Double Cross Lounge (114 Gray) sounds like a place where bad movie villains hang out. But the name actually comes from the acclaimed brand Double Cross Vodka, which the bar has on tap. So that's that.
And despite what you may have heard, Double Cross is not, in fact, full of preening A-holes, a reputation the bar acquired when it first opened last year. But three months ago, Atul "Lucky" Chopra took over. You might not know his name, but if you go out much in Houston, you've likely enjoyed the fruits of his labor.
Chopra is the brains behind the Landmark Houston Hospitality Group, an organization that, among other things, buys old buildings and turns them into excellent hangouts. Hearsay Gastro Pub (218 Travis) is a Nightfly fave. With Double Cross, Chopra and his associates aimed to turn the Midtown martini bar into a casual twist on the classic-cocktail trend that's all the rage these days.
The decor is still about the same as the previous regime, though: Rattan barstools, patchwork-steel paisley ceiling hangings, black fringe along the walls, stained concrete floors and an outdoor patio that doubles up the interior's 40-plus-person occupancy.
Behind the bar, Double Cross's mixologists don't concoct the drinks as diligently as, say, Bobby Heugel's wizards at Anvil (1424 Westheimer), but that's sort of the point.
"We try to do what they do there," says hyper-likable bartender Trey Callahan. "But they go, like, five steps further. They may take seven or eight minutes to make your drink. We try to take two or three.
"We don't want to be a posh or snooty place," he explains. "That's what people who came before would say. You don't have to come in a suit. We're not going to talk down to you for ordering a vodka soda or a Bud Light."
True enough. A woman in a T-shirt and Umbro shorts sits at the bar, soaking in Callahan's attention. Behind her, a group of professionally dressed doctors and soon-to-be doctors is gathered. Neither seems especially out of place.
"I came here yesterday for happy hour," says Terah Isaacson, 31, colorectal surgery resident. "I came back again today because the bartender, Trey, makes amazing drinks."
"It's a nice, chill bar," says Satiya Bhattacharya, 29, a general surgeon in town from Boston. "I love the decor. The bartender really seemed to enjoy his job."
Clearly impressed, Isaacson has more to add. "Once happy hour was over yesterday, there were about six of us left over," she says. "Trey offered shots to everyone on him, and it really set the mood for the rest of the night. He was really personable from the start.
Free drinks make every bar better, but good free drinks make a bar great.
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Visit for drinks before going out on a weekend when the DJ pumps through various music mixes and the place closes in on its occupancy (50 people or fewer). During the week, the music is streamed from Pandora and can land on anything from the Pretty Lights station to Led Zeppelin's. Either way it's easy to see the lounge has found its niche.
Two things: First, regarding bad movie villains, the corniest of all time is Colin Farrell as Bullseye in the 2003 atrocity Daredevil. He was pretty much a guy who was really good at darts or something. Incidentally, Ben Affleck as Daredevil in the 2003 atrocity Daredevil is the corniest superhero of all time, too. He's a blind guy whose senses of hearing and smell are so good that they make up for his blindness? Oh, so he's basically just a guy that can almost see like a guy with normal sight? Great, thanks a ton for that, Stan Lee.
Second, curious to try some other venues not named Anvil that offer better-than-average cocktails? Visit restaurant Haven (2502 Algerian Way), the dark and semi-mysterious Absinthe Brasserie (609 Richmond), the extra-impressive Simone on Sunset (2418 Sunset) and seafood restaurant Reef (2600 Travis).