Compared to other big cities, Houston does not have a hipster problem - if you feel otherwise, either your definition is too broad or you just got off a Greyhound from somewhere like Odessa. Still, when neighborhood sports bar Ernie's closed and news broke that slightly more polished Grand Prize (1010 Banks, 713-526-4565) was moving in, some former patrons expressed fears that their old place would be overrun by pretentious shitheads sipping pretentious shithead drinks. (Think that Simpsons episode where Moe's goes postmodern.)
After a few weeks, all that seems even more hyperbolic. Ernie's was a comfortable spot to watch a game, but Grand Prize has settled into the two-story house overlooking Bell Park and become one of the area's best bars. It's got plenty of space without being cavernous; there's a real jukebox that you'd feel good about taking with you into a bomb shelter; the building has three outside seating areas, and co-owner and landscaper Carrie has impressive plans for the back patio; the lighting makes you attractive; etc. Drinks selection includes everything from dive-bar-cheap beer to craft cocktails.
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The other night, I had a well-made Vieux Carré (classic New Orleans cocktail from the 1930s), a handful of $2 Lone Stars (most likely the 2010 vintage) and a mind eraser shot (oops). I was dry-mouthed and wet-brained the next morning at work, and I'm still a little fuzzy on some of the things I said to the Lebanese girl sitting next to me. Nothing like a good bar to encourage questionable decisions.
Grand Prize's Vieux Carre
- 1 ounce Sazerac rye
- 1 ounce Pierre Ferrand Ambre cognac
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 bar spoon Benedictine
- 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir over ice for about 20 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Rub lemon peel on the rim of the glass, then drop the peel in the drink.