Bayou City

Houston's 10 Best Bars Near Holiday Shopping

With the Holiday Season fast approaching, many of us will be heading out to local shopping centers and malls to purchase Christmas presents for friends and family in addition to or instead of buying stuff on the Internet; sometimes these shopping experiences can be fun, other times they can leave us feeling stressed out, especially if we wait until the last minute. We present this list of bars near major shopping hubs in Houston where you can relieve some of that holiday stress, celebrate the season, or perhaps a little bit of both.

(Note: This list is in reverse alphabetical order.)

Whiskey River is a dance hall and saloon that offers up beer, country music, and even a mechanical bull to ride, and what else would you need after doing a little Christmas shopping at nearby Willowbrook Mall? They have some pretty good weekly specials if you want to get your drink on, such as Triple Crown Thursdays when all Crown Royal products are only $2.25, and yes they will be open on Thanksgiving day. Whiskey River's motto is “God Save The Cowboy,” and cowboys are in no short supply here; plenty of cowgirls too, of course.  (7637 FM 1960,

This laid-back neighborhood bar on the outskirts of River Oaks is indeed located next to some railroad tracks, hence the name; order their “World Famous Rail Shot” which is served in a test tube and only available when a train comes passing through. The Railyard serves a number of original craft cocktails and shots, along with craft beers that only the most hardcore beer enthusiasts have probably heard of, like Great Divide Yeti Stout and Odell Cutthroat Porter. Food trucks stop by every Friday at 5 p.m., so you can have some dinner here as well; Railyard is also the official pub of the Houston Dynamo soccer team. Besides being close to the Galleria, the River Oaks Shopping Center, Uptown Park and Highland Village are all also close by for your shopping needs.  (4200 San Felipe,

An upscale drinking establishment that focuses on local food and drinks, Local Pour's Woodlands location offers a large selection of draft beers, many from Houston and greater Texas; this is a nice place to stop by after shopping at The Woodlands Mall, obviously. Local Pour has chic décor and also serves craft cocktails, champagne, and an impressive wine selection in addition to the beer. This location is open for brunch, lunch and dinner and offers live music most days as well; try the chicken and waffles with bourbon syrup and pecan butter during brunch.  (1900 Hughes Landing,

Open for over 30 years now, Kenneally's has become a River Oaks landmark pub, recognized as much for its great Chicago Style thin-crust pizzas as for its pints of Guinness and craft beers; you don’t have to wait until St. Patrick’s Day to enjoy this Irish bar; maybe make it an Irish Christmas this year and stop by after shopping at the River Oaks Shopping Center nearby? The beer is always nice and cold here, they have a decent little patio, and they serve appetizers such as their very tasty housemade potato chips and french fries in addition to the aforementioned famous pizza; their corned beef and Reuben sandwiches are also pretty good.  (2111 S. Shepherd,

Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill at West Oaks Mall turned out to be a big flop, but have no fear: you’re bound to have a good time at the much more authentic JP Hops House nearby. The large selection of beer here includes more than 150 brews in bottles and 27 on tap from the U.S. and around the world. To get you into the holiday spirit before or after shopping, a replica of the leg lamp seen in the classic film A Christmas Story is on display behind the bar. On Sunday nights, open-mike at 6 p.m. brings in a lot of talented singer-songwriters from the Houston area and around the country that show up to try out new material; on every second Sunday of the month, the Houston Songwriters Association holds its monthly meeting starting at 2 p.m. which consists mainly of critiquing songs that members bring in. Their goal is to help each other improve their songwriting skills.  (2317 S. Highway 6,

Like the downtown location, the Sugar Land Flying Saucer Draught Emporium is a go-to place for beer lovers and a nice place to drop by after shopping over at First Colony Mall; the selection of beers here is so amazing that if you wanted to try them all it would take multiple visits way beyond the holiday season. You can also do some Christmas shopping at the stores in Sugar Land Town Square where Flying Saucer is located or dine at one of the nearby restaurants; of course Flying Saucer serves their own food as well such as burgers, pizza pies, soups and salads, ribs, and more. They even have share plates for you and your friends.  (15929 City Walk,

Einstein’s Pub is a large dive bar out in Katy where smoking is allowed and with a pretty decent selection of Texas craft beers; the burgers are the highlight of the food menu, and they are very good. Einstein’s has several popular weekly events like trivia night and karaoke, as well as live music from local bands on the weekends. The place is known to get a little bit rowdy and the regulars like to play pool, darts, and video games while gulping down their drinks; local sports teams’ games are usually tuned in on the bars numerous flatscreen TVs. This is one of the best bars out in the suburbs and a nice place to visit after fighting the Christmas-season crowds out at Katy Mills Mall.  (873 S. Mason,

After shopping at Baybrook Mall, it's worth a trip down the freeway to visit The Davenport if you want a good bar experience to cap off the evening; many of you have no doubt visited The Davenport on Richmond, but did you know about this second location out in Clear Lake? Like its big sister location, this relaxing lounge has a variety of more than 70 specialty martinis to choose from; the drink menu also 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. When we last visited, the bartenders were infusing some pineapple into vodka and bacon into bourbon to create new custom flavors; the bar also has an impressive collection of single-malt and blended Scotches.  (1235 Clear Lake City Blvd.,
If you decide to do some upscale shopping at Highland Village, stop by Cellar Bar afterwards to save money on drinks; it’s is a friendly neighborhood bar where the bartenders remember your name and cocktail of choice. The Cellar could be considered a dive bar, though it may just be a little too clean for that status, which is not a bad thing. It is small and cozy, with booths and high tables to sit at; they have 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. A pool table, darts, foosball table, and a handful of video games like Big Buck Hunter are here to kill some time, plus karaoke on the weekends.  (3140 Richmond,

Not to be confused with the 1980 Brooke Shields coming-of-age film set on a tropical-island paradise, the Blue Lagoon in Spring Branch is a drinking establishment that is considered a dive-bar paradise by many of the regulars and newcomers alike. You might as well stop by after shopping at Memorial City, since the drinks are cheap and strong and you might have just spent too much money on Christmas presents for relatives you only see once a year. Power drinkers and barflies are not an endangered species in this place, and there is space to move about and even dance if the mood strikes during Friday-night karaoke. Sometimes the bar provides free food for the customers, like pizza or hot dogs; at least they did the last few times we dropped in. Blue Lagoon has one of Houston's great patios; it's not huge, but has a nice big oak tree along with some covered picnic tables. This is the kind of place where you meet some fascinating characters, though not always the kind you want to sit and chat with all night long.  (1248 Witte,
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David Rozycki
Contact: David Rozycki