Montrose is one of the most popular – and, arguably, the most eclectic – neighborhoods in Houston, and its bar and nightclub scene is one of the city's busiest. The area due southwest of downtown is home to sports bars, dance clubs, gay bars, upscale joints, dive bars and everything in between. Montrose literally offers something for everyone looking for a nice place to kick back – or turn up – with cold drinks and good friends. But, like any other part of town, the neighborhood has its highlights. These ten bars are essential Montrose nightlife.
10. THE HAY MERCHANT
Few, if any, bars in Montrose do craft beer quite like The Hay Merchant, which stores and serves a staggering number of national and local brews. The bartenders are some of the best in the city, so if the beer list overwhelms you, just give them an idea what you want and they’ll take care of the rest. And while many bars in town serve food, The Hay Merchant doesn’t just serve standard bar fare; it offers up quality options like blackened catfish, Korean fried chicken and sweet and spicy pig ears (they’re good, promise). An aside: The Hay Merchant also features one of the more interesting weekly specials you’ll find – TV Dinner Monday – which includes old-school TV shows on the screen and TV dinners made from scratch. 1100 Westheimer, haymerchant.com
9. DOC’S MOTORWORKS BAR & GRILL
It’s springtime in Houston, which means 80-degree days meant for day drinking. And if there’s a bar in Montrose tailor-made for day drinking, it’s Doc’s. With its gorgeous Westheimer-facing patio and open-air indoor area that embraces the natural light, Doc’s is the perfect place to post up, have some food (the Frito Pie Grande is a particular favorite) and drinks and enjoy the game. Plus, for those looking to get out with the family, Doc’s is kid-friendly and features a dog-friendly patio. 1303 Westheimer, eatdrinkdocs.com
8. ETRO LOUNGE
The beauty of Montrose is that it features bars like Hay Merchant and Doc’s — light, airy, laid-back — alongside joints like Etro, which is decidedly none of those things. Instead, this shrine to '80s music is packed, loud and, to be frank, a great place for those looking to hook up. The drinks are strong, the people are pretty and, most important, there's a free Pac-Man arcade game upstairs for those looking for a break from the dance floor. 1424 Westheimer, #A, etrolounge.com
7. ANVIL BAR & REFUGE
Since opening in 2009, Anvil has made it a mission to become the go-to spot in Montrose for classic cocktails, and has done so by crafting a list of more than 100 for patrons to enjoy. The bar is upscale in feel but casual in vibe; if that doesn’t make sense, basically, Anvil feels like a fancy, sophisticated bar, but one fairly lenient on the dress code. One thing it's not lenient on, however, is derogatory language. Bar bites like bratwurst, olives and Scotch eggs make for nice accompaniments to whichever craft cocktail suits your fancy. 1424 Westheimer, anvilhouston.com
6. POISON GIRL
The contrasts between Anvil and Poison Girl – two awesome bars that could not be more different – are a textbook example of Montrose's diversity. Poison Girl doesn’t do upscale or trendy; it’s a place to visit after a long week, when it’s time to forget your troubles and tie one on with various regulars and well-wishers. The drinks are strong, the staff is charming in its own way, and the bar features a row of pinball machines that keep folks bumping well into the night. Part of Poison Girl’s charm lies in its representation of what Montrose once was and, to an extent, still is: one of the weirdest, most eclectic neighborhoods in the U.S. 1641 Westheimer, #B, 713-527-9929
5. LA GRANGE
It's hard to imagine a Montrose bar more ideal for summer nights than La Grange (fitting, since it opened in the summer of 2015). The patio is multi-layered and expansive and features one of the most picturesque views you’ll find in all of Houston. But it’s the drinks that really bring it home. Whether you're ordering a traditional margarita, a Carlos Danger or a Paloma – all of which are infused with tequila – it’s a good bet you’ll find something to cool you down at one of Montrose’s most breathtaking bars. 2517 Ralph, lagrangehouston.com
4. JR’S BAR & GRILL
One of Houston’s premier gay bars for more than three decades, JR’s features weekly events like Amateur Strip Show Mondays, Drag Show Tuesdays and Karaoke Thursdays. Plus, go-go dancers are featured nightly. JR’s is without question one of the best times you’ll find in Montrose, one elevated by strong drinks that won’t empty your wallet. Seriously, you can likely find a drink that suits you for less than $4 any night of the week. Customer service like that is how you stay in business for so long. 808 Pacific, jrsbarandgrill.com
A lot of bars and restaurants bill themselves as offering a little something for everyone, but Rudyard’s really delivers on that promise. The bar routinely plays host to live music, everything from indie to pop to punk to metal – not to mention comedy and spoken-word. Rudyard’s is the type of bar where you can order any number of craft beers, eat one of the city’s finest cheeseburgers and get in a game of darts before taking in a Rockets playoff game or watching the Astros as they make their push toward the AL West crown. 2010 Waugh, rudyardspub.com
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A quick sidebar, as spring and summer are known to be the seasons of new love: There may not be a better casual first-date bar than Boheme. Both the indoor section and the outdoor patio are quaint, but not so quaint as to be stifling in their silence. And they’re lively, but not so lively as to drown out what may be relationship-forming conversation. And if the date's a dud, well, at least the venue was good. Boheme, a Montrose staple, is a particular favorite of happy hour types in and around the area. From 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and all day Sunday and Monday, Boheme features an array of $7 craft cocktails, along with discounted sliders and empanadas. Really hungry? Order any pizza on the menu; you won’t be disappointed. 307 Fairview, barboheme.com
1. WEST ALABAMA ICE HOUSE
What else could take the top spot than a Montrose institution that has stood the test of time for almost 90 years? We’ve said all there is to say about West Alabama Ice House at this point. The staff is great. The taco truck across the street (cash only) is next-level. The beer is cold and cheap. They have a basketball court; the list goes on. Most important, West Alabama feels like home. The bar routinely posts tributes to regulars and staff on its outdoor sign, not to mention firing up the barbecue pit for what basically amounts to a neighborhood cookout. That’s because West Alabama doesn’t feel like a bar; it feels like family. It’s also one of the best, most storied bars you’ll find in Texas. 1919 West Alabama, 713-528-6874