Best New Bars

The Houstonian’s Essential Guide to the Best New Bars

We drank (a lot!) to find these 47 incredible watering holes.

By Houstonia Staff December 1, 2019 Published in the December 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Gin-forward cocktails abound at 1751 Sea & Bar. Photo by Jenn Duncan.

We know you have your favorite crusty old dive—the kind that’s been around for decades. So do we! But look up from your Lone Star, and you’ll see that there’s a ton of arrivals to the Houston bar scene, many of them a new breed altogether, serving up next-level food, drinks, and, of course, photo-ops. It’s a brave new bar world out there, and the Houstonia staff conquered it to bring you the 47 best new spots to try in H-Town, all of which opened in or after 2017. Join us by raising that ridiculously Instagram-ready cocktail and saluting them! We won’t tell your trusty old fave if you don’t…

Best Neighborhood Wine Bar

Bacco Wine Bars

You know those wooden signs people put in their kitchens, carved with slogans about how it’s time to drink wine? This new local chain of wine bars—with locations in Braeswood Place, Heights, Montrose, and Upper Kirby—has that same vibe. Think cute, swing-filled front patios, along with private-ish nooks where you can curl up with your friends and sip away as you catch up. Daily specials are quite a deal: depending on the day, you might get a pizza or a burger, plus a bottle of wine, for just $23. There’s also an all-day happy hour on Sundays, so just sit back and … you know ... live, laugh, love. Multiple locations,

Best Bar with a Ferris Wheel

Truck Yard

Yes, it’s a Dallas import, but we’ll forgive it that—everything about this adult playground is just plain fun, from the snarky marquee sign outside (“well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions”) to the (functional!) Ferris wheel. The decor is funky and down-home—think brightly colored mix-matched lawn chairs, communal picnic tables, and actual vintage truck beds—and the cocktails have names like Mojito Mo’ Problems and Mother Trucker (basically a Long Island). On-site food trucks serving barbecue, gourmet hot dogs, waffles, and more rotate daily. Oh, and you can—and should—rent out a designated karaoke room for up to 15 people. EaDo,

Best Bar for Gin Drinks

1751 Sea & Bar

The seafood offerings at Michael Sambrooks’s elegant establishment—think smoked oysters and a fresh-from-the-ocean charcuterie board—have earned deserved raves, but the drink menu demands equal attention. The specialty here is gin-forward cocktails, from surprising G&Ts (try the crisp, herbal Tidewater) to handsome martinis (get the Commodore, made with No. 3 Gin infused with bell pepper, bay leaf, and fennel). And don’t miss the back pages of the bar’s veritable booze bible, which boasts an ever-changing roster of more than 100 gins. The Heights,

Best Board Game Bar

Coral Sword

Houston’s hottest club might be a board game bar on Telephone Road where customers routinely pay a $30 cover to compete in Friday-night Magic: The Gathering tournaments over pints of Eureka Heights Mini-Boss and the joint’s own best-selling Nitro Thai Tea. Indeed, the spot has quickly become the standout in Houston’s burgeoning geek-hospitality sector, with an impressive selection of indie and mainstream titles, as well as a decked-out studio ready for podcasting and Twitch livestreams. The ample selection of games, like Bananagrams and Monopoly, suggests gaming novices are welcome, too. Eastwood,

Image: Jenn Duncan

Best Bar That Also Serves Breakfast


This welcome addition to the area surrounding Rice University is the definition of useful, serving an all-day Latin-influenced menu—get the pan con aguacate (similar to avocado toast) or a Cubano—along with coffee drinks, teas, and delicious cocktails in the ultimate hipster setting, full of cool art and thriving greenery. We got a seat at the bar and positively lapped up a Jade Palace made with gin, key limes and lemons, matcha, egg whites, and grapefruit bitters. Our server told us it was his favorite cocktail in the entire city, and we could see why. A word of warning: It might take a minute for your drink to arrive, but that’s because they care. Southampton,

Best Bar for Watching the Game

Pour Behavior

At 12,000 square feet, this hotly anticipated Midtown spot, which finally opened over the summer, is a behemoth, and a crash course in knowing your audience. During the daytime and early evening, fans can follow the action on 40 televisions, including two huge mega-screens. A menu of pizzas, burgers, and tacos, plus draft cocktails and a better-than-average beer list, round out the sporty experience. Later at night, though, the vibe changes, especially on weekends, when some of the tables are removed, DJs step on stage, and the club gets poppin’ with bottle service and large-format drinks including a shareable mojito bowl, if you’re into that sort of thing. Midtown,

