Night Life

Hot in Herre

Anytime you're in a bar and the person you're talking to reveals a firm stance on anything, immediately argue the contrary. It's hours (or at least minutes) of pure fun.

It doesn't even matter if you agree with what they're saying or not. If they say health care should be free, for example, you should counter with, "Don't be ridiculous, health care should be unaffordable for everyone, particularly sickly children."

Something interesting always happens. This is how we came to know April Murray, whom you'll meet a little later.

It's Friday evening inside Washington Avenue Drinkery (4115 Washington). Like most recent weekends at the tavern — which opened June 25, better known as the day ­Michael Jackson died — tonight is crazy busy.

The Drinkery is situated in that hopping section of Washington where The Daily Grind coffeehouse used to be, within walking distance of the Reign Lounge (4105 Washington), Walter's on Washington (4215 Washington), Pearl Bar (4216 Washington) and The Dubliner (4219 Washington). Early on, it mostly got spillover from those places, but since has gradually been growing its own crowd.

It's a little after midnight and, counting the exterior, a couple hundred people are at the Drinkery. There's no clubby dress code, so most are dressed normally as a DJ tucked in the corner spins a mix of every Top 40 song from the last 20 years. People wander back and forth between the indoor bar and the impressive wraparound patio; it's a very relaxed-feeling venue.

"You couldn't pay me to go to a place like that," says charismatic Frost Bank bigwig Gilbert Araiza, gesturing towards Reign. "Everybody is great here. This place has great drinks, great staff and beautiful bartenders."

The Drinkery's closest local counterpart is Vintage Lounge (2108 Kipling). Both have that same local-bar feel but are still decidedly trendy. However, this place trumps Vintage in two ways.

First of all, the Drinkery's interior feels about twice as big. The inside area is wide open, with plenty of space to stand around and talk. Secondly, the Adams brothers own the joint — as well as Corkscrew (1919 Washington) — so drink is paramount, a point of pride that helps give the bar an identity as a place to go for serious imbibing.

At the moment, the Drinkery's a/c is out — management swears it'll be fixed by the time this article is printed — so what cooling there is comes from a few of those big industrial fans. They're not quite working, so we remark, "Well, that's appropriate" when the DJ plays St. Louis rapper Nelly's 2002 smash "Hot in Herre."

This is where Murray, a hardworking twentysomething mother of two, comes in.

Though not exclusively, the majority of the Drinkery's young professional crowd this evening is white. Murray, also white, has noticed this as well, but she takes issue with our observation that Nelly is a crappy, sell-out, "white people rapper."

"Nelly does suck," Murray laughs with a tiny smile stretched across her face, "but he's not just for white people."

Never mind that she completely missed the connection between the song's title and the room's actual orchid-friendly temperature. A rule is a rule, and our contrary instincts have been engaged.

Gritting our teeth, we argue that Nelly is in fact one of the Top 5 rappers of all time; that his 2000 debut, Country Grammar, is a brilliant representation of urban desolation in Midwestern America; and, essentially, that he is the ultimate spokesman for the streets.

Murray responds with a perfectly logical, beautifully crafted case proclaiming all rappers to be "white people rappers" because all rappers belong to all races. Except Kevin Federline, whom nobody wants to claim.

Then she says she's getting up to go to the restroom and never comes back, so our attention shifts to a guy who looks like Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings trying to dry-hump one of the industrial fans.

Always go opposite. Always.


Rewind the tape far enough and you'll find that Washington Avenue Drinkery used to be a family-run grocery store way back when, and the family that ran it used to live upstairs. (Their former living quarters upstairs will be converted into more space before the end of the year. Management says.) The story goes that there was a trapdoor that could be opened from the upstairs room, and when a would-be burglar would come in, the dad would open it and pull a shotgun on the poor crook. Albeit partially obscured by ductwork, that door is still there today — just throwing that out there should you have any similar felonious intentions.

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Shea Serrano