Secret Bars in Houston
Your fast pass to Houston's secret society
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.
Houston After Hours
Can't Sleep? Why Should You?
There's plenty happening in Houston between midnight and morning. You just have to know where to look. Read on for our favorite late-night leads.
Late Night Bites
Flying Saucer: The 85 taps of beer may bring the crowds, but it's the grub keeping party people there until the wee hours. Dig into an eclectic mix of wallet-friendly offerings like bratwurst nachos, salmon pesto wraps and goat cheese salad. Kitchen stays open: Monday through Wednesday, until 1 a.m., Thursday through Saturday, until 2 a.m. and Sunday, until midnight.
Frank's Pizza: Located in downtown's historic district-within walking distance of several boutique hotels-Frank's is known for its New York-style pizza served late into the night. Meet the after-hours crowd on the weekends for a Late Nite Slice of house specialties like the Barbeque Chicken, Hawaiian or Chicken Fiesta pizza. Frank's dishes it up until 1 a.m. on Thursdays and 3 a.m., Friday and Saturday nights.
Hearsay: Situated in downtown's historic W.L. Foley Building, Hearsay Gastro Lounge opened in October 2009, serving upscale pub grub in grown-up style. Think: Warm-baked Goat Cheese Salad and Mahi-Mahi Tacos with fresh pico de gallo, spicy habanera sauce and southwestern mango slaw. Stop by the more than 100-year-old building, Sunday through Thursday, when the kitchen is open until midnight or on Friday and Saturday nights until 2 a.m.
House of Blues Foundation Room: Although the private club is typically off limits for non-members, visitors staying in a Houston hotel are in luck and can consider themselves members while they're in town. Just have the hotel's concierge call the Foundation Room to let them know you're coming and enjoy the royal treatment House of Blues-style. Set in downtown's GreenStreet, the 50-seat Foundation Room offers fine-dining dishes like center cut filet mignon, lump crabcakes and Ahi Tuna sashimi. The late-night menu is available until 1 a.m. and the House of Blues' main restaurant also keeps its kitchen open until 2 a.m. on big concert nights.
Last Concert Cafe: Don't be dismayed when you find the front door locked. Knock twice on 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 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.
Lucky Strike Lanes: Party people have been flocking to the Hollywood-born bowling lounge concept since it first opened in downtown's GreenStreet in 2009. Between games inside the retro-chic space, enjoy tasty creations offered on the well-stocked menu like coconut shrimp and Asian chicken skewers or crispy pizzas and the famous sausage burger. Lucky's keeps its kitchen open until midnight seven days a week.
BB's Cajun Cafe: New Orleans and Houston cuisine collide on BB's Tex-Cajun-inspired menu. Think: Over-stuffed po-boys, boudin balls and classic red beans and rice. Get it to go, have it delivered or dine-in at BB's 1,100-square-foot Montrose outpost. The personality-filled spot is open 24 hours a day.
Chapultepec Lupita: More than five-dozen varieties of tequila and 17 different margaritas draw party people to Montrose's 24-hour Tex-Mex mainstay, but it's the wallet-friendly fare keeping them there late into the night. Expect hearty, headache-diminishing dishes like quesadillas, enchilada plates and tamales, as well as bottomless chips and salsa. Chapultepec Lupita is open 24 hour a day, except Mondays and Tuesdays, when it closes at 1 a.m. and 2 a.m, respectively.
Katz's Deli & Bar: Late-night noshers purr over this all-hours Montrose eatery with a city-slick atmosphere. Crave blintzes at midnight or corned beef and cabbage at sunrise? Katz's is your place. Cops from next door rub shoulders with families, politicos and all walks of colorful Montrose life at this brick paved double-decker. Come hungry for one of more than 20 hefty, kosher-style sandwiches or daily specials like Yankee pot roast and meat loaf. Open 24 hours a day.
Theo's Restaurant: The Servos family takes a cozy, low-key approach to Mediterranean food from within an old, renovated house in Montrose. Dig into plates of octopus broiled in wine vinegar, a feta-dotted pizza or anything involving the sautéed spinach. In the mood for breakfast? Theo's delivers a mean line-up including Greek omelets, waffles and pork chops. Open 24-hours a day.