Best Bar for Mocktails

Night Heron

All over town the city’s bar pros have upped their zero-proof game in recent years, offering up complex, refreshing, alcohol-free beverages alongside boozy cocktails. And this sharp living-room-style restaurant and bar from the team at Coltivare is leading the charge. Try a Virgin Mary, a fresh-made sparkling lemonade, or our favorite, one of the rotating seasonal shrub sodas—made with fruit-infused vinegar boiled with sugar into a syrup, mixed with club soda—for a bubbly, sweet, sour treat that will have you saying, booze who? Montrose,

Image: Todd Spoth

Best Bar for Showing Off Your Boots

Goodnight Charlie’s

Let’s face it: The predominant type of cowboy in Houston is the Saturday-night one, who loves to shine up his boots for a night of two-stepping out on the town. He also loves this place (like, a lot), a warm, good-natured contemporary honky-tonk in the heart of Montrose from Goodnight Hospitality, the same team behind Rosie Cannonball and Montrose Cheese & Wine. Since opening at the end of 2017, the bar has hosted a steady stream of stellar local and regional country artists while offering daily happy hours, an extensive whiskey list, and tacos so legit, they’ve become an attraction in their own right. Between sets hang out on the patio and relax at one of the porch swings or picnic tables. Montrose,

Best Bar for Finishing Your Novel

Penny Quarter

Good morning! A productive weekend lies ahead. Now is the moment to bang out those 75,000 words, and what better place to do it than at this stylish new all-day café and bar from revered duo Bobby Heugel and Justin Yu? You’ll be fueled by coffee from a rotating list of local and international roasters in the morning; treats from Yu’s kitchen such as ricotta, cucumber, and za’atar toast throughout the day; and glasses of California sauvignon blanc and Austrian zweigelt late in the afternoon. What’s that? You stopped writing and ordered a bottle after your friends joined you? We get it. Have a good time. Montrose,

Best Beer Bar

Cobble and Spoke

When you find, say, the peanut-butter-and-chocolate stout known as Tasty AF from Webster’s Saloon Door Brewing Co. on a tap list, you know you’re sitting in a great beer bar. The 40 taps here are on constant rotation, filled only with beer from Houston and Texas, and there’s a good list of wines from the Lone Star State, too. This is a cycling-friendly bar, hence the name. Park your bike at a rack by the front door and grab a seat at a picnic table on the patio, beneath a mural of a snorkeling cat. Don’t forget to fill up a growler or crowler on your way out. Spring Branch,

Best Bar for Playing Bartender

Prohibition Texas

Fittingly, this Old Town Spring establishment is one-part speakeasy, one-part saloon. Offerings include beer, wine, cigars, a menu of burgers and pizzas, an extensive cocktail list, and something we hadn’t seen before: a Make Your Own Old Fashioned menu. After trying it, we were instant converts. For $13 you get to choose your spirit, sweetener, and bitters—we selected Buffalo Trace bourbon, WhistlePig maple syrup, and Aztec chocolate—before a seasoned pro mixes your drink. If you’re like us, you’ll enjoy it even more knowing it was your creation. Spring,

Best Bar for a Lazy Sunday

Heights Bier Garten

It’s early on a Sunday afternoon, and you’re a) still hungover, b) dreading checking your work email, c) wanting to lie down while also being productive-ish, or d) all of the above. The answer to your prayers is this easygoing hangout, where afternoons bleed into evenings as patrons enjoy local suds from breweries such as Saint Arnold, Sigma, and Brash; tuck into sausage plates; catch games on one of the many televisions; or just rock the day away in one of the relaxing swing seats. Whether or not you actually get anything done, it’s a chance to relax and focus on you. Call it self-care. The Heights, 713-862-4940

Image: Todd Spoth

Best Speakeasy

Ready Room

Since opening in 2018, this cool spot inside a nondescript, squat little building at the end of the White Oak drag, created by Houston restaurateur Ken Bridge, has been serving up Houston-centric cocktails to the beat of good tunes—bartender-curated playlists and live jazz and blues on select nights—in an atmosphere that, as with the best of the modern speakeasies, feels like a true throwback to the drinking days of old. It’s all in the details here, from delectable drinks (the Liberty Road and Near Town cocktails are both excellent), to the wood-paneled walls, upright piano, marble-topped tables, and feeling that you’re someplace everyone would want to be, if only they knew such a place still existed. The Heights,

