The Place: Sunny's
902 Capitol St.
The Hours: Monday through Friday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
The Deals: Nightly drink specials.
The Scene: Sunny's doesn't have a traditional $2 domestics/half-priced wells/select wines happy hour, but our three hours spent at the place on Thursday evening was the best time we've had at a downtown bar in a long time.
Sunny's, at Travis and Capitol streets, isn't a part of any of the downtown "districts." It's about a block west of the Flying Saucer strip, but it's also easy to miss, especially in the daytime. The place just kind of sits in a downtown nowheresville.
Sunny, bartender and owner, used to work at the old Longhorn Cafe. Her new place opened on June 4 and her husband, who works for a shipping company, is part owner. And the place is decorated with almost a maritime theme. Or maybe just Jimmy Buffett on crack. Either way, Sunny's has yellow walls and waves painted on them, with parrots everywhere and stuff like that.
There also a "game room" behind the bar that has pool tables, shuffleboard and foosball.
When we first walked up to Sunny's last night, the place was so packed that the crowd was spilling out onto the sidewalk. Inside, everyone was in suit and tie or at least business dressy, so we had to ask Sunny if there was a holiday party going on. No, she told us, that's just the happy hour crowd.
But those people headed out sometime around 8 or so, and that's when the real regulars settled in. The first guy told us about the heyday of Hobby Airport and the private aviation companies along Telephone Road, like Million Air, that catered to rock stars and Saudi princes. The man had also seen the private hanger of the Fertittas that houses jets, helicopters, Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Another regular showed us, and from his cell phone, showed us a fake holiday card featuring George W. and Laura Bush. Somehow the joke was a stab at our current president, but we're not sure how. "Ha," the man told us. "Nobody likes Obama. At least not in this place."
The real charm of Sunny's is Sunny herself, who at one point had us arrange three plates of jello shots (on special for $1 each), and after we did she started feeding us free ones. She also handed out plenty of cherries soaked in Everclear (one of the night's drink specials for 25 cents. When one man had a "jungle juice" shot out of test tube, he said, "It's like an angel pissing in my mouth.")
The man who knew about Million Air was also put to work. He was already about a bucket of Budweiser into the night and had taken to mixing Corona with Grenadine, calling it a Red Rider. "Learned it in the Navy," he said.
Sunny had him wiping down the granite bar-top with Windex and a towel, and at one point, he randomly walked up to us and proclaimed, almost whispering, "Did you know the best way to clean is with your bare hand?"
Not long after that, Sunny, who had been mixing up some food in the game room, walked over and slammed down a Dixie cup full of some kind of casserole.
"Here," she said. "Eat this shit."
"What is it?"
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"Mexican shit," she told us.
We decided to close our tab and, as hard as it was, leave Sunny's. We noticed a woman, probably in her 50s and definitely a regular, had found a spot at the bar and was sitting there, at one point, with her face in her hands.
She was ordering double Tequila Sunrises and wanted Sunny to go heavy on the Tequila. When Sunny poured a dash of orange juice in the glass full of vodka, the woman said, "Damn, don't drown the thing."
Sunny laughed. She turned to us and said, "Now that's an alcoholic."