10. ARMADILLO PALACE Part of the Goode Company empire of Houston restaurants, this music venue, barbecue joint and bar can be easily spotted by passersby on Kirby thanks to the giant 12-foot metal armadillo hanging out in front. Inside the all-Texan, western theme continues with mounted longhorns, ranch paraphernalia, and stools with leather saddles on them. Live Texas music on Saturday night gets the patrons out on the floor two-steppin'; expect a good lineup here of rodeo afterparty entertainment next month.
5015 Kirby, goodecompany.com
9. THE BIG EASY SOCIAL AND PLEASURE CLUB The best blues bar in Houston, the Big Easy has hosted many local, regional and national blues legends throughout the years, and continues to host live music seven nights a week. Most nights admission is free, and the cover charge never goes above $5, which is amazing considering the talent that plays here.
The patrons of this authentic, divey bar are true lovers of the blues, and during weekend shows the dance floor stays jumping all night. The Easy's intimate size can't be beat and makes audience members feel like they are a part of the show, not just observers from afar. Be sure to check in on Sunday nights for live Zydeco as well.
5731 Kirby, thebigeasyblues.com
8. THE GINGER MAN PUB Opened 30 years ago at the beginning of Ronald Reagan's second term as president way back in 1985, this Rice Village institution has been serving up an impressive and large selection of draft and bottled beers from around the world to the locals long before the current craft beer craze took off in recent years. The Ginger Man's front and back patios remain great places to wile away the afternoon, evening and night when the weather is nice; bring along some friends and order some sandwiches and snacks to share along with your pints.
5607 Morningside, thegingerman.com
7. THE GORGEOUS GAEL Known as Brian O'Neill's for the first twelve years of its existence, this Rice Village authentic Irish bar got a makeover in 2014 and the name was changed to The Gorgeous Gail, after Jack Doyle, an Irish immigrant who became famous as a British heavyweight boxer, Hollywood actor, and tenor. Open daily at 11 a.m. a brunch and lunch/dinner menu is served until 2 a.m.; in addition to the Guinness and domestic/craft beers on draft and in bottles, an impressive selection of Irish Whisky and Scotch is available here.
5555 Morningside, thegorgeousgaelbar.com
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6. HANS' BIER HAUS Hans' Bier Haus is another one of Houston's great beer bars, with a large and ever-changing selection of draft brews on tap. The inside of the bar has some dartboards for the patrons' amusement as well as some interesting art on the walls, but the main attraction here is the outdoors, where the covered beer garden/patio is both dog-friendly and contains a Bocce Ball court, somewhat rare in Houston. Hans' holds several fun events here every week, like karaoke, open-mike night, and trivia; football is big here as well. When The Texans score it's $2 off on draft beers and $0.50 off on bottles, another reason to look forward to next season.
2523 Quenby, hansbierhaus.com
5. KAY'S LOUNGE Kay's is one of the oldest bars in Houston, having just celebrated its 75th anniversary with a big party this past November 12. One of the first things customers will notice upon arrival here is the legendary large Texas-shaped table located in the front room that looks weathered and worn, the top covered with carvings and notes written in ink. Kay's is a welcoming place, with plenty of friendly patrons; the bar has been known to throw benefit parties throughout the years whenever one of the regulars has been in need. The dog-friendly patio out front is another longtime attraction; Kay's only started serving liquor in fairly recent years after many decades as a beer-and-wine-only joint.
2324 Bissonnet, Facebook page
4. KELVIN ARMS Opened in 2000, Rice Village's Kelvin Arms is Houston's only Scottish Pub; as you might expect, it has an impressive selection of single-malt and blended Scotches, as well as some nice craft beer on draft and in bottles. One of the cool features here is the old bank vault dating back to the 1940s, left behind from the days when the building housed the old University Bank. Stroll inside the vault to check out Kelvin's library inside, while the outside is guarded by a full-size suit of armor. A nice-sized deck is available out front, while a pool table, darts and shuffleboard await you inside.
2424 Dunstan, Facebook page
3. MARQUIS II There is a lot of history behind Marquis II in Rice Village. The original River Oaks location opened up in 1945 and was called Marquis, then in the late '60s two waitresses who worked there bought it and changed the name to Marquis II and moved the bar. After a few more owners and locations, it settled in at its current spot back in 1985, taking over a building constructed back in the 1950s that was the former home of both The Big Donut and The Bunny Club.
Over the years the Marquis II gained a reputation as a college hookup bar (everyone is welcome, actually) and for its varieties of strong Texas Tea flavored drinks derived from the Long Island Iced Tea. In 2011, the bar began renovations for some much-needed improvements, but it has easily retained its coolness factor and status as a seminal Rice Village neighborhood bar.
2631 Bissonnet, marquis2.com
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2. UNDER THE VOLCANO Under The Volcano has a unique style and atmosphere about it; some of the features include a shrine behind glass that appears to have been influenced by the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead); Central and South American tribal masks hanging on a wall; candles of various spiritual and religious traditions on the tables; crosses; and more. In addition to the interesting décor, owner Pete Mitchell has put together one of the best and most diverse jukeboxes in the city, featuring classic rock along with cutting-edge new material. Equally impressive are the local and visiting musicians who play live here each Wednesday night, plus at select special events.
2349 Bissonnet, Facebook page
1. VALHALLA Opened 45 years ago in the basement of Keck Hall at Rice University, this pub was created by and for graduate students as a place to blow off some steam and drink some cheap beer or wine after a hard day of studying and/or work. Prices are kept cheap with the aid of an all-volunteer staff made up of graduate students and alumni; the music played here is bartender's choice. Rice is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the country, so expect some intelligent conversation if you decide to join the regulars. Valhalla is normally reserved for private events on Saturday nights.
6100 Main, valhalla.rice.edu
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