Best Spritz

Rosie Cannonball

This cozy, highly anticipated eatery and bar from Goodnight Hospitality was perhaps the most-Instagrammed restaurant in town when it opened in August, and the most-Instagrammable drink on its Italian-inspired cocktail menu is hands-down the Lambrusco Spritz. It’s as photogenic as a traditional Aperol spritz—that ultra-trendy aperitif that’s somehow both sweet and bitter, marked by its vibrant orange hue—but the eponymous Lambrusco, a sweet red wine that stands in for Prosecco, punches up the flavor. Served on ice in an oversized glass and garnished with a rustic dried orange slice and sprig of mint, the drink just begs to be snapped—then sipped. Montrose,

Image: Jenn Duncan

Best Bar for a Mini Vacation

The Toasted Coconut

Is it the Tom Cruise–in–Cocktail–level skill of Sarah Troxell and her team of bartenders that has you feeling like you’re on a trip to paradise? Or is it the menu full of fiery, bold Caribbean and Southeast Asian flavors from co-owner Martin Stayer and chef de cuisine Ben Ruiz? Maybe it’s the tiki decor and surf music on vinyl, or fun drinks like the Vamos a La Playa (mezcal, blanco rum, pineapple shrub, lime). Okay, it’s all of those things, but it’s also the freaking adult sandbox out front. Have a second cocktail, and you’ll swear you’re sitting on the beach. Montrose,

Best Bar to Meet Your Bumble Date


It took more than a year after this Phoenix-based wine cafe’s Texas debut in Heights Mercantile before the hype died down enough for patrons to get a seat without waiting an hour—and that’s only because the buzz relocated to Montrose when a second location opened there in September. The hip hangout is known as much for its bruschetta boards in mouth-watering pairings like prosciutto-and-fig or goat-cheese-and-pepper-jam as it is for its excellent pours, which come by the glass or bottle. Dimly lit, with an indie soundtrack and shareable menu, it’s equal parts romantic and cool—the perfect first-date spot, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays, when a bottle and board will run you just $25 after 8 p.m. The Heights and Montrose,

Image: Julia Weber

Best Bar for After-Dinner Drinks

Miss Carousel

This swanky little cocktail bar shares the same EaDo corner as American restaurant Indianola. Both are run by the pros at Agricole Hospitality, who also keep Coltivare and Eight Row Flint humming over in the Heights. For a perfect night, dine at Indianola, then step right over to Miss Carousel, straight into a Mad Men episode complete with mid-century-modern furniture. The drinks are uniformly excellent, but our favorites are the R&R Negroni and the bar’s eponymous cocktail, made with rye, cognac, bittersweet amaro, walnut liqueur, pistachio orgeat, lemon, orange flower water, salt, and egg whites. EaDo,

Best Bar for People Watching

Loch Bar

It’s apparent from the moment you step inside the River Oaks District favorite that the beautiful people love this fancy outpost of the original “seafood tavern” in Baltimore, with its dramatic lighting, soaring ceilings, and gorgeous orchids looking down at the scene from on high. They parade past the delicacy-packed oyster bar, eyeing one another before having a drink, maybe a bite, and moving the show elsewhere. What, that doesn’t sound like you? Go anyway! Get dressed up, have a glass of bubbly and a couple of relatively reasonably priced appetizers (we love the gravlox), and bask in the pageantry of it all. River Oaks,

Best Bar Burger

Monkey’s Tail

Just spittin’ distance from the Metro Red Line in Lindale Park lies this new bar serving tropical drinks and Mexican-inspired American eats, and we think the place combines all the best things about drinking in Houston. A patio and buckets of Tecate and Lone Star give it serious icehouse cred, while drinks like No … Pos Ta Cabron, a whiskey sipper served in a juice pouch, scream for the ’gram. Meanwhile the Chango burger, a smashed three-ounce patty with melty American cheese, chopped onions and relish, and mayo, is among the top bar burgers in town. Outstanding at any time of day, it’s impossible to resist late at night. Lindale Park,

Best Bar for Instagrammers

Present Company

Vibrantly photogenic, Present Company is the epitome of the modern bar. Read more hereMontrose,

