The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Sports Bars

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Inside SRO on a quiet night.
If food and a clear line of sight to a fancy television were all it takes to make a good sports bar, you might as well build up those plaque reserves at home. Judging sports bars involves more utilitarian considerations than usual - some of us have even ended up at Buffalo Wild Wings at some point because of convenience or peer pressure, terrible as that truth is. But it's character, camaraderie and specialization that make sports bar great, as opposed to just a place to park your ass while you fume about everything your team should be doing differently.

Based on that, here's our list of the top ten local sports bars. The order is rigidly definitive, and if we forgot your favorite place, it's because your favorite place is actually worthless.

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Center Court.
10. Center Court

This Pearland spot has only been around for half a dozen years or so, but it's already older than the surrounding bars in its strip center. (Except for area ice houses, Pearland is a fairly young town, bar-wise.) It's small and brighter than most places, with plenty of TVs. What makes Center Court stand out, though, is the family feel (relatively speaking -- this is still a business that sells liquor and stays open until 2 a.m. on weekends) and the pizza. The pizza isn't the best in town, but the thin-ish crust variety they sell is some of the best we've had at a Houston bar. It comes in a dozen varieties; try it with goat cheese, spinach and grilled chicken, or go Ninja Turtle with extra cheese and pepperoni.

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9. Mezzanine

The crowd at the Mezzanine is a little too diverse to register on the bro scale, and it's definitely devoid of pretense. (Stop by for Wednesday karaoke for confirmation of this - if you're lucky you'll see a saxophonist playing over Mike Jones.) The skinny two-story strip-center bar cultivates a culture of loyal regulars and constantly sponsors special events, but it's also a good spot to drop in on once in a while when you need a conveniently located place to eat bar food and watch a game without being annoyed by the people around you.

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8. Maple Leaf

Maple Leaf doesn't have the most TVs or the most space. It is Houston's best hockey bar, though, which is kind of like being the best football bar in Bishkek, but still. If you don't care about watching hockey on television (unlike some other sports, it's much better in person), the Midtown bar also features darts, trivia nights and other diversions. Plus, there's one of those hockey-foosball games, which is just the icing on the cake. Hockey jokes, can't miss.

7. Christian's Tailgate

You can't talk about Christian's on Washington without mentioning the burgers. Minus the meat, this bar is just a rickety outpost on the quiet end of Washington - a good place to watch the game or play some shuffleboard and more relaxed than its cousins in Midtown and on White Oak, but nothing too exciting. The burger changes things. It's fresh and large, and one of the better ones in town. You won't want to do much beyond stare at the TV after eating one.

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The Den.
6. The Den

For a while the only way to buy alcohol on the UH campus was during sporting events (thank god Roberston Stadium serves beer) or at Chili's, with the latter being nearly as terrifying as sobriety. Three years ago, though, three partners opened the Den, offering daily specials and cheap Imperial pints across from the fancy campus gym. (Yeah, the people-watching on the patio is pretty good. As it is from inside, apparently.) They show every televised UH game, of course, and the place gets packed for the big ones.

5. SRO Sports Bar & Cafe

SRO is like Chuck E. Cheese for sports fans, minus the ball pit and with better food. It's enormous, with a couple different bars, dozens upon dozens of TVs (note to HD freaks: some are slightly older models) and games like air hockey and darts in a space the size of a grocery store. Alumni groups from various colleges take advantage of the space to hold meet-ups here for big games. If the rivalry continues after the Tigers move to the SEC, you could probably put Kansas and Missouri alumni on opposite sides of SRO during the Border War and the two sides would barely notice each other. Fun fact: That college football rivalry game is based on actual! Armed! Conflict! Over slavery! Fantasy football players will be over-stimulated here, in a good way, and Texans fans will be in good company on NFL Sundays.

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The ceiling at Richmond Arms. "You are my Arsenal, my only Arsenal / You make me happy, when skies are gray..." People actually sing that.
4. Richmond Arms

If you're a Houstonian and a fan of soccer - especially the Premiere League - you already know about this pub. Richmond Arms isn't a place where they'll be happy to put a game on for you. It's a place where, when necessary, they open up at god damn dawn for fans who are an ocean removed from their favorite teams. All soccer supporters are welcome, as is anyone who likes friendly bars and heart-unfriendly pub food. If you're not a soccer fan, you're probably at least a fan of drinking one of their many kinds of beer and mixing with an interesting crowd.

Location Info

Map

The Mezzanine Lounge

2200 SW Freeway, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Maple Leaf Pub

514 Elgin, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Christian's Tailgate Grill & Bar

7340 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Den

4835 Calhoun, Houston, TX

Category: Music

SRO Sports Bar & Cafe - CLOSED

444 NW Mall, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Richmond Arms

5920 Richmond, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Nick's Place Italian Sports Bar & Pizzeria

2713 Rockyridge Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Music

PJ's Sports Bar

614 W. Gray, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Griff's Houston

3416 Roseland St., Houston, TX

Category: Music


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41 comments
Toddzo
Toddzo

nick's place is the best sports bar in houston no question.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Nothing about the new Texans sports club??

