Continuing our tour of the best bars in Houston neighborhoods, this week we focus on the best places to grab some drinks in Upper Kirby, yet another area of town that seems to be ever growing with an influx of new residents and businesses, along with economic development and redevelopment.
(Note: This list is in alphabetical order.)
1919 WINE & MIXOLOGY
This romantic bar has experts who'll help you pick the perfect vino from 1919's selection of more than 140 different wines from the around United States and around the world; you can purchase wine by the glass or get a bottle to share with friends. The Brownstone building that houses the bar was built in 1919, hence the name; the place is elegant, with soft light from chandeliers and European furnishings. The building actually houses several other rooms, or venues, including the Mixology Room, if you prefer craft cocktails; Corner Table Restaurant, which serves up a paleo menu inspired by the paleo diet; The Oak lounge upstairs, which features dancing and live music; a cabana-style patio; the Spring Room, which can be reserved for special events; and the Lexington Room, for upscale private events. There's a lot going on at 2736 Virginia Street. (2736 Virginia, 1919wmb.com)
Okay, Cactus Music is not a bar, it's a record store, but it's also a live-music venue that hosts lots of great bands and artists for in-store performances that are always free, and it usually gives away free Saint Arnold beer during these free performances. Pretty cool, huh? Many of the musicians who perform at Cactus during an afternoon show will also have a gig at another venue in the city on the same night, so Cactus provides a rare opportunity for Houstonians to see their favorites perform twice in one day. Go support one of the few remaining true record stores in Houston. (2110 Portsmouth, cactusmusictx.com)
CAPONE'S OVEN & BAR
Capone’s is probably best known for its gourmet pizzas that are prepared before their customers' eyes in the famous brick oven; appetizers, salads, and lunch and dinner entrées are also available, and served until 1:45 a.m. for you night owls. The bar here is well-stocked with wine, bourbons, single-malt scotches and more, for your entire adult-beverage needs. Capone’s has a speakeasy-style lounge called The Hide Out where live music is performed seven days a week, with DJs spinning popular hits late into the night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays following the bands; the live music usually consists of musicians playing covers, rock, pop and blues. (2303 Richmond, caponestexas.com)
THE CELLAR BAR
The Cellar Bar is a friendly neighborhood place where the bartenders remember your name and drink of choice; it could be considered a dive bar, though it may be just a little too clean for that status, which is not a bad thing. Cellar is small and cozy, with booths and high tables; there's a nice patio if you want to stretch out a bit. A decent selection of beer on tap and in bottles is sold here; cider is on tap as well. Cellar Bar is a good spot to drop by if you live nearby or work in the area and need a break before facing the daunting Houston rush-hour traffic; a pool table, darts, foosball table and a handful of video games like Big Buck Hunter are here for you to kill some time, and there's karaoke on the weekends. (3140 Richmond, thecellarbar.org)
This relaxing lounge has a variety of more than 70 specialty martinis to choose from; in addition, the drink menu includes a lengthy list of cocktails and shots with colorful names like “Jonestown Kool-Aid” and “Alien Secretion” made from vodkas, whiskeys and other spirits from around the world. The staff here creates new custom flavors as well by infusing some pineapple into vodka or bacon into bourbon, for example; the bar also has an impressive collection of single malt and blended Scotches. The Davenport is located in the historic Sandman building, which was constructed back in 1957 and is an example of early modernist commercial architecture; the look and feel of the place add to its coolness factor. (2117 Richmond, thedavenportlounge.com)
This relaxing Irish pub is a good place for adults to drink; the bartenders are genuinely friendly, and intelligent conversation is not hard to find here. There's a decent selection of craft beers as well as bourbon and whiskeys for sale; there is no kitchen, but you can order from Star Pizza down the street and have it delivered. McElroy’s has a spacious patio out back, and inside there are comfortable furniture and cozy booths to lounge about in; weekly events include karaoke on Wednesdays and trivia and Big Ass Beers on Thursdays. A Golden Tee machine is here for your pleasure as well as the usual pool table, jukebox and darts. Being an Irish pub, of course, McElroy’s has some great St. Patrick’s Day events every year; when you're downtown, visit the sister location, Shay McElroy's Irish Pub on Texas at Main. (3607 South Sandman, mcelroyspub.com)
MCGONIGEL'S MUCKY DUCK
Established in 1990, McGonigel's Mucky Duck is a music venue as well as an Irish pub/restaurant; patrons who dine in receive preferred seating for live performances. Ray Wylie Hubbard, James McMurtry and Shake Russell are just some of the artists who perform at the Duck on a pretty regular basis, and the venue is unique in that musicians visiting here often play an early show and a late one on the nights they perform. Most of the patrons who visit are real music lovers; there is a “Silence Is Golden” rule, with management requesting that people who want to talk step outside onto the patio so as not to distract from the performances onstage. In addition to the touring and local musicians who come through here, there's a weekly Monday open-mike night where aspiring singer-songwriters get a chance to perform before a live audience as well. (2425 Norfolk, mcgonigels.com)
QUEEN VIC PUB & KITCHEN
This London-style gastropub serves proper British dishes like fish and chips and shepherd’s pie as well as a variety of Indian curries and soups, salads and pub bites like deviled eggs and lamb keema pizza; there are also a variety of burgers. This being a bar list, you should note that Queen Vic has an extensive beer inventory as well as an impressive selection of hand-crafted cocktails for you to try; drop in during happy hour for better deals, like $4 to $7 bites and $5 house wines; the atmosphere here is lively, loud and dark, as at a spot you'd find in modern-day London. (2712 Richmond, thequeenvicpub.com)
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SONOMA RETAIL WINE BAR & RESTAURANT
Sonoma is an elegant and romantic wine bar and restaurant with friendly staff, and is wine-snob-free; it also serves a decent selection of craft beers if you don’t do vino. Sonoma has a lot of daily and weekly happy hour specials including 50 percent of the gourmet thin-crust pizzas on Thursdays and $10 featured wine-tasting flights on Fridays. One of the favorite appetizers served here is the baked brie with drizzled honey, toasted almonds, Granny Smith apples and fig preserves; there are also meat and cheese plates, sliders, salads and soups available, and do try a dessert, like the pineapple upside-down cake. Sonoma is spacious inside and a good place for private parties or an intimate date; a nice outdoor patio is available as well. (2720 Richmond, sonomahouston.com)
VELVET MELVIN PUB
Originally known as the Velvet Elvis back in the day, the Velvet Melvin Pub is a relaxed dive bar that specializes in strong, inexpensive drinks, and the regulars are fond of their pizza and nachos, among other bar food fare. Velvet Melvin is good for groups, and the entertainment here includes pool tables, dartboards, old-school arcade games and an Internet jukebox; the bar gets silent if nobody plays any songs, so throw in a couple of bucks and play your favorite tunes when you visit, okay? There are also plenty of TVs for watching Texans games and the occasional band performs here; the big patio out front with picnic tables is inviting when the weather's nice. The customers and staff here are friendly, and this joint has character. (3303 Richmond, facebook.com/Velvet-Melvin)