Main Street in Houston has a rich, interesting history and in the last several years lots of new bars have been opening up down there, in addition to some of the city's more perennial spots. The Madness on Main Street Festival is coming up on next Saturday and will feature lots of local bands playing at Continental Club and nearby venues.
With Houston's METRORail, you can take the train down Main to all of the spots on our list in a fun bar-hopping excursion one night with friends, or just pick your favorite spot to visit and chill out in all night long. However you get down there and whatever bars you decide to check out, it's kind of fun to listen to Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band's "Mainstreet" as you travel down Main. Trust us, just do it.
Note: This list is in numerical order by street address.
THE HONEYMOON CAFÉ & BAR The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar is one of the great places in Downtown Houston to people-watch; the location at the corner of Main and Congress can provide a view of downtown office workers, party people and musical street performers coming and going, depending on what time you visit. Honeymoon delivers good coffee and craft cocktails, as well as being a spot to grab some breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can arrive early in the morning and stay until late at night here if you want to; Honeymoon is a good one-stop destination for all of your dining and drinking needs throughout the day, and don't forget about the dessert menu.
300 Main, thehoneymoonhtx.com
MOVING SIDEWALK The downtown cocktail bar Moving Sidewalk is named after a band that Billy Gibbons was in before ZZ Top; he even stopped by once to check the place out, according to a bartender we spoke with. The name also reflects the sidewalk out in front on Main near Congress, which has become very busy with all of the new bars opening up in the area. Moving Sidewalk serves a selection of wine and beer, but the main attraction is the specialty handcrafted cocktails; the bar is also known for its high-quality, crystal-clear hand-cut ice, which the owners are now selling to other bars as well through their new company called Ice Age.
306 Main, facebook.com/Moving-Sidewalk
THE NIGHTINGALE ROOM The Nightingale Room serves up classic cocktails, house drinks, beer and wine; for music lovers, patrons can choose a vinyl LP from the bar's collection of some 2,000 (list provided), or bring in their own from home and the bartender on duty will play it. Nightingale also has started hosting live music on Thursday nights, where the bands play upstairs on a loft above the bar that is normally a customer lounge; the bar even has a call elevator to send drinks up on. Upcoming shows include Quiet Company, Wild Moccasins with special guests Young Mammals, and Louisiana singer-songwriter Maggie Koerne.
308 Main, nightingaleroom.com
CAPTAIN FOXHEART'S BAD NEWS BAR & SPIRIT LOUNGE This upstairs bar offers up a nice balcony view of Main Street and the METRORail down below, besides one of the coolest bar names in Houston; Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge is not very big inside but the handcrafted specialty cocktails like the Darth Bitterman and the Pile of Pink keep the regulars happy and coming back for more. Vinyl records and a player are behind the bar for your listening pleasure, and a small menu of craft beers are on sale as well if you just don't do cocktails.
308 Main, Floor 2 facebook.com/BadNewsBar
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NOTSUOH Owner Jim Pirtle's iconic downtown bar, music and art/performance venue Notsuoh (Houston spelled backwards) has by this time achieved a legendary, almost mythical reputation for weirdness. Pirtle describes the space as being the result of a marriage between an historical building more than 100 years old with the collection of a thrift-store junkie. Besides the often-eclectic and indie live music, poetry readings and comedy shows unlike anything else you can find in town happen here, and no two visits to Notsouh are ever the same; the place is certainly anything but predictable. Notsuoh is where intelligent conversations can take place between energy-company CEOs, visiting Hollywood actors, hipsters and curious newcomers alike.
314 Main, notsuoh.com
DEAN'S DOWNTOWN Dean's Downtown's latest makeover occurred in November 2013, when its current owners transformed the former dive bar and full-time live-music venue into a more traditional bar that celebrates Houston's history and the history of the downtown building that houses it. Dean's started out as Liam's Department store and later became Dean's Credit Clothing, to which the old neon sign outside can attest; an old ledger book from the '40s that Dean used to keep track of his customers' accounts is on display.
Other relics from Dean's Credit Clothing are on display, like pairs of old shoes from the '70s still in their original boxes, and what was Houston's first electric elevator is now a tiny lounge. The fancy craft cocktails here include the Woolworth and Penny's Nichol, which recall other long-closed downtown Houston businesses.
316 Main, deansdowntown.com
NOUVEAU ANTIQUE ART BAR This Midtown bar is decorated with a large collection of reproduction Tiffany lamps and Art Nouveau (French for "new art") antique furniture; this combination, as well as the lighting effect, cozy couches inside and low-volume music that lends itself to conversation, helps create a romantic atmosphere. Drop in on Lounge Night on Wednesdays to hear the music of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald further enhance the romantic mood more than a night of listening to, say, indie-rock or metal at your usual dive would.
2913 Main, art-bar.net
CONTINENTAL CLUB Opened in 2000, Houston's Continental Club is an accurate recreation of the original Continental that opened in Austin back in 1957; both clubs continue on the tradition of showcasing great musicians who play roots, rockabilly, blues, country, swing and more on a weekly basis. Be sure to check out Glover Gill playing Tango on the piano on Mondays and Beatles tribute band Beetle on Thursdays along with all the other phenomenal bands who drop by. The large backyard is home to the Pachinko Hut bar and is one of the best patios in Houston; go out there and relax a bit in between sets.
3700 Main, continentalclub.com
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BIG TOP LOUNGE The full name of this circus-themed bar next door to The Continental Club is Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge; everyone just calls it the Big Top, though. Like the Continental, Big Top features live music as well DJs; most notably the collective known as A Fistful of Soul who play old soul and R&B 45s on the third Friday of every month. The event has gotten so popular that it actually has been moved to the Continental Club's huge backyard patio, which the Big Top's back door opens onto as well. Be sure and check out the Pachinko Hut bar while you're out there, too.
3714 Main, bigtoplounge.com
ALLEY KAT BAR & LOUNGE This two-story bar hosts diverse crowds as well as diverse musical acts; indie-rock bands, Spanish rock, hip-hop and DJs spinning vinyl can all be found here. On many nights several different acts are performing simultaneously in the rooms that make up the lounge, including the main bar, back room, middle room and upstairs room; there is often a lot of variety to choose from when you walk in. Weekly events include a free Salsa class on Tuesdays, progressive DJ Flash Gordon Parks on Wednesdays, and The Waxaholics all-vinyl party on Thursdays.
3718 Main, facebook.com/TheAlleyKatHouston
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