Tuesday Night at Memorial's Shakespeare Pub
Although I drank enough in college, I never went to traditional college nights, at least not the kind with nearly-free booze and 21-year-olds shooting their way across a strip of bars. After reading about the worst of stereotypical college life, this sounds like a less harrowing assignment.
To get that kind of scene going you need a large student population and a centralized nightlife zone that would cause anybody over 25 to cringe. Maybe it's better that Houston doesn't have the right environment. You ever seen someone in a halter top vomit publicly? It's disheartening.
I still see a handful of places in town advertise college nights, though, and it makes me curious. A couple weeks ago I checked out Christian's college dance night, which was neither. Last week, I went the college night at Shakespeare Pub. I have no idea who decided to declare Tuesdays as such at the Memorial bar. Maybe he or she consulted the person who decided a park called "Nottingham" would fit in one of the city's wealthier zip codes.
Shakespeare - which Katharine Shilcutt claims her former English teacher opened - is best situated to attract neighborhood drinkers. (It's even obscured from Google's unblinking eye by a kolache shop.) The bar hosts a few different blues and blues-rock acts a week. It's not too dirty, but it feels lived in - probably would be labeled a dive by many, especially in that part of town. But it's not a destination bar. You wouldn't walk down the block to hang out in your living room, would you? And you probably wouldn't cross the Beltway to hang out at Shakespeare. And the folks way out west probably don't give a shit.
The crowd on Tuesday was half paying attention to a competent enough young cover band with three members and half a mustache. A couple middle-aged men drank at the bar. Two groups of guys were playing free pool (free on college night only, not bad if I were confident enough in my game to try and win the table). Drink specials included $5 Tito's, Beam and Evan Williams, plus $2 Shiner pints, according to the bar's website. A blonde girl declined those to order three car bombs for her table. She made a subdued "woo" noise when the band started playing a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. This was as college-y as it got.
It's easy to imagine regulars bringing communal slow-cooker food to Shakespeare for football games; it's not easy to imagine hordes of questionably behaved barely legal drinkers descending on the bar weekly. If Tuesdays were to feel like a college night, you'd have to wonder where all the students would even come from. Houston Baptist is only 15 or 20 minutes away -- if Shakespeare could pull that off it'd deserve some kind of award.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.