With the Houston Texans' hopes of a winning season crashing down before our eyes, it’s time to start appreciating a football team in town that's actually doing well — the University of Houston Cougars. The Coogs are undefeated at 7-0 and are currently ranked No. 18 in the AP Top 25 college football poll. The Cougars' next game is this Saturday against the Vanderbilt Commodores here in Houston at TDECU Stadium, and, truth be told, UH coach Tom Herman really wants more fans than usual to show up in person for the game. If you just can’t make it this time, however, here are the best bars in town to catch it on TV — Saturday's will be shown on ESPN2 — as well as future games this season.
(Note: Special thanks to UH alum Nathan Smith for the tips. This list is in alphabetical order.)
BROOKLYN ATHLETIC CLUB
Based on an actual club in Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Athletic Club is a restaurant with an interesting mix of gourmet and comfort food; the huge outside patio includes a beer bar and bocce ball courts, as well as areas for playing croquet, table tennis, badminton and pétanque (a French game similar to horseshoes). BAC often hosts official watch parties for Cougar football games; a good plan for this Saturday is to arrive early with friends for lunch and try some of the favorites like the Bac Baked Mac N' Cheese or the Clubhouse Burger, then make a day of it drinking beer or cocktails and watching the Coogs take on Vanderbilt. (601 Richmond, thebrooklynathleticclub.com)
BUBBA'S SPORTS BAR AND GRILL
This casual Rice Military neighborhood sports bar has always been a great place to watch college football; Cougar fans may have to share the club with their Aggie and Longhorn counterparts (among others), so you have been warned if that's a problem for you. Bubba’s is a place to view your game while eating burgers, chili cheese fries and other fried foods, though grilled options are available as well. There's a good jukebox, but the sound is often turned off during big games; old video games, pool tables and darts are available for your entertainment needs during the game or at halftime. Bubba's offers plenty of TVs, so don’t be shy about asking to watch UH if the game happens to not be on when you walk in; a patio out front provides refuge for smokers. (6225 Washington, facebook.com//Bubbas-Sportsbar-Grill)
CALHOUN'S ROOFTOP BAR & GRILL
Calhoun’s Rooftop Bar & Grill is known as a good spot for watching Cougar away games, and is also a home-game afterparty destination for co-eds; you can watch all the games here, of course, and you get the bonus of a nice view of the UH campus and downtown Houston from the roof. Open a little more than a year now, Calhoun’s is a full-service restaurant in addition to being a bar; current favorite food items include the Tri-Slamma Jamma Stuffed Burger, Cougar Club Flatbread and Philly Eggrolls, among others. There are good drink specials here throughout the week; on Tuesdays all Texas liquors are just $3, and it's karaoke night as well. Besides being a fun place to watch Cougar football, Calhoun’s occasionally hosts live music as well as UH student and alumni events. (4701 Calhoun, calhounsrooftop.com)
CENTER COURT PIZZA & BREW
Okay, technically this Center Court Pizza & Brew location is in Pearland, not Houston (other locations are in Missouri City, South Shore and Cinco Ranch), but Pearland has always had a large sports-fan population; teams from the suburb have advanced to the Little League World Series, and the Pearland High School Oilers football team won the 2010 Class 5A Division I state championship. Center Court is known for its great pizza, which can impress even native New Yorkers who are notoriously critical of any pizza not originating in the Big Apple; the place also has a very decent selection of craft beers. You can even take your kids for a meal at this family-friendly place; the Cougars fans can get rowdy here, but not so much that you'll have to cover up your kid’s ears or anything. (9721 West Broadway, centercourtpizza.com)
CHRISTIAN'S TAILGATE BAR & GRILL (MIDTOWN)
The Christian’s Tailgate Midtown location is about a ten-minute drive from the University of Houston — depending on local traffic conditions, of course — so students often make their way over to catch the Cougars on TV. Many people consider the burgers served here to be the best in Houston, and the onion rings are raved about as well; the extensive beer menu is yet another reason to visit. Christian's is laid-back and casual, and a fun spot to come out and watch the Coogs with classmates, old friends or friendly UH alumni you might meet here. (2000 Bagby, christianstailgate.com)
THE DEN CAMPUS PUB
Not to be confused with the old Cougar Den that was located at the University of Houston UC Underground back in the old days, The Den Campus Pub is located on Calhoun across from the UH Wellness Center. The Den shows all the Coogs' football games on eight HD flatscreens as well as on a 200” projection screen; the other big draw here for broke college students is the daily drink specials like $2 domestic drafts on Mondays. The Den offers 30 draft beers on tap, including many local craft brews; in addition, 12 types of bottled beers are available for your drinking pleasure. Come hungry, since this place has good sandwiches, or “sammiches,” as they refer to them, with clever names like the Jive Turkey, the Boxing Kangaroo and the Veg-ina, for vegetarians. Free Wi-Fi is available if you want to post on social media while watching the games; take home a Den T-shirt as a souvenir if you find that you love the place. (4835 Calhoun, theden.publishpath.com)
LITTLE J'S BAR
Little J's has a ton of TVs to watch the Cougars on; a group of UH fans can usually be found watching every week, but if not, just ask for the game and the bar will tune it in for you. A pop-up eatery called Bourbon and Bacon has opened inside, serving up some reasonably priced but upscale bar food. Bacon is the focus, as the name implies, and the tasty items available include the Fancy Pig sliders, The Oinkin’ Pup bacon-wrapped hot dog and the bacon funnel cake, just to name a few. The bar also has a basketball hoop game, foosball tables, and Big Buck and Silver Strike Live video games to occupy you during halftime. (5306 Washington, littlejsbar.com)
LUCKY'S PUB (EADO)
Lucky’s Pub in East Downtown is located next to Warehouse Live; more than enough TVs are available here to watch the Coogs, including some large projection screens. The bar food here is pretty good; try the pizza or a Lucky Burger and wash it down with one of the beers from the bar’s large selection of draft and bottled brews. It's probably a good idea to arrive a little earlier than the game’s starting time to ensure you and your friends get seats since the place can get crowded on game days; the University of Houston Alumni Association has been known to advertise drink specials for select games here. (801 St. Emanuel, luckyspub.com)
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NICK'S PLACE ITALIAN SPORTS BAR & PIZZERIA
Nick’s is an authentic neighborhood sports bar that has been open for more than 20 years now; it’s the kind of place where you can find real Cougars fans who have attained a vast wealth of knowledge about college football and the Coogs from years of viewing. Another great thing is that the Italian food here, particularly the pizza, is outstanding and rises above the usual generic bar food you find in most sports bars. The bar itself is a little worn and a bit of a dive, but that's a big part of its charm and character; don’t be surprised if you find a few patrons who like to indulge in some good-natured trash talking no matter what game you're watching. (2713 Rockyridge, nicksplacehouston.com)
Yes, it's true: Ritz Houston is a gentlemen's club, a.k.a. a strip club, so it will not be for everybody, but if you like Houston Cougars football and topless dancing ladies, this is the spot for you. One of the owners/managers is reportedly a proud UH alum, and UH memorabilia — including a framed Case Keenum autographed jersey — is on display in the club’s man cave/sports room, where games are shown on the big screen. The Ritz is hosting its 12th Annual Houston Halloween Erotica Party this Saturday, so it might not be the best place to try and watch the ballgame this particular week, but it could be a great time to visit if you're into diversions of the adult kind. (10520 Gulf Freeway, ritzhouston.com)