Gastropub Crawl

The Red Lion isn't just another fake British pub -- it's an authentically fake British pub

Some pubs in the UK serve as meeting places for particular crowds. Along with the neighborhood pubs, there are golfers' pubs, boaters' pubs, pubs devoted to teams like Manchester United, and pubs for singles on the make.

Houston pubs aren't quite as specialized, but they do have associations. Irish football fans congregate at Slainte downtown to watch important matches, usually quite early in the morning because of the difference in time zones. The dark and dreary Rudz, as the regulars call it, attracts an arty, bohemian crowd. And the natty Black Lab on Montrose draws blonds in cable-knit sweaters who loudly favor Aspen over Steamboat Springs.

A taste of the British middle class: The Red Lion's 
bangers and mash.
Troy Fields
A taste of the British middle class: The Red Lion's bangers and mash.

Location Info


Red Lion Pub

2316 S. Shepherd
Houston, TX 77019

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: River Oaks


Red Lion Pub

Shepherd's pie: $10
Bangers and mash: $10
Cornish pastie: $9

2316 South Shepherd, 713-782-3030. Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays though Thursdays; noon to 2 a.m. Fridays through Sundays.

Except for a few elderly red-faced guys and a couple of expat Brits, the Red Lion hasn't established a steady crowd yet. The last time I ate there, I was delighted to see a woman and her three young children having dinner at a nearby table. Perhaps it was the Monday-night $3 hamburger special that attracted them, but it definitely gave the Red Lion an authentic British pub vibe. I remember seeing lots of little old ladies drinking steaming pots of tea in British pubs during the afternoon, and families with children during dinner.

That night, we sampled an indifferent hamburger and a "roast beef dip" sandwich consisting of slices of overcooked roast beef on a soft white bread roll with a bowl of dark beef stock for dipping on the side. We also split a Cornish pastie, a delicate pastry dome stuffed with beef, carrots, potatoes and peas, which was beautiful but bland. Craig Mallinson is bravely resisting the British gourmet trend. Instead, he seems intent on re-creating the stodgy flavors of his Yorkshire youth.

We stopped by the Red Lion for dinner one other time, but we couldn't get a table. It seems the entire pub had been reserved for an "eight-minute dating" event. The contestants, who wore numbered badges, were drinking heavily and eyeing each other nervously across the bar. For the Red Lion's sake, I hope this doesn't turn into a regular event. It ruins the "public house" atmosphere.

Purity is probably a little too much to ask of Houston's pubs when, in fact, Britain's pubs are starting to resemble American bars. Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft are two of the most popular beers in British pubs these days. We Americans may not be very good at brewing beer, but we sure can market the stuff.

Traditional British pubs are disappearing, John Whiting wrote in his e-mail. The bars don't belong to local landlords anymore; they're owned by the big breweries, which are mainly interested in attracting young drinkers with loud music and American-style lagers, he said. "Lager has in fact replaced traditional bitter as the most widely consumed drink in Britain," Whiting wrote. "If the Red Lion wants to get really authentic, it had better lay on the Bud and install a disco."

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