Christian's Tailgate: It may offer a lively party scene, but Christian's is all business when it comes to burgers. In fact, Playboy even named the spot's famous burgers one of the Top 10 in America. Head there before midnight for fresh, ground-chuck patties (never frozen) loaded on six-inch buns, toasted crispy around the edges and topped with mustard, mayo, onions, pickles, tomatoes and shredded lettuce. The dimly lit dining area has several TVs (all tuned to the game), a jukebox and pool table. Expect live music after 8pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Crispy or Grilled: Don’t be fooled by this mobile chicken sandwich-focused vendors simple name – their offerings are anything but basic and perfect for your next Instagram post. What may come off as any other food truck to the naked eye has become a reliable source of creative, colorful, late night meals for the Midtown area. Depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, you can try their juicy buffalo chicken sandwich or bet big with the insanely flavorful Asian Persuasion tacos incorporating kimchi, and finish off with their jalapeno ranch fries. Swing by until 1 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 a.m. on Thursday, and all the way to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Gotham Pizza: Craving New York-style pizza in the middle of the night? You're in luck. Midtown's Gotham Pizza is the real deal, made by real New Yorkers. The locally-owned joint makes everything fresh-from-scratch daily and is cooked in gas-fired deck ovens, which give the crust it's perfectly-crispy texture. Stop by Friday and Saturday nights, when Gotham stays open until 3 a.m. and put the other menu items (calzones, pastas, sandwiches and desserts) to the test, too.
Tacos a Go Go: Good food and good prices define this casual, yet funky Midtown restaurant. Located right off the MetroRail and next to the Continental Club, Tacos a Go-Go is the perfect place to stop for some of the most authentic Tex-Mex food in Houston. Think: Carne Guisada tacos, pork tamale plates and hearty burritos. The hotspot stays open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, making it one of the best late-night eating options in the neighborhood.
Pink's Pizza: Satisfy your middle-of-the-night hunger with one of Pink's inventive hand-tossed pizzas, pastas and sandwiches. Décor at the laid-back spot is shabby chic and there a few tables inside for customers that aren't ordering to-go, but what patrons of Pink's flock to the pie joint for is the delicious, thin-crust pizza and more than 15 beers on tap. The made-from-scratch creations make use of fresh, premium ingredients like prosciutto, bacon, pepperoni, provolone, mozzarella, spinach and mushrooms. Try it Friday and Saturday, when Pink's stays open (and delivers) until 3 a.m.
Max's Wine Dive: This upscale dive bar offers a standout wine list, late-night comfort food and a Texas-proud jukebox. Crowds of trendy diners vie for tables at dinnertime, sampling menu standouts like the Texas-style chili, kobe beef burger and king-size "haute dog." And it's not malt liquor, but champagne that diners sip with Southern fried chicken, shrimp and grits and knockout brownie and bread pudding desserts. Max's kitchen remains open until the hotspot's 1 a.m. closing time on, Friday and Saturday.
Andy's Home Cafe: Looking for somewhere to go after a concert at Fitzgerald's or a night out in the Heights? Andy's Home Cafe offers a solid blend of people watching and an extensive, Tex-Mex-leaning menu line-up. Open 24 hours a day, Friday-Sunday, the family-owned, hole-in-the-wall-spot delivers filling fare like enchiladas, breakfast tacos and hamburgers. (Yes, hamburgers. Andy's is eclectic, to say the least.)
Velvet Taco: Craving a paneer taco at 2 a.m.? Velvet Taco has got you covered. This Dallas-based mini-chain location serves up tacos with funky fillings, like Cuban pig with shaved ham and pulled pork, fish and chips, barbacoa egg frittata and a rotating WTF special. If you’re looking to feed the whole crew, they even have a Backdoor Chicken special that comes with an entire rotisserie chicken, tortillas and sides. The kitchen cranks out delicious tacos Sunday through Wednesday until 1 a.m., Thursday until 3 a.m. and nearly cracks dawn on Friday and Saturday by staying open until 5 a.m.
Onion Creek Cafe: Laid-back, come-as-you-are charm finds a home at the Heights' Onion Creek. Part restaurant, part bar and coffeehouse, Onion Creek has remained a popular hangout for locals and happy hour hopefuls to unwind since it first opened in November 2002. Find a spot on the patio and enjoy one of the delicious sandwiches (standouts include the Country Ass Rueben and O.C. Poyboy), as well as salads, hot dogs, Frito pie and pizzas on cibatta bread. Onion Creek's kitchen stays open Sunday through Wednesday until 11:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, until 1:30 a.m.
Spanish Flowers: Established in 1979, the Spanish Flowers Mexican Restaurant serves authentic Mexican cuisine with traditional Tex-Mex favorites. A popular tradition at the Spanish Flowers Restaurant is a complimentary bowl of soup (caldito) with each entrée and a complimentary piece of fresh fruit at the end of the meal. Voted Best Late Night Mexican Restaurant, Spanish Flowers serves up the taste of Mexico Monday through Thursday until at least midnight, but stretches service hours on the weekend, from 8 a.m. Friday through midnight on Sunday.
House of Pies: Part all-night diner and part pastry shop, House of Pies evokes the vinyl-and-Formica charm of a bygone era. Its lack of pretension proves appealing for everyone from delivery truck drivers and society matrons to curfew-busting high schoolers and off-duty cops. With sugar-free pastries, classic fruit favorites and sinfully rich offerings like the multi-layered Bayou Goo and chocolate cream--all freshly baked--there's a pie for every craving. The all-day short-order menu offers typical greasy-spoon fare, but the drink sizes are generous and the staff is the down-home friendly type you'd find in any Southern diner.
