I am generally wary of Midtown bars, especially Midtown bars after work on a Thursday evening. The parking, the crowds, the terrible music, the bad drinks, the high prices, the exhausted bartenders ... it's enough to make a girl crawl into the cool, calm, dark confines of the Lone Star Saloon and seek refuge among the bus station patrons and professional drunks instead (even if the inveterate dive bar did recently remove its old-fashioned jukebox and replace it with a wall-mounted Internet version).
The Good Life
But I am also a big fan of chef Kevin Naderi's food, both at Roost—his funky Montrose bistro specializing in modern Gulf Coast fusion—and at Saint Genevieve, where Naderi consulted on the menu and created such divine dishes as brioche French toast (with Nutella whipped cream!) and cheddar biscuits topped with crabcakes and poached eggs. Last time I saw Naderi, he mentioned having created a menu for another bar-cum-restaurant: The Good Life. Midtown address aside, I had to try it out.
The initial sting of a $7 valet fee (up front, in cash) was quickly ameliorated by the surprisingly inexpensive prices across the short menu and draft list. Two of my all-time favorite craft beers were on draft last night—Brooklyn Lager and Avery White Rascal, both of which are like Real Ale Fireman's No. 4 or Bear Republic Racer 5 (two other standby brews) in that they pair easily with a wide range of foods, climates, and palates. The pale-colored White Rascal is especially nice during a Houston summer, the witbier's bright notes of orange and coriander making it particularly refreshing on a muggy day.
Even more attractive: Both the Brooklyn Lager and the White Rascal were only $3. The Good Life doesn't mess around when it comes to happy hour pricing, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday through Friday. Included in that pricing are $5 well drinks and $5 glasses of wine, but those prices pale next to a $3 pint of White Rascal on a near-daily basis—not to mention the $4 bottle of Yeti Imperial Stout I shared with a friend for "dessert."
In keeping with the pace set by its craft beer list, the menu at The Good Life is also attractively priced for some seriously high-quality fare. I hate the phrase "not your average pub grub," and yet I found myself saying those very words to my buddies as I shoveled down a fistful of Korean fried chicken strips dipped in Sriracha mayo, polished off with "street pickles" to cut the spice. The street pickles were among my favorite of the small bites we picked our way through: fat slices of mango, jicama, cucumber, watermelon, and other fruit, dusted with chile en polvo the way street vendors do with slices of pineapple at the Mexican flea markets.
At $5, the giant serving of fruit was also a pleasant surprise on a menu that could have been fried-foods-and-meat-heavy, but instead offered a range of vegetarian and otherwise healthy items. Alongside bratwurst in a blanket (the grown-up version of pigs in a blanket, with plush layers of pastry dough enveloping a juicy link of sausage) and Sloppy Joe hot pockets, The Good Life's short but sweet bar menu also features choices like grilled fish tacos, garlic hummus with baby carrots, and miso sweet potato lettuce wraps. I imagine those go well with skinny cocktails, but I was in a meat mood last night, and The Good Life didn't disappoint.
Although my friends and I couldn't decide whether we enjoyed the tender but eye-wateringly spicy chicken strips or the honey mustard-dunked bratwurst better, we did manage to come to one consensus at the end of last night's happy hour: The Good Life's craft beer prices and Naderi's menu merit continued investigation—which I'll walk off next time by skipping that pricey valet.