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. OTC PATIO BAR/ROAK At OTC, loud, danceable music blares over the speakers inside, and young successfuls refill their poison before making their way outside for a game of corn hole and an opportunity to actually hear each other speak.
Lively and rambunctious, this crowd comes to party. Parking is limited, so bring cash for the valets on the weekend. But this is all only pregaming for Roak, which may be the most popular club to open in this area in the last half-decade.
9. MEZZANINE LOUNGE The Mezzanine Lounge is a pretty difficult place to describe, since the bar has three separate areas, all of which have a different feel to them. The downstairs patio is usually full of smokers, sitting back and chatting amongst themselves while they watch TV via a projector on the giant back wall. Just inside, the downstairs bar has a relaxed feel to it, too.
Upstairs, though, is where the party happens. Trivia nights, karaoke and frequent drink specials keep the regulars coming back night after night. Come on the right night, and the servers will randomly be wearing only their underwear.
2200 Southwest Fwy., Ste 150, 713-528-6399, mezzaninelounge.com
8. THE STAG'S HEAD PUB Just across the street from Cactus Music and McElroy's, the Stag's Head is a traditional pub, with cozy corners you can sink into, a large, shady patio and a relaxed atmosphere inside. Except during soccer matches, that is; it can get pretty rowdy when the game is on. The pub's food is a selling point, to be sure, as are all the local beers they've got on tap.
2128 Portsmouth, 713-533-1199, stagsheadpub.com
7. MUGSY'S A no-nonsense, laid-back kind of pub, Mugsy's fosters a loyal clientele of friendly regulars. Patios in the front and out back give it plenty of space once the sun has gone down, while sports fans shout and scream inside. A good selection of beers is available, heavy on Texas brews, and the duck-fat popcorn is something everyone should try at least once. Get there early and enjoy the happy hour specials of select spirits under $5, and beers for only $2 or $3.
2239 Richmond, 713-522-7118, mugsyshouston.com
6. CELLAR BAR Cellar Bar's patio is a hot spot for smokers while, inside the dingy and dark bar, pool tables, dart boards and a karaoke DJ get the party going as the evening progresses. Get there early if you're looking for a quiet vibe, but stay past midnight for the party.
If singing isn't your thing, that's all right; the regulars aren't shy about their karaoke, and they'll gladly performing for you. Lone Star pitchers are only $6, too.
3140 Richmond, 713-528-6435, thecellarbar.org
5. VELVET MELVIN Monthly shot specials, free-pool Sundays and a relaxed atmosphere have solidified Velvet Melvin as an unassuming staple neighborhood watering hole for years now. The patio is huge, as is the pub's interior, and the jukebox has a varied selection of tunes to listen to while you enjoy happy hour with coworkers or a nightcap with friends.
The food is hardly cuisine, but it's greasy and flavorful. What else do you want from a bar, anyway?
3303 Richmond, 713-522-6798
4. DOWNING ST. Both veteran and fledgling lovers of cigars and scotch are both welcome clientele at Downing St. The cozy bar, which feels and even looks a wee bit British, is occupied by well-dressed men and women, who chat amongst themselves and unwind after long days.
It's a bit pricey, but this is no dive bar and makes no pretentions of being so. Use common sense, and avoid Downing St. if you're out off by cigar smoke.
2549 Kirby, 713-523-2291, downingstreetpub.com
3. THE DAVENPORT Like most of the Upper Kirby area, the Davenport is busiest on the weekends. But this charming lounge truly shines on school nights, when patrons have a bit more room to breathe and enjoy their martinis. The lighting is low, the drinks are poured high, and the alcohol content is not to be taken lightly.
Even if you ordered the fruitiest, sweetest martini on the menu, there's still a good chance it will knock you on your ass. And we'll toast to that.
2117 Richmond, 281-888-1226, thedavenportlounge.com
2. MCELROY'S PUB Whether you're looking to play a game of darts with a friend, take a load off in a comfy booth or just knock back a few pints on a spacious patio while you watch the game, McElroy's has you covered.
The prices are reasonable, the staff is friendly, and the atmosphere and clientele are always relaxed. The pub never gets overly crowded, but it's comfortably full on the weekends. Also, if you have a few too many, make note that the brick walls behind the dart boards aren't really brick.
3607 S Sandman, 713-524-2444, http://mcelroyspub.com
1. MCGONIGEL'S MUCKY DUCK Tucked just out of sight of the bustling Kirby/Westheimer corridor is a favorite of local music lovers and beer connoisseurs alike. Smiling servers keep patrons' drinks coming while the clientele sits back and enjoys the tunes. Mondays are host to open-mike nights, and the rest of the week's varied lineup is available on the pub's Web site.
Although the Duck is very much a music venue for both local artists and acts who are traveling through town, it's also the best damn bar in the area. Period. Stop by any night of the week for a lively crowd and a great selection of brews.
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2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999, mcgonigels.com