Food & Drink

The Best Bars in the Houston Suburbs

Published On 12/05/2016 Published On 12/05/2016
Bowl & Barrel
Bowl & Barrel | Joel Spring/Courtesy of Bowl & Barrel

Did you know that there is actually cool stuff in Houston outside of Downtown, Montrose, and The Heights? Shocking, we know. Well these unexpected watering holes, sitting in slightly more suburban areas, prove exactly that. From north of the wall in Spring to the gardens of Pearland, the bars provide a treasure map of sorts, with the buried treasure being the discovery that you can, in fact, survive life in the Houston ‘burbs. Lost mines and happy times await.

Courtesy of King’s Biergarten

King’s Biergarten

Pearland

That castle on East Broadway you've always gawked at is King’s Biergarten, your go-to stop for biers, brats, and beer pretzels that you should most definitely dunk in Hofbräu Dunkel bacon cheddar sauce. Before it was a castle, it started as a snack stand selling beer and brats next to a car wash in 2009 and it expanded into a sprawling biergarten that locals flock to today. Here, you’ll find all types enjoying half-liters of Hacker-Pschorr Hubertus Bock -- including a ton of families, because parents need lazy afternoon beers even more than you do. The Austrian and German beer hall has plans to open up a second location, King’s Bierhaus, off T.C. Jester at the start of 2017. Until then, looks like it’s a quick trip to the suburbs of Pearland.

Nobi Public House

Nobi Public House

Clear Lake/Webster

In perhaps one of the most perfect examples of Houston’s “Mutt City” culture, all-American craft beer takes a trip through Saigon at this local Vietnamese gastropub. Sure, you can get craft brews nearly anywhere these days (we’re just waiting for the day when they start selling them at Aqua Car Wash). Nobi, however, is considered to be in the craft beer elite. Sip snifters, tulips, and pints from its 200+ bottle & draft beer program -- one that’s on par with any top beer bar in the loop -- and pick up a growler to go on the way out. But first, you’ll want to partake in the Vietnamese portion of this experience, with char-grilled pork, pickled jalapeño, and queso-coated nachos and fries, banh mi-style hot dogs and Sunday-only pho.

McIntyre’s Spirits & Friends

Lazybrook/Timbergrove

It may feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere (probably because it is), but this newly minted sports bar is the Pub Fiction of the ‘burbs. Meaning it draws in a hefty Sunday Funday crowd, which is impressive given its location. Perhaps it’s the expansive, flat screen-lined patio, seasonal 22oz suds and cool craft cocktails, and rotating selection of food trucks. Or maybe it’s the Pop-A-Shot games; or the envy-worthy table set at the bar’s center that is a legit adult swing set. And if you’re not into the food truck of the day, take a walk to the excellent taco stand just up the street.

Cocktails from Monnalisa | Hotel Sorella CITYCENTRE

Monnalisa

Memorial

Though most say you can’t judge a book by its cover, you probably could judge this European-style cocktail spot in a similar manner. Nestled away in Hotel Sorella, the luxe bar and lounge oozes sex appeal. There’s the twinkling ceiling and sleek indoor fireplace, for starters. Then there’s the open-air courtyard, inviting infinity pool hugged by draped cabanas and mood-setting lanterns, and live music on weekends. Oh yeah, and the drinks. Those are pretty good, too.

Hop Scholar Ale House

Spring

Spring already had great barbecue, and it got its first taste of great craft beer in 2014 with the opening of this suds lover’s ale house. There’s 47 taps, including two casks, that are constantly tweaked and turned, and in true H-town form, there’s a heavy promotion of local and Texas breweries. Sip pints of Brash Brewing’s Milk the Venom Imperial Stout or Real Ale’s 20th Anniversary Imperial Rye. Don’t know what you want? Have a tasting sesh with 4oz flights; and when you find something you like, grab a growler or a few bottles to go.

Cottonwood Houston

Cottonwood

Garden Oaks/Oak Forest

Reppin’ a fantastically huge patio, full bar & kitchen and roster of entertainment that runs the gamut from live jams and crawfish boils to corn hole and late-night fireside chats with your pup, this indoor/outdoor bar is pretty much the definition of easy-livin’. Go for the top-notch selection of bourbon and beer -- there’s an enviable lineup of Texas and Kentucky brown stuff and 42 beers on tap, two of which are cask-conditioned. Then stay for the top-notch selection of bourbon and beer because you’re probably going to be here for a while and it’d be hard to just have one. Then get a burger stuffed with poblanos and sloppily stacked with bacon, chiles, cheese, and a fried egg because that’s awesome, too, and you’re doing awesome things today.

