Best Bars 2016

Our 5 Favorite Dives in the Heights

Starting with the best bar for pretending the new Heights ever happened.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen February 1, 2016 Published in the February 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Lauren Marek

Best Bar for Pretending the “New” Heights Never Happened

Onion Creek

This now 13-year-old neighborhood hangout is Houston through and through, despite billing its aelf as a slice of Austin in the Bayou City. It remains an anchor in the area and a solid destination for local craft beer on tap and Frito pies topped with jalapeños, best consumed on a picnic table on the lush, shaded, multideck patio. Beware, though: It can be hard to find parking on the hectic weekends.

Best Bar for Grabbing a Slice

Johnny’s Gold Brick

The cancellation of That ’70s Show seems to have created an opening for this bar, the low-key 1970s basement hangout you never knew you always wanted. Choose one of the 10 classic cocktails from the menu painted directly on the wall and order a slice from the incredible Pi Pizza truck, which, like most of the hipsters living above 20th Street, has made Johnny’s its home base.

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Lei Low

Best Bar for Pretending You’re in Bali

Lei Low

What’s the secret to creating an awesome tiki bar? Committing to it 100 percent. That means not only crafting a menu of stealthily boozy rum quaffs, but serving them in cheeky retro barware, playing surf music on vinyl, and decorating with sea glass, Moai-like carved wood statues, and stacked-stone wallpaper that would make Mike Brady jealous.

Best Bar for Ice-Cold Goblets of Shiner

Alice’s Tall Texan

We once ended up here after a fancy dinner, unexpectedly out of place in mini-dress and heels. At the average dive, such an outfit might have elicited comments or looks from the middle-aged regulars in tees (Alice Ward doesn’t allow tank tops) and cowboy hats. Not here. The place really is open to all comers, as long as you’re down to play some pool or some dominos and throw back schooners full of Shiner—or Lone Star, if you must—as ice-cold as they are cheap.

Best Bar for Befriending a Cat

Big Star Bar

With its giant tube TV, half-hearted streamers and diner-style checkerboard tile, this place is, admittedly, lacking in sophisticated décor. But no matter: It also offers a surprisingly good (and cheap!) selection of local craft beers, a patio fire pit, and ample floor space, making it great for meeting up with 50 or so of your closest friends or, you know, just hanging out and petting the resident cat. Some nights he’s all the friend you need.


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