| Booze |

Mellow Mushroom: The Best Bar in Spring (Also Offers Pizza)

Mellow Mushroom -- the Georgia-based pizza chain which opened its first Houston-area location off Steubner Airline a few months ago -- just might be the best bar in Spring. It also offers great pizza.

I say this only partially tongue-in-cheek, as Mellow Mushroom -- the subject of this week's cafe review -- is a restaurant first and foremost. And it's a terrific restaurant, at that. I'm craving its made-to-order pretzels with beer-cheese dipping sauce as I write, and still have fond memories of the gluten-free pizza that lasted me three days...and only got better with age (and a few quick reheating trips through my oven at home).

But what strikes me as particularly interesting about Mellow Mushroom is that it offers two things not generally available in the far northwestern suburbs: urban art from local artists like Weah (best known for his graffiti work around town) and Scrap Daddy (best known for his metal sculptures) and a huge craft beer program.

Mellow Mushroom is known for incorporating as much local influence in its franchised restaurants as possible. This means you'll find Weah's graffiti murals decorating a wall that's covered with tap handles from Houston breweries such as Saint Arnold, Karbach and No Label. In addition to local beers, Mellow Mushroom carries a strong line-up of classic craft offerings from breweries such as Stone, Rogue, New Belgium, Deschutes and more.

What's even better is that the beer lineup caters to beer-drinkers across the spectrum. You can order a pitcher of Shiner Bock as easily as you can ask your bartender to create a flight from the rotating taps that feature everything from seasonal ales to an ever-changing selection of New Belgium's Lips of Faith series. (The pitchers are dirt cheap, too.)

Much like The Flying Saucer, Mellow Mushroom also offers a rewards system for its loyal patrons: The Beer Club, which allows you to rack up points much like frequent flyer miles. At 50 credits, for example, you get a free appetizer while 250 credits gets your name on a plate. Collect 425 credits and you'll get a night out on the town in New Orleans, on Mellow Mushroom's tab.

But even if you're not interested in collecting points or sampling beers, Mellow Mushroom is still a great place to split pizzas with friends and catch a game. Just make sure -- as this week's review advises -- to allot plenty of time to relax and enjoy your visit.

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