Houston is a thirsty city, and we have a lively bar scene here. People who enjoy tipping back a few cocktails or beers don't have to look far to find a bar that fits their plan for a fun night out, but what about those of us who don't drink? While it might sound simple — after all, why would a non-drinker want to go to a bar anyway — for many adults, socializing with their friends is still going to involve quite a few invites to hang out at bars, so it's nice when one can find a place that's interesting for reasons other than the drinks it serves. Plus, being the responsible designated driver in a group shouldn't always involve staring at a neon Lone Star sign watching tediously as your pals build a nice buzz. Fortunately, there are plenty of bars that can be fun for those of us who don't drink, even though our friends do.
The city's most famous and long-running gothic club has been a gathering for various types of P.I.B.s (people in black) for decades, and is a staple of Houston's alternative nightlife scene. Numbers is also a good place to go drink, but offers plenty of other activities and events to make a night out there fun for people not interested in alcohol. Sure, it's a club, and not specifically a "bar," but Numbers is a fine place for drinkers to hang out with their more sober friends. As the home of classic dance music nights like Classic Numbers Fridays, and frequent concert and performance events, Numbers is a perennial Houston social destination. (300 Westheimer, numbersnightclub.com)
3. ALICE'S TALL TEXAN
This small Heights-area bar has gotten lots of good press over the past few years, and for good reason; it's a great place to go drink Shiner and Lone Star in huge frosted goblets for not a lot of money. But while getting your drink on is pretty easy at the Tall Texan, it's also a good place to hang out if you're sober. It's got a laid-back atmosphere and the regulars are usually pretty friendly. It still feels like a working-class neighborhood bar despite its popularity with some Inner Loop hipster types. The jukebox is usually playing old country or Tejano and Norteño music, and the pool table usually has a cluster of folks around it. The Tall Texan is a good watering hole, but it's also a fun place to strike up a conversation with Charley Pride singing in the background. (4904 North Main, 713-862-4141)
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2. LITTLE WOODROW'S MIDTOWN
The popular Midtown location of Little Woodrow's has a lot to offer people looking for a good time out with their friends. Although it's got a great bar that features large seasonal and craft-beer selections, its large patio — which takes up the majority of the establishment — makes it stand out to me. It feels like a friend's backyard party, although one with a huge deck, and makes for a nice casual vibe. Little Woodrow's has a bit of a mainstream sports-bar thing happening, too, so non-drinking folks who enjoy sports won't feel bored when tagging along with their beer-drinking pals. Thursday nights feature turtle races in a small arena on the patio, and I found myself smiling at the spectacle of the tiny reptiles "racing" one another. A non-drinker could do a lot worse when asked to pick a bar to meet up with friends. (2306 Brazos, midtown.littlewoodrows.com)
1. RUDYARD'S BRITISH PUB
Though it's billed as a "British pub," the true accuracy of that statement remains a mystery, but anyhow, Rudyard's is a Houston landmark that really does feel like "Old Montrose." It's a fine place to drink, but plenty of things about Rudz make it fun to hang around even if you don't imbibe, from the musical acts that grace its upstairs area to the darts and old Inner Loop social environment. Recently, after having gone to the place for years, I finally had a cheeseburger there, and it's worth stopping in just for one of those. Rudyard's is the kind of bar (sorry, "pub") where, buzzed or sober, it's likely a person will find something to love about the place. Remember to look for the semi-naughty Easter egg hidden in plain sight on Rudz's outdoors sign. (2010 Waugh, rudyardspub.com)