When a seaman arrives in Houston, whether he is a Jack Tar from Yokohama from the automobile carrier Senzuri Maru or a Ukrainian from Odessa with the crew of the grain transport Krasnaya Pizda, chances are he'll end up at the Hong Kong Disco (8025 Clinton Drive, 713-673-8027, a seven-days-a-week combination restaurant/bar/disco/ karaoke club. The neat, trim building with "seamen" written in pink neon across the roof's fascia has been there for the past 26 years.
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Parking the truck, I look across Clinton Drive and see four sets of railroad tracks with tanker cars idling on them. Beyond that, there are two rusty freighters tethered to the Ship Channel docks. On this warm afternoon, I enter for the first time. Madame Hoa Tran Thi greets me at the door, as I am the only ancient mariner in the place at that time of day. Taking a seat at the bar, I ask her what seamen drink while they're waiting for their land legs to firm up under them. "Whiskey," she replies. I scan the shelf and suddenly remember what Peter Boyle's character ordered in the bar scene of the classic '70s film Joe. He ordered a Seven & Seven. I point to the bottle of Seagram's Seven Crown, a venerable American whiskey, and ask for that and 7Up.
The Hong Kong Disco's Seven & Seven: Madame Hoa puts ice in an old-fashioned glass, precisely measures out a jigger of whiskey with a shiny chrome bar tool, then adds a fillip more for lagniappe. Then she goes to the refrigerator and brings me a 12-ounce can of 7Up. I mix myself a proper one-to-one Seven & Seven and take a sip. The whiskey nearly disappears beneath the lemon-lime flavor of the soda. It would be a drink to have if one were having more than one. I read the label on the soda, which states, "No Caffeine/No Artificial Colors/No Artificial Flavors." No wonder real men drink Seven & Sevens.
One and a half ounces, plus a touch, of Seagram's Seven Crown American whiskey
One can 7Up soda
Pour whisky over ice in a glass. Add 7Up to taste. Sip slowly and remember things from your faraway home. Remember to bring cash. The drinks at the Hong Kong are $3 each, but plastic is strictly for swizzle sticks here.