Best Hotel Bar Happy Hour


Hotel Alessandra’s swanky second-floor bar is as elegant as the French starlet it’s named for, with a vintage vibe to match. The digs are decidedly mid-century thanks to a velour couch, a mirrored coffee table, and curved leather armchairs straight out of a posh ’60s living room. The cocktail menu is fittingly martini-heavy, and bartenders dress in mod geometric prints à la Pan-Am flight attendants. This is the rare, blessed spot with happy hour seven days a week—3–7 on weekdays and 3–6 on weekends. Channel your inner Brigitte as you sip an “Enchanté” (bourbon, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, grenadine, and absinthe) alongside good-looking guests pre-gaming ahead of the night’s gala. Downtown,

Image: Jenn Duncan

Best Bar for Partying Like You're in Madrid


This swanky Spanish restaurant—a wall-to-wall feast of lights, sounds, tapas, wine, and inventive cocktails, inspired by the vibrant nightlife scene in Madrid—is not the place for a quiet dinner, but it is the place to party in the River Oaks District. Over-the-top is the order of the day here, from the rotating mirrors above the gold-illuminated bar, to the neon lights, to the DJ playing Euro-trance after ten Thursdays through Saturdays. The drinks are decidedly gin-forward, although you also cannot go wrong with a sangria. Just remember, there’s no such thing as overdressed here. River Oaks,

Best Bar for Quietly Sipping Wine

La Grande Rue

Looking for a place to chill with a relaxing goblet of a good French red? Try this wine bar and market, which opened in September. In their renovated 1920s-era Heights building, co-owners Brian Doke and William Meznarich have created a refined but laidback atmosphere full of plush, comfortable seating. Their wine list is carefully curated, offering everything from a Côtes du Rhône you’ve never heard of, to a Riesling that’s famous for a reason. When you inevitably find something that you love, pick up a bottle to take home. The Heights,

Best Bar for Frozen Drinks

Lotti Dotti

Oh, Lotti Dotti, you had us at “Slime in the Ice Machine.” True Houstonians will feel nothing less than compelled to order the drink—made with tequila, cachaça, and matcha—and toast legendary local reporter Marvin Zindler, but it’s just one offering on an extensive list of ridiculously good frozens at this fun patio bar. Other strong-in-every-way Houston-centric options include a rosé-based Frosé Altuve (we literally love you!) and an ode to everyone’s all-time favorite Rocket, the rum-based Dream Shake, made with orange juice and pandan. Whatever you get, pair it with a burger and an order of salty, delicious chicharrones. Montrose,

Update: On Friday, November 22, Lotti Dotti closed "due to unforeseen circumstances."

Best Bar with Korean Fusion Snacks


After moseying into this fun, colorful downtown bar on a Friday night, you’d be forgiven for wondering, is this a tiki bar, or a club? The bass of a long-forgotten 2000s pop song likely will be thumping as you make your way through the crowd to order an expertly crafted mai tai or some other rum-centric drink that pairs perfectly with what we now believe to be quintessential bar food: fried dumplings, loaded fries, and kimchi quesadillas from the Oh My Gogi! food truck, which now has a permanent space inside Kanaloa. Best of all, you can get up and dance once all that rum hits. Downtown,

Best Bar to Drive to Tomball For

Fire Ant Brewing

A double-decker saloon exterior makes this brewpub seem as old as the antiques sold on the town’s nearby main drag, but don’t be deceived—it just celebrated one year of pouring its own kölsches and pale ales while serving up delicious pub grub like carnitas nachos. Considering that its old-timey, small-town setting is part and parcel of Fire Ant’s appeal, it’s no surprise that the brewpub’s signature IPA is named for 2920—the farm-to-market road that Inner Loopers must traverse to join in on the fun. Tomball,

Image: Todd Spoth

Best Bar for the Indecisive


This sprawling complex of revelry might be the only place in Houston where one friend can wear an Astros shirt while the other dons a bandage dress and neither will feel out of place. Bros play cornhole and catch the game on two giant screens in the beer garden while colleagues chow down on wings and craft beer in the casual first-floor pub. Wait, what’s that thumping? Why, it’s the bass from upstairs, which becomes a full-on nightclub on weekends. The “Wolf of Midtown” bottle-service package will run you $3,250, but if that’s too steep, you can always decamp to the patio for a Lone Star. Midtown,

