Some people are going to read the title of this article, scoff at the notion of frequenting any bar on Washington Avenue, then move on. This is fair to a point; Washington certainly features its share of joints with overly aggressive bouncers and ridiculous dress codes.
Yes, like any other part of town, Washington has its misses. It also has plenty of hits as far as nightlife goes. In fact, Washington boasts a vast array of bars, many of which rank among the best the city has to offer.
10. MAX’S WINE DIVE
And since we’re on the topic of bars that don’t exactly fit the Washington stereotype, Max’s Wine Dive is a fine place to start. As opposed to cheap liquor shots and ear-rattling music, Max’s is a lively-yet-quaint joint that also happens to feature one of the best wine lists in the city. It also opens at 10 a.m. on weekends for one of the finest brunches inside the Loop. That includes must-have dishes like chicken and waffles, steak and eggs and green eggs and ham. Easily one of the best date-night spots on Washington. 4720 Washington, maxswinedive.com
9. CLUTCH BAR
Oddly enough, in an area with bars for days, Washington is somewhat lacking when it comes to sports bars. Not so much bars that feature sports on TV in the background, but rather bars with TVs at every turn and a variety of sports, from football to MMA. Clutch fills that void and does it well. It also serves up local-only beers on tap, which is never a bad thing. The place can get a bit cramped, and the bottle service seems a bit much for a sports bar, but that notwithstanding, Clutch – which opened in late 2016 – has made for a welcome and much-needed addition on Washington. 5334 Washington, clutch-bar.com
Yes, Houston is one of the most diverse, metropolitan cities in the country. But even so, it’s still Texas, which means you don’t have to look too far to get your country dancing fix. Fortunately, Rebels fits that bill for those looking for a little something different on Washington. Plus, it features a mechanical bull, which always makes for a nice drunken excursion. And it also offers up one of those punching bag machines, a nice and constructive way of blowing off steam if you just so happened to wander out of one of Washington’s lesser bars. 5002 Washington, rebelshouston.com
7. LINCOLN BAR
Of all the bars on Washington, Lincoln Bar really seems to have it figured out. On one hand, it isn’t going to let patrons in who aren’t dressed for a night on the town. On the other, particularly during these summer months, fellas can get in with a decent pair of shorts and a shirt. Not only that, but Lincoln doesn’t even charge cover for the UFC fights it routinely showcases, and hell, it even sells individual cigarettes in the bathroom for those who want a little fix after a couple of drinks but aren’t looking to catch a case of black lung. 5110 Washington, lincolnbarhouston.com
6. BENJY’S ON WASHINGTON
Looking to cut loose on Washington? Look elsewhere. Looking to shake off the previous night’s festivities with a boozy Sunday afternoon, or in the mood for a nice date night with that special someone? You’ve come to the right place. In addition to one of the best weekend brunches in the city, Benjy’s offers up happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, along with dinner fare like steaks, seafood and pasta. Simply put, Benjy’s keeps it classy on Washington. 5922 Washington, benjys.com
5. LITTLE J’S BAR
Since moving a bit further down Washington a few years back, Little J’s has really stepped up its game. It’s become a great place to grab a little brunch on Sunday while watching football, and it’s also one of the premier Inner Loop bars that serve up crawfish in season. The tap list is extensive, and as bars go, the food is about as good as it gets. That holds particularly true for the Mario, which features two pork tacos, hummus, chili, onions, jalapeño cream, queso fresco and a side of fries. That alone is worth the trip. 5306 Washington, littlejsbar.com
4. LIBERTY STATION
Liberty Station almost has a Heights-like feel to it. The place is lively but spacious enough so as not to feel cramped; plus, it actually has parking, a rarity on Washington. There’s an inside bar but also a large outdoor patio, as well as bar games like cornhole and foosball. Liberty bills itself as featuring “no crap on tap,” and that’s no lie; the bar offers up a variety of local beer favorites. A great place to spend the night with friends or to get going early on a weekend day, Liberty Station is one of the more well-rounded bars on Washington. 2101 Washington, libertystationbar.com
3. KUNG FU SALOON
Look, their NBA Jam game once glitched out so bad I ended up with four Scottie Pippens all playing on the Atlanta Hawks. But that’s the kind of fun story you get from Kung Fu, which offers up a number of old-school (and free!) video games. From NFL Blitz to Golden Tee to Galaga, Kung Fu doesn’t lack for entertainment. Coupled with a full bar and limitless TVs, Kung Fu is a great place to cut loose on the weekend or simply have a little low-key fun on a weeknight. Yes, there’s a dress code, and yes, it’s right here on the Kung Fu website. 5317 Washington, kungfusaloonhouston.com
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2. PORCH SWING PUB
No, Porch Swing is not technically on Washington, but it’s literally within a stone’s throw, so close enough. Plus, it’s one of the better neighborhood bars you’ll find in Houston, which makes it a can’t-miss place, whether you’re in the mood for a night out with friends or a lazy Sunday spent drinking domestics and pounding crawfish. The staff is friendly, the booze and food are affordable, and the patio is downright phenomenal when the weather is right. Pop by on Monday nights during football season for a special round of football bingo. Basically, you watch the game, and if certain things happen during the game that correspond with your card, you win prizes. It’s a good time. 69 Heights, porchswingpub.com
1. DARKHORSE TAVERN
A lot of people – particularly as Houston continues to evolve and develop – face a similar quandary when it comes to choosing a residence as they do when choosing a bar on Washington. New and sleek, or comfortable and lived-in? For those who prefer the latter, best to make a beeline for Darkhorse. Housed in a 1920s building, Darkhorse aspires to a historical feel with tin ceilings, mica lamps and a real oak bar. The jukebox is on point, as is the full bar. Plus, daily specials and free popcorn and snacks! 2207 Washington, dhtavern.com