Visit Your Own Hometown: Houston's Top 10 Hotel Bars

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Drink like the grown-up you secretly are at hotel bars such as the Remington at the St. Regis.
There are distinct advantages to drinking in hotel bars, even at hotels in the city where you live. There is always wi-fi available. The bartender doesn't care if you nurse or linger over your drink; most people are just biding time between meetings or flights anyway. You'll meet interesting people from all over the world, especially at the larger or posher bars in town. And you'll never encounter hordes of young twentysomethings doing Red Bull bombs or shots of Jäger to the throbbing sounds of Pitbull over the speakers.

Hotel bars are one of the last sane refuges of the civilized adult imbiber. In fact, the only real shame to drinking in a hotel bar in your hometown is if you're drinking alone -- that's a right reserved for travelers. Go drink alone at the Lone Star Saloon like a proper Houstonian and bring a friend with you to have a classy cocktail when you head out to a hotel bar. (Bonus: It's also an impressive option for a date.)

Until very recently, I was only a regular at a small handful of Houston hotel bars: Line & Lariat -- which used to be Voice -- in the Hotel Icon, where the Manhattans have always been top-notch. And the Monarch at Hotel ZaZa, where you can have a dignified yet laid-back lunch or drinks right across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Yesterday, however, I decided to familiarize myself with a dozen more Houston hotel bars after being given this assignment -- I can't very well write about bars I've never set foot inside of, after all. So I packed a bunch of dollar bills for the valets and headed out to visit some of the city's finest hotel bars. Nearly 11 hours later, far poorer than when I started out, and down at least one-fifth of my liver, here's how the list of Top 10 hotel bars shook out.

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10. Hilton Americas

Hours: 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, noon to 2 a.m. Sunday
Valet: $30 (you can find parking downtown for free after 6 p.m. and all day on Sundays)

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The big draw of the bar in the lobby of the massive Hilton Americas is evident from the moment you walk in: a massive, gold-and-blue topographical map of the world that is hard to tear your eyes away from, even as you drink. True to most lobby bars, there's plenty of diverse, comfortable seating in the form of couches, chairs and barstools. The long bar itself is well-stocked, and it's an impressive spot to meet for a drink or catch up on e-mails over a beer downtown.

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This margarita owes its bright green hue to the Red Bull it's mixed with. Approach with caution.
Unfortunately, the service can be lukewarm, and most of the cocktails are pretty dire. I'd advise sticking with a beer or glass of wine here, as even the pours of neat liquor -- seriously, stay away from the cocktails -- are minuscule and heavily overpriced. You're better off heading to Spencer's for Steaks and Chops right down the hallway.


Location Info

Venue

Map

Valentino Houston & Vin Bar (Hotel Derek)

2525 W. Loop S., Houston, TX

Category: Music

024 Grille

945 N. Gessner Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Sam Bar

1117 Prairie, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Monnalisa Bar

800 W. Sam Houston Parkway N., Houston, TX

Category: Music

The Remington

1919 Briar Oaks Lane, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Magnolia Hotel

1100 Texas Ave., Houston, TX

Category: General

Monarch Restaurant & Lounge

5701 Main, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Line & Lariat

220 Main St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Four Seasons Hotel

1300 Lamar St., Houston, TX

Category: General

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12 comments
kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

p.s. We switched to a new commenting system today, guys, so my apologies for the comments on this post that were knocked out. Burn all the boats!

Houstess
Houstess

024 Bar has been 024 Bar since the hotel opened last year.  The restaurant has recently been renamed 024.  Four Seasons is a long time favorite for classy cocktailing.  I also like the Black Swan at the Omni on Riverway.

Chelsea Bourne
Chelsea Bourne

The skinny margarita at the four seasons is so great!!!  I understand that the whole cocktail menu was recently re-done... new bar manager or something.  Well, he did a good job!!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I will say, however, that at one bar -- which shall go unnamed -- we watched the mating ritual of two divorced 50-year-olds: a gentleman who looked like the guy who thinks he's funnier than the comedian on stage at a stand-up show, wearing his best gold chains and Tommy Bahama shirt. And a woman whose crunchy, bleached blonde hair and solar nails were easily the least overprocessed things about her. They quickly ran out of things to talk about, so we watched her rub her taloned hand across his rayon slacks while they discussed their individual teeth whitening procedures with relish.

AtaboyLuther
AtaboyLuther

A parking curb in front of the old Big Chief Motel was a favorite drinking spot.  Among your picks, the Alden, ZaZa, and the Hilton Americas are top notch.

hookem
hookem

The Whiskey flights at the Four Seasons are awesome, great way to try something new.  The server was surprisingly knowledgeable about their offerings, and steered me towards a Glenlivet flight showcasing different ages of scotch.  Would love to go back and try out the $80 flight to see what's the big deal with really expensive scotch.  

WhiskeyR
WhiskeyR

Thanks, that's why I asked.

Jeff
Jeff

I saw a couple at the Hilton Americas once. It was sort of like being in a blind on a nature preserve watching mating wildebeests or something.

Seriously?
Seriously?

After one of the most exhaustive rundowns of hotel bars -- or anything for that matter -- on the blog, that's what you've got? Yes, because clearly the person who put together this massive list with photos and descriptions didn't bother to look into anything else beforehand because that would be too much work. I think my eyes just rolled out of my head.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I was told by several folks that the Lancaster wasn't worth visiting, but now I'm intrigued all over again. Will make it a point to check it out very soon.

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