This Saturday, August 15, is National Relaxation Day, so we present to you this list of the best bars in Houston to relax at; if you just can’t get to one of these places on Saturday, keep them in mind for a future relaxing night out, as most of us need occasional breaks from our hectic work, school and life schedules to keep us sane, don’t you think?
Note: This list is in alphabetical order.
When you grow tired of bars full of loud and rowdy folks, head over to the unmarked doors of Absinthe and enter a quiet, dimly lit, cozy room where you can try absinthe, the drink that was embraced by famous artists and writers including Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Vincent van Gogh and other romantic figures. Made with an extract of wormwood, absinthe is an emerald-green drink that was once banned because of the false belief that it caused madness and hallucinations. Absinthe the bar offers plenty of other drink choices besides its namesake, of course, like craft cocktails, wine and martinis, as well as some food selections like appetizers, pizza and Paninis. (609 Richmond, absinthelounge.com)
CEDAR CREEK CAFE
Say what you will about Austin and the surrounding Hill Country, the area has always felt relaxing and lazy to us, and Cedar Creek Cafe captures that feeling — for better or worse, depending on your point of view; some have poked a little fun at it for trying to be a little too much like Austin. However, we have to admit that Cedar Creek's scenic patio is a pretty cool spot for afternoon drinking and into the evening and night as well, and we even like the fact that the bar was indeed built next to a little creek that flows out in front of it, hence the name. In addition to the burgers and wings you can wash down with craft beer here, Cedar opens up early at 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for breakfast items like chicken and waffles and frozen mimosas. Stop by here for a little laid-back Hill Country atmosphere minus the drive. (1034 W. 20th, cedarcreekcafe.com)
If you ever have a bad day at work, stop by The Corkscrew in the Heights afterwards and enjoy a few beers or some wine along with a thin-crust pizza or an Italian panini while listening to live music; it will make you forget your worries very quickly. Music is played here every night of the week except on Sundays, with the highlights being Friday and Saturday nights featuring resident band Nick Greer & the G's, who play an energetic mix of funk, blues, soul and hip-hop. Nick tickles the ivories solo on Thursday nights. The Corkscrew is a wine bar with a large, eclectic wine selection, but the place is laid-back and not full of wine snobs; the bartenders will help you make a selection if you're not sure what to get, or you can opt for bottled or canned craft beers. Drop in for $2 Street Tacos on Wednesdays. (1308 West 20th, houstoncorkscrew.com)
The Harp calls itself "Houston's Friendliest Irish Pub," and we always have a good time here on the large patio out front, just visiting with friends while drinking and watching the traffic zoom by on Richmond. This is one of those places that have flown under the Houston nightlife radar because it doesn't really have any strong buzz about being a “hip” place to hang out or anything; it just keeps on keeping on, open 365 days a year and always populated with laid-back, friendly people. Relax on a comfy couch inside if the heat is too much for you this August; Wednesday-night league darts are always fun, and try the steaks and pork chops on Mondays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. (1625 Richmond, theharphouston.com)
JIMMY'S ICE HOUSE
We recently ran a list of the best icehouses in Houston, and one can make the argument that all of them are inherently relaxing; one that really stands out is Jimmy’s Ice House in The Heights. Most of us have heard that legendary live-music venue Fitzgerald’s is shutting down shortly for a month or so for some renovations; now would be the perfect time to drop by Jimmy’s if you haven't done so before and pay some respect to another longtime Houston institution across and down the street. Jimmy’s is so relaxing because there's not a whole lot to do there besides drinking beer and maybe talking to fellow patrons while you catch a ballgame on TV. Of course, there's the Internet jukebox to keep you company, and if you just need some alone time, it's good company indeed; many a day drinker has whiled away an afternoon here imbibing cheap Lone Stars and listening to tunes. (2803 White Oak, facebook.com/Jimmys-Ice-House)
Located in Houston's oldest commercial building, which dates back to 1847, La Carafe is a nice bar to visit if you're looking to experience a bit of the city’s history; check out the old Houston photos, newspaper clippings and paintings from bygone years hanging on the walls. Or just sit back and relax in the candlelight with a nice wine or beer while you listen to music selections from the bar’s eclectic jukebox; La Carafe offers up Nat King Cole, Etta James, Peggy Lee, Bob Marley and many more for your pleasure. This is a romantic, dark club, and some folks claim the place is haunted. We haven't experienced any of this reported phenomenon; we just enjoy our downtime here. (813 Congress, facebook.com/La-Carafe)
This low-key neighborhood bar in the Heights features a nice little patio area out front that local food trucks come and visit where you can get some grub; venture a few steps inside and get some craft beers or cocktails to wash your selections down with. There's a bit of an upscale-icehouse feel here, with the staff opening the bar’s windows the weather is nice; check out the owner-curated CD jukebox which offers some great selections of classic rock, country, soul and pop. This is a good spot to come out and just drink and chat with friends, or if you want to engage in some activities, entertainment includes foosball and pool tables, a couple of video games, a photo booth and a bean-bag toss outside. Its location next to railroad tracks gives the place a bit of a lazy, small-town feel as well. (5519 Allen, ladybirdsbar.com)
LEI LOW BAR
Lei Low Bar is a Tiki bar in The Heights that provides a cool, calm atmosphere with tropical decor and elaborate rum-based mixed drinks that will make you feel like you're on vacation. Opening the front door and stepping in is really like stepping into a whole other world and leaving your cares behind for a bit. The owner says he has been fascinated with Tiki bars since childhood, so he created a fantasy world of his own here; the little decorated patio out back keeps the escapism going, if you don’t mind Houston’s own tropical heat and humidity. The music here adds to the relaxing vibe; exotica, Hawaiian and reggae are played, and a local musician performs live with a Hawaiian lap steel guitar for your listening pleasure on select nights. (6142 N Main, leilowhtx.com)
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UNDER THE VOLCANO
The right atmosphere can make one feel relaxed all by itself, and Under the Volcano is an eccentric bar with a unique style that does just that. Taking its name from a 1947 novel by English writer Malcolm Lowry, the bar includes elements from the book such as a shrine for the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead); Central and South American tribal masks hanging on a wall; candles of various spiritual and religious traditions on the tables; crosses; and more. Under the Volcano is a unique, chill space and a nice spot to relax with friends or a date; one of the best and most diverse jukeboxes in the city can be found here, while local and visiting musicians play live each Wednesday night and during select special events. (2349 Bissonnet, facebook.com/underthevolcanohouston)
Warren's is a Houston institution with a cozy, welcoming atmosphere, a nice place to escape to if you work downtown and need a little break afterwards and don’t feel up to dealing with the rush-hour hell again just yet. It's located in a historical building, and features include chandeliers, large mirrors, a catbird-seat gazebo and low lighting, with a few Christmas lights strewn about for good measure. Warren's is just a cool, casual place to hang out and has an authenticity about it; the martinis served here have a reputation for being quite potent. Be sure to check out the bar's eclectic jukebox and let some of the old tunes available take you on a journey back in time. (307 Travis, warrensinn.biz)