We’ll probably never get over the indie-cool factor of sign-less businesses, the ones that require patrons to be in-the-know, just to find them. Looking for the city’s underground hotspots? Here are Houston's favorite underground establishments.
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. Walking into the discreet bar, you’re seemingly stepping back in time. The 60’s-era Polynesian décor and exciting drinks, often served in coconut cups or tiki mugs, make kitsch completely cool. There are over 60 rums to choose from and the menu includes classic drinks like the mai tai, mojito and original daiquiri along with creative concoctions like the Voo Doo Shark or Rummy Bear. Lei Low is a fun departure from other bars with its intimate feel and fun theme, a quick escape for everyone living on the mainland.
Last Concert Cafe
Don’t be dismayed when you find the front door locked. Knock twice on the big red entry 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 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. The 1,700 sq. ft. bar offers a low-key atmosphere, great ambiance, a creative cocktail menu and ample seating. Further, the bar’s outdoor balcony is perfect for enjoying drinks outside and overlooks Main St. Guests can choose between shaken, stirred or built concoctions from a list of over 40 craft cocktails, including house cocktails like the Daytripper or Cheap Labor. But rest assured, there are plenty of wine and beer options to suit.
You won’t find 13 Celsius’ name marking the exterior of Midtown’s European-inspired retreat, just look for a red-lit LED sign with the address (3000 Caroline) illuminated. Set in a 1920's Mediterranean-style building, the spot features an open-air courtyard, a windowed wine cellar filled with limited-production, high-quality wine and a 40-foot white marble bar—perfect for savoring a refreshingly-crisp, post-work Malbec and light bites. Stop in on Sundays for half-off a selection of wines by the glass and 25% off all beers.
Houston Watch Company
No. Houston Watch Company does not make watches. However, it does serve up modern drinks in a historic building. Once the Southern Pacific Railroad Building, the bar gets its name from the 1912 Houston Watch Company that was once located in the space and kept official time for railroad employees. Today, the bar’s atmosphere complements the history, but is stocked with American, Scotch, Irish and Japanese whisk(e)y options. Houston Watch Company also offers the old fashion cocktail four ways and a number of signature drinks. The upstairs also offers cozy seating and leather couches for larger groups. Go for the drinks and enjoy a fun piece of Houston history at the same time.
Mongoose Versus Cobra
Created by the same folks behind the sign-less 13 Celsius, Mongoose versus Cobra reflects Ian Rosenberg and Mike Sammons' appreciation for under-the-radar styling. Set on McGowen Street, between Main Street and Fannin, Midtown's 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.
No list of Houston’s secret bars is complete without a speakeasy. Marfreless is located in a nondescript building, secretly serving drinks behind an unassuming blue door. The bar was established in 1972, but has transformed from a dive bar to a true lounge with swanky seating and signature drinks. Marfreless has a downstairs perfect for socializing and sipping martinis while the upstairs offers a bit of privacy for a romantic date night. Proper dress required.
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 and peruse vintage finds. Don't be surprised when, after a few drinks, that circa-'70s, butterfly-collar, leather waistcoat looks like a wardrobe must-have.
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