Best Bars 2014

The Best Dives & Ice Houses in Houston

Ours is a city with dive bars in abundance, but we dug a little deeper to put together a list every Houstonian must know.

Edited by Katharine Shilcutt By Dan Derozier, Catherine Matusow, Chris Abshire, and Sarah Rufca Nielsen November 30, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Warren’s Inn

Dives & Ice Houses

Warren’s Inn Top 10

This old standby shows off its true dive bar credentials like war wounds: it’s open 365 days a year, patrons look askance if you order anything other than whiskey or beer (though a few folks get away with a glass of wine), the mostly female bar staff takes guff from no one, and there’s an indoor gazebo—of course there is—that only non-regulars ever sit in. For over a quarter-century, Warren’s has anchored Market Square downtown, and Carolyn Wengar’s baby seems frozen in time like Dorian Gray, or perhaps growing younger every year, like that Brad Pitt movie a few years back.  

What to get: A boilermaker, especially a Lone Star with a shot of Jim Beam
Don’t miss: The cigarette vending machine and the jukebox, both competing in a dance hall marathon to see who will collapse first

D&W Lounge

From the outside, this Second Ward stalwart looks well-nigh abandoned. But step inside and you’re immediately greeted by a warm smile from bartender Debbie Carson and a spotless interior that smells better than Grandma’s house (and is similarly decorated with tchotchkes, although D&W’s taste in such tends toward stuffed animal heads, framed photos of Marilyn Monroe, and a lava lamp collection). A classic ice house, D&W serves no liquor and opens at 7 a.m., when you’ll see third-shift employees from a nearby coffee-roasting plant coming by to grab a cold one. But there’s company and camaraderie to find at all hours—just strike up a conversation with the regulars, if they don’t strike one up first.

What to get: An ice-cold beer, preferably one from Texas
Don’t miss: The Johnny Cash poster over the door leading out to the patio, flanked by old toilets repurposed into flowerpots

Alice’s Tall Texan & Drive Inn

Lots of places claim their beers are the coldest, but somebody has to be telling the truth, right? That somebody may just be Alice’s, where dirt-cheap Shiners and Lone Stars are quaffed from infamous frosty goblets, and in a strikingly un-skeevy milieu (as cash-only dive bars go, that is) lit by neon beer signs and fueled by a diverse array of bodies on the dance floor.

Don’t miss: The mugs—weren’t you listening? They’re so cold, brews have been known to ice over on top.
Listen for: A raucous mix of salsa and Tejano tunes mixed with country standbys

Rose Garden

Located at the very edge of the Heights near Loop 610, this place is kryptonite to the posh hordes who descend on the area in ever greater numbers. Which in a way is perfect, as Rose Garden’s cramped bungalow-turned-bar is better suited to cowboys and swillers of cheap beer, not to mention brash pool players with a taste for homemade Polish sausages. Bonus: Rose herself can often be seen proffering a cold one in the expansive backyard, barely visible through the haze of cigs and cigars.

Don’t miss: Periodic on-the-house sausage samples
Listen for: A classic jukebox toggling smoothly from outlaw C&W to Slavic polkas


Ironically, Rice undergrads tend to avoid this bar, run by grad students out of a tiny basement under the chemistry building. Gone are the days when a handful of change would buy you a Valhalla round, but it’s still one of the best places for dirt-cheap local brews, which are best enjoyed on the leafy surrounding quad.

Don’t miss: Occasional run-ins by members of Baker 13, Rice’s twice-monthly naked jog around campus. (Actually, come to think of it, miss that.) 
Listen for:Beer-fueled debates on the importance of nanoparticles, the French Third Republic, and Rice’s assorted dormitory houses

Show Comments