As does our sister blog Eating...Our Words, 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.
UPDATED (May 28, 10 a.m.) to correct some information about Char Bar.
10. Shay McElroy's Laid-back and inviting, Shay McElroy's is a great place to relax after a long day, chock full of friendly bartenders, good pours and interesting people. Just across the street from Chase Tower, its cozy, quiet ambiance makes it a perfect spot for pre-gaming or coming down after a long night on the town. It's never too packed, so feel free to bring some friends and snag a big table outside.
909 Texas, 77002, 713-223-2444, mcelroyspub.com
9. The Dirt This dimly lit, grungy rocker bar plays host to one of Houston's most eclectic crowds. Located across the street from House of Blues and within walking distance of Toyota Center, The Dirt is one of the best spots in town to grab a few (more) drinks after a concert or a Rockets game.
Drinks are served to patrons from behind a circular, granite countertop, and the only places where you can see a damn thing are the smoking section and the photo booth. The pours are friendly, as are Dirt's staff and regulars. And sometimes, you're just in the mood for a Rim Job, so head on down to The Dirt and get yourself one.
1209 Caroline, 713-426-4222, dirtbar.com
8. Char Bar
Formerly Still a tailor shop, Char Bar still has a shoeshine booth inside. and there's even a rotating clothing rack in the back. These days, however, the kind of clothing alteration you're most just as likely to get on site is if you spill a drink on yourself.
Have yourself a craft cocktail and ask one of the bartenders tell you about the pub's history. It's just next door to Warren's, too, so you won't have to go far when you're ready for a change of scenery.
305 Travis, 713-222-8177
7. La Carafe Despite our city's knack for tearing down its history, La Carafe happens to be housed in the oldest commercial building in Houston. Guess if turn a profit and keep the booze flowing, the Bayou City is willing to compromise.
Vintage photographs and paintings of the city cover Carafe's brick walls, and there's an enormous portrait of Sam Houston up there, too. This kind of history, coupled with a solid drink menu, should keep you occupied and nostalgic for a good while.
813 Congress, 713-229-9399, Web site
6. Reserve 101 Also just across the street from House of Blues, just next door to The Dirt, is Reserve 101. It isn't quite as open as its neighbor and instead offers patrons a shotgun-style setup alongside the bar. Check out their selection of sour mash when you stop in for a scheduled tasting or for the happy hour from 2 to 6 pm weekdays. Step into the back room if you're feeling cramped, and you might even hear some live music while you're there. 1201 Caroline, 713-655-7101, reserve101.com
5. Lone Star Saloon Weary travelers and older locals make their way into the Lone Star Saloon between trips on the bus and after long days at the office, respectively. The patrons aren't exactly unapproachable, but it's a no-nonsense kind of crowd. Most of them are just looking to unwind after a long day.
So grab yourself a bucket of Lone Star, shoot a game of pool if the sole table is open and enjoy the jukebox. Don't cause too much ruckus, though; this saloon is a laid-back kind of joint.
1900 Travis, 713-757-1616
4. Warren's Inn As far as dives go, Warren's is one of, if not the, best in downtown. Located in a teal building reminiscent of New Orleans, this drinkery off Market Square is full of oversized mirrors with chandeliers hanging from the rafters. But the scenery isn't what keeps the bar's eclectic clientele coming back, it's the liberal pours and friendly service, set to a fantastic soundtrack from one of the best jukeboxes in town.
307 Travis, 713-247-9207
3. Molly's Pub Irish and damn proud of it, Molly's offers fair prices, on par or lower than most downtown drinkeries, and a relaxed atmosphere. Patrons can reserve the upstairs area for parties, and there's plenty of space up there. Don't worry, though. There's room for all your friends downstairs, too.
The kitchen is open late, so get a Frito pie and play a game of pool. Or sit outside with the smokers and enjoy this swampy weather. Hell, bring your laptop and use the wi-fi. Molly's has it all.
509 Main, 222-1033, mollyspubs.com
2. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium An immense selection of beers on tap awaits you inside the Flying Saucer, just beside the Metro Rail. Upstairs hosts private parties, and you can get a card if you want to keep up with all the beers you've tried. The food isn't really a selling point, but they've got pretzels, chicken tenders and quesadillas available.
If you sit outside, be prepared to be approached by panhandlers. This being the South, however, even the homeless people are decently friendly.This is definitely an "in-crowd," so don't expect to find a lot of available space on a Friday or Saturday night.
705 Main, 713-228-9472, beerknurd.com
1. OKRA Charity Saloon A great cause and concept are put to good use at one of downtown's newest and buzziest watering holes. Put together by of a number of independent bar and restaurant owners, OKRA offers a good, albeit small selection of beers on tap and a solid food menu as well. The real draw here is that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the charity of your choice.
Nibble on some Parmesan waffle fries or pickle-fried okra while you decide which one piques your fancy. The upstairs is dark and quiet, but downstairs is where you'll find the all the hubbub. Make your way inside a little earlier in the day, maybe for a drink after work, and enjoy the skylight.
924 Congress, friedokra.org
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