For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2011 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had hefty competition from other Houston bars and restaurants.
Here it is, the day after Christmas. Hope you got everything you wanted.
If you didn't, though, don't fret. You can always get yourself the present of a nice pint of beer down t' pub. If you need to escape the family for a little while to catch up with friends in town for the holidays or you just want to drink something other than eggnog, we're here for you with our list of the Top 10 neighborhood bars.
They may not be Cheers, but they're all pretty damn close.
10. Boondoggle's Pub
Clear Lake and Seabrook have dozens of great seaside bars, but it's Boondoggle's Pub we find ourselves frequenting most often down south. It may not offer the great views of some Clear Lake pubs, but this one has the advantage of looking and feeling like an authentic English pub in its own, odd way. It also has the advantage of offering some truly tasty food, like its pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven -- a damn sight better than the Totino's pizza rolls offered by most bars.
There is nothing Shakespearean about the pub itself, save for the scattered murals and posters left over from the days when it was owned by a local high school English teacher. These days, Shakespeare is more about live blues and zydeco music in the evenings and football games during the day. (Yes, Glen, people do bring slow cookers up here and share the food with each other. That's what makes it a neighborhood bar.)
8. Marquis II
This classic West University joint would have been higher on the list were it not for the fact that it recently cleaned itself up and is now attempting to look semi-respectable. And although the City of West University has not banned smoking in bars like Houston has, the Marquis has. That's right -- after decades of smoke-saturated carpets and overturned ashtrays at the bar, there is now no smoking allowed inside the Marquis. Oh well; at least the Long Island Iced Teas are still
If the Marquis II is "old" West University, then Cecil's is old Montrose all the way (even if it was founded in not-yet-that-old-maybe 1985). The interior has likely never seen the light of day in the 25 years it's been open, and the dimly lit bar only further encourages you to get lost in Cecil's warm, dark, hazy confines. Monday nights (that's tonight, folks) offer $1 well drinks and often draw huge neighborhood crowds as a result, when area residents walk over and stumble home much later.
The Poop Deck is the neighborhood bar for all of Galveston Island, with a bawdy and laid-back atmosphere that mimics the island itself. Whereas Cecil's jukebox, for example, is stocked with punk rock and blues, the jukebox here is filled with classic rock hits for the Hawaiian shirt-clad baby boomers that pack the patios.
5. Crazy Frogs
There are several other Crazy Frogs in town, but the location on West Road is the one you want, for two reasons: a house band fronted by the talented Dan Golvach, a longtime Houston musician who used to play with big local acts like Blue Blazes and Zen Archer. And singing bartender Dana Xenos, shown in the video above demonstrating her trademark vocal skills while never missing a beat behind the bar. The entire bar crew is great here, and there's a distinctly yet charmingly cliquish vibe to the clientele -- all of whom are most decidedly regulars.
4. Sunny's Bar
Downtown's other dive bar -- the one that's not Lone Star Saloon -- is closer to the main downtown action but a little tougher to find. Inside, you'll see a close-knit crew of regulars there for the $1 Jell-O shots, $2 shooters and the general sense of camaraderie. Most patrons here are actual downtown residents, filled out in the early evenings by downtown workers in suits relaxing before heading home for the night.
3. Shiloh Club
No, seriously. People actually call this "the Cheers of the Heights." What more evidence do you need? How about exceptional Bloody Marys you can make yourself on Sundays, or steak night and free pool during Monday Night Football? With affable bartenders and a comfy, cozy vibe, the entire bar is basically a neighborhood living room -- make yourself at home.
Back in 2007, we awarded The Cozy Corner the coveted Best Dive Bar award in our Best of Houston® issue. But this Westbury classic is so much more than that. John Nova Lomax once wrote of the comforts found in its 1980s-era paneled walls: "The Cozy Corner is a great place for a four-beer lunch and down-home advice." And since it's now well past August 2010, it probably means that Trudy is no longer banned.
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1. Rose Garden
There are two Polish strongholds in this city: Polonia and the Rose Garden. Like Polonia, the Rose Garden is a little difficult to find but pays off in spades once you finally find your way there. On the other hand, its elusiveness also means that it's remained a steadfastly "neighborhood" bar for decades. In keeping with its heritage, there is still plenty of polka on the jukebox and homemade kielbasa at least once a week. Na zdrowie.