Houston’s bar scene has something for everyone, from high-end cocktail lounges where the bartenders are dressed better than your average wedding guest to dingy dives where the beer is cheap and the food program is stale popcorn. Today, we’re focusing on the latter-those dimly lit, lovable watering holes that bring character and a steady stream of cold drinks to neighborhoods all over Houston.
These 10 outposts represent some of the very best dives around. Grab a seat, keep your order simple, and chat up the friendly regulars who blend seamlessly into the worn decor.
Heights The Shiloh Club’s black-and-white-checked floor has seen some things during its time. The bar is one of the neighborhood’s original treasures, serving up good drinks and friendly vibes for decades. The prices may have increased slightly over the years, but they’re still unreasonably reasonable. The weekday happy hour starts at 10 am and features $2 well drinks, while each day brings something unique, from discounted craft beers on Mondays to $4 glasses of wine on Saturdays.
Garden Oaks This friendly, stripmall dive is an area go-to for cold drinks, solid jukebox jams, and karaoke. The bartenders hold court behind the sunken bar, doling out beers with a side of convivial conversation-don’t be alarmed when someone inevitably asks your name. And if you’re starting early, they serve a daily lunch special-think hot dogs, potato soup, Swedish meatballs-for just a few bucks.
Spring Branch The first thing to know about Blue Lagoon: It opens at 10 am. The second thing to know about Blue Lagoon: There’s a sign above the bar that reads, “No pissy attitudes.” So, show up early and smiling, ready to greet the bartender before placing your order (a shot and a beer will be met with an approving nod). Then put a couple dollars in the jukebox, play some pool, and check out the hundreds of pictures lining the walls (we’re talking hard copy photographs, friends) depicting scores of customers in their natural habitat.
The relationship between a regular and their dive bar is a sacred thing. Every dive bar lover remembers the first time they bellied up to the bar and ordered a 7-and-7 in what would soon become their new favorite spot. This July 7, head to your local in celebration of National Dive Bar Day. Raise a glass of Seagram’s 7 to all the memories you’ve made there (even the ones that look a bit fuzzy) and all the memories yet to come.
Mad Bull Club
Fairbanks/Northwest Crossing If you find yourself in Northwest Houston, lost and wandering among the manufacturing and wholesale businesses in search of a cozy dive to quench your thirst, you might think you’re in the wrong place. But if you’re lucky enough to spot the beige rectangle reading Mad Bull, you’re good to go. The simple, neighborhood bar might be off the beaten path, but it draws crowds for darts, pool, shuffleboard, and, of course, the requisite bill of cheap drinks.
Willow Meadows/Willowbend There are divier dives than Hunters. Hell, the bar grills up pork chops and ribeyes on Thursday nights. But that grilling occurs out back, not, like, in a proper inhouse kitchen. More bonafides come via its tucked-away stripmall location, no-frills interior, and bargain-priced beverages. Kill some time with a bucket of beers and some shuffleboard, or head out back to the covered patio to watch the game.
Montrose If taking down cold brews and questionable popcorn in a glowing, neon-blue room with non-stop throwback jazz and blues coming over the airwaves is your thing, then this old-school joint is right up your alley. Happy hour runs every day from 3 to 7 pm, the booze selection is surprisingly solid, and said questionable popcorn is free, so there’s really no reason to pass by without stopping in for a drink. Which, if history is any indication, will turn into multiple drinks.
Heights Big Star Bar promises cheap beer, retro TVs, a jukebox, and lots of room to dance. Score a table inside or tote your tipple out to the large patio, where you can sun yourself at a picnic table during summer and warm up by the firepit during Houston’s short-lived “winter.” Whatever the season, prepare to see a cat or two-the friendly felines roaming outside the bar are usually amenable to a head scratch, but they’re not above stealing your seat.
Montrose When people talk about Lola’s, they use words like “eclectic” and “charming.” And they’re not wrong. Inside the purple house on Grant Street, you’ll find worn furniture and walls plastered with stickers and band art, all bathed in the glow of neon beer signs. Play some pool between rounds, put a couple songs on the jukebox, then grab a seat at a picnic table outside when you need some air. The bartenders here are fixtures of the community, pushing strong pours in plastic cups like vestiges of a bygone era.
Montrose You don’t have to care about whatever game’s taking over the television to enjoy yourself at PJ’s. The friendly stream of locals walking through the door will keep you entertained, as will the cheap booze and casual atmosphere. Things turn lively on Wednesday and Friday nights when karaoke’s in session, so grab a pitcher and work up the courage to join in.
Downtown Lone Star Saloon’s location next to the light rail and bus station makes it both convenient and prone to attracting an interesting mix of clientele. The iconic Texas-shaped sign above the bar lures curious passersby inside, while the low-cost drinks keep them there. It’s all too easy to park yourself on a red stool next to a grizzled regular and lose track of time while immersed in this delightful, windowless hole-in-the-wall.
The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.
From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.
Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.
Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.