mario Kart. Neil’s Bahr hosts movie nights on Mondays, video game tournaments on Tuesdays, karaoke on Wednesdays, and general antics the rest of the week.
The Big Top Lounge is the colorful extension of The Continental Club. Befit with vintage circus paintings, kaleidoscopic lighting, and a hodgepodge of festive memorabilia, Big Top offers a carnival-like atmosphere to enjoy a live band, cheap beer, and good people.
notsuoH is part bar, part performance art venue, part vintage art gallery. Our last memory of the dive goes back a few years. That night the bar showcased an experimental noise rock outfit. During which, the band played and recorded a number of loops, after which the keyboardist and guitarist sat down crosslegged on the stage and played a game of chess as the loops fed through the monitors. And that pretty much sums up the energy of notsuouH – a DIY watering hole where artists, poets, and performers can express themselves without the pretense of impressing, or even entertaining, anyone. 10/10 would go again.
While not a speakeasy, La Carafe Wine Bar on Congress St. largely flies under the radar of Houston’s bar scene. Housed in a building built in 1847, the historic – and probably haunted – dive is believed to be the oldest bar in Houston. La Carafe offers an intimate and ambient atmosphere, fit with a chandelier, wax-crystallizing candles, antique relics of times past, and one damn good jukebox. Take the stairs up to their second-story balcony for an enchanting view of downtown.
9. D&W Lounge
Filled to the brim with antiques, knick knacks, and general bric a brac, the historic East Downtown hole-in-the-wall is regularly packed with an eclectic crowd for cheap beer and live bands – no cover necessary. If you need a breath of fresh air, or a cigarette, there’s also a back patio. D&W offers $1.50 beer Mondays, and karaoke on Saturdays.
Full disclosure, we’re still a little peeved that Lil Danny’s didn’t extend an invite when Houston-based band, Narrow Head shot their music video inside the bar. All the same, Lil Danny’s is another classic dive from the people behind Big Star Bar and Grand Prize. The “human-friendly” dive is stocked with a full bar with rotating seasonal drafts and other local craft brews. Their patio is dog-friendly and oft features a variety of tasty food trucks to complete the experience.