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It's easy, and convenient, to lump bars into archetypal categories when you're describing them.
3004 Canal St.
Houston, TX 77003
Region: East End
Moon Tower Inn
This bar is a Dive Bar, that bar is a Glitzy Nightclub, this bar is an After-Hours Lounge. That bar is where 21-year-olds hang out, so don't go there unless you feel like getting into a fistfight because you made a joke about this guy's spoiler on the back of his 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse. And so on and so forth.
And, rudimentary as that may appear, it's a fairly effective way to navigate at night.
But for Moon Tower Inn (3004 Canal), the Second Ward spot opened up by longtime friends Brandon Young and Evan Shannon last month, that stereotypical shorthand is completely useless. Here, there's no actual bar to speak of — hell, there's not even an actual "inside" to speak of.
Moon Tower occupies about one-third of an acre of land, which means it has the potential to be a fairly large venue. But only about one-eighth of that space is occupied by a building, which is where the employees are.
The customers are left to wander around the remaining acreage, all of which is outdoors. It's a business plan that seems horrible in theory, but is appealing in practice — particularly when there's a surprisingly resplendent covered patio, garden seating and a horseshoe pit.
The best tag that's been pinned to Moon Tower's lapel thus far is "Zombie Bar." This will make absolutely zero sense to anyone who hasn't been there, and perfect sense to anyone who has.
Jordan Pannell, a 26-year-old online-radio station manager, opts for a less cutesy approach to what he deems the best bar in the city.
"It's a fat man's paradise," he laughs.
Moon Tower serves up an array of specialty "hot dogs" — lamb, pheasant, elk, etc. After eating one, calling it a "hot dog" seems about as appropriate as calling a nice steak a block of cardboard.
"I was so happy when I found this place," says Pannell, who recently moved to the area. "They've been open, what, three weeks now? I've been here..."
Pannell's left hand is occupied by a plastic cup of sangria, so he manipulates the digits on his left: "...one, two, three...12 times. A couple of times I've come twice in one day."
The Moon Tower has no dress code, no cover, no nothing in the way of a prototypical nightlife experience — not even doors. Still, some of Houston's most elite chefs have come through and blessed the place, a fact Young seems to relish (pun fully intended).
"I have not had one single complaint yet," he says. "And these are the best chefs in Houston sitting down to eat."
Dining eight feet away is the sensitive palate of Raymond Vandergaag, a chef at the acclaimed restaurant Feast (219 Westheimer). Tonight is the second time he's visited in three days.
"I love it," says Vandergaag. "This place is a chef's haven: Gourmet hot dogs, cold beer...and any time you see [bicycles] and tattoos, it's a good sign," he adds with a smile.
Moon Tower has a heap of things going for it at the moment. The most important is the almost palpable buzz it is generating.
Its second most important asset is these breezy October and November nights. At some point in the not-too-distant future, this outdoor oasis will inevitably pick up a semi-derogatory "hipster" modifier, which will almost certainly come from the sect of people who refuse to visit a venue in Second Ward.
All things considered, though, it's hard to imagine a situation where Moon Tower Inn doesn't become an important bar.
Moon Tower Inn; Local Live Houston
Halloween evening, Moon Tower peels back the night with a ten-band lineup of some of Houston's finer talent. The bill includes Black Congress, Roky Moon & BOLT, Venomous Maximus, Hamamatsu Tom, the Bareback Hell Stallions Band and more. We're aware that if you're not familiar with that scene, those sound like completely ludicrous, made-up bands, but they're good. Trust. Second, the online station the young man mentioned above, Jordan Pannell, helps run is called Local Live Houston. It's all Houston music, all the time, and is down temporarily online but accessible via iPhone, BlackBerry and Droid. Check it out at www.locallivehouston.com.
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