If you are looking to lounge about in a trendy atmosphere while drinking eccentric cocktails, drive to the Davenport. They host an impressive drink menu offering up to 40 martini recipes, an extensive collection of spirits and a synchronized spin on the sound board. Some patrons call it a dive bar, but it feels more like a chic lounge needing a bit of a face-lift. The bartenders are trained mixologists who know how to make a genuine martini. And, they don't just offer your traditional style martinis, Davenport serves unique blends of Peanut Butter and Jelly and even Twinkie-tinis. From time to time, they also feature a gourmet food truck parked outside, which grants good eats from 4pm-10pm. But more often, you'll need to eat beforehand, or head to a nearby diner to sober up before heading home.
Local Expert tip: They never charge a cover.
The "back-door-Betty" style lounge offers subdued, sexy lighting and cozy couches that make the Marfreless River Oaks Lounge a surprisingly romantic setting. Couples looking for a quiet table where they can chat softly, nurse a few glasses of good wine, and listen to soft classical music will be impressed with its appeal. A landmark lounge, the Marfreless was established in 1972 with nothing more than their name scribbled across a boarded up window. The owner intended on creating a bar with no theme, no television, no darts and no dance floor. Instead, he offered an intimate setting that attracted loyal patrons. The bar has been modernized since 2003 without compromising the original owner's integrity. There is a full bar and drink specials are offered throughout the week.
Local Expert tip: Pay attention as you make your way down Peden Street or you stand a good chance of missing the unmarked blue door, which in no way foretells the intimate lounge that waits for you inside.
The owners call it an American pub. There's a fine selection of beers, wine, and cider, which makes the mellow Ginger Man a great place for gathering with friends in a relaxed setting. The beer selection is the most impressive though, offering about thirty beers on tap with the "brewskies" coming from all around the world and ranging from micros, to ales, lagers and stouts. This place can get busy due to its friendly environment, but the bartenders who have been there for awhile will serve you quickly. Even if you decide to venture out alone, the Ginger Man is a nice chill-spot for good beer and great people watching.
Local Expert tip: Don't try to taste all the beers in one night!
If you don't have time to catch a plane to South Miami Beach, then take a taxi to South Beach Night Club in Houston. Located in the heart of Montrose, South Beach has been a prominent staple in the gay community, attracting chiseled, well-groomed, handsome types who love to take a twirl on the dance floor. Laser lights and an impressive sound system keep folks bopping and when things get too hot, their Liquid Ice Jets shoot out over the crowd. They have the power to drop the room temp 20 degrees in a few seconds – and in Houston – that is a very cool thing. The drink prices won't break your wallet and they offer free cover on Fridays until 11pm. The club hosts a variety of promotions every weekend and don't worry, the DJ will play a sufficient amount of Madonna without being reductive. Girls and guys should keep an eye peeled for celebrities because one never knows when a famous drag queen may show up...Alex Mateo from RuPaul's Drag Race has been there several times.
Local Expert tip: Expect a handsome cover charge.
The trendsetting Escobar nightclub and lounge is packed with an elite crowd who love to dance the night away. A long line can definitely linger outside, but usually no one (of age) has trouble getting inside. Hip DJ's spin dance music all night long and drink specials are included in weekly promotions. Hey, Ladies! Ya'll can plan for a "Ladies Night" when Escobar features complimentary drink specials. Sometimes they waive cover charges, so check their calendar for free entry times. The social group in attendance is multi-ethnic and dressed to impress. The music ranges from techno pop, hip-hop to classic dance hits. And, if the blaring music starts to become annoying, head to the outside area and catch your breath. Bottle service makes drink service more convenient, otherwise expect to wait in line.
Local Expert tip: Look for free parking along the street before opting to pay.