Howie's Tiki

Howie’s Tiki Bar

Spring

Yes, there’s a vintage Tiki dive in the Houston suburbs, and yes, the city’s newest rum-fueled bar is worth the trip. Before opening up shop, owner Mark Voros traveled around the country to discover vintage recipes, some of which are 70 years old. Now, his bar whips up authentic and imaginative versions of classics from the South Pacific. Say Aloha! to Old Fashioned Voo Doos, splashed with apricot brandy and cream; or go Okole Maluna with some secret-recipe 1950s Zombies.

Petrol Station

Garden Oaks/Oak Forest

A different kind of filling station, Petrol has been satisfying the hearts, minds, and stomachs of local beer nerds ever since it entered the scene in the harrowed days of 2007. With an IDGAF attitude, no frills demeanor, and true dedication to highlighting real microbreweries (sorry Hopadillo lovers, you’ll no longer find any Karbach, here), it has become an absolute Houston classic. Bring a bud and make your way through the list of "Younglings," "Padawans," and "Jedis," an array of interesting, hard-to-score suds that even the uninitiated beer drinker can get behind. Just make sure to also smash the fan-favorite Rancor burger while you do so.

The "Dog Pile" | Danny Baptista/Courtesy of Bowl & Barrel

Bowl & Barrel

Memorial

You don’t even have to enjoy bowling to have a good time at this Texas-born stud. Though we bet after a few handcrafted cocktails or colossal German-style beers, you probably will. The boutique bowling alley and drinking hall keeps four of those German-style (and local) beers on a rotating tap, along with the usual suspects and the not-so-usual red and white wine poured straight from the barrel. Get hot fried quail and a “dog pile” of mini hot dogs to keep you going while you share a few pitchers of Velvet Mules and attempt to knock over some pins. It’s kind of B&B you can get behind.

DTO Galveston

DTO (Daiquiri Time Out)

Galveston

You can go to the island to spend some time in the sand, but you can also go to take a Daiquiri Time Out. The beachy dive is owned and operated by Brad Stringer -- you may recognize him from local favorites Boheme and Johnny's Gold Brick -- and he’s dead set on bringing Galveston a classic, island-style cocktail culture. Be sure to order one of the bar’s specialty daiquiris (duh), like the pineapple daiquiri made with Plantation Pineapple, pineapple, lime, and sugar; or the seriously boozy Zombie on tap, with Plantation 3 Stars, El Dorado 8 year, and Plantation overproof, plus refreshing hints of lemon, lime, pineapple, and passion fruit.

Preamble Lounge & Craft House

Preamble Lounge & Craft House

Clear Lake/Webster

When it opened earlier this year, Preamble hoped to ignite a #CocktailRevolution in the quiet Clear Lake area (its motto: “We the people, have a right to superior cocktails”). Its plan seems to have worked. The theme here is post-modern, Prohibition-style, with classics like the Ramos Gin Fizz and Corpse Reviver #2 playing nice with more seasonal inspirations, all of which are concocted using top-notch in-house mixers, syrups, and juices. Take the Colonial Old Fashioned, for example. The rye whiskey drink gets a fall smooch with allspice dram, apple bitters, and maple syrup. Superior cocktails, indeed.

Deacon Baldy's

Deacon Baldy’s Bar & Food Trucks

Magnolia

We don’t know who this Deacon Baldy guy is, but we like him. Part food truck depot, part watering hole, and part chill as hell, zero-frills backyard, this fairly new-to-the-scene spot offers 40 beer taps -- from 8th Wonder Haterade to Copperhead Red ale, plus craft cocktails (including build your own mules) and wine, if that’s your thing. Food trucks like Cousins Maine Lobster and Luca Manfè’s farm-to-streets Italian truck The Lucky Fig have signed on for permanent spots alongside a lineup of daily trucks. Just be warned: It’s only open ‘til midnight on weekends.

Hughie’s Tavern

Lazybrook/Timbergrove

Anyone who knows anything about Houston will not be surprised to find not one, but two Vietnamese beer pubs on this list. Hanging out at the unassuming treasure Hughie’s Tavern is kind of like hanging out at Cheers... if Cheers had 20 rotating taps, Viet-Tex-inspired grub and a way cooler crowd. Stop in the neighborhood hangout for a different special -- think $3 Texas beers, reverse happy hours, and $2 fire sales -- every day of the week (except Sunday when it’s closed), and grub on some shaking beef and Vietnamese barbecue wings while you’re at it.

