Houston, we got a problem–I never want to leave! As the fourth largest city in the United States, there’s no lack of fun in Houston, Texas. Home to the notorious NASA space center, beloved (or not so much) Astros baseball team, and an energized nightlife–H-town’s urbanized yet welcoming environment is an international attraction.
If you’re anything like me, immersing yourself in the culture of your home or vacation spot is your utmost priority. Trust me when I say Houston’s culture is worth delving into! The city’s unique bars are filled with diverse talents and visitors alike. Whether you’re in the mood to unwind with a cocktail or linger in some upbeat music–there is undoubtedly a bar fit to meet your needs. But, where do you start? Navigating the massive city can be intimidating. That’s why I took note of both my favorite and highly recommended attractions during my visit. Check out my list of the best bars in Houston below!
1919 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007
Creative cocktails served with southern hospitality–What’s not to love? Recognized as the best cocktail bar in 2021 by the Houston Press, Julep is a must-visit. Alba Huerta–a notorious mixologist and Julep’s founder recently revamped the menu. Her additions celebrate ingredients made popular in America by migrants. Huerta also partnered with well-known Chef Kate McLean to refresh the food menu. Although seemingly simple, McLean’s house burger is exquisite. Akaushi beef paired with french onion dip, savory-sweet pickles, and a sesame bun effortlessly capture Julep’s creativity. I paired the burger with the Nightshade Apero cocktail, a spicy, sweet, and satisfying drink inspired by South American bell peppers.
1517 Alabama St, Houston, TX 77004
Axelrod Beer Garden is a laid-back bar located in Midtown Houston within the historic Axelrad building. The Garden’s “door’s always open” mantra draws diverse locals, visitors, and even their dogs! This environment is both relaxed and entertaining as they frequently host live music, watch parties, open mics, and much more. They also share a patio with Luigi’s Pizzeria and regularly book locally loved food trucks. Peruse their calendar to plan your visit! I was impressed by the live entertainment and food varieties but blown away by their drinks. Don’t let the name fool you–the craft beer is a must-try, but their signature cocktails are equally delicious. I especially enjoyed the Electric Sunrise–Refreshing rum with homemade-simple syrup, lime, and passionfruit.
6412 N Main St Ste. C, Houston, TX 77009
Lei Low Rum & Tiki Bar is a tropical-themed pub situated off East 25th and North Main street in Houston Heights. The dimly-lit bar offers discreet laid-back fun. Lei Low’s familiar Polynesian decor, knowledgeable staff, and delicious drinks will make you feel right at home. If you’re visiting for Mai-Tais, they serve three varieties for only six dollars each every Tuesday. If you’re looking to expand your horizons, plan a Wednesday trip for live Hawaiin music and happy hour prices all night. While you can’t go wrong with the refreshing Blue Hawaiin, Lei Low frequently has rotating drinks on their happy hour menu. You can even take some to go!
Better Luck Tomorrow
544 Yale St, Houston, TX 77007
Better Luck Tomorrow is the best bar in Houston and one of the top ten restaurants in the country. The trendy bar is inside a colorful glass building off Yale and 6th street in Houston Heights. The acclaimed Chef Justin Yu and sought-after bartender Bobby Heugel deserve credit for the attraction’s popularity. A master of carrot concoctions, Yu’s carrot spread with flatbread is a must-try. When it comes to choosing a cocktail–you really can’t go wrong. Better Luck Tomorrow is continually adding new drinks to their menu. I thoroughly enjoyed the Sage Vice–a vodka cocktail with blackberry and pineapple notes.
813 Congress St, Houston, TX 77002
As the oldest commercial building in Houston–La Carafe is recognized as a historic place by the National Registrar. What started as an 1800s bakery adored by confederate soldiers transformed into a pony express station and eventually a dark cozy wine bar. If you’re a history buff or just want to unwind, head to downtown Houston. The old brick building is partially hidden in Old Market Square on Congress and Travis Street. Smooth jazz tunes flow from an old jukebox, transporting you to the 1920s as you sip on one of the bar’s delicious red or white wines. I cozied up with the house red all night and was not disappointed!
