Present Company's oft-photographed neon sign.

Image: Jenn Duncan

When we first started dating a decade ago, my husband and I would play a game. Say we were in the car driving down Shepherd. We’d pass—I don’t know—Kenneally’s Irish Pub, and he’d point it out and ask if I’d ever been there.

“Have I been there?” I’d reply. “Of course I’ve been there. They have great pizza.”

Jeff would laugh, shake his head, and keep driving, perhaps half amused and half concerned that, during my twenties, I’d visited what felt like every watering hole in town at least once. It became a kind of running joke. But it wasn’t long before we got married and I found myself more interested in things like gardening, cooking, and (fine) Netflix, and less interested in … what do the kids call it? Local nightlife?

These days, if we do meet friends out somewhere, it’s usually for an early dinner at a restaurant. Once in a while we might hit a wine bar like 13 Celsius or a classic old-school joint like West Alabama Ice House or Warren’s, where we Gen X-ers don’t feel so ancient, but by and large we’ve missed out on the new bars, and new kinds of bars—offering volleyball courts and Ferris wheels and axe-throwing and something called mocktails—that have been opening up. And so, my comprehensive knowledge of the Houston scene has slowly seeped away. Until recently.

When it came time to put together this month's cover feature, Houstonia staff agreed that there had been so many newcomers to the scene in the last couple of years, they deserved their own investigation, and the idea for our fantastic Best New Bars feature was born. We fanned out across town, barhopping in the name of research.

Along the way there were duds, to be sure, like the place that got tossed from our list after serving me an atrocious, cold Irish coffee, among other crimes. But never mind that. There were hits, too—47 of them, to be exact!—and some were a surprise.

While my fellow Gen X-ers may roll their eyes at Present Company, with its oonce-oonce music, La Croix cocktails, and Instagram-friendly decor, the Houstonia staff had an absolute blast there one day after work, seated under a neon sign, sipping creative drinks—I got a delectable concoction made from White Claw and mango, served in the can—and chatting. The place was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. I decided I liked it.

A few days later, Jeff and I drove past it. “I’ve been there,” I told him with a grin. “They have great truffle fries.”

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