Now that spring has arrived and the weather is nice, it's time to venture outside and enjoy it before the extreme heat of summer arrives and many of us retreat to the comfort of indoor air conditioning. Drinking beer and eating outside on patios is the thing to do this time of year for many, and these bars have got you covered.
Note: This list is in alphabetical order.
BIG STAR BAR This friendly Heights neighborhood dive bar has a checkerboard floor, beat-up but comfortable furniture, red lights and a jukebox with a great music selection inside; outside, a gigantic patio awaits you and we always seem to meet interesting people who like to engage in intelligent conversation out there when we visit. Though winter is over and the fire pits outside may have ended now, keep an eye out for crawfish boils, food trucks, live music and "Chicken Shit Bingo" to liven things up on the patio this spring. Feel free to bring along your dog to hang out with you and your friends out on the patio as well.
1005 W. 19th, bigstarbar.com
CARLOS'S BEER GARDEN This open-air ice house has been in business since 1978 and probably is not well-known to people outside of the Clear Lake area, but it is worth making a trip out for, or at least drop in if you are in the area. Carlos's is another classic Texas ice house where regulars gulp down mostly domestic beers (there are a few craft brews on tap) while eating bar food like chicken-fried steak sandwiches and burgers.
Carlos's has a very friendly, welcoming vibe, with a crowd of regulars that includes both blue- and white-collar workers, college students from nearby UH-Clear Lake, and retired folks; it often feels like a neighborhood backyard patio party. With the nice weather, the garage doors are left open and you can sit out on the extended back patio as well; crawfish is being served now through mid-June.
18018 Texas 3, facebook.com/carlossbeergarden
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CEDAR CREEK CAFE Cedar Creek Café was indeed built next to a little creek that flows out in front of it; the large outdoor patio is inspired by Austin's Hill Country and although some have poked a little fun at it for trying to be a little too much like Austin, we have to admit that Cedar Creek's scenic patio is a pretty cool spot for afternoon drinking and into the evening and night as well. The "Bad Ass Burgers" and "Big Ol' Wangs" (that's chicken wings) are among the popular dishes to be washed down with craft beers, and Cedar opens up early at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sundays for breakfast items like chicken and waffles and frozen mimosas. Live music is played out on the patio on Saturdays from 4 to 8 p.m. for your listening pleasure this time of year as well.
1034 W. 20th, cedarcreekcafe.com
COTTONWOOD This Garden Oaks neighborhood bar has a large outdoor seating area with picnic tables where you can sit with friends and gulp down a few craft beers while trying some of the popular food like the Squirrel Master Burger, a Poblano stuffed burger topped with a jalapeno fried egg, pepper jack cheese and bacon. Cottonwood's beer list is always being updated and the craft cocktails and wine selection is equally impressive.
For your amusement there is foosball, cornhole/bean bag toss, giant Jenga and a bocce court; the bar is also dog-friendly so bring your four-legged friend along with you. Cottonwood has an impressive lineup of live music coming up in April, with Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, Robert Kuhn and Libby Koch among the acts scheduled to perform; there is never a cover.
3422 N. Shepherd, cottonwoodhouston.com
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D&T DRIVE INN Opened in 1959 and named after the original owner's kids, Dan and Ted, D&T Drive Inn has been transformed by its current owners into a friendly residential neighborhood bar specializing in craft beers, with 51 different taps available, as well as above-average bar food. Out back, shaded picnic tables and benches are available and provide a laid-back, backyard party vibe, where the diverse crowd here enjoys the eclectic music selections on the jukebox.
A favorite drink among patrons is the house-made Frozen Shandy, a beer and lemonade mix that is tart and sweet simultaneously; smoked pork nachos and Frito pie topped with beef stew, pickled jalapenos and smoked pimento cheese are among the favorite food items. Tuesday is steak night and like many bars on our list, D&T serves up crawfish on select days this time of year.
1307 Enid, treadsack.com/dtdriveinn
DOWN THE STREET Down the Street is a Heights-area neighborhood bar that is somewhat of a hidden gem; it looks like a friendly, rustic Texas icehouse, with a seating area out front and dirt-covered parking lot, but serves liquor and has a full bar to go along with the impressive collection of wines and beers, many of which come from Texas breweries.
Your foodie friends will appreciate the menu; as far as we know this is the only place in town to get a pizza like the Larkin, which is topped with smoked duck breast, cherry glaze, fresh pears, crumbled blue cheese and pesto. Located on a quiet street, the patio is a nice place to spend a lazy afternoon; it is also dog-friendly and has a bike rack for all of you cyclists.
5746 Larkin, downthestreethouston.com
LADYBIRD'S One of the new bars in our city, Ladybird's is designed for springtime weather, with its garage doors/windows that open up to let the air in and patio deck out front; food trucks like Way Good Serva-Teria and Taco Nuts stop by in the afternoon seven days a week, and you only have to walk a couple of feet from the patio to place your order. If games are your thing, a bean bag toss outside is available while inside there are foosball and pool tables.
This low-key neighborhood bar specializes in microbrews/craft beers and craft cocktails; try the signature drink made with Deep Eddy Ruby Red grapefruit-flavored vodka, St. Germain liqueur, basil, lemon and champagne. Ladybird's is located close to some railroad tracks, and you can hear, feel and smell the train when it comes roaring through.
5519 Allen, ladybirdsbar.com
LIBERTY STATION Liberty Station used to be an old Humble Oil and Gas service station back in the '50s; it is now an open-air bar serving up craft beers and premium liquor with plenty of outdoor seating on its large patio. A popular spot for cyclists traveling down Washington Avenue to or from downtown, food trucks serving mostly burgers and tacos are always on hand for their nourishment needs, along with the 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. Though it is located on Washington, Liberty is removed from some of the more negative behavior the street's nighlife scene has become infamous for in some cases.
2101 Washington, libertystationbar.com
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MOON TOWER INN This Second Ward favorite specializes in serving up craft beer and sausages on pretzel buns; Moon Tower's "Wild Game Wieners" include such varieties as wild boar, duck, venison, rabbit, lamb, pheasant and more, with your choice of toppings. Bring some friends along with you and enjoy your food and brews on the picnic tables out in the large backyard area; also bring along a Frisbee or some hula hoops to play around with after your meal, or throw some horseshoes. Moon Tower also serves up burgers that are buy one get one free every Wednesday and Thursday is steak night; crawfish boils are going down on Sundays this time of year as well.
3004 Canal, facebook.com/bigweeniestyles
WEST ALABAMA ICE HOUSE West Alabama Ice House seems to make it on to many of our bar lists, for good reasons, and it kind of has to make a list devoted to enjoying the springtime weather in our fair city. West Alabama is a Houston institution, in case you didn't know, where people from all walks of life come to enjoy cold beer and friendly conversation in an outdoor setting with shaded picnic tables; it is a prime example of Texas ice-house culture.
Crawfish is being boiled and served up here this time of year and you also might be treated to some barbecue if employees or customers are cooking out on the grill when you drop in. Also, stop by during the week during your lunch hour (or anytime, really) for some cheap and tasty food from Tacos Tierra Caliente food truck across the street.
1919 W. Alabama, facebook.com/WALABAMA
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