The Place: AvantGarden 411 Westheimer 832-519-1429
The Deals: $2 Lone Star and Shiner Draft, $3 well drinks, $4 bull blasters, $5 sangria The Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays
The Scene: A patio near a bus stop off Westheimer in late June sounds like some kind of sticky diesel hell, but even at 5:30, AvantGarden's shaded backside was pretty pleasant. The industrial fans they had blowing on the nearby tables didn't kept the mosquitoes away, but the ones flying around my friend Casey and me were drowsy and easy to kill. (A couple of them expelled what I hope was my own blood on my hands; I think this is called "earning your red wings," but I'm not sure.)
I was sitting where world-famous radio correspondent John Lomax and his wife exchanged vows during their wedding last fall. This time, in much warmer weather and in a much less crowded bar, I was celebrating the holy union between my mouth and sangria. AvantGarden's bartenders make new batches every few days, throwing together the basic ingredients in various kind of combinations. This has always been how my dad has made marinade, and I respect the method.
The white sangria, which was actually the bartender on duty's first batch ever, was made with white wine, lemons, simple syrup and a couple kinds of rum, served a beer glass. It was drier than I expected, which was good. A decent first effort. It was the same with the red version Casey was working on, although he wasn't working hard enough for me to convince him to ditch his life as a freelance reporter and get work on an oil rig like much of the rest of his Cajun family, though. The consolation prize was knowing we were probably the only two guys in the country sipping wine-based drinks on the patio of an artsy bar seriously discussing the pros and cons of oil rig employment. Probably.
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This isn't really a happy hour where you'd go to mix with young professionals looking to make bad decisions before 9 p.m., despite the bull blaster special. (The Jager and Red Bull drink is, for some reason, a favorite with Deloitte employees, according to a bartender I met once who works at the Westin Galleria. What are drunken accountants like? I really do want to know.) There were less than half a dozen other patrons scattered on the patio and inside the old house.
It is a good place to bullshit with a friend, though, and it's a solid option if you just want to sip on something and read the paper. And like I said, the patio is tolerable in the late afternoon, which in summertime is more than enough.