Best Bar Vending Machine

Pink Elephant Room

Whose silly idea was it to pack a vending machine full of Ring Pops, grape-flavored rolling papers, and gag gifts such as the self-explanatory “Nail Thru Finger”? Our money is on the bleary-eyed, top-hat-wearing pachyderm who serves as both spirit animal and namesake for this Washington Ave. sleeper. Situated comfortably in the uncanny valley between dive bar and cocktail purveyor, the Pink Elephant Room boasts a clever drinks menu—we love the Purple Drank–inspired Potent Purple Punch, and the elevated highballs concocted from a rotating cast of house-made sodas. Regular karaoke nights are best enjoyed from one of the squishy vinyl booths, always within sight of The Simpsons re-runs on the bar’s TVs. Washington Avenue,

Best Bar to Kick It

Pitch 25

Think of this block-spanning beer bar as something of an artisanal Dave & Buster’s, replete with big-kid activities like foosball, pool, tomahawk throwing, and, last but certainly not least, an indoor soccer field courtesy of Brian Ching—the ex-Dynamo who opened the establishment catty-corner to BBVA Compass Stadium in EaDo last year. Roughly 100 beers are on tap alongside a healthy wine and cocktail list, all ready for you to sip on while you lounge among the umpteen plush chesterfield sofas, porch swings, and picnic tables scattered throughout this palatial indoor-outdoor complex. Having visited on a recent Texans gameday, we reckon it might just be the perfect football bar—regardless of which football you’re referring to. EaDo,

Image: Jenn Duncan

Best Bar/Wine Shop

Light Years Natural Wine Shop + Bar

This sunny little bungalow offering tasty cheese boards and an obligatory, affordable house rosé does, in fact, seem light years ahead of the stuffy old wine bars of yore. That’s thanks in part to proprietors Steve Buechner and John Glanzman, whose selection of trendy natural and biodynamic wines made by smaller, mindful producers from vineyards the world over—Texas’s own stellar Southhold Farm + Cellar’s wines are a must-try—bucks snootiness in favor of fun. The young, friendly staff actually listen to what you’re looking for without judgment, even if it’s “something weird and fizzy and beachy,” and they usually offer samples. The place doubles as a wine shop, too. Montrose,

Best Dive Bar

Lil' Danny Speedo’s Go Fly a Kite

Certain boxes must be checked when considering a dive bar’s worth. Are there cats slinking around the parking lot? Regulars galore? Would you scream if the lights were turned up all the way? And are you having the time of your life? At Lil' Danny Speedo’s, you also get snappy service, frozen seasonal drinks, and plenty of outside seating where crowds gather to drink Lone Star and gobble up food from a daily rotation of tasty pop-ups—Pan de Taco and Hipster-Ass Concession Stand among them. East End, @lildannyspeedoskitelounge

Best Bar for Runners, Cyclists, and Lunatic Children

King’s Bierhaus

Whether you arrive with a gaggle of sweaty friends fresh off a workout on the White Oak Hike-and-Bike Trail, or you’re lugging a few rambunctious kiddos along, this massive beer hall and garden from Hans and Philipp Sitter, the beloved father-son team behind King’s Biergarten in Pearland, offers a raucous atmosphere perfect for letting loose. Chill outside at a picnic table or in a hammock, taking in the live music and sampling hearty German food—we love the sausages and pretzel bites. The brew list features dozens of options; if you’re brazen enough, go for a 2.5-liter glass boot of draft beer (it’s $55). Shady Acres,

Best Comeback Bar

Voodoo Queen Daiquiri Dive

This tiki-dive stalwart sadly caught fire in September 2016, but bounced back double the size in March of last year, much to the delight of Houston daiquiri lovers. The drinks are outrageous—think cinnamon-stick garnishes burning like incense; Bacardi 151 toppers; and fun, if vulgar, drink names like the Penus Coladus (a tasty Fireball-spiked piña colada). This is the place to saddle up with a boat drink and a shrimp po-boy, play songs on the righteous jukebox, and show off your pool and air hockey skills—our kind of Friday night. East End,

