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Bartender Chat: John Ng of T.K. Bitterman's

Last weekend marked the official start of baseball season, and if you're trying to avoid the crowds, there's no better place to catch a game than the cozy Montrose sports dive T.K. Bitterman's. Completely lacking in pretension and douchebaggery, it's got that comfortable, old-school vibe. It's obvious the owners of this hidden spot love the Cubs -- Chicago sports memorabilia adorn the walls, complete with an "Eamus Catuli" sign, loose Latin for "Go Cubs!"

On this warm afternoon, I stopped in to get a cold pint, watch the news with a few regulars, and visit with the man behind the bar.

Where are you from? Originally Malaysia, but I've been in Houston since '81.

How long have you been bartending at T.K. Bitterman's? On and off...about nine or 10 years.

What are some other jobs you've held besides bartending? I was an account manager for Merrill Lynch, bartender, I waited tables...but I'd say I like bartending the best.

How would you describe the bar's aesthetic? It's a hole-in-the-wall neighborhood sports bar. The owners are from Chicago, so it's got a Cubs motif. A lot of people don't know this place is here. They'll say they've driven by so many times or they've been living in the neighborhood for five years or something and never knew this was a bar. It's pretty hidden and we don't advertise, so it's sort of a have-to-know-where-it-is kinda thing.

How would you describe the crowd? We get a bunch of regulars that have been coming here for over 20 years and we see a lot of industry people late at night. West Alabama Ice House across the street closes at midnight so people will come over here after to keep drinking. We won't close a minute before 2 a.m.

Could you tell us a little about the building's history? It was another bar before this. I heard it may have been the original Rudyard's, and I also heard that back in the day there was a whore house upstairs.

Do you have a specialty or a drink you pride yourself on? Our martinis. They're gigantic and a pretty good price for how big they are.

Fill in the blank: At the end of my shift, I pour a _____. A vodka soda and a Jager.

You get three songs on your jukebox. What do you play? Rolling Stones, Black Keys, and Kings of Leon.

Aside from your bar, where do you like to go to get a drink? I like Poison Girl, Grand Prize, Rudyard's...

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*Wildcard: If you had a monkey for a pet, what would you call it? George, I guess.

T.K. Bitterman's, located at 2010 West Alabama, is open Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. During happy hour, which is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., wells are $3.50 and domestics are $2.50. Stop in to say hi to John, grab a cold beer and catch a ball game.


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