The Place: Bayou Bar at Whole Foods 701 Waugh 713-284-1260
The Deals: Daily specials Wednesday ($1 off Texas pints), Thursday ($1 off growler refills) and Friday ($1 off wine flights)
The Scene: Even if you don't like the idea of sitting and drinking between the wine aisle and the cheese department in a high-end grocery store, the Bayou Bar at the new Whole Foods in Montrose lets you pay around four bucks for a pint of good beer and wheel it around in your cupholder-equipped shopping cart. That makes the present day the pinnacle of human achievement. Better than ancient Greece, better than the Renaissance, better than 1993, when the first Jurassic Park came out.
For people-watching, you still can't beat Disco Kroger (we'll have to see if it retains its weird appeal after the remodel) and the Fiesta on San Jacinto. But those stores don't have bars. Bayou Bar, whether you get your alcohol to go or sit down and drink, isn't an afterthought -- it serves eight kinds of drafts and more than a dozen types of wine, including four on tap. There are cheese flights available as well. (And this being Whole Foods, there are apparently two stations in the parking lot at which you can recharge your electric car. We didn't see those, but a guy in a Yukon XL did almost run over us in the parking lot.)
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The bar itself is in a horseshoe shape that encourages interaction, if you decide to sit and drink. Over the course of about an hour, a handful of customers had beers or glasses of wine, shot the shit, and tried to discreetly tried to check out other shoppers (at least my date and I did). Highlights included a dad/baby combo who shared a distinct haircut and a redhead guy in an orange shirt holding orange cans of pumpkin filling and a bottle of pink champagne. There's such thing as flaunting your ginger status too enthusiastically. Reckon you'd get your ass kicked at the San Jac Fiesta for something like that.
The current daily specials aren't bad, but the normal prices are cheaper than average as it is. Most beers are $3.50 to $4.50 (Oskar Blue's Dale's Pale Ale, Real Ale Lost Gold IPA and Fireman's #4, Wasatch Polygamy Porter, Saint Arnold's Weedwacker, etc.); Anchor Steam Liberty Ale is $5. Wines (including "lush reds," "bold reds," "classic whites" and "exciting whites,") run mostly in the $5-$6 glass range. Flights and bottles are cheap. And even though you should throw down some cash for the bartender if you have it, when paying with a card, there's not even an option to tip.
If you want to actually take draft beer out of the store, 64-ounce Whole Foods growlers can be refilled for about $9 from the Bayou Bar taps. (Smaller sizes are available, and if that interests you, how about you cowboy/girl up.) Petrol Station offers a slightly pricier deal, but they have more selection and they sell growlers that say "BAD MOTHERFUCKER" on them instead of a corporate logo, so Petrol wins, but only by a little.
Bayou Bar isn't a normal drinking scene -- it's bright, you're at the mercy of the Whole Foods playlist, carts are clanging and people are stuffing handfuls of cheese samples in their mouths around you. But if you've got after-work shopping to do, might as well get a nice beer or a glass of wine while you're at it. It's an unusual concept, but Whole Foods is doing it well.