As they're recognized today, ice houses represent a uniquely Houston experience. Many have gone by the wayside in recent years, particularly those that focused almost exclusively on selling ice, but a number of those that remain have become local landmarks of a sort. A few have even sprouted up in and around the area in recent years, albeit more in the business of selling beer and less in the business of shilling ice. Point being, with summer ever so slowly drawing to a close, ice houses are a great way to spend a hot afternoon in the Bayou City. Here are Houston’s ten best local ice houses.
10. CATTY CORNER ICE HOUSE
One of Houston’s quintessential dive bars, and one of its finest ice houses, Catty Corner is a favorite among locals in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area. The joint is populated by regulars but will often play host to visitors, particularly after nearby Crowbar closes at midnight on weekdays. Free pool is a draw here, as is cheap beer. Once upon a time, the novelty of Catty Corner lay in part with its outdoor promo sign, which was dated (to put it kindly) and rarely updated. Of course, the owners have since installed a new sign – one that updates frequently - making Catty Corner a slightly more upscale dive bar than in years past. (895 Wakefield, cattycornericehouse.com)
9. LUKE’S ICEHOUSE
Tucked away just off Washington Avenue, but away from the hustle and bustle of that particular scene, is fitting for Luke’s; it's about as laid-back as a bar can get. The patio is spacious and features picnic tables and sports on a number of TVs, while the indoor offers a full bar and even a few couches. Play a little cornhole, maybe watch some dodgeball (while in-season on Mondays) and enjoy such specials as $10 chicken-fried steak on Monday, $2 tacos on Tuesday and 2-for-1 burgers on Thursdays. Luke’s is also kid- and dog-friendly. (903 Durham, lukesicehouse.com)
8. RED RIVER ICE HOUSE
If you’re looking for a stereotypical ice house crowd – one populated by bikers and tough guys alike – you may want to look elsewhere; Red River Ice House tends to play host to those that live and work in and around the Medical Center, as well as those looking for a little concert/sports pregaming before a big event at NRG Stadium. Whatever the makeup of the crowd, Red River serves up beer, wine, liquor, and pizzas – and occasionally something from the grill. The Internet jukebox keeps things bumping, and Red River even hosts live music from time to time. (10308 Main, facebook.com/redrivericehouse)
7. BUFFALO FRED’S ICEHOUSE
A number of inner-loop bars cater to the young and hip crowd, a mix of young professionals and industry types looking to mingle with fellow revelers at any number of area bars. Buffalo Fred’s is NOT one of those bars. Tucked just inside 610, Buffalo Fred’s is a family-run joint that caters to a number of locals who have populated the Heights staple for years, not to mention the area bikers who basically call the place home. Buffalo Fred’s caters to its clientele by offering such traditions as Wednesday steak night, barbecue cook-offs and crawfish boils during the season. (2708 N. Shepherd, buffalofredsicehouse.com)
6. BIG JOHN’S ICE HOUSE
Located in the Energy Corridor, Big John’s plays host to a large number of regulars who come for weekly events such as trivia, steak night, live music, and even a friendly game of ping-pong. The bar serves up solid bar food, including such favorites as the South of the Border Burger, steak and shrimp, and grilled pork chops. Big John's even hosts special events on occasion, including a crock-pot cookoff earlier this year, with proceeds benefiting Friends for Life Animal Shelter & Sanctuary. (12640 Briar Forest, bigjohnsicehouse.com)
5. KIRBY ICE HOUSE
Okay, so the recent decision to up its minimum age requirement from 21 to 23 was a tad askew, but it’s time to move on and recognize Kirby Ice House for what it is — one of the best new bars in Houston. The patio is spacious, and will make for some fine football-watching once the weather cools down a bit. Plus, it’s dog-friendly, has chairs aplenty and even features a food truck on-site. Kirby Ice House has really made a mark on locals by hosting a number of events since opening earlier this year, including a pig roast/luau, crawfish boils and beer tastings. (3333 Eastside, facebook.com/kirbyicehouse)
4. D&T DRIVE INN
This area staple has been going strong for almost 60 years and has managed to do so by offering up cold, affordable drinks, quality bar food and plenty of picnic-table seating. D&T is a great place to catch up with friends during happy hour, or even to decompress and grab a beer solo. With 50 beers on tap, and quality bar food options like Frito Pie, hot dogs and nachos, D&T is a favorite among regulars and newbies alike. (1307 Enid, treadsack.com/dtdriveinn)
3. SHEFFIELD’S ICE HOUSE
A Houston institution since 1942, Sheffield’s is a hidden gem of sorts in the Bayou City. It’s also about as close to Houston’s own “Cheers” as you’ll get. Sheffield’s regulars, many of which have been so for decades, are a family unit; the bar occasionally plays host to birthday celebrations for its regular patrons, while also mourning the passing of a longtime customer. Special events are commonplace, including a piñata and waterslide party earlier this month. (5118 Telephone, facebook.com/sheffields-ice-house)
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2. JIMMY’S ICE HOUSE
The White Oak area certainly has changed over the years; fortunately, its best local ice house remains as it always was – gruff, a bit gritty and incapable of bullshit. These are the charms of Jimmy’s Ice House, a premier spot to buy cheap domestic and craft beers while listening to music on the jukebox or perhaps talking with your fellow clientele. Pull up a chair, order some food from any number of nearby restaurants (BB's is a particular favorite during crawfish season), grab a cold beer, and enjoy an ice house at its finest. (2803 White Oak, 713-862-7001)
1. WEST ALABAMA ICE HOUSE
Were you expecting anything else? Simply put, West Alabama is the J.J. Watt of area ice houses, with all the Houston adoration but none of the commercials. A favorite among Houstonians for nearly 90 years, this Montrose institution is almost half ice house/half backyard barbecue. Adorned with picnic tables – and misting fans for the hot summer months – West Alabama Ice House also partners up with a badass taco truck across the street, for those in the mood for some cheap bar eats. The beer is cheap, the servers are friendly, the bar games are plentiful, and the basketball rim plays host to some mean games of H-O-R-S-E. (1919 W. Alabama, facebook.com/walabama)