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, coffeehouse or live-music venue is fair game.
10. ALLEY KAT BAR & LOUNGE Surfacing in the spot that used to house that lovely little dive the Mink, Alley Kat is a suited-up, adult version of its former inhabitant. Now sparkly-clean, with a jazz-infused musical bent, Alley Kat hasn't lost the allure (or killer cocktails) that kept the Mink going -- just spruced it up a bit.
3718 Main, 713-874-0722, facebook.com/thealleykathouston
9. DOUBLE CROSS LOUNGE Double Cross is a chic little lounge that is an offshoot of another chic little lounge, Hearsay, so it was bound to acquire a mad following once the doors opened late last year, with uber-friendly bartenders pride themselves on their ability to whip up those signature martinis and craft cocktails. Even if the place is often ass-to-elbows, the vinyl nights and Tito's on tap are worth the fuss. And if sub-arctic vodka turns you off, the craft-beer selection -- quite a bit of which hails from Texas -- ain't half bad either.
114 Gray, 713-526-3423, facebook.com/doublecrosslounge
8. SAINT DANE'S BAR & GRILLE A dog-friendly Midtown bar with a taco night and a steak night? No, it's not a mirage, it's Saint Dane's. One of the area's most easily accessible bars, it's away from Midtown's main drag, which adds to its charm. Saint Dane's massive selection of frozen margaritas makes this garage-door that much more tolerable in Houston's sweltering humidity for about 11 months of the year.
502 Elgin, 713-807-7040, saintdanes.com
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7. BAR MUNICH Two words: GIANT JENGA. Even without the massive list of German beers -- the two most popular, Hofbrau and Spaten, come in liters -- well, giant jenga. But German beers and children's games aren't your thing, you say? You're still in luck, because Munich is still ready and waiting to fulfill your hard-liquor dreams. Here's another thought: on top of whatever Jager-based drink you're ordering up, throw in a Beermosa. Yeah, you read that right.
2616 Louisiana, 713-523-1008, barmunich.com
6. 3RD FLOOR BAR 3rd Floor Bar is relatively new to the Midtown area, and situated directly above another Midtown staple -- Pub Fiction -- but it's a little bit rustic, a little bit upscale, and has a great bird's eye view of the area, which takes it in a totally different direction than its downstairs neighbor. Oh, and they have a great craft-beer selection on tap, all of which are made right here in the good ol' US of A.
Wanna know what else? A little thing called cocktails on tap, which is exactly like it sounds: awesome. Throw in about 50 types of wine on tap, and 3rd Floor is stocked with liquid gold.
2303 Smith, 832-801-6906, 3rdfloorhouston.com
5. MONGOOSE VS COBRA Billions and billions of beers. Or maybe not billions, but it sure seems that way when you're checking out Mongoose's never-ending draft-beer board. You want it, Mongoose has probably got it, especially if it's a local craft brew or an unusual microbrew. Not a beer connoisseur? Don't worry, there are plenty of handcrafted cocktails to go around. Need a suggestion? Try the Carrot and Cilantro Cooler or the Lola Bunny, 'cause we said to.
Oh, and as a super-bonus, Mongoose offers some of the best "groceries" -- bar food, if you're not hip enough to know the building's history -- around, so when those pints start making your tummy rumble, you'll be all set. Mmmm... massive pretzels.
1011 McGowen, 713-650-6872, mongooseversuscobra.com
List continues on the next page.
4. COMMUNITY BAR This itty-bitty bar is a Midtown staple for a reason: it has some of the best bartenders around, and it's impossible to sit your bum down on one of the stools and not feel welcomed, either by the regulars that flock to this place, or the bar folk, who genuinely seem to like their jobs. They'll be happy to hang out and mix you a Dark and Stormy -- made with house-brewed ginger beer, by the way -- or you can just ask them to pop the top to one of their more interesting beer choices. Either way, you'll enjoy Community's lack of pretentiousness and dive-bar vibe, definitely a nice change of pace from more typical Midtown digs.
2703 Smith, 713-526-1576, facebook.com/communitybar
3. SHOESHINE CHARLEY'S BIG TOP LOUNGE If eclectic and funky had a bar-baby, it would be named Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge. This circus-themed bar is full of rad music, kitschy decor, and seriously fun patrons, all mixed with a hearty dose of beer. Intrigued? You should be.
Big Top is home to some of Houston's best bands and DJ nights -- check out Fistful of Soul once a month or Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man Thursdays if you don't believe us -- and there's rarely a cover. But even if music ain't your bag, plenty of old games and crazy knick-knacky things will keep you covered.
3714 Main, 713-529-9666, bigtoplounge.com
2. LEON'S LOUNGE Where do we start? Leon's is like this cool little maze filled with some of Houston's best drinks. Seriously, try one of their variations of the mojito, then wander around past that longer-than-long bar to find out what other loungey comforts await you. Friday nights, local "celebrity" guest DJs spin vintage vinyl -- their own, the bar's, or both -- making this cool little lounge that much cooler.
1006 McGowen, 713-659-5366
List continues on the next page.
1. NOUVEAU ANTIQUE ART BAR The crowd that gathers at Nouveau is about as decorated and eclectic as the bar itself, starting things off just the right way -- especially if you're there to people-watch. But if that bores you, and you're more into stuff like archeological digs or antiquing, you're also in the right place. Really, you couldn't possibly discover all there is to Nouveau no matter how many times you visit.
It's massive and romantic and mysterious, just how you'd imagine a place named Nouveau Antique Art Bar would be, and the cocktail menu falls right in line. A great place to kick back and lounge out in the middle of the Midtown madness.
2913 Main, 713-526-2220, art-bar.net
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