I'll admit to having an affinity for the dearly departed State Bar of Texas—not to be confused with the organization that grants attorneys the power to practice law in the Lone Star State, but rather the bar that once occupied a large corner of the second floor of the historic Rice Lofts downtown—in spite of its last few years, spent in a state of decrepitude that sadly tarnished what was once a beautiful destination for the kind of classy after-work drink that made you feel like a full-fledged adult even if you were only 23 and wearing an ill-fitting suit you bought on clearance at Ann Taylor Loft.
On my final visit to State Bar a few months before it closed last summer, the air conditioning had been out for months and the space was being climate controlled, rather unsuccessfully, by a series of swamp coolers that were as loud as they were bad at keeping things cool. It smelled strongly of mold and my cocktail was beyond saving. Still, I perched with friends at a table overlooking the beautiful wrought iron railings of the patio and the bustle of the cityscape beyond, the corner of Texas and Travis caught in the pinkish-gold evening sun, glinting off the glass facade of Chase Tower and illuminating the tall marble columns of Jones Hall, and thought how beautiful it all still was, swamp coolers notwithstanding.
I grieved the loss of what was one of the city's most beautiful bars—or what had been—until Lawless Spirits & Kitchen moved in a year after State Bar finally called it quits. Its new owners, who've run the successful Sambuca one floor below for many years, renovated the entire 1917-era space, restoring it to its former Art Deco glory and revamping the menu to once again offer classic cocktails as well as light meals ideal for snacking on during one of those classy after-work happy hours.
Happy hour at Lawless runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from open to close on Sunday and Monday. During those windows, you'll find a docket of deals that are already bringing back the clientele State Bar once supported in its glory days: $2 off bottled beer (which includes everything from $2.50 Miller Lite to $4 Hopadillo IPA) and $4 off food (which includes brisket-stuffed potstickers for $5.75 and a fig and prosciutto flatbread for $8.50). You'll also find that all cocktails, draft beer and wines by the glass are $3 off—this means cucumber mojitos, Chimay Tripel and Leitz Out Riesling, all for $7 and all excellent choices in these waning summer months.
These are also the best months to take advantage of that glorious patio, affording one of the best views of downtown and the Theater District outside of the balconies on the still-closed (yet soon-to-reopen) Alley Theatre. And once the Alley does reopen, I can think of no better place to enjoy a drink before (or after) the show than at Lawless, another old favorite restored, revived and serving the city once again.