1039 Yale St, Houston, TX 77008
Eight Row Flint is a refined ice house in Houston Heights off Yale and 11th street. The bar has an impressive collection of whiskey but also offers beer, wine, and creative gin, rum, tequila, and even seltzer cocktails. The upscale bar’s massive menu can be intimidating, but their friendly staff is more than willing to point you in the right direction. If your cocktail sampling makes you hungry, head over to their food truck for delicious Mexican cuisine. Visit sometime between 2-6 p.m. on a weekday to get more bang for your buck with a happy hour that features $6.50 cocktails and $4 beers. Or choose from their everyday “Cheap Thrills” section.
5802 Fulton St, Houston, TX 77009
This eccentric yet laid-back bar is conveniently off the Northside Houston rail line in Lindale Park. If you’re in town for an Astros game or in the mood for baseball, this is your spot! The eatery opens early on game days and has a dog-friendly patio with televisions. They also have competitive daily specials and delicious eats. Monkey’s Tail is notorious for its Chango burger, and the delicious dish pairs perfectly with a cold beer after a long day of exploring Houston. I started my visit with a refreshing bodied SS Strawberry Blonde ale and ended it with a sweet pop-ichulo–a vodka and rum popsicle with aloe, lime, and watermelon.
518 W 11th St Suite 500, Houston, TX 77008
Kanpai Club is a great place to get away from the busy city. The hidden bar is in Houston Heights beside the well-known sushi restaurant, Hando. To access the isolated bar, enter Hando and walk through the door to the left. You’ll find a long skinny room, dimly lit and only seating ten people. It is perfect for intimate dates with partners, friends, or family members. If you’re in the mood for a quiet happy hour with half-off drinks, head to Kanpai Club between 4 and 6 p.m., any day. The bar features select Hando dishes and unique cocktails like their refreshing frozakes–a blended cocktail.
1424 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
Located in the eccentric Montrose neighborhood, Anvil is the first Houston bar dedicated to serving classic cocktails. Their close focus on high-quality ingredients and bartending make them unique, but the inviting environment is what keeps most coming back. Warm lights and brick interior are perfect for mingling and learning about the spirits we love to sip. With over 100 classic cocktails, rotating cocktails, and carefully-picked beers–finding the right drink can feel overwhelming. Luckily, Anvil’s founders, Bobby Heugel and Steve Flippo, pride themselves on education. Ask your bartender what they recommend, and they’ll lead you down the right path. Pair an Anvil cocktail with one of their delicious charcuteries for an unforgettable experience!
2913 Main St, Houston, TX 77002
Nouveau Antique Art Bar is in the heart of Midtown, just across from Midtown Park. The luxurious yet vintage cocktail bar is the best place to drink and feel fancy doing it. Tiffany lamps and glass lights that flow from every corner create a mellow, romantic aura. Nouveau’s 4,500 square-foot area is the most relaxing place to escape the city. While the Houston gem is only open Wednesday through Saturday, it’s worth fitting into your schedule. I’ll even let you in on a best-kept secret–a ticket stub from Houston’s museum, symphony, theater, opera, or ballet is good for one free cocktail.
1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
Calling all craft beer lovers to the northwest corner of Westheimer Road and Waugh Drive! The Hay Merchant’s exists to provide the highest-quality craft beer possible. Guests can choose from over 70 methodically prepared beers–talk about variety! Don’t worry, there’s something for the beer-haters, too. The Hay Merchant also crafts creative, classic, and frozen cocktails while Chef Chris Shepherd whips up bar grub unlike any other. Who knew crispy pig ears and a cold Waves-Blueberry beer could hit the spot so effortlessly? I don’t think there’s a wrong time to visit The Hay Merchant, but happy hour is from 5-6:30 p.m., and you can even bring the kiddos along.