La Tapatia: Since 1989, the Torres family has been busy turning out home-style Tex-Mex Gourmet to the masses and today the business has grown with seven locations in the Greater Houston area. Head there for middle-of-the-night tortas, enchiladas and fajitas. Expect a wait after the bars close, as many faithful followers head to La Tapatia to wrap up a night on the town. The restaurant is open seven days a week: Sunday through Thursday, until 3 a.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, until 5 a.m.
Red Lion Pub: Owner Craig Mallinson makes it a point to give locals an authentic British experience with more than 20 English ales and imported beers on tap, as well as a serious menu filled with time-honored pub favorites from across the pond. Enjoy popular items like the Shepherds Pie, curry and Bangers & Mash from the comfort of a red-leather covered banquette or at a table near the brick fireplace in back. Red Lion serves food until 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Ruchi's: Don't expect your typical Houston Tex-Mex. This cheap Mexican food chain serves authentic Mexican food to the masses 24-hours a day. Brace yourself for things to heat up at Ruchi's right from the start, with the spicy, hard-to-resist salsa verde. Don't fill up on chips though, there's tortas, flautas and tacos al pastor to experience during your visit, too. Not in the neighborhood? The biz has several other locations in the Houston area, all of which are open around the clock.
Halal Guys: Houston’s only location of this popular NYC chicken and rice slinger has become a mainstay in the Upper Kirby community. Serving up halal basics into the wee hours of the evening, you can fulfill that falafel craving after a night of unmentionable antics. Not wanting to pile on the carbs so late at night? Ask to substitute the rice for salad, and voila, a healthy-ish late night meal. Pro tip: a little extra white sauce on the side never hurts. Catch the gyro-fever Sunday through Wednesday until midnight, Thursday until 1 a.m. and until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Dot Coffee Shop: Step back in time at the Pappas' family's retro-minded Dot Coffee Shop. The 24-hour diner, which opened in 1976, is bright, clean and decorated in its original, old-school style with wood paneling, vinyl booths and TK lights hanging from the ceiling. The menu has withstood the test of time, too. Large, southern-style options fill the menu-buttermilk pancakes, grits, chicken fried steak with country gravy and an endless array of house-made desserts.
Tan Tan: Looking for authentic Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine? Head to Tan Tan in west Houston, where locals have been enjoying savory oriental specialties for more than 20 years. Try one of the more than 200 items donning the Tan Tan menu or stick with customer favorites like the house rice cake, one of the 87 noodle soups or a traditional hot pot course. The Chinatown location is open until midnight every day.
Landmark River Oaks Theatre: This beloved theater in the art-deco River Oaks Shopping Center shows midnight movies every Friday and Saturday night, ranging from the Rocky Horror Picture Show with a live cast to classic films like Psycho and The Goonies. For people who are a little thirsty or would like a nightcap, there is a café/bar on the second floor.
Bowling at Lucky Strike Lanes: West Coast-born Lucky Strike Lanes brings its retro elements, modern décor and state-of-the-art technology to downtown's GreenStreet development. Set near House of Blues, Lucky Strike draws a fresh-faced, energetic crowd looking for fun nights on the lanes. Look for artwork from rising-star artists to be projected on floor-to-ceiling video screens and a stellar menu line-up boasting treats like coconut shrimp and Asian skewers. Lucky Strike is open Sunday through Thursday until midnight and Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m.
Bowling at BowlMor Lanes. In west Houston, bowling aficionados can put their skills to the test at BowlMor Lanes. The high-energy, luxury lanes-set along Bunker Hill, in Memorial-takes an upscale approach to the game with large, flat-screen TVs, a VIP cocktail lounge, premium stereo system and a well-heeled catering menu. Head there for a lively crowd on Friday and Saturday, but get there early because lanes fill up quickly. 300 Houston is open Sunday through Thursday until midnight and Friday and Saturday until 1 a.m.
Memorial Park: You would be hard-pressed to drive past Memorial Park at any given time and not find locals jogging the park's three-mile loop. Year round, the expanse-which has been dubbed the "largest urban park in Texas" attracts the athletic set for a number of activities like tennis, softball, biking, baseball and golf. Join other faithful followers between 4:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. for a pre-dawn jaunt along the Memorial Park Loop.
Fishing: Located 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Houston is a destination for avid fishermen. An estimated 3 million Texas fisherman spend more than 9 million days fishing each year on the 1.5 million acres of lakes and 80,000 miles of rivers, streams and bayous of Texas. Load up your fishing pole and hit the water early for a shot at long-time favorites like large-mouth bass, crappie, sunfish, white bass and various species of catfish.