Houston Nightlife on a Budget
Houston, being now the third largest city in the United States, has approximately 2.7 million people living within the city limits. For years now, Houston has worked on re-vamping downtown and other near-by areas, trying to make it more inviting, exciting, and have more to do for those living within the 610 Loop or for those just visiting.
For the population living on a budget, especially the increasing number of young professionals in the Bayou city, finding a place to grab a drink or have some entertainment after work or on the weekend can be difficult. With all the bars and clubs available, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. And who can really tell how expensive a drink will cost with one to four dollar signs?
Having lived in the Museum District for two years now in an overpriced apartment while going to school, living off student loans and one salary for two people; my husband and I have found, through trial and error, some of the best places to go to hang out with friends while watching your wallet. Here are a few of our and our friends' favorites:
This little "hole-in-the-wall" looking bar has four Houston locations (and a few in Austin). Due to our location, we tend to visit Rice Village, but we have also been to the Bellaire and Midtown spots. Always a good size crowd (not too crowded but not too empty), televisions with all kinds of sports including UFC matches; open, laidback atmosphere with porches (all shoe ware and shorts for guys allowed!), polite staff, and good beer selections. They do not have a full bar, but they also have wine, Micheladas, frozen mimosas, and some malt beverages. Drinks are priced well ($3 - $5 depending on the beer or wine). Depending on the location, Little Woodrow's has games such as darts (free), sand shuffle board, billiards, and arcades available for extra entertainment. They have DAILY SPECIALS (Monday - Sunday) as well as a nice long Happy Hour (3 - 7 p.m. Monday - Friday extended on Wednesdays). It is truly a great "no fuss" place to sit, chat, have a drink, and unwind.
This place can be easy to miss having to share it's parking lot and "shopping strip" with a gentleman's club, but do not let this scare you off! The owner of this bar, Ryan, also bartends and is very personable. Not a large bar, but this does not stop people from coming in to have fun with the FREE billiards and Wii (on a projector screen). Depending on the night there may be a D.J. or the music is completely decided by the customers who choose songs off the electronic jukebox (and Ryan may even put in free credits to allow his patrons free song choices on some nights). Thursday nights are always Beer Pong Tournament night (10 p.m. - 2 a.m.), with no cost to sign-up and play the first round (first pitcher of beer per team is on the house!). Mondays and Fridays are Karaoke Night (9 p.m. - 2 a.m.), and Wednesday is the Wii Bowling Tournament where you can win a $50 bar tab! Drink specials vary from night to night, but beer averages $3 - $5, well drinks around $4 - $5, and martinis $8 - $10. All mixed drinks are made very well and worth every dime. Never left this bar without good memories!
Calling all "old school" arcade game lovers! This is your place. Barcadia is known for their wide variety of beloved arcade games from Ms. Pac-Man to Paper Boy to Frogger and so on. They also have three Skee Ball lanes, giant Connect Four, and large Jenga games...all for FREE! A few televisions sprinkled throughout the bar for sports and a porch, this bar offers a funky yet casual atmosphere to easily please almost any out-goer. Full bar with a large list of beers to choose from as well, Barcadia also does not charge you an arm and a leg for it either. Three beers (non-domestic), a well drink, and a martini totalled a bar tab of less than $20. Word on the street is they have amazing salads and sandwiches, so testing out their kitchen is also highly recommended. Parking is slim close to the bar, but they offer valet parking.
This Rice Village favorite (and "sister" pub to The Goose's Acre Bistro and Irish Pub in The Woodlands) can get pretty crowded but for very good reasons. This is one of your typical Irish Pubs with beer and Irish whiskey being their specialty, however, they do have a full bar with decent prices. They have one of the longest Happy Hours in Houston on Tuesday - Saturday from 3 p.m. - 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.! Brian O'Neil's has a pretty good menu as well, and have daily specials on their menu. They will have live music on some nights, and usually get some of the best bands and cover bands in the area! Rarely do they charge a cover to get in to the nights with live music, but if they do it is never more than $5. Just be prepared to keep an eye open for parking along the street or the parking lot across the street for free (parking garage will cost you $10!).
If you're looking for a more party-time atmosphere, especially on a Friday night, Union Bar Lounge should be on your list. D.J. every night playing Top 40 hits and old time favorite party tunes with cooresponding music videos on the televisions, this place is great if you're in the mood for dancing. They have $.50 well drinks on Fridays from 9:30 - 10:30 p.m.! Warning: It gets very crowded between that time on Fridays, so be prepared to stake out a spot close to the bar so you can return easier for another drink. Union Bar Lounge offers tables with couches (and some with a dancer pole) by reservation, and on Friday and Saturdays you can reserve a spot with a $20 bottle of vodka plus one mixer for 10 or more people (GREAT for birthday parties or bachelor/bachelorette parties). They are always packed for New Year's Eve, and offer awesome table reservation deals for bringing in the new year. This is one of the few places we still attend that enforces a dress code (no tennis shoes for anyone and no shorts for guys) but there is NEVER a cover.
This more sophisticated but casual bar is a common spot for the young professionals, and is pretty large compared to all the other bars we like to go to. Tables are abundant, but the later you get there, the less likely you'll find a place to sit. The staff is very friendly, even the doormen, and the mixed drinks are worth every penny! Happy Hour is held Monday - Friday from 4 p.m. - 8 p.m., catering more to the working crowd, with amazing prices (i.e. $6 domestic pitchers and $4 vodka drinks...and not the cheap vodka!). They have daily specials also, and recently extended kitchen hours (11 a.m. - 11 p.m.). T.V.'s all around showing various sports, and Pub Fiction has live music and D.J.'s on most nights. Billiards are available for extra entertainment for a small fee. It is also a favorite on Saturdays and Sundays during the college and pro football seasons with great drink and food prices.