Jamie
Jamie

"Hockey-foosball table"?

It's called bubble hockey. And I will destroy you at it.

Nathan Smith
Nathan Smith

I liked your list, Glenn.  Though for my money, nothing in Pearland counts as "Houston's Best" anything.  I'll admit I've never been to Center Court, and I'm none too likely to.  I'd swap it out with Bubba's on my list.

Omar
Omar

The real truth is that most sports bars in houston are pretty awful.  The ones that have spent money to be nice, with lots of TV's (Pub, Sawyer) also attract clientele that is there more to "see and be seen" than to watch the game.  The other places (such as Griff's, PJ's) are dumps.  Yeah, I like a good dive bar and all - but watching a 32" TV propped on top of an empty beer box in places where the AC is set on "hot air blowing" isn't that awesome either.  Used to love going to Ernie's, which managed to ride the fine line between the two - the Den was a nice option before Dynamo games too. Christian's on White Oak had great potential, but was there a few weeks ago and the sound was on somewhere between full blast and right next to the amps at an AC/DC concert.  In the end, usually end up at non sports bars, that show sports.

Ravenhill
Ravenhill

Forget the Super Bowl, the real big event this weekend is the start of the Rugby 6 Nations.. That is the best time to head to the Richmond Arms and witness the simmering rivalries of the Celtic nations as they do their best to kick lumps out of the English. Fun times!!

furioso ateo
furioso ateo

Watched Guatemala score a goal against Mexico at the Richmond Arms, so I guess that and the Cask Elissa make me biased but I think that place is great. Didn't really care for the food though.

Haecktoer
Haecktoer

Anyone been to Twin Peaks?

Saw a good Haven banner on this site, claiming to be the only restaurant overlooking Houston's majestic mountains....

sbterry
sbterry

I dare say that many of us have our "favorite" spot to watch "the big game", but I must comment on the inclusion of SRO.  I have visited there multiple times with the Gator fans during football season.  Service is spotty at best and the food has much to be desired.  I can't tell you how many times I have chased down my waitress or had my food order lost. 

My best bet is The Hideaway on Dunvale.  Not a plethora of TVs, but enough for all to enjoy the "big game" with the added plus of great burgers and other bar food. 

Peanutgallery
Peanutgallery

The Christians tailgate on Washington has just gotten sad. Drive by during a major game, and you'll likely see less than five cars in the parking lot. The burgers have also lost their quality. Headed to the one on White Oak for a good burger, but also a big crowd.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Good God, that is a horrible list.  I truly hope this is passed on to as few people as possible.

Glenn Livet
Glenn Livet

 Noted. And you probably will, I fucking suck at that game. Give me a handicap and we can gamble on it, though.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

I watched the last 5 Texans games at the White Oak location, but I and my crew didn't show up 30 minutes after the game started, so we were able to get seats inside, where the volume was just fine.  

Tim
Tim

I'll second this: I really want to like SRO and have been there many times as it was the closest place that had the game I wanted to see.  However, the boring-to-bad food and the crappy TV's are definite turn-offs.  I would only differ with the above comment with respect to service, which usually was good enough. 

Glenn Livet
Glenn Livet

 I still enjoy the quieter location - had a burger there a couple months ago that was still well above average - but fair enough.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

You prefer a quieter crowd... At a Sports Bar...  During the playoffs...That says it all in regards to this list. 

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

10 - Champps - Galleria9 - Coaches Pub - Midtown8 - Distillery 2520 - Heights7 - Big Woodrows - Galleria6 - Marquis - West U - and where I watched both Rocket's Championship runs5 - Sawyer Park - Washington Corridor4 - Lucky's Pub - Downtown3 - Tailgate - Midtown2 - Tailgate - Heights1 - Pub Fiction - Midtown

Glenn Livet
Glenn Livet

 That's my point - this isn't a list of places to watch big games. And for a low-key one, I'd rather be at that Christian's than most of the bars you mentioned.

And I think I agree with what Ruffian41 says.

Ruffian41
Ruffian41

You guys are like an old married couple arguing over tea or coffee. Anywhere you see fit to have a cold beer and enjoy the game rather it be football, baseball, basketball,tennis, pongpong, water polo, or even the great sport of underwater basket weaving is what YOU make of it. Life is short, get over yourself.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Lol. Yes, nobody wants to be around the raucous Astros regular season afternoon crowd...  Of course, I've seen that at exactly zero bars, so...

Glenn Livet
Glenn Livet

Where does it say this is a list of places to watch the NFL playoffs? Astros regular season afternoon game - yeah, I'll take a burger and a low-key place.

