Washington Avenue has one of Houston's worst reputations for nightlife; the line is that many of its bars are often infested with sloppy-drunk bro-dudes wearing Ed Hardy T-shirts out looking to score with the vapid young females who also inhabit said bars. There is truth in the stereotype; however, there are also some cool places in the area that douchebags don’t usually visit, which we present to you on this list.
(Note: This list is in alphabetical order.)
BENJY'S ON WASHINGTON
Like the original location in Rice Village, Benjy’s on Washington serves food and has a lounge for cocktails; the Washington location serves lunch in addition to brunch and dinner. There's a lot of different stuff to eat here depending on what time of the day you arrive. “KFC” Korean fried chicken for brunch, grilled chicken “Ham”Wich for lunch and pan-seared snapper for dinner are just a few examples; try the "Mom’s Chocolate Cake" or "Oatmeal Cookies & Cream" for dessert. Get a blood orange margarita or elderflower elixir during happy hour or one of the signature cocktails like the Texas gin and tonic or the lemon basil gimlet anytime. This is a nice-looking place with modern, elegant decor, and you can dine outside also if you like; this location is more spacious than the original. (5922 Washington, benjys.com)
THE CADDY SHACK BAR & GRILL
Despite the name, there is no direct tie-in between this Caddy Shack and the beloved Chevy Chase/Bill Murray golf comedy — or golf at all, for that matter. Football is the game of choice at this cozy Washington Avenue sports bar, and the majority of sports memorabilia here is football-related, including a framed and signed jersey from Houston Oilers great Earl Campbell. A shelf full of authentic NFL and college helmets is also on display alongside some baseball and basketball stuff, to a lesser degree. Watch your game of choice on the 11 TVs hanging on the walls; the bar plans to add more on the outside deck. Sandwiches, burgers, nachos and chicken wings are among the food selections, and, unusual for a sports bar, breakfast is served from 5:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Come out to watch big pay-per-view boxing matches free of charge, and try the game-day specials served up by the friendly staff, who like to talk sports with patrons. (1809 Washington, facebook.com/The-Caddy-Shack)
CHRISTIAN'S TAILGATE BAR & GRILL
The original Christian’s Tailgate is located away from the rest of the busy Washington Avenue scene, further north along the avenue at the corner of I-10 and Washington, and serves some of the best burgers in the city, including a bean burger for you vegetarians. Christian’s serves other bar food like chicken tenders, hot dogs, sandwiches and seafood, but you really should try one of the burgers first and probably get a side of onion rings to go with it. With a decent beer selection and plentiful sports on the TVs, Christian’s has other locations throughout the city now, but the original location is the best; the authentic dive-bar atmosphere and the history of the building can’t be beat. Pro tip: You need to go up to the bar and order your food. (7340 Washington, christianstailgate.com)
Located in a building dating back to the 1920s that was once home to an A&P grocery store and features the original pressed tin ceilings, mica lamps and an oak bar, Darkhorse Tavern is a friendly neighborhood dive bar known for its great Bloody Marys. Regulars like to snack on the free popcorn while drinking some of the 12 local beers on tap; heated up frozen pizzas are available if you have more of an appetite. Board games, darts, pinball machines and a jukebox are available for entertainment, but the main draw is the relaxed atmosphere and the unpretentious crowd and bartenders. (2207 Washington, dhtavern.com)
GALWAY HOOKER IRISH PUB
When we visited Galway Hooker, the manager we spoke with asked us, “Would you like to see a hooker?” No, it's not what you think: He took us over to a painting of a fishing boat, known as a hooker, in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland, from which this pub takes its name. Galway is actually more of a sports bar than an Irish pub, and we were kind of blown away by the 48 true high-definition TVs that were all tuned in to ESPN when we entered; the upscale bar food here is tasty as well. Galway has some dedicated international soccer fans who are regulars, so the pub sometimes opens up early in the morning for live games (as during The World Cup), and also has an impressive collection of framed soccer jerseys attached to the ceiling above the bar. Nice patio out front. (5102 Washington, facebook.com/galwayhookerhtx)
This chic cocktail bar is from self-taught bartender extraordinaire Alba Huerta, formerly of Anvil Bar & Refuge and The Pastry War, who told us that she created Julep as a place that reflects the American South — its people, their tastes and their traditions. The bar is named after the centuries-old iconic mixed cocktail, the mint julep, that originated in the South and was a symbol of wealth and excess, with the drink's overflowing chipped ice being very expensive in the days of old. The mint julep here consists of Four Roses and Old Grand Dad 100 bourbons, fresh mint, turbinado and powdered sugar, served in a silver cup with lots of ice. There are also a variety of other juleps, Southern house cocktails and pre-prohibition Southern-style drinks on the menu; the seafood sold here (oysters, bay scallops, clams, lobsters, prawns and caviar) also reflects old Southern wealth and excess. (1919 Washington, julephouston.com)
Liberty Station used to be an old Humble Oil and Gas service station back in the 1950s; it's now an open-air bar serving up craft beers and premium liquor with plenty of outdoor seating on its large patio. It's a popular spot for cyclists traveling down Washington Avenue to or from downtown, and food trucks serving mostly burgers and tacos are usually on hand for their nourishment needs, along with other Liberty Station patrons. Bean-bag toss and giant Jenga games are always going on out front, and dogs are welcome here as well; a foosball table and TVs, often with sports on, are located inside. (2101 Washington, libertystationbar.com)
LITTLE J'S BAR
This usually laid-back sports bar and neighborhood place can get rowdy during big game days; a pop-up eatery called Bourbon and Bacon is open inside, serving up some reasonably priced upscale bar food. Bacon is the focus, as the name implies, and Bourbon and Bacon serves up some tasty items like the Fancy Pig Sliders, The Oinkin’ Pup bacon-wrapped hot dog and Bacon Funnel Cake, to name just a few. As for the bar itself, it has a ton of TVs (including two giant projectors) on which fans can watch the Texans, Rockets, NHL hockey, UFC or just about any event they request. Little J's also has a basketball hoop game, foosball tables, and Big Buck and Silver Strike Live video games. Not a sports fan? Come out on Wednesday nights for Geeks Who Drink Trivia, and you could win some prizes. (5306 Washington, littlejsbar.com)
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MAX'S WINE DIVE
Max's Wine Dive is the place to go when you want to enjoy high-end wine along with “gourmet comfort food” in a casual, rock-and-roll environment. The company's mantra, “Fried Chicken and Champagne?...Why the Hell Not?!” pretty much sums up the place. The food selection consists of year-round favorites like the aforementioned “Famous Southern Fried Chicken” as well as “Shrimp & Grits” and a changing seasonal menu that provides regular foodie patrons of Max's with great variety throughout the year. Texas beers are on draft for those who want to change things up or who just refuse to do vino. (4720 Washington, maxswinedive.com)
This laid-back lesbian-friendly bar serves up craft cocktails, Texas beers and wines, homemade sangrias, and authentic absinthe; co-owner Mariana Lemesoff is also the proprietor of Avant Garden in Montrose, so you know the place has style. Pearl recently started a free monthly drag show called “The Sushi Show” starring local divas London Adour, Violet S'Arbleu, and Chlöé T. Crawford. Obviously, Pearl has been embraced by the LGBT community and its supporters, and the friendly bartenders are welcoming to everyone. Nice big patio out in back. (4216 Washington, pearlhouston.com)