The 5 Best Happy Hours in Midtown

Photo by Troy Fields
Make your way to Sparrow Bar + Cookshop's sleek bar for classic treats with a twist.
If you love happy hour as much as we do, you'll love this new series. We're taking a look at the best happy hours in town, 'hood by 'hood. To narrow it down, we're focusing on the spots with the best deals on not only drinks, but eats, too. From upscale eateries serving bar bites and half-priced wine to dives with cheap beer and burgers, we've got it all. See the complete list at the end of this post

This week, we're moving on to the bar-and-resto-packed hood of Midtown, where there are almost too many awesome spots to name. While happy hours at laidback bars like Little Woodrow's, The Dogwood, Saint Dane's, and Celtic Gardens don't disappoint, we've put an emphasis on the places with the best bang for your buck.

Honorable mention: Free finger foods at Piola's bar and $6 to $8 teasers and elixirs at Mr. Peeples.

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Hump Day Cocktail: Wine Spritzer at 13 Celsius

Categories: Bar Beat

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
It's Kristen Sandvig's birthday. Go in and tell her happy belated today.
It's Wednesday. Hump Day. Still two days until the weekend. Honey, you look like you need a drink. Here's our suggestion. Tell 'em the