As our sister blog Eating...Our Words does, from time to time Rocks Off will be giving your our picks for the top taverns in various Houston-area neighborhoods. Of course, the lines can be porous, but here anything with a TABC license that cannot reasonably be considered either a restaurant, coffeehouse or live-music venue is fair game.
10. Griff's Houston Got a dollar? Have a Lone Star. Got $6? Take the case, packaging and all. Tucked just out of sight of the Montrose/Westheimer intersection, Griff's offers friendly pours, cold beer and low prices. Steak and pork-chop nights are a weekly thing, and the St. Patty's Day celebration is always a lot of fun.
Once you've had a few drinks and run out of smokes, make your way to the dance floor (if you can even call it that), where all your favorite '90s hip-hop songs are on near-constant rotation. And when the atmosphere and regulars are this down-to-earth, why not bust a move?
3416 Roseland, 713-528-9912, griffshouston.net
9. Poison Girl If you've never been, Poison Girl is easy to miss. But once you've parked ten blocks away and made it inside, your eyes will be inundated with high ceilings, walls covered in random paraphernalia and pinball machines illuminating the back corners of the bar.
Make your way outside and acquaint yourself with the giant Kool-Aid man and the grimy Cabbage Patch Kid. The drinks are cheap, the people are interesting and diverse, and service is friendly. It's a shotgun-style setup that can (and frequently does) get packed quickly, so service can take a while. Pay cash to avoid the long wait closing out at 2 a.m.
1641 Westheimer, 713-527-9929, Facebook page
8. Catbirds OK, you're probably already rolling your eyes at this list. But be honest: You've been to Catbirds. And while you may have vowed never to visit again, you will, and you know it.
With an intrigue all its own, this Montrose staple is cheap, poorly lit, heavy on the pour and filled with some of the most interesting characters you'll ever meet, most of whom will candidly tell you their entire life's stories. Stop in, grab some popcorn and have a few laughs at all the uncomfortable situations in which you'll inevitably find yourself.
1336 Westheimer, 713-523-8000, catbirds.com
7. Cecil's Pub Yuppies in boat shoes rub shoulders with leather-clad, mohawked metalheads in this industry-oriented dive bar, but you'll hardly ever witness anything but smiles and laughter. The patio is huge; the patronage is diverse from night to night; happy-hour prices are a steal; and the service is always quick, even when the crowd is in full force.
Cecil's can get pretty loud inside, so if you're actually interested in hearing what someone else has to say, find a seat outside. There are plenty. Pool tables, darts and a decent juke box aren't exactly a draw, but Cecil's has them available if that's your thing.
600 W Gray, 713-527-9101, Facebook page
6. Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar Looking for a little ambiance? Impress your date with a bar with great beer and wine selections just off the beaten path. Or you can show up with a few friends, and you won't get any funny looks for just drinking Bud Light all night.
Have a burger, some Vietnamese fries and try one of their cocktails, too; the Pink Pussycat goes hard. Also, I'm not sure who's been doing it, but whoever is buying all those artsy naked photos Boheme has hanging on the walls needs to stop it. The rest of us were enjoying those while waiting in line to use the Japanese bidets.
307 Fairview, 713-529-1099, barboheme.com
5. Firkin & Phoenix Pub Flip-cup leagues, Dynamo enthusiasts, Texans fans and eccentric regulars all flock to the Phoenix on different nights of the week, so the size and demographic of the crowd is usually a toss-up. But no matter which night you find yourself there, the bartenders will take quick and friendly care of you, even if they're rolling their eyes as you order another round of shots. (Quit judging me, Kev.)
The food's legit, too, so get yourself something to nibble on while you play trivia or watch whatever sporting event is on television. There are plenty of seats, cushy ones inside, and you'll never break the bank.
1915 Westheimer, 713-526-3100, firkinandphoenix.com
4. The Harp Friendly and quick service, a solid drink menu and eclectic regulars are basic elements of The Harp. Add to that arguably the best trivia night and one of the most serious darts leagues in town, and you have yourself quite the solid watering hole.
Tuesday's trivia is just brainy enough for you know-it-alls with plenty of pop-culture references for the rest of us. If you find yourself completely stumped, just grab another beer, a slice of Pink's Pizza (which they provide Tuesdays) and play yourself a game of ping pong. Plan to spend a few extra minutes finding a parking spot, though.
1625 Richmond, 713-528-7827, theharphouston.com
3. Rudyard's (downstairs) "Montrose's Living Room" offers a little something for everyone: great music, delicious (never-frozen) burgers, nightly drink specials and a rotating on-tap selection of beer. You can make your way upstairs for local and regional musical and comedy acts (bring cash for cover), but feel free to stop in any night of the week to have a few drinks downstairs from one of the best staffs in town.
There's a patio outside but, like all available space in the area, it fills up fast. The crowd ain't shy about rubbing elbows or leaning on one another's backs while they take a smoke break, so don't make it weird.
2010 Waugh, 713-521-0521, rudyardspub.com
2. Lola's Depot Lola's is something of a safe haven for Montrose dwellers, feeling just run-down enough to ward off any potentially pretentious patrons. When you just want a cheap, stiff drink, this place serves as just enough of an in-the-know dive that you can actually get away from the standard neighborhood pandemonium.
While you're there, try the free hot dogs and nachos. Or, on Tuesdays, get a margarita for less than $2. Oh, and try the wonderfully spicy Bloody Marys. Actually, just spend a week or two visiting to get a handle on it all. Chances are, you'll keep coming back.
2327 Grant, 713-528-8342
1. West Alabama Ice House Cold beer, quick service, a dog-friendly patio and a taco truck that never leaves the premises. All other ice houses, bow down. Whether it's a casual date, the first stop on a night out or where you plan to spend a few hours until last call, West Alabama Ice House is a fun, friendly and unassuming neighborhood watering hole.
Hell, bring your kids and let them shoot a few hoops while you have a cold one. Personally, I'm always a little worried that one of them pooches will run out into traffic, but I've never seen it happen. Stay awesome, noble ice house
1919 W Alabama, 713-528-6874
Ruthie's Place Absinthe Michael's Outpost Zimm's TK Bitterman's Jackson's Watering Hole Boondocks The Flat Royal Oak Bar & Grill The Next Door EJ's Roeder's Pub Anvil Bar & Refuge
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