The Place: The Maple Leaf Pub 514 Elgin 713-520-6464 http://www.themapleleafpub.com The Deals: $3 wells; $2.50 pints of Miller Lite and Bud Light; various other weekly and daily specials, including cheap shots of the day and $3 martinis on Mondays, which also feature bingo. The Hours: 3 to 7 p.m. The Scene: Two co-workers and I intended to check out Front Porch in Midtown for this week's Happy Hour Scene. It was too hot to drink yet (8 p.m. is ideal starting time in August) and the parking meters were on for another hour. The breaking point for one coworker was the fact that the nearly empty bar had "Reserved" tags that saved most of the indoor seating for people with names like "Cray-Cray." So we left. There was probably some available seating near enough to the air conditioning, but we've got our principles, even when there's already $1.50 in the meter.
We ran down a list of places in the area that haven't been covered recently and settled on the Maple Leaf. It is different than the Maple Leaf in the Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans in many ways. The floor doesn't sweat and there's not a raggedy-ass back patio that looks like a senile retiree's abandoned garden. I doubt you could dial up Rebirth Brass Band on the Internet jukebox, let alone see them weekly.
But Houston's Maple Leaf isn't looking to be a definitive, dirty (in the best way possible) neighborhood dive. And it's not the kind of place that your average Cray-Cray calls ahead to reserve a spot at.
It's got a strong theme -- Canada and hockey. It features a penalty box, and one of those hockey games that's like foosball but much more frustrating because the stupid fucking sticks never point the way you ask them to.
For the most part, though, we're kind of indifferent to our neighbors up north. We know that we like most Canadians we've met, and dislike Stephen Harper, as much as you can dislike the human version of Crystal Light. We don't care much about hockey, outside of Slap Shot, one of the greatest sports movies of all time. (If you don't know what to say when someone tells you that you suck dicks, you need to study Paul Newman's response in this film.)
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So to us, the Maple Leaf is just a bright room in a strip center with some tables and a bar. The crowd at happy hour is older, white-collar and occasionally rowdier when talking about fantasy football or women. Drinks are cheap if you order specials. The bartenders are nice. Music from the '90s - the new classic rock - seems popular. It feels more adult and more polite than its neighbor Saint Dane's. (More...Canadian?) We heard from a veteran bartender at another place - and this might be apocryphal - that young motorcycle club Todo Moto was banned from the bar two or three years back because member punched a bartender on the premises. Not surprising that a little violence followed that club. What is sort of surprising is that they'd be there in the first place.
Unless you've used money on this continent that features English royalty, or you can define icing outside the context of cake, the Maple Leaf is kind of forgettable, a bar of convenience that works if you're in the area. That being said, it's not a bad place to have a couple drinks and look out on the Social Security Administration building while you and a couple colleagues screw around with Trivial Pursuit questions. Even if they are too scared to actually gamble on the cards. Sissies.