Singers like Jewel used to depend on venues like Anderson Fair to share music with fans and flesh out new tunes. Anderson Fair is one of the oldest folk and original music venues in continuous operation in the United States. Houston has proudly provided the foundation to the acoustic driven bar since the 1960s. Every night offers a different set so it allows for plenty of repeat business. It began as a coffee house many moons ago and has transitioned into heavy hitting troubadour, offering seasoned and rookie musicians a place to perform. Legends such as Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, and Robert Earl Keen have graced the stage, as well as, local favorites Ray Bonneville, Matt the Electrician and Ginger Leigh. They're not open as often as they once were so call ahead for information or visit their online calendar for a peek at upcoming shows. It's not the type of place for a grandiose meal, but one can munch on some Killer Nachos, stuffed potatoes or quesadillas. The bar offers a nice selection of beer and wine, and for those who enjoy a nice cup of coffee or hot tea, they aim to please them, too! Anderson Fair is a non-smoking establishment and can pack a crowded house, so be sure and get there early.
Local Expert tip: Expect a cover charge and they only take cash. (No credit cards)
Houston rednecks love to spin and step right up to the bar at Blanco's (AKA Houston Redneck). With live music and decent grub, this honky-tonk located smack-dab in the middle of River Oaks has been making two-steppers happy since 1982. Go for the cheap buckets of beer, live music, a good game of pool or shuffleboard and a grand deck out back for shootin' the breeze. All ages visit Blanco's for lunch and dinner expectin' a decent meal. But make no mistake, this is a country bar and food should be an after thought in your evening plans. Wear comfortable boots, a cowboy hat and a shiny belt buckle, if ya wanna blend in with the crowd.
Local Expert tip: Look for a modest façade in the middle of ritzy River Oaks.
Putting healthy and delicious choices on Sambuca's fine dining menu and booking live music every night are two of the reasons this restaurant keeps folks coming back for more! Other reasons can be seen in their friendly staff and sleek atmosphere. Located in the historic Rice Hotel, Sambuca stays on target with its simple and elegant atmosphere, eclectic menu, classic cocktails and skilled culinary team. Standouts include Margarita Shrimp, that's fresh off the hook and marinated in lime butter and served on cilantro rice or the Dijon-Pistachio Encrusted Lamb Chops. Sultry music echoes the walls encouraging jazz lovers, crooners, and rhythm and blues buffs to sit back, savor their dinner and listen to righteous pipes on stage. Music lovers should check their online calendar for upcoming live shows since Sambuca tends to book a wide-range of music genres.
Local Expert tip: This place suits and older crowd, but occasionally a young couple will be seen enjoying the music. Lunch tends to be quite formal.
The Brazos River Bottom Club (BRB) continues to give gay two-stepping a classic twang. After thirty years, it is still attracting same sex couples for a countrified night on the town. Located in Midtown proper, this thriving venue hosts free dance lessons, dance contests, Texas Gay Rodeo Association (TGRA) events, and simply, floor stompin' good fun! The friendly bar staff can make a mean drink and rustle up a good laugh or two for newbies and local VIPs. Drink specials are offered all week long: Monday through Thursday serves $1.50 wells; beer for a buck is served up on Fridays; "Get Hot or Get Out Boot Scootin' Boogie" is featured as the Saturday Night promo, and beer and liquor specials are up for grabs on Sundays. Spend time on the dance floor, shoot a round of pool, or sit out back on the picnic tables and gab with your buddies. If you go alone, most likely you won't stay solo for too long, since cowboys and cowgirls tend to be quite friendly in these parts.
Local Expert tip: It's mostly raining MEN at BRB – of all types – young, old, hot, average, fem, burly and all racial backgrounds.
A British invasion called the Black Labrador Pub makes its home in southern-style Houston. Its cozy, low-lit setting with warm fireplaces and authentic vibe décor provides a genuine English tone. Even the exterior translates British pub with its vintage signage, climbing foliage and perfect Montrose location. Bubble & Squeak, Bangers and Mash and Shepard's Pie are real Brit-treats or choose an Americanized burger and chips (French fries) for a traditional plate. With beer on tap, English cider and the native Pimm's Cup drink available at the full service bar, The Black Lab offers an inviting place to meet friends and family for drinks and comfort food. And if you are up for a game of chess, there is a huge human-sized chess board on the side of the building.
Local Expert tip: The front parking lot facing Montrose is small but you can park behind the building in the parking garage. Look for the sign, "For Black Labrador Customers."