Midtown gets sort of a reputation for being the place where frat-tastic types and early twentysomethings flock for continuous nights of debauchery and decadence. To some extent, this is true. Hell, that’s what you’re supposed to do in your early twenties anyway!
So, yes, Midtown features plenty of places designed for the party crowd, and these places certainly serve their purpose. Of course, the neighborhood has also evolved a bit in recent years and now features bars that also cater to those in search of a slightly more subdued good time, or perhaps even a quality bite to eat. Fortunately, it's a walkable part of Houston, so those in the area have options and can easily navigate them. Looking to cut loose? Wanna get out but keep it relatively chill? Wanna do the latter before getting into the former? Not a problem.
10. SAINT DANE’S
One founder had a Saint Bernard, the other a Great Dane. You see where we’re going with this. Point being, Saint Dane’s is a low-key place where both you and your dog can unwind in Midtown. Sports are always on TV, and karaoke nights are always a hit. Plus, while some local bars try to class up the menu a bit, Saint Dane’s gives regulars what they want on the menu: textbook bar food. Get down on anything from fried pickles to chicken strips to wings to nachos, then wash it down with any number of local beers on tap. 502 Elgin, saintdanes.com
9. GLITTER KARAOKE
A number of area bars routinely host karaoke nights, and there’s nothing wrong with this; after all, karaoke is awesome. But Glitter is not a bar that happens to host karaoke; instead, it’s a bar that devotes itself to karaoke. Get on the list and belt out a tune; even if you suck, the crowd is always nice enough to encourage you anyway. Nightly drink specials are on display as well. 2621 Milam, glitterkaraoke.com
8. WOOSTER’S GARDEN
This spot will always hold a personal meaning, if only because it had an open-mike night during a friend’s birthday party, and someone did an acoustic cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” That’s how you win friends right there. Wooster’s is a relatively new addition to Midtown, and it’s looking to class up the joint a little bit. The bar features a seasonal craft-cocktail menu, so expect some nice, refreshing drinks come summertime. Craft beer aplenty spews from the taps, and the club even serves Boilermakers (a beer-and-half-shot combo). The drinks aren’t the only thing that rises a cut above; Wooster’s features one of the best food menus in Midtown. Like its craft cocktail, Wooster’s serves up season offerings, so expect tacos, citrus-infused dishes and lighter options that best accompany the Texas summer heat. 3315 Milam, woostersgarden.com
7. IRISH COWBOY
It was a bummer when Celtic Gardens closed last year, mostly because Celtic Gardens was one of the best places to get down on a little Sunday Funday in Midtown. However, what rose from the ashes of Celtic Gardens has been a revelation in Irish Cowboy. The owners expanded the patio, added a sweet outdoor bar and live-music stage, and even rolled out a new menu. Irish Cowboy bills itself as a backyard patio and bar, and that’s about right. It’s also a welcome tagline, as nothing says summer in Houston like fried food, cold beer, live music and good times on the patio. Plus, Irish Cowboy – like its predecessor – still makes for one fine place to watch football once fall rolls around. 2300 Louisiana, irishcowboy.com
6. MONGOOSE VERSUS COBRA
Speaking of food, Mongoose Versus Cobra serves up some of the finest in Midtown. And if you’re curious why the bar/restaurant refers to its food as “groceries,” learn your Houston history – the building that inhabits Mongoose Versus Cobra opened in 1915 as Auditorium Grocery. Try the bratwurst or cold-cuts sandwich; you won’t be disappointed. On the booze front, Mongoose Versus Cobra is renowned for its beer selection. The bar currently serves up more than 40 beers on tap, from popular national brands like Lagunitas to local favorites like 8th Wonder and Brash. This is the place to come for dinner just before a night on the town; the joint is hopping, but not to the point where conversation is out of the question. 1011 McGowen, mongooseversuscobra.com
5. STERLING HOUSE
Speaking of Houston history, Sterling House has plenty of its own. Built in 1905, the historic home of the Sterling family (including former Texas governor Ross Sterling) was restored and rebuilt into a neighborhood bar that opened last year. The historic vibe is evident, complete with double-deck wraparound porches that really call back to a quiet summer day in old Texas (basically, the place is a Blue Bell commercial come to life). Like many other fairly new joints in Midtown, Sterling House isn't here just to serve up booze. Rather, menu offerings like brisket or shrimp tacos are reason enough to pay a visit. But like many of its Midtown peers, Sterling House also knows what it means to offer an expansive drink menu. That includes craft cocktails like the Sterling Mule and Cucumber Press, along with any number of local canned craft beers. 3015 Bagby, sterlinghousetx.com
4. LITTLE WOODROW’S
Turtle races, dude. Scoff if you will, and some will at the thought of a bunch of people gathering at a bar on Thursday nights to watch a bunch of turtles race. Two things: 1) Stop being judgmental and just enjoy a good time, and 2) Don’t be fooled: These turtles can move. Not that the most popular Woodrow's location in Houston is a draw solely because of the turtles. With three bars serving up beer on tap and well drinks, the line for a drink is rarely that long. Plus, the patio makes for some nice breathing room (a luxury in Midtown) and comes complete with picnic tables and plenty of cornhole. This is what summertime drinking on a Saturday night in Houston is all about. 2306 Brazos, midtown.littlewoodrows.com
3. NOUVEAU ANTIQUE ART BAR
Looking to cut loose, down some shots and make a wild night of it? Yeah, look elsewhere. Instead, Nouveau Antique Art Bar embraces its laid-back vibe. That includes a weekly tribute to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, along with nearly 100 Tiffany lamps and furniture pieces, which give it an ambience unlike any other in Midtown, or Houston for that matter. Nouveau is arguably the best date spot in Midtown; it’s quaint enough to support a conversation, and distinct enough to be memorable. Plus, if the date turns into something down the line, you’re in luck – Nouveau also doubles as a wedding reception space. 2913 Main, art-bar.net
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2. PUB FICTION
Moment of honesty – I wasn’t the biggest fan of Pub Fiction back in the day. The inside could give a claustrophobic a panic attack, and the outdoor patio simply wasn’t spacious enough. What a difference a remodel makes. Pub Fiction rolled out its new look last fall – just in time for football season – which included a renovated interior and a major expansion of its patio. You won’t find a better place to watch a Texans game on Sunday, same for the college games on Saturday. Plus, the bar is more central to the patio now, which makes it easier to navigate between the indoor and outdoor spaces. The patio is dog-friendly. If anything, Pub Fiction is proof that second chances can be found in Midtown. 2303 Smith, pubfiction.com
Not only is Axelrad the best bar in Midtown; it’s arguably the best bar in Houston, period. For starters, there's a hammock garden, which is reason enough to visit and catch a nap on a Sunday afternoon. The venue shares a space with Luigi’s Pizzeria, which is a nice bonus. As for the beer menu, well, it’s pretty damn stacked; seriously, look at this thing. Most important, Axelrad often plays hosts to special events, from live music to movie nights to political events. That, coupled with one of the best vibes you’ll find in a bar, makes it unquestionably the bright spot of Midtown’s bar scene. 1517 Alabama, axelradbeergarden.com