Finally, football season is back!
That means jerseys, beer and drunken shouting matches with the TV at your favorite watering hole over the ref's ridiculous call. And though we're fans of drinking dinner every now and then, we think football nights should involve some good food, too.
Most sports bars stick to the tired old menus of mediocre wings and soggy fries, but we've got a few places here in town that take pub grub to the next level. Granted, they aren't all sports bars in the traditional sense, but for the purposes of watching the game with fellow fans and eating some fine food, they'll definitely do the trick.
10. Lucky's Pub Let's forget the food for a second and remember that Lucky's has the city's largest HDTV screen. Ahhhhhh, HD. Okay, back to the food. Yes, Lucky's is pretty much your quintessential sports bar, with sticky concrete floors and nearly every Anheuser-Busch product on the market. And yes, it's far from what anyone would call gourmet. But Lucky's makes a fine burger. It's thick and juicy and comes with fresh veggies and a fluffy, buttery, grilled bun. If burgers aren't your thing, try something else from the extensive and eclectic menu, which offers everything from steamed edamame to fish and chips to meaty pizzas cooked in a stone-deck oven.
9. Texas Mesquite Grill If you find yourself in search of a good sports bar in Katy, head over to Texas Mesquite Grill, which specializes in regional Texas cuisine. The menu features appetizers such as bacon-wrapped quail breast stuffed with jalapeño and jack cheese, and mesquite-grilled fajitas. There's even a brunch menu with a Texas flare. For the best deal, try to plan your visit around happy hour, which is Monday through Friday from 2 to 7 p.m., when you can get chili con queso and chips for only $1.95.
8. Pub Fiction Setting aside the fact that Pub Fiction has the best name of any pub in town, we love the place because its extensive menu includes a number of fresh salads for those days when a burger and fries are just too much. The margarita shrimp salad is a taco salad with a twist, and the kung "pow" chicken salad has a fun Asian kick to it. Of course, the junk food abounds as well. Try the over-the-top "Fiction Fresh Cut Fries" with blackened rémoulade and Texas ale queso, or the fried pickle chips with grilled jalapeño ranch for
great greasy sustenance to carry you through a long game.
7. The Bull & Bear Tavern and Eatery The best thing about Bull & Bear's menu is that it features both traditional American bar food (think potato skins, fried mozzarella and burgers) and traditional British pub food (cottage pie, Scotch egg, mushy peas, Yorkshire pudding) for a truly diverse dining experience. It's primarily a soccer bar, but it does show every local NFL game during football season as well. It also serves breakfast Saturday and Sunday until 2 p.m. for those hoping to catch a live game in a different time zone. Just make sure before you go that you're clear on whether they're showing football or American football.
6. Brick House Tavern + Tap Yes, it's a chain, and, well, yes, it was once home to scantily clad waitresses sporting ample cleavage. But the girls have buttoned up a little in the past few years, and any bar where you can eat chicken and waffles, mac and cheese or a charcuterie board while drinking imported German pilsners and local draughts is A-OK by us. During happy hour, domestic draughts are only $2, and appetizers such as deviled eggs or soft pretzel sandwiches are $5. Brick House also has a section with oversized faux leather lounge chairs positioned around flat-screen TVs, beckoning you to have a seat and lapse into a happy food coma.
5. Christian's Tailgate The original Christian's on Washington has long been a favorite spot to watch games, sing karaoke or relax with a burger and a beer. Two other locations, in Midtown and the Heights, make it easier to find the perfect spot to cheer on the Texans while munching on something delicious from Christian's simple but inclusive menu. There are basic appetizers such as jalapeño poppers, potato skins and mozzarella sticks, but the burgers are the stars of this show. In fact, in 2008, Playboy magazine put the Christian's burger on its list of best burgers in the country (and we've also given Christian's that award in the past). They're simple, handmade and just right with a cold beer and a hot fall night.
4. Nick's Place On its Web site, Nick's Place claims to be "the only sports bar in Houston that not only serves cold drink but exceptional food." While you can bet that nearly all sports bars in Houston serve cold drinks and several have exceptional food, Nick's takes the cake, or rather the pie, when it comes to pizza. The menu lists a veritable world tour of cuisine, but stick to the Italian offerings. The pizza is hand tossed and baked in an oven that was made in the 1950s, which means it's authentic. The list of toppings is fairly traditional and the prices are a bit steep for pizza, but this Italian bar food is totally worth it.
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3. BlackFinn American Grille Blackfinn might be the least sports bar-ish of anything on this list (or at least the dining room is), but it's important to remember that one can watch a football game with class. Oh, who are we kidding? Football games are for getting rowdy, and Blackfinn's saloon is a great place to do just that and get some decent grub while you're at it. It's not five-star food by any stretch of the imagination, but it's solid and American to the core. A review from last year notes that it takes itself a little too seriously, which means you'll get great service and a fun game-watching experience with food that'll do the trick. Your best bets are the flatbreads and sandwiches, which are tasty, filling and a great deal with a half-priced bottle of wine on Wednesday.
2. Pistolero's Owner Shawn Bermudez opened Pistolero's intending for it to be a great new place to watch games during soccer season. Well, it turns out Pistolero's does football, too, and the happy hour deals can't be beat. Margaritas are $3 and tacos are two for $5 on weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m., and while some of the cocktails might be a little weak, you're not going to find a sports bar-type place with better tacos. Pistolero's is still fairly new, so stake your claim at the bar for game nights before the rest of Houston finds out about this gem.
1. The Hay Merchant As if there were any other option for the number one foodie sports bar in Houston. Under the tutelage of Chris Shepherd of neighboring Underbelly, the menu at Hay Merchant has been elevated without feeling snobby or too gourmet for a beer joint. Of course, much of the beer is what some might consider gourmet as well, but the atmosphere of Hay Merchant is always relaxed and easy. There's legit poutine on the menu, along with "bad-ass gumbo," homemade beef jerky and a soft pretzel with "Redneck cheddar cheese dip." And it's all fabulous. And the best part? Any time during a game that the Texans are ahead, Houston beers are half price. And wings are always 30 for $28. When can we move in?