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Eyes of the Dragon

Midtown's Komodo Pub is a cozy neighborhood tavern...in a former crack house.

"Neighborhood bar" and "Midtown" aren't terms that have been used in conjunction with one another too often. But that's probably because too many people, besides Midtown residents, don't know about Komodo Pub (2004 Baldwin).

Komodo is a neighborhood bar tucked down the block from Front Porch Pub (217 Gray). It's an old house that's been remodeled into a bar, purposely made to look like a bar that's been built inside of an old house.

The owner purchased Komodo, along with the partly boarded-up house that's still next door (currently being used as storage), several years ago and then sat on the property for a while. It's hard to tell now, but according to the staff, Komodo actually used to be a crack house.

That's not the setup for a joke or anything. It was literally a crack house.

This is more interesting than it should be, but that's probably because we've never been inside a crack house before. We're guessing that the typical Komodo customer — 25 to 40 years old, professional, ­upper-middle-class, white — hasn't either.

The bar is semi-schmaltzy. A cigar-store Indian is stationed by the front door, and a lone oversize Mardi Gras mask is hung on one of the front walls. You can still make out where a sink and shower were in the house's middle section. Plenty of cozy seating is scattered among the bar's three interior sections and two outside patios.

There's a sit-down Galaga/Ms. Pac-Man game in the very back that costs $1 (!) to play. And the electronic jukebox dances around genres, playing everything from the Black Eyed Peas to Justin Bieber to Luke Bryan. It feels like the type of place that grows its crowd organically, which is exactly what Komodo has been doing since opening in 2004.

"I come a couple nights a week," says Kelly Christman, a 27-year-old regular who works in oil and gas operations and lives across the street. "I know everyone here. It's a place of regulars and fun and good people."

This seems true as soon as she says it. In part, because she mingles with several of the groups in attendance over the course of the night, but mostly because her dog, a tiny white ball of lightning named Wally who will put his two front paws on the back of your calves when he wants your attention, darts back and forth unleashed between the front patio and the inside bar area and nobody flips their shit about it.

"All the bartenders know and love him," Christman says of Wally. "They even bring out water bowls for him."

Another telltale sign that the bar is well-worn with non-glitzy charm: Charles.

Charles is a homeless guy in the area. He's tallish, oldish and walks with a cane because he has "bone spurs in his feet and back." He doesn't do drugs, drink alcohol, beg for money or creep you out. Aside from the not-having-a-home thing, he's pretty awful at being a homeless guy.

He says he's been around the world eight times, and ended up here when he got sick and lost his job with Exxon. He stops in at Komodo every once in a while, mostly to get a drink. Tonight he's holding a Sprite in his hand and wearing a hat that reads "BLESSED."

"I don't bother no one," says Charles, who won't give his last name.

"I don't bother no one and I don't ask for nothing," he continues, which kind of seems like an indirect way of asking for something. He shuffles out the door a few moments later. Nobody bats an eye, not even the bartenders or the off-duty manager sitting on the front porch with a few other regulars.

The evening wanders on, as most do, in typical Komodo fashion. People come in, order drinks, hang out, talk over the jukebox, placate dogs and ironic homeless guys and then leave.

The whole place gives off a very content vibe, easily the most enjoyable aspect of a visit there. It's not the kind of showy place you'd go out of your way to drive to, but it's definitely the kind of place you'd love if you lived nearby.
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LAST CALL

Mango's
403 Westheimer

Progressive poppers The Manichean (myspace.com/themanichean), a group that seems to gain more and more buzz by the week, are having a release party for their Whispers EP this Friday at Mango's (403 Westheimer). They'll be performing with former Rocks Off Artists of the Week Peekaboo Theory (myspace.com/peekabootheory) and Tax the Wolf (www.taxthewolf.com), as well as experimental hip-hop bad boy B L A C K I E (myspace.com/blackieblackieblackie). The show will be proper, that much is guaranteed by the lineup. Take our word for it, or you can check out all the bands online ahead of time if you're an untrusting coot.

 
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