MKT Bar: Tale of an Unexpected Hot Spot, Act 2

A couple trips the light fandango at MKT Bar's Tasty Tango Tuesdays.
A couple trips the light fandango at MKT Bar's Tasty Tango Tuesdays.
Photos by Altamese Osborne

PREVIOUSLY MKT Bar, the lounge within downtown supermarket Phoenicia Foods, was subdued and sparsely populated on a recent Monday evening, full of stray diners and none of the music that has made it such a popular downtown destination.


MKT Bar: Tale of an Unexpected Hot Spot, Act 1

CHARACTERS A woman and her mother nursing matching lattes; a matriarch with a slice of cheesecake; two sporty guys drinking beers; assorted after-work suit-and-ties; waiters and waitresses including our own bubbly "Katy."

MKT Bar: Tale of an Unexpected Hot Spot, Act 2

SCENE 1 Winter. 5:19 p.m. We are seated in quiet corner of MKT, below a a television playing some silly old movie we can't place (a film buff we are not). The wind has changed, and so has our initial opinion of MKT Bar.

Perhaps we didn't report quite as well as we should have last time -- Monday blues are a mother -- but we now notice the piano set up near the front, and the bar's small stage is decorated with an odd mix of starry Christmas lights and Kente cloth.

Katy: How's everything taste to you? Everything good?

After serving us a bowl of queso that makes our tongue tingle, Katy informs us that tonight is Tasty Tango Tuesday, and that MKT in fact features nightly live music. Well, where the hell were we yesterday?

MKT Bar: Tale of an Unexpected Hot Spot, Act 2

Suddenly a crowd of hipsters -- beards, arm-sleeve tattoos, fedoras and everything -- a duo of of sporty guys, and a quartet of old-money businessmen arrive at the same time. The hipsters perch at the bar, the businessmen sit at a table in front of the stage, and the sporty guys sit in the very center, where everyone can admire their big muscles.

The hipsters glower at the businessmen. The businessmen look lovingly into their glasses of Stella Artois. The sporty guys look with condescension on everyone else. Something is about to happen.

SCENE 2 5:54 p.m. The lights dim. The waiters bring out a table onto the stage, while others attend politely to customers, however rude they may be.

Katy (bringing more meat for the queso): Here you go.

Waiter (to Sporty Guy No. 1): Hello, welcome to MKT Bar. Can I get you something?

Sporty Guy No. 1 (to Waiter): Hold on a second; I just sat down.

Sporty Guy No. 2: Dude, I saw what you were eating the other day. Chicken breast with black beans, and -- who is that?

The lights grow dimmer.


MKT Bar: Tale of an Unexpected Hot Spot, Act 2

SCENE 3 6 p.m. sharp. The bar is full now, and the tables glow from the flicker of tiny candles, placed there by an attentive manager. Another waiter, not Katy, ignores our pleas for more queso meat. The R&B oldies playing overhead have been replaced by vintage tango music, streaming from a woman's onstage laptop. The old movie is sharply interrupted by old footage of two dancers in the fierce throes of a tango.

The Sporty Guys' ire-raising brutishness is subdued by a tango instructor patiently teaching a man the first delicate steps of a tango -- a simple procedure, yet so touching to watch in the midst of all that hustle and bustle.

So, maybe there is something special about this place after all. Can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.


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1001 Austin St.
Houston, TX 77010


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