There’s something oh, so cool about going to a sign-less, hidden bar. You know the type: the ones that take a little work to find, have a well stocked bar, and make you feel like you’re part of an in-the-know crowd just for being there. Ready for a secret outing? Here’s our list of Houston’s favorite underground bars and establishments.
To get to Tongue-Cut Sparrow, you must walk into another bar: The Pastry War, Bobby Heugel’s popular downtown mezcalería. Walk to the back of The Pastry War and open the non-descript black door you’ll see near the pool table. A dark staircase leads to the small and intimate cocktail bar where patrons can not only enjoy an excellent cocktail but also excellent service. The 25-seat bar allows reservations, which you can make via text, but reserves half of the seats for walk-ins.
For a secret night on the town, head to the Henry Henke Building in Downtown Houston and take the elevator to the basement. There, you’ll be greeted by a neon sign that reads “Shhh…” Push on the wall beneath the sign to walk into Base. At this modern underground Houston nightclub, patrons can enjoy cocktails, bottle service, DJs, and a stunning light-studded dance floor. Go enjoy, and shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
Lei Low Rum & Tiki Bar
Need a trip to the islands? We all do, but for a quick fix, visit Lei Low Rum & Tiki Bar in the Heights. The discreet and intimate bar, with its 60s-era Polynesian décor and cocktails poured in coconut cups or tiki mugs, is a fun departure from other bars. Its menu has a selection of more than 60 rums and cocktails that range from the classic to more inventive concoctions. To find it, look for the Aloha graffiti in the nondescript shopping center where it’s located.
Last Concert Cafe
Look for the big red door to gain entry into this hidden gem that once served as a Warehouse District-based bordello. These days, the venue serves up a welcome mix of Tex-Mex fare, margaritas and live music. Dine inside or snag a seat on the patio. Last Concert Cafe’s kitchen keeps it coming until midnight Friday and Saturday night, while the bar and concerts keep rocking until 2 a.m.
Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar & Spirit Lounge
Through an unassuming door and narrow staircase on Main St. in Downtown Houston, you’ll find Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar & Spirit Lounge. This small bar offers a low-key atmosphere, great ambiance, a creative cocktail menu and ample seating. Further, the bar’s outdoor balcony overlooking Main St. is perfect for enjoying drinks outside. Choose from a list of over 40 craft cocktails and plenty of wine and beer options.
Houston Watch Company
It's easy to miss the narrow entrance of Houston Watch Company on Franklin Street (look for it next to the lobby of Bayou Lofts) or think that it’s a watch shop (it’s not). Once the Southern Pacific Railroad Building, the bar gets its name from the 1912 Houston Watch Company that was once located there and kept official time for railroad employees. Today, the bar is well stocked with American, Scotch, Irish and Japanese whisk(e)ys, and its bartenders make a good Old Fashioned. Go for the drinks and enjoy a piece of Houston history, too.
Marfreless Bar in River Oaks has been around since 1972, and although it’s undergone a relocation, ownership changes, and renovations, it remains a Houston nightlife staple. Don’t look for a sign; you’ll know you’re in the right place when you come upon the bar’s iconic blue door. Enjoy a martini at the downstairs bar or retreat to the dimly lit upstairs area where cozy sofas are a favored make-out spot for couples.
Mongoose Versus Cobra
Located on McGowen Street, between Main Street and Fannin, this Midtown beer and spirit emporium mixes industrial aesthetics with homestyle design. Built in 1915, the ivy-covered structure was originally a grocery store, and has housed a number of other businesses through the years. While not exactly hard to find, a sign is nowhere to be seen. Go to Mongoose Versus Cobra for its well thought out selection of craft beers and spirits, and a rotating selection of cocktails. If you get hungry, the “groceries” section of the menu includes snacks, sandwiches and charcuterie boards.
Originally a clothing store dating back to the first half of last century, Notsuoh is one of the only bar-clothing stores on the planet. Located along the MetroRail, the spot is marked by a retro-cool neon 'Clarks' sign hanging outside. Inside, sip on a gin and tonic, peruse vintage finds, and enjoy the changing lineup of live musical and performing arts.
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