Best Hotel Bar

H Bar

Small enough to feel intimate but not cramped, this dark and sexy bar is everything you want in a hotel watering hole. Its location inside the opulent Post Oak makes for unparalleled people-watching; flickering candles and red roses on low tables with lounge-like seating set the mood; and clubby music makes even a Tuesday night feel like Saturday. Once you try an Old Cuban—the bar’s twist on a mojito made with bubbly—you’ll never drink rum without champagne again. Spend more than an hour here, though, and you’ll want to brace yourself for a jarring reentry to the outside world, beginning with the dazzlingly bright lobby, which feels like another galaxy entirely. The Galleria Area,

Best Ice House Revival

Bobcat Teddy’s

It was the end of an era when 75-year Heights institution Jimmy’s Ice House closed shop in 2017, at least until a new owner scooped up the White Oak property, supersized the patio, purged what were without question the grimiest bathrooms in the city, and (gasp) added liquor. The spit-shined joint may no longer serve Lone Star from an Igloo cooler, but it does still honor the old Jimmy’s beer prices (and serve Jameson on tap). All signs point to a successful reboot; nowadays you’re about as likely to share a picnic table with a chain-smoking Jimmy’s regular as you are a newer, Yuppier patron. The Heights,

Best Bowling Alley Bar Rebirth

Del Mar Lanes

The recently remodeled, retro-cool bar at Del Mar Lanes in Garden Oaks remains a classic of the genre—all hand-scripted fonts and deodorant-sprayed bowling shoes—tastefully brought up to date with 21st-century touches like nighttime laser lights and Camila Cabello music videos projected on 150-inch screens. The crowd is similarly eclectic, with birthday parties complemented by a robust bowling league featuring team names like “Pin Pals” and “Stars ‘N’ Strikers.” Timeless innovations such as late-night happy hour and always-cheap pitchers of beer ensure it’s never difficult to make friends. The GOOF,

Best Bar for Waiting Out the Rain

Better Luck Tomorrow

This converted Heights gas station from partners Bobby Heugel and Justin Yu becomes our destination of choice whenever storm clouds appear and it starts to rain: That means the best hurricane in the city is officially half-off—just one of the upscale bar-restaurant’s several weather-related specials. Watch as bartenders pile crushed ice high in a hurricane glass with rum, citrus, and house-made syrup before topping it off with a dusting of powdered sugar that sweetens the edible orchid garnish. Each sip invites reveries of sunnier days, ideally on a beach, far from the rain rolling off the inviting patio’s metal awning. The Heights,

Best Bar Name

How to Survive on Land and Sea

Come for the cleverly obscure name (referencing a 1943 classic survival guide), stay for the fascinating array of wines at this new, Italian vinoteca-inspired bar on the edge of the Second Ward, in the space that previously housed Admiral Linens. Under the guidance of Mike Sammons (the mind behind 13 Celsius and Mongoose versus Cobra), the place has been transformed with an antique pine bar, banks of windows, and plenty of cozy spots where patrons can sit and savor their reasonably priced vino: Most bottles at this laidback, casual bar go for $50 or less. Second Ward,

Best Bar for Trying a Bacon Flight

Scholars & Scoundrels

You’re more likely to be seated next to a bedazzled tween cheer team and their diehard moms than a bunch of day drinkers at this popular year-old sports bar in Katy. That’s because the locals know that the food here rules. One must-order? The bacon flight—referred to on the apps menu as “Did We Just Become Best Friends?”—features candied, spicy-jalapeño, and deep-fried varieties, all of which arrive on a metal tray with house-made ketchup. Trust us: You’ll want to save the crunchy, sinful deep-fried bacon for last. Oh, and there’s a good beer list here, too. Katy,

Image: Todd Spoth

Best Bar for Lunchtime Drinks

Swallow’s Nest in Finn Hall

Some people tackle a midday slump with Starbucks; others prefer The Clutch City Buzz, a cold brew–based tequila creation that drinks strangely similar to a seasonal stout, right down to the foamy head, but with a dash of green-mint bitters for a Grasshopper-sweet touch. If you’re too comfy perched in your booth at this quiet lounge atop busy Finn Hall, the bar staff will happily order your food from one of the hall’s purveyors—we suggest Yong’s kimchi tots and Korean-fried-chicken bowl—and bring it to you. An hour spent here makes for a great workday respite if ever there was one. Downtown