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Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who things banh mi and beer is the new peanut butter and jelly. Clearly. Follow her @BrookeViggiano to see what else she discovers.

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1. Kings Biergarten & Restaurant 1329 Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581 (Pearland)

Housed in a castle (actually, an old computer shop, but it looks like a castle from the outside), King’s Biergarten & Restaurant is one of Pearland’s most popular destinations. The 350-seat space is dedicated to its authentic German beerhall concept, serving liters of beer and an extensive, Eastern European-inspired menu. Expect dishes like Liptauer Spread (a signature cream cheese-based spread served with baguette, and is worth the trip to Pearland alone), Bavarian potato soup (or Vienna Goulash if you prefer beef to potatoes), schnitzels, and sausages (from traditional brats and kielbasas to exotic varieties like rabbit and rattlesnake). The beer selection is equally as extensive, with brews from Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Hungary offered in liter increments. (For an even more authentic experience, sip your suds out of Das Boot, and remember to keep the toe pointing toward the sky.)

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2. Nobi Public House 241 E NASA Pkwy, Houston, TX 77598

Located in a strip mall in Clear Lake, Nobi Public House is an unassuming craft beer hall serving Vietnamese-inspired pub fare. The draft selection -- nitro tap system and cask engine in place -- boasts nearly 50 beers, and they’re served in pints, snifters, or tulips for the proper drinking experience. The list of bottles on offer hits nearly 150, and there’s a growler fill station to take your favorite brew on the road. Enjoy beers with Vietnamese dishes like char siu pork nachos, the Nobi Dog -- a beef dog topped with grilled pork, pickled carrots and daikon, onions, and house Sriracha mayo -- or butter garlic wings. And for dessert, the Bittersweet Sundae topped with two ounces of draft beer.

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3. McIntyre's Spirits & Friends 1235 W 19th St, Houston, TX 77008 (The Greater Heights)

McIntyre’s Spirits & Friends is a Greater Heights watering hole for beer lovers, sports fans (there are 40 TVs), and lovers of the food truck (different trucks for different days). The wall of 24 taps is devoted to Texas-essential brews, and is backed by a collection of bottles and cans. If barley isn’t your thing, there are wines on offer, as well as classic cocktails and signatures, like The One Time At Band Camp -- tequila, blood orange, blackberries, lime juice, agave, and Champagne. The back patio sports standard picnic table seating, benches, and high top tables. And a swing set, because really, what better way is there to drink beer than on a swing?

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4. Monnalisa at Hotel Sorella 800 W Sam Houston Pkwy N Bldg 9, Houston, TX 77024 (Memorial City)

Housed on the second floor of the Hotel Sorella in Citycentre, Monnalisa is a chic, upscale lounge with an open-flame fireplace, secluded booths, plush couches, and an open-air courtyard with an adjacent infinity pool (cabanas and daybeds included). The posh space features specialty cocktails and wine, as well as a menu of modern American snacks. It’s a high-end option for post dinner drinks, or a night out with friends. You can enjoy your fancy martinis with live music and birdseye views of the bustling central plaza.

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5. Hop Scholar Ale House 610 Rayford Rd Ste 642, Spring, TX 77386

Hop Scholar Ale House is Spring’s outpost for craft beer, with 47 rotating taps and a selection of bottles to choose from. Expect to find a glaring selection of local brews, accompanied by beers from around the world. And if you find something you just can’t live without, fill up a growler and take it with you to enjoy at home. Hop Scholar is all about the beer, so don’t come hungry (but if hunger strikes suddenly, ask for the collection of takeout menus and have your food delivered to your beer-soaked post at the bar).

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6. Cottonwood 3422 N Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77018

Cottonwood is a restaurant and bar that draws crowds to its home in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest with quality cocktails, craft beer, comfort food, and a massive outdoor patio. Cocktails include classics and signatures (ask about the frozen drinks), but whiskey is the spirit of choice, with primarily local and Kentucky labels on offer. Beer is at the forefront, though, with over 40 taps (two cask-conditioned), featuring a large number of local brews. The menu is appropriately tailored to the beverage offerings, with quality pub fare like frito pie, tacos, sloppy joes, and the famous Squirrel Master Burger -- stuffed with poblano peppers and topped bacon, pepper jack, jalapenos, and of course, a fried egg.

