Bars and Clubs
One of the most buzzed-about bar openings in recent years was that of Max’s Wine Dive (4720 Washington Ave., 713/880-8737, www.maxswinedive.com). “Dive” is a misnomer, since the trendy locale caters to an upscale clientele, but the pairings of drink and food are incredibly down ‘n dirty. You never realized a glass of red wine would complement a burger so well. Or a flute of champagne with fried chicken. More than 150 wines are available by the glass or bottle, and wines are available to go. An added bonus: Most of the beverages and food are Texas organic products.
Max’s was spawned from the outstanding Uptown establishment The Tasting Room (114 Gray St., 713/528-9463, www.tastingroomwines.com). Tucked away in a modest shopping center, the Tasting Room is a big hit with the hip oenophiles (wine aficionados) who frequent the place. The amazing Wine Wall offers hundreds of options for less than $30, or you can descend to the cellar for the more expensive varieties. Drop a $6 corking fee and you can sip your purchase on site. Much like its son Max’s, the Tasting Room offers perfect pairings of wine and food, including cheeses, olives, salamis, tapas, and pizzas.
One of the more unique spots in town to grab a cocktail is Dean’s Credit Clothing (314 Main St., 713/227-3326, www.deanshouston.com). Nope, that’s not a misprint. Housed inside a historic downtown 1930s clothing store, Dean’s strives to maintain as much of its early charm as possible. Original features include the elevator (one of the first in Texas), the ornate flooring, and the checkout area that’s been transformed into a bar. Even the clothing racks remain stocked with vintage items, available for purchase at the bar.
Nearby is the low-key and comfy Warren’s Inn (307 Travis St., 713/247-9207). A longtime downtown lounge, Warren’s is a dark and mellow place, where the regulars look like they’ve occupied their spots at the bar for decades. Be sure to check out the jukebox with appropriate soundtrack music from the 1940s–1960s.
Many Houston residents associate pub crawls with the Rice Village area, where a collection of English-style brewpubs have kept nearby university students out of libraries for decades. The following locales are ideal spots for grabbing a freshly poured pint, finding the jukebox of your dreams, and soaking up the freewheeling college scene: The Ginger Man (5607 Morningside Dr., 713/526-2771, www.gingermanpub.com), Hans’ Bier Haus (2523 Quenby St., 713/520-7474, www.hansbierhaus.com, be sure to play some bocce ball out back), and Two Rows Restaurant & Brewery Pub (2400 University Blvd., 713/529-2739, www.tworows.com).
Like most metropolitan areas, Houston’s club scene is an ever-changing animal, leaping from spot to spot with an unpredictable life span. One that’s managed to stay alive for a while is the hip Grasshopper (506 Main St., 713/222-1442, www.grasshopperhouston.com). Located in a swanky late-1800s downtown building, Grasshopper has an Amsterdam vibe, with two separate areas—one for dancing and one for lounging. The thumping hip-hop and R&B tracks keep people jumping on the dance floor, and the alcoves offer a safe escape from the hordes.
Just down the street is Milan (809 Congress St., 713/247-0809, www.milanhouston.com). Locals have been lining up here for years to dance the night away to über-trendy Latin, house, and techno beats. Call in advance for bottle service or to reserve the VIP area next to the DJ booth. The appropriately named Next (2020 McKinney St., 713/221-8833) is one of the city’s up-and-coming spots where eager hipsters wait outside, clamoring to be the next allowed in. Located in an obscure building in the city’s Warehouse District, the club feels like an LA or NYC hot spot with its elevated dance floor, shiny DJ booth, and glass box of beautiful dancers above the bar.
Houston has perhaps the largest gay scene in the South, and most of it is centered around the city’s Montrose District west of downtown. This is where most of the gay bars are, drawing all walks of life, from the understated to the overblown.
One of the newer clubs on the scene is JR’s (808 Pacific St., 713/521-2519), drawing a semi-professional crowd for drink specials, karaoke, and male dancers. Parking is hard to come by, so consider using the valet service across the street at the old-school (and somewhat outdated) Montrose Mining Company (808 Pacific St., 713/529-7488).
Next door to JR’s is the popular South Beach (810 Pacific St., 713/529-7623), a hot spot for dancing. South Beach attracts a primarily gay clientele, but everyone is welcome on the dance floor, where suspended jets spray liquid ice on the crowd to keep things cool.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition