Bar Beat

Landmark River Oaks Theatre: Great Cinema & Consistent Cocktails

There was one semester during graduate school in which I felt like I went to the Landmark River Oaks Theatre almost every weekend. The combination of a heavy course load and being long distance from my husband had me chronically stressed out and I found escaping to the movies to be extremely relaxing.

I was drawn to the River Oaks Theatre not only because they show terrific independent films, but also, and perhaps more importantly, because they serve caramel corn and cocktails. Although at times I was worried about tripping over leftover glasses, overall I was quite smitten with the service and perfectly balanced cosmopolitans.

My attendance streak at the River Oaks Theatre ended about two years ago and since then I've tended to visit larger chain theaters in part because my preference lately has turned to more mainstream films. However, after recently receiving a gift certificate to the River Oaks Theatre from my sister (who touchingly remembered how excited I was to drag her there during a past visit to Houston), I decided to revisit its bar to see if the cocktails were as good as I remembered.

Located on the second floor of the theater, the bar is such a lovely surprise when you encounter it for the first time. It's like, "Oh, hello! I can get booze here." Even better is when you discover the booze isn't terribly expensive and drinks are $1 off during happy hour (Monday through Friday 5 p.m.-7.p.m.). Of course, the bartenders can make you almost anything you want, but since I wasn't feeling terribly creative, I decided to stick to the menu of mixed drinks. I ordered an apple martini a few minutes before the show started, and then slowly and carefully made my way into the theater, clutching the cocktail like it was a chalice I was presenting to the Pope.

As the previews started, I took a sip and every muscle in my body relaxed, more due to relief rather than booze. If the apple martini was at all representative of the Theatre's current cocktail offerings (which also include chocolate martinis and bellini martinis), I am happy to say little has changed. My martini was sharp, almost painfully icy with a potent vodka base tempered by a veneer of tart fruity sweetness that made my face pucker (note, not Pucker).

Small, slow sips are the best way to enjoy this type of drink. I nursed this puppy through more than one-and-a-half hours of heady dialogue, so happy to be watching life drama that was not my own.

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Joanna O'Leary