Houston's 10 Best Bars Near NRG Park
All Photos by David Rozycki
With Free Press Summer Fest being moved to NRG Park after the flooding of its usual home at Eleanor Tinsley Park, we thought we would help out some of the festival-goers with this list of bars in the area where they might want to drop by for a nightcap after the festival on Saturday and Sunday. When putting this list together, we have to admit, we discovered a few agreeable places that we had not visited before; we also reconnected with some happening familiar spots. Oh yeah, if you plan on drinking all day at the festival, not a good idea at all to drive to these places afterwards, so please designate a driver or find an alternate mode of transportation before heading out. And obviously, you don't have to be attending FPSF to check out these bars any time of the year.
(Note: This list is in alphabetical order.)
COACHES CORNER SPORTS BAR
Coaches Corner is a laid-back sports bar with plenty of TVs up on the walls to watch your favorite teams on; the friendly regulars rave about the burgers served here, which they like to wash down with plenty of beer and cocktails. Patrons also play friendly games of cards and dominoes at Coaches, and venture outside to the patio if they want to smoke a bit. A Houston Oilers reunion was held here back in March; former Oilers wide receiver Haywood Jeffires hosted the event with more than a dozen former Oilers in attendance, including 2006 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Warren Moon, Oilers QB from 1984 to 93. Drop by Coaches on Thursday nights for “Karaoke for Grown Folks.” (7820 Almeda, facebook.com/Coachescornersportsbar)
Opened in 2012, Emmit’s Place is a cozy little neighborhood bar located in a small strip center on a mostly residential street that hosts live music, mainly blues, zydeco, rock and country. Emmit’s hosts a blues jam on Monday nights and “Gonzo” Karaoke on Saturday nights in addition to the various bands and musicians who perform throughout the rest of the week. Stop by any day during happy hour from 4 to 8 p.m., as Emmit’s has some good drink specials; play pool or shuffleboard if you’re feeling competitive. (4852 Benning, emmitsplace.com)
FAT BOY'S BAR & GRILL
Fat Boy's Bar & Grill serves a 27-pound burger called "The Big Watt," if anyone is up to the challenge; no word on whether J.J. has dropped in to try one yet. There are some regular-size burgers here in addition to the giant one, as well as appetizers, salads, sandwiches, wings, Tex Mex and more. On Wednesday nights there's live comedy, and DJs spin hip-hop throughout the week. Try the bar’s new Ali Cat cocktail, which consists of tequila, melon liqueur, blue curaco liqueur, orange juice and grenadine. (2596 S. Loop W., fatboysbarandgrill.com)
This Southwest Houston/Meyerland neighborhood dive bar is located in a strip mall and is home to friendly power-drinkers and regulars who might play an occasional game of pool or shuffleboard in between their drinking sessions. The crowd tends to be made up of interesting characters who like to share their life stories with you if you're interested; you will find more working-class blue-collar types than yuppies or hipsters here. Hunter's Pub has a large patio out back for smokers; the regulars should greet any newcomers dropping in after Free Press Summer Fest with a glance and a friendly hello while continuing their drinking without missing a beat. (10549 S. Post Oak, facebook.com//Hunters-Pub)
ISLAND SIZZLER JAMAICAN RUM BAR & GRILL
Island Sizzler Jamaican Rum Bar & Grill serves up cocktails with some colorful names, like the Adios Mutha@#$%! (this is how it's spelled out on their menu) and Liquid Marijuana; Island Sizzler also has an extensive rum list and serves Red Stripe beer from Jamaica, of course. A lot of appetizing Jamaican food is served here such as jerk chicken, oxtails, curry goat and beef patties; if you're a teetotaler, you can wash the food down with Jamaican soda or tropical juice. A live DJ spins reggae, dancehall, hip-hop and more every Saturday starting at 9 p.m. (2114 Holly Hall, theislandsizzler.com)
Located a block from NRG Park, Libra Lounge is a hip-hop spot with comfortable and spacious seating; on Saturday nights, the place gets packed and the DJs crank up the music so it feels more like a nightclub than a lounge. Libra serves a lot of specialty handcrafted cocktails here in addition to the full bar; check its Facebook page as there are a lot of special events always being announced throughout the month. Parking and cover are always free here, and every Thursday night is “We Love the '90s,” where the DJs play old-school hip-hop and R&B from that decade. (9880 Buffalo Speedway, facebook.com/libralounge)
MARCO'S MEXICAN BAR & GRILL
Marcos Mexican Bar & Grill serves up Tex-Mex food in a colorful cantina setting; start off with an appetizer like some nachos or chili con queso, followed by your choice of tacos, fajitas, chimichangas, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, etc. If you’re a Texan, this should all sound very familiar to you. In addition to the usual Tex-Mex stuff, Marco’s also serves baby-back pork ribs, catfish and fried shrimp. One of the big draws here are the margaritas, which come in three different categories: house margarita, top-shelf rita and ultra-premium top-shelf rita. They are all pretty strong, but you’ll pay a little more if you want Patrón instead of Jose Cuervo. Desserts include fried ice cream and tres leches cake. (8216 Kirby, marcoshouston.com)
MR. GINO'S LOUNGE
Open since the early '70s, Mr. Gino’s Lounge is probably Houston’s most authentic old-school blues dive bar; its ramshackle, hole-in-the-wall appearance is a big part of its charm. When you visit, you can bring in your own bottle of liquor and get some ice and mixers from the bartenders, or just buy some of the cheap domestic beers or wine for sale. Of course, the live blues music is the main reason to visit; an open jam happens every Sunday night during which musicians play on top of a corner stage illuminated with Christmas lights. On nights when there is no live band, DJs spin old blues classics while the dance floor stays jumping. The staff and patrons at Mr. Gino’s will make you feel welcome since the place is a friendly neighborhood bar in addition to being a music venue. (7306 Cullen, https:// www.facebook.com/Mr-Ginos-Lounge)
RED RIVER ICE HOUSE
Red River Ice House actually serves liquor in addition to the beer and wine, so it's not an icehouse in the traditional sense of the word; another innovation here is the cup holders placed in the men’s room above the urinals and sink so customers have a place to put their drink while they're taking care of their personal business. Red River is a clean and friendly place whose owner likes to chat with customers and make them feel welcome. There is live music here occasionally; the rest of the time, there's an Internet jukebox to provide some tunes. Red River has become a popular place for workers from the Medical Center who stop by after work for beer and pizza.
(10308 Main, facebook.com/redrivericehouse)
SIDELINES BAR AT HOLIDAY INN
This Holiday Inn near NRG Park has been newly renovated; Sidelines Bar, which is easy to find straight through the main entrance, is a cozy little sports bar that serves decent food like a Black Angus burger and a chopped beef barbecue sandwich. The bar has an impressive little selection of red and white wines if that is your thing, as well as Saint Arnold and Blue Moon Beer on draft. Okay, everybody knows Holiday Inn is not a luxury five-star hotel, but the bar staff is friendly and who knows, maybe some of the bands playing at FPSF are staying here and you’ll run into them. (8111 Kirby, ihg.com/holidayinn/hotels/houston)
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8111 Kirby Dr.
Houston, TX 77054