Our city is home to hundreds of thousands of people who were born and raised in the greater Houston area – folks who grew up on AstroWorld, the Luv Ya Blue Oilers and one of the world’s best livestock and rodeo shows. These folks know the city, including the local bar scene.
And then there’s the rest of us — hundreds of thousands more who moved here for any number of reasons, be it work, family or a love of humidity. Many of these folks are looking to immerse themselves in Houston’s culture, to see what Houston has to offer. As it pertains to the local bar scene, Houston offers quite a bit for townies and newbies alike. These are the best bars in the city for Houston transplants.
(Note: This list is in alphabetical order).
BIG STAR BAR
The Heights has gotten a little swankier over the past few years, thanks to an influx of upscale bars/restaurants and luxury townhomes. But for those who want to get a feel for what the area used to represent, check out Big Star. There’s nothing showy about the dive – just good people, bar games, a chill patio and cheap drinks. A “no frills” bar for a neighborhood that used to be the same. (1005 West 19th, bigstarbar.com)
Those unfamiliar with Texas likely have a vision of cities like Houston, one in which everyone wears boots, speaks in a Southern drawl and rides horses to work. For the most part, this picture is inaccurate. That said, Houston does love itself some country dancing, and no place does it better than Firehouse Saloon. Country fans come out for daily drink specials and an array of Texas and national touring acts, both of the country and pop variety. (5930 Southwest Freeway, fireshousesaloon.com)
It’s certainly undergone its share of adversity in recent years, but Fitzgerald’s remains an institution on the Houston bar and live music scene. Situated on a nice strip of bars on White Oak, Fitzgerald’s still plays home to open-mike nights, as well as an array of area and national touring acts. Plus, its location is ideal for those looking for a little low-key bar hopping in the Heights. (2706 White Oak, fitzlive.com)
GEORGE COUNTRY SPORTS BAR
“Country bar” might be a bit strong, considering George’s caters to all walks of life within the gay community. The "sports" part is certainly accurate, as games are always on inside this Montrose staple. The service is great, the food is solid and the bar games are on point. For those looking to experience what Montrose is all about, George’s makes for a fine start. (617 Fairview, Facebook page)
LITTLE WOODROW’S MIDTOWN
Houston, with its jobs, cost of living and weather, has become a go-to spot for twentysomethings looking to segue out of college and into adulthood. And no place better caters to that group’s lust for nightlife than Midtown, with its array of bars and clubs, Little Woodrow’s among them. The crowd is lively, the dress code is near-nonexistent, and on Thursday nights, the spacious patio plays host to the famous Turtle Races, a favorite pastime of locals and transplants alike. (2306 Brazos, midtown.littlewoodrows.com)
THE MAPLE LEAF PUB
A number of Houston transplants found their way here from the Northeast and Midwest, two regions that really love their hockey. And while it may be 90-plus out during the Stanley Cup playoffs here in Houston, those looking to satisfy their hockey Jones can do so at Maple Leaf. The bar also serves up daily drink specials and offers weekly events like poker night, bingo, trivia and karaoke. (514 Elgin, themapleleafpub.com)
OKRA CHARITY SALOON
So you know how local officials are always trying to make downtown a destination spot for those in the mood for a little nightlife? Well, it’s finally starting to happen, and OKRA is leading the charge. The bar, which is absolutely picturesque from the inside, is the gold standard as far as downtown bars are concerned. A must-see for anyone new to the area, as well as those looking to drink for a cause; 100 percent of OKRA’s proceeds are donated to a different Houston-based nonprofit or social cause each month. (924 Congress, friedokra.org)
Petrol, tucked away inside the quaint Garden Oaks area, is a hidden gem in the Houston bar scene. Not only does it serve up some of the best craft brews from in and around the Houston area, Petrol also offers one of the best burgers in Houston, period. Couple that with one of the more underrated patios in the city, and you have a spot that anyone new to the area must see for himself. (985 Wakefield, twitter.com/Petrol_Station.com)
RUDYARD’S BRITISH PUB
Rudyard’s bills itself as “the living room of Houston’s Montrose since 1978,” and with good reason; it literally offers someone for everyone. Indie and punk live music are routinely featured, as are comedy and spoken-word nights. The food far outshines your typical bar fare (the grilled fish tacos are a highlight), and the bar offers a slew of local brews. Plus, it’s among the more welcoming bars in Houston, which certainly works for those new to the area. (2010 Waugh, rudyardspub.com)
UNDER THE VOLCANO
Houston certainly isn’t considered a college town along the lines of Austin, but we do have Rice Village, and that’s a hell of a start. Among the many bars in the area near Rice University is Under the Volcano, which certainly ranks among Houston's more unique bars. It's cozy and quirky, and would make a great place for transplants in the mood for a quality date spot. The drinks are strong and affordable, the service is solid and the people are friendly. (2349 Bissonnet, twitter.com/volcanohouston)