Three years ago, the Houston Chronicle released a pretty much dive bar-free list of 20 dive bars, and now their scrappy little sibling 29-95 has inflicted a similarly hapless collection of ten of the same.
On the 29-95 list: Rudyard's, Boondocks, Warren's, Poison Girl, Catbirds, the Continental Club, the Mink, Dean's, Notsuoh, and Cecil's.
Yes, we admit it. In our guidebook to Houston dive bars, we included six of those, with the caveat that they were only included because they were centrally located, lacked the pretension of many other Inner Loop joints, and because most Houstonians (erroneously) understood them to be true dives. (The six I included: Notsuoh, Cecil's, Rudyard's, Warren's, Poison Girl, and Catbirds.) Leaving them out would have generated howls of protest, even though including them stretched the meaning of dive bar beyond what I was comfortable with. (Our own Glenn Livet applied a stricter definition with his great list here; and Katharine Shilcutt's list of what she called "Neighborhood Bars" is far divier than 29-95's dive list.)
Getting back to 29-95, there are a few problem bars on the list, and many more glaring omissions.
First, there's the Mink. It was never a dive, and it has been closed for more than a month. (Nice to see a pic of legendary nightlife figure and current denizen of the "Where are they now?" file Tim Murrah behind the bar again though. We kid, Tim.)
Then there's the Continental Club. Pure music venues are never dive bars. Period. Why not put the Big Top on there instead?
Like the late Mink, Boondocks is a hipstertorium. Hipstertoria are not dives, no matter how thrift store the attire of the clientele nor how much Lone Star the bartenders sling. The same goes for Dean's, only a little less so.
Now how about what they left off?
Half the bars on the list are in Montrose, two are in Midtown, and three are in downtown.
In Montrose, the list ignored Lola's. Inexcusable.
Downtown, they left off the Lone Star Saloon. Unpardonable.
As for Midtown...well, there aren't any true dives left there, now that Leon's has gone upscale (if not obnoxiously so.) Even still, the Big Top, Grand Prize (stretching the boundaries of Midtown beyond the breaking point), Khon's, Komodo, and Community Bar would have been better choices than either the Continental (a showcase venue) or the Mink.
Which as we said before, is closed.
Somehow 29-95 managed to ignore the Greater Heights, where without leaving the confines of 610, they could have selected from the Spot, T-Bone Tom's, Shiloh Club, C+F Drive Inn, the Tall Texan, the Rose Garden, and Shady Tavern.
Nor did they venture east of 288 or 59, where they could have cherrypicked from the D&W Inn, Mr. Gino's, the Harrisburg Country Club, and the Red Rooster.
Then there's Spring Branch, home of Lynn's Longbranch, the Blue Lagoon, Club Max, Millie's, the Sundown Saloon, TA's Cargo Club, Robbie's Lounge, and Faces.
On Wakefield Street alone on the near northwest side, there's Red's Country Place and the Dutchman, right across the street from each other, and Catty Corner Ice House and Petrol Station right down the street. (That last is a neo-dive, but it's on the path to true dive status.)
None of the great Southwest Side joints (Hunter's Pub, Carolyn's, Cozy Corner) made it either, nor far west legends like Burlap Barrel.
As for the absence of Jimmie's and the West Alabama Icehouse...maybe there was a "no icehouse" rule. Understandable, but incorrect.
Sigh. This stuff matters, man.
A few years ago a twentysomething told me he was scared to go to Griff's because it was such a rough-and-tumble dive. Griff's freakin' Shenanigans.
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SHOW ME HOW
But then, why shouldn't he think that way, when the Chron has set the bar for a dive at places like the Harp? (Which was on their 2009 list.)
If present trends continue, if 29-95 keeps churning out misinformed pap like this, the next generation will shudder at the prospect of a night in Little Woodrow's.