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7. Howie's Tiki 4334 FM 2920, Spring, TX 77388

Howie’s Tiki is bringing authentic tiki culture to Spring through classic, tropical concoctions -- Singapore Slings, Painkillers, Mai Tais, and Zombies, to name a few -- as well as modern inventions like the Kentucky Mule, Blood and Sand, and a Creole Shrubb-based Margarita. Cocktails come in quirky ceramic mugs, and sometimes on fire. For those opting into the larger-format libation, communal cocktails are served in fishbowls. And while out of character for a tiki joint, the menu at Howie’s offers more than just small bites, with a section devoted to burgers (with good reason), sandwiches, salads, sides, and dessert. Go, drink, eat, and make a night of it.

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8. Petrol Station 985 Wakefield Dr, Houston, TX 77018

Petrol Station used to be exactly that: a gas station. Now, this refurbished counter-service spot is dishing up of the tastiest burgers in Houston. You'll also find a fantastic craft beer list that's divided into beginner, intermediate, and expert levels. Once you've made your burger and beer picks (a favorite is The Rancor, a 10-napkin burger topped with cheddar, smoked bacon, and a fried egg), you can enjoy your meal out on the patio.

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9. Bowl & Barrel 797 Sorella Ct Ste 118, Houston, TX 77024 (Memorial City)

It’s no secret what Bowl & Barrel is all about. The upscale Memorial hot spot features boutique bowling (there are only 15 lanes, reservations are encouraged), beer (they barrel their own… get it?), and upscale pub fare. The beverage section pulls out all the stops, though, beyond just B&B barrels -- craft cocktails (by the glass or by the pitcher), domestic beer, and wine accompany the four house brews. And because you’ll likely work up an appetite from all that bowling (and drinking), B&B’s got burgers, dogs, meatballs, and upscale bar bites -- hot fried quail, Cornish hand pies, charcuterie and cheese boards -- that will keep you energized for the next round of ninepins (and for your next drink).

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10. DTO (Daiquiri Time Out) 2701 Market St, Galveston, TX 77550

Owned and operated by Brad Stringer, who used to whip up drinks at local favorites such as Boheme and Johnny's Gold Brick, Daiquiri Time Out (DTO) is the beachy dive you didn't know you needed. You'll find classic, island-style cocktails that are the perfect fit for this Galveston watering hole and are crafted with fresh juices and house-made syrups. Be sure to order one of their specialty daiquiris (duh), like the pineapple daiquiri with Plantation Pineapple Rum, pineapple, lime, and sugar.

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11. Preamble Lounge & Craft House 20801 Gulf Fwy #12, Webster, TX 77598

While Preamble is mostly a casual speakeasy-inspired spot, Thursday through Saturday you have to spiff up and leave the T-shirts at home to get a taste of the cocktail magic happening behind the bar. Belly up to the bar and order a classic like an Old Fashioned or a Corpse Reviver #2 (that’s the one with gin and absinthe), or get a seasonally inspired specialty like the Apple Pie Temptation (made with apple liqueur, lemon, cinnamon syrup, heavy cream, an egg white, and soda). Preamble doesn't have a kitchen (BYO food), but it does have a daily happy hour, which lasts all day on Mondays (so long, Monday blues).

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12. Deacon Baldy's Bar & Food Trucks 5451 FM-1488, Magnolia, TX 77354

Deacon Baldy’s is not your go-to late night spot, but it is the go-to for craft beer and food trucks. Whether you come with a group of friends or the family, the huge, barn-like pavilion sits guests at picnic tables where they can enjoy the Texas weather (there are no walls) while chowing down on offerings from rotating and permanent food trucks (i.e. the Lucky Fig) and pints from the 40 taps behind the bar. While it does have some domestic taps, the big draw is the astounding number of local (think Spindle Tap Brewery) and national (think Sixpoint Brewery) craft brews. If you don’t like beer there is a good selection of cider, wine, and classic cocktails.

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13. Hughie’s Tavern and Vietnamese Grille 1802 W 18th St, Houston, TX 77008

Hughie’s Tavern is a Vietnamese cuisine slinging craft beer bar that is as cool as it is casual with its 20 craft taps. The neighborhood hangout features varying daily specials — think half-priced beer and wine, $3 Texas beers, or $2 fire sales — and hearty, yet surprisingly refreshing, Viet-Tex options like Bánh Mì (your choice of protein served on toasted baguette with pickled vegetables, sliced jalapeños, and Vietnamese mayo), vermicelli (rice noodle) bowls with juicy meat options and traditional fish sauce, fried rice platters, and good ol’ burgers. You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you pair a local Houston brew (like Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.) with the Bánh Mì Burger: a grilled beef patty topped with pickled veggies, jalapeños, Vietnamese ham, and spicy aioli.

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