As our sister blog Eating...Our Words does, from time to time Rocks Off will be giving your our picks for the top taverns in various Houston-area neighborhoods. Of course, the lines can be porous, but here anything with a TABC license that cannot reasonably be considered either a restaurant or a live-music venue is fair game.
10. Jimmy's Ice House No frills, bells or whistles and no reason to visit besides cheap, cold beer and a relaxed atmosphere, this ice house just down the street from Fitzgerald's has become one of my favorites since moving into the area.
If you don't feel like showering after being in the Houston heat all day but you still want a cold one (or a glass of wine, if that's your thing), head on over to Jimmy's. The staff will get you one out of their Igloo. Grab a seat on one of the picnic tables and feel free to light up just about anywhere besides the bathroom, thanks to this dive's open-air setup.
2803 White Oak, 713-861-9707
9. Onion Creek Coffee, cold beer and comfort food have made this White Oak eatery and ice house a staple in the community, and the hot dogs and Frito pies have only furthered its reputation. Suit-and-tie types rub shoulders with bearded bikers as flannel shirts make their way back and forth between the bar and their seats.
There's plenty of patio seating and, inside, a few cushy seats and an old Pac-Man machine that doubles as a table. Whether you're looking to drink and nibble on a lazy Sunday or knock back a few too many on a Friday night, Onion Creek has an unassuming atmosphere that you're sure to enjoy.
3106 White Oak, 713-880-0706, onioncreekcafe.com
8. Down House This refurbished bank turned restaurant and mildly upscale bar is a bit hard to peg. In the mornings, it offers some of the best breakfast you can find in the Heights. In the afternoon, its patio is the perfect setting for a drink or two to go alongside your burger.
And, in the evenings, it becomes a late-night hangout, better known for its cocktails than its beers. Switching back and forth will get you where you need to be without your wallet suffering too much, but you've really got to try some of the drinks on Down House's menu. On tap, you'll find plenty of Texas beers, too.
1801 Yale, 713-864-3696, downhousehouston.wordpress.com
7. Big Star Bar From "Best Smoking Patio" to "Best Atmosphere/Decor," Big Star is a well-known staple of the Heights, twice decorated with Best of Houston honors. It's just off the beaten path, but easy enough to find if you have a general idea of where you're going.
Like many local ice houses, Big Star doesn't try to put up any front for its customers and, instead, offers a friendly pour, cheap drinks and such old-school, thrift shop-style furniture that you're almost afraid to sit down anywhere. The sprawling back patio is dog-friendly, plays host to crawfish boils and, for some reason, has a camouflage, military-style net in the back corner.
1005 W. 19th, 713-501-9560, bigstarbar.com
6. Petrol Station The best and most vast collection of beers on tap besides The Flying Saucer, and it's never so absurdly packed that you can't find somewhere to lean, sit or, for that matter, stand around with a few friends.
The beer options, as many as there may be, are not the only draw of Petrol Station, whose burgers, fries and other food items are almost as much of an attraction as the beer. They even offer Vegan options these days and, while I haven't tried them myself, I've heard and read that even those foodstuffs are pretty damn good.
Sure, it may take a few more minutes to get your food than a lot of places, but Petrol isn't just dropping pickles into a fryer. It's worth the wait, so just slow up a minute.
985 Wakefield, 713-957-2875, facebook.com/PetrolStation
5. Shiloh Club Be it Lone Star, Guinness in a can, craft beer or hard liquor, the crowd and friendly staff at Shiloh's are a pleasure night after night. An eclectic mix of music keep the patrons going as they kick back a few. Inside, there's a good choice of seating -- a long bar, a few tables and couches, and then there's always the outdoor seating on the patio off Studemont.
Visit once, and you may become a regular. Or, if nothing else, it will offer you an alternative drinkery on those nights when you don't want to put up with all the hustle and bustle of The Heights without having to ever leave.
1321 Studewood, 713-880-2401
4. Beaver's For those who don't already know, Beaver's is located just south of Hooters. Not really, but that's its motto anyway. The venue's bar and patio seating more than make up for the lack of parking on site, but it's the cold drinks, delivered quickly and with a smile, that wash down whatever sloppy sandwich you choose that will keep you coming back. And the sloppier it looks, the tastier it is. We promise.
If comfort food is more of draw for you than any kind of drink, Beaver's is the spot. The service is friendly and will even go above and beyond to acquiesce even the most odd request. Want some pickle juice to sip on? Just ask. They'll even supply you with a straw.
2310 Decatur, 864-2328, beavershouston.com
3. Plonk! Beer & Wine Bistro It may be in a strip mall, but once you make your way inside Plonk!, you'll forget all about that until you walk back to your car. The back/side patio has a relaxed and quieted ambiance to it, emphasized by the white Christmas lights that often hang low above patrons' heads, along with a large selection of beers and full menu inside give everyone a reason to love Plonk!.
Service is simple and straightforward. There are no servers, and you'll have to walk up to the bar to make your purchase. But once you do, your drinks, food and anything else you order will be delivered to you in no time. It's a bit pricey to be a regular, but you're paying for quality. And if you're looking for a new spot, just off your regular path, with a lot to offer without feeling pressured into throwing on a suit and tie, Plonk! is well worth a visit.
1214 W. 43rd, 713-290-1070, plonkbistro.com
2. The Spot Club Bless their hearts, the staff at The Spot Club are clearly Bible-belt denizens, serving up drinks with true Texas charm. Cozy and inviting, this Heights-area drinkery offers both steak and ladies' night every week, and live music is regularly scheduled, too. There's also a dance floor, an arcade game, a pool table, electronic darts and a television on which you can root, root, root for the home team.
Visitors are advised to not upset the quick-witted bartenders, who won't mince words if you're pissing them off. So you're telling me the staff actually keeps the assholes out? Count me in.
1732 W. 18th, 713-864-4485, thespotclubhouston.com
1. Shady Tavern Ice House There's tons of outdoor seating at this tavern, and there's shade to enjoy, and the young daytime crowd is a pleasure to be around. Also outside, there's a small stage for musicians. Beer and wine are all Shady Tavern offers its patrons, so you don't have to worry about the "shots" crowd.
There's nothing on tap, so beer from the fridge is all you'll find here, but it's cheap, chill and casual. What's not to like?
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1206 W. 20th, 713-869-7000, facebook.com/ShadyTavernIceHouse