Happy Hour Scene: Royal Oak Bar & Grill

The Place: Royal Oak Bar & Grill 1318 Westheimer 281-974-4752

The Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays

The Deals:$2 domestics, $3 house wine, $4 martinis, $1 off drafts, $10 select bottles of wine The Scene: My friend Ethan has trouble turning down free food. He says it's because he spent a few months of his early adult life sharing the floor of his mother's one-bedroom apartment on the north side with his brother and his Polish career-criminal dad, who was actually divorced from his mom at the time. He wouldn't have been in that situation if he'd had any money; mostly he ate Ramen and Jack in the Box ("back when the Jumbo Jack was still 99 cents").

So years later, when getting full but still faced with a third of a thin-crust pepperoni pizza and half a plate of hand-grenade-size stuffed jalapenos that I bought for us, he consumes like a desert island castaway who just discovered a washed-up crate of pornography and Hostess cupcakes. It's kind of impressive.

"If I die, it's going to be because of a buffet or a woman," Ethan says. Other than the "if" part, I'd say that's accurate.

Both of these items went for five bucks at Royal Oak's happy hour. The pizza wasn't bad, especially for the price. The three large jalapenos weren't greasy, but they did feel overstuffed with spicy cream cheese and bacon. Other $5 happy hour dishes include spring rolls and fried pickles. (We ordered at the bar, and didn't experience any of the problems that my friend Katharine Shilcutt wrote about a couple months ago.)

Ethan and I sat on the front patio, and I drank a couple of discounted Fat Tires while he drank a $4 dry martini. The well gin explains the price. I'm not drinking a well-gin martini, but he didn't complain.

Though the inside is dramatic looking, with dark wood and chandeliers, the weather was perfect for sitting outside. The sun was setting on a part of Westheimer that attracts a good amount of interesting foot traffic. There were a few full tables out there, mostly people who looked to be in their 30s. A homeless guy came up to the fence to ask for change, and a casually dressed middle-aged patron wearing an expensive watch and smoking cigarettes alone politely declined.

In the bathroom a few minutes later, the same guy (watch, not homeless) was at the urinal next to me while I washed my hands.

"The guy before me had blood in his urine," he said, smiling.

I poker-faced him and said, "Yeah," for some reason, then dried my hands and went to finish my beer outside. I told Ethan about the exchange.

"No one can make you feel embarrassed without your permission," he said, picking up a large piece of fried jalapeno with his hand. "Some president's wife said that."

Good advice.

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Royal Oak Bar & Grill

1318 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006


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