310 Main St, Houston, TX 77002
Houston’s beloved mixologists, Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta, joined forces to create The Pastry War–a bar serving unparalleled agave spirits and margaritas. The bar’s high-quality tequila originates from Huerta’s family distilleries in Mexico. Located in Houston’s Downtown Historic District, The Pastry War is the best place to sip high-quality tequila and mezcal while soaking up everything the city has to offer. Timeless Dia de Los Muertos decor also makes for a cozy, happy environment. Visit any day between 4-6 p.m. for half off margaritas. Pair your margarita with a chicken or pork tamale, and you won’t be disappointed!
1617 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77006
The Toasted Coconut is a family-owned island-themed cocktail bar in the Montrose neighborhood off Richmond Avenue and Mandell Street. Award-winning bartender Sarah Troxell crafts tropical cocktails with a light spirit and refreshing fruit base while Chef Ben Ruiz concocts delicious eats, like sandwiches, burgers, and fish. Visit during any weekday from 4-6 p.m. for happy hour prices. If you’re unsure of what to order, get the signature toasted coconut cocktail. A combination of delicious house rum, toasted coconut, and lime will make you feel like your toes are beneath warm sand on a crystalline beach–Yum!
1641 Westheimer Rd suite B, Houston, TX 77006
Phone: 713-527 9929
This whimsical cocktail lounge is in the Montrose neighborhood off Westheimer Road and Dunlavy Street. The pink exterior, red interior, chalkboard tables, pinball machines, and eccentric art makes for a quirky yet comforting environment! You’ll find that the dive bar’s regulars and warm bartenders make for an unforgettable night. Poison Girl’s menu is less intricate than other cocktail bars, with a heavy focus on whiskey. However, they also serve beer and other liquors. Drop-in during their daily 3-7 p.m. happy hour for $2 wells and $3 draughts. If you’re looking for a fun buzz in a rare environment, Poison Girl is your place!
409 Travis St, Houston, TX 77002
Who doesn’t want to sip a creative cocktail while hiding amidst massive greenery? If that sounds appealing, place the Secret Garden at the top of your Houston bucket list. The new coffee/cocktail house is located inside a glass greenhouse in Downtown Houston off Main and Preston Street at Beverly Chef Hall. You can sit inside the impressive greenhouse or enjoy views of downtown from the 2,000 square foot patio. Expert mixologist, Jonathan Gallardo, serves unique carbonated, bottled, and frozen cocktails all evening. The Rose Felici cocktail is a favorite amongst visitors. Be one of the first to visit the increasingly popular bar!
2518 Yale St, Houston, TX 77008
Johnny’s Gold Brick bar is in Houston Heights off Yale and 26th Street. The tucked-away cocktail house offers both classic and rotating concoctions. Most Johnny fanatics value a relaxing getaway with good food and drinks. The pub partners with Pi Pizza Truck, which parks at their entrance for guests to access at their disposal. I suggest visiting Johnny’s Gold Brick on a weekday sometime from 5 to 7 p.m. as their happy hour prices are surprisingly competitive. Cocktails are only $6, beer is $1 off, and their notorious boilermaker (a shot and a beer) is $2 off.
913 Franklin St, Houston, TX 77002
Located in the Main Street Market Square Park Historic District in the Bayou Lofts, the Houston Watch Company is the best way to indulge in the city’s rich history. The building was built in 1912 and served as a quartermaster for railroad employees. Today, the building is home to a popular bar, but many of its original details remain unharmed. A friendly atmosphere and classic drinks supply an unexplainable nostalgia. Whether you prefer timeless or inventive cocktails, Houston Watch Company won’t disappoint. My recommendation is one of the three old fashions. Let your bartender know your preference, and they’ll serve you an old fashion that fulfills your cravings!