Best Waterway Bar


Located on the busiest corner of The Woodlands Waterway, this suburban gem exaggerates the best of Texas and Ireland to create an upscale pub where paintings of longhorns are illuminated by elaborate chandeliers fashioned from Jameson bottles. The place often draws big crowds, who converge here to enjoy nightly live music and interesting Tex-Irish takes on dishes ranging from bangers and mash to crab rangoon (spoiler: the secret ingredient is nearly always jalapeño). Spontaneous line dancing is known to erupt on weekends after everyone’s had a few whiskeys. The Woodlands,

Image: Jenn Duncan

Best Bar for Sharing a Drink with Friends

High and Dry

You’ll want to watch as your bartender carefully crafts you a Fish Bowl at this bar located in the cool, dark, mysterious space above Little Dipper Bar downtown. There are hundreds of rums on offer here, and three of them, along with two kinds of liqueur and coconut water, are poured into an enormous glass orb as big as your head, then topped with flowers, fruit, and cinnamon. It tastes like a boozy, spicy Minute Maid fruit punch—which is a compliment. You’ll want to consume the thing with at least three good friends, all of whom, by the way, must be present before you can even place your order for this beast. And remember: All that rum, even shared between four people, will sneak up on you. Downtown,

Best Gastropub

Bungalow Heights

Normally, if a foodie, a cocktail snob, and a sports fan walk into a random Houston bar, one of them will end up unhappy. Unless that bar is this one—housed, as the name suggests, in a large white bungalow, in, you guessed it, the Heights. This new gastropub offers crowd-pleasing apps including a “big ass pretzel,” fried green tomatoes, flatbreads, wings, tacos, burgers, salads that aren’t just afterthoughts, and more—along with inventive cocktails, a long craft beer list, and approximately a zillion TVs so patrons can watch all the sports they want. The Heights,

Best Bar Reopening

One Armed Scissor

This little bar earned a cult following in the Heights back when it operated out of the Hughie’s on 18th Street before abruptly shuttering in 2017. Now reopened on Travis Street downtown, it’s once again home to a crew of topnotch cocktail wizards who sling classics and seasonal house signatures that pay homage to American rappers, rock ‘n’ roll glitz, and even Houston’s own sordid history—try the Oil Money, an irresistible combination of Laird’s Applejack, cachaça, falernum, and ginger, served over crushed ice in a massive goblet with a flaming, booze-soaked lime. Bonus: The music stays low enough to allow patrons to enjoy a good conversation while they’re sipping their magical apple sauce. Downtown,

Image: Todd Spoth

Best Bar in Midtown, If You're Not into Midtown

Two Headed Dog

Former Grand Prize bartenders Lindsay Rae and Billy Boyd have put their own unique stamp on the Midtown scene, and it’s a welcome one indeed. Their bar’s tucked-away location means you’ll have to search for the entrance, but once you find it you’ll feel right at home, especially if you’re looking for safe harbor amid the area’s rampant trendiness. Cozy up to the bar, built by Boyd himself, snag one of the tables (constructed from shiplap salvaged from Fitzgerald’s after the historic venue was demolished last year) or a seat on the patio, raise a glass of something tasty—frozen cocktails like the Guava Slayer are dangerously drinkable—and celebrate this cool new bar’s arrival. Midtown,

Best Sleeper Bar

East End Hardware

Boozy sno-balls, steak nights, crawfish boils, and cheeseburger pop-ups: These are a few of the things that make this quiet little bar, which Raymond Chan and Laura Jordan opened in a former hardware store in the East End in 2017, the best unknown gem in the city. Their unique, thoughtful renovation of the space includes a bar made from an old conveyor belt topped with glass, an ice house–style garage door giving way to outdoor seating, vintage tables and chairs, and well-curated, thrifty art. There’s a great selection of draft beer and cocktails, and those sno-balls—cranked out from a fancy Sno Wizard machine—delight with flavors including boozy Tiger’s Blood and vodka with Kahlúa. East End,

Best Bar for Rocking Out

Cottonmouth Club

From the 20-page menu-zine—referred to as Alice Cooper’s Alcohol Cookbook—to the live music, to the stickers plastered in the bathroom, everything about this sultry Main Street den is straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. And after a few sips of the Certified Gold—a signature drink made with brandy, raspberry liqueur, and lemon—you just might feel cool enough to be here. Upstairs a refined bar space features floor-to-ceiling portraits, painted by co-owner Mike Raymond, of Billy Gibbons, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Kam Franklin, with Willie Nelson still in progress last time we checked. Downtown,

Image: Marco Torres