NSPORV
NSPORV

That's a doucherific list of the douchiest bars to watch a game. Do you wear your Ed Hardy & Affliction shirts? 

H_e_x
H_e_x

Waiting in line to get into a bar? Who would ever do that?

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

 Pub Fiction has been around nearly 7 years, so that statement holds no water.  Sorry you had to wait in line that one time...

H_e_x
H_e_x

My my, aren't we touchy? I hope you don't need all of your personal preferences confirmed to you by random people on the internet. And you keep complaining about saying that are perfectly apt for the places you listed. Yes, I am the unoriginal one, not you who chose Sawyer Park as a good sports bar. For a second I thought you might add Dorsia or Hudson Lounge just to fuck with us.As for new places, I tried out Gran Malo, and thought they had some tasty drinks. I usually don't go out chasing the newest and therefore best thing out there.But really, just accept that random people on the internet have different opinions than yours. I know it sounds absolutely insane, but people have a right to disagree, especially when it comes to places that reek of cheap cologne and brosefs. 

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

 Seriously?  Yet another overplayed saying from someone I doubt goes out to anywhere new.  But let's find out.  What place has opened recently inside the loop that you are a fan of?

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Half will be gone from the first list, as well.  Why would you think otherwise?

H_e_x
H_e_x

If it fits, it fits. PF is full of thirty thousand dollar millionaires.And I doubt you'll find anyone in the history of humanity who will argue someone doesn't know what they themselves like. Some people like to have their scrotum stepped on with high heels, others do not.

Anse
Anse

I can't go to Pub Fiction. I'm allergic to spray-on tan. The funny thing about your list, FFB, is that half those joints are gonna be out of business in ten years. I love Griff's, even if I don't love the rather sour smell of old frying oil that hits you right when you walk in the door.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

 This is to the last 2: 

#1.  The word douchebag is so completely played out that I reason anyone who still feels the need to use it as an adjective has the originality of Robbie Van Winkle's "Ice Ice Baby." 

#2.  As a native Houstonian, I'm quite aware of what I like in a good sports bar:  Lots of TV's, and a good sized crowd for the game.  Considering I always go with anywhere from 5-10 people, I could care less about what other guys make up the crowd, but having decent-looking women is always a plus.  And there are plenty of venues that have them. 

#3.  I know folks love to wax nostalgiac about the glory days of Griff's and Nick's Place, but here's the thing:  Sports bars weren't even in existence until the 90's; before that you had "Cheers" type places with one 19 inch TV over in the corner.  In fact, in the early 90's Nick's Place was a swanky new club called "The Big O" that brought in, well, I'm guessing the clientele that you folks tend to hate so viciously.

good2bwick3d
good2bwick3d

Pub Fiction and Sawyer Park? Total douchebag central. If you had a list of most pretentious pretend sports bars where guys want to valet list than yeah, add those two.

And the reason they aren't on the list is because a real sports bar doesn't need a 'big game' to get a crowd. The real sportsbars on this list are packed every single sunday of the NFL season, not to mention have regulars that watch NBA, NHL and baseball games. HUUUUGE difference between trendy and real there pal.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Pub Fiction? Douche central.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

 Oh, we have folks starting at 7:00.  I'm still trying to find a good cajun coleslaw recipe with crab & shrimp.  Trying to replicate the phenomenal one at Mandolas.

Glenn Livet
Glenn Livet

Well, we agree on the best Super Bowl plans, at least. It's a plus if you can sucker someone into waking up at an ungodly hour to get the barbecue started.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

We spent the entire Astros 2005 WS run at Pub back when nobody had heard of it, so maybe that leads to my bias, but there is always a huge crowd there for meaningful games, and that is my preference; to have a game-day atmosphere.  Now, as to this years Superbowl?  I suggest folks do like we do every year.  Find a nice house, make some BBQ all afternoon, and enjoy the game with friends.

Glenn Livet
Glenn Livet

You're preferring your preferences? Hey, good to know.

I've never been to Pub Fiction on a Friday night. Been during the day, during a game, though. Been to Sawyer at night and during the day; watched part of the World Cup there. Both those places...like I said, to each his own.

You should have talked to the toothless guy.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

As a person who's group is well known for having at least one person get to a place when it opens to ensure we get the best seats, I feel I have every right. You asked, and I responded.  And I'm quite sure you're judging Sawyer Park and Pub based on what?  The Friday night clientele?  Have you been to either for a football game?  I'd bet money you haven't.  As to your list?  I've been to every one except PJ's, which weirdly enough, nobody else has heard of even though we should have.  I will try it out, just to see if I'm correct.  But considering the last time I went to Nick's Place there was a guy at the bar with more fingers than teeth, I'm preferring my list. 

Glenn Livet
Glenn Livet

Some of those I can see - Coaches, Marquis, the other Tailgates. But Sawyer Park? Pub Fiction as your No. 1? To each his own, but you have no room to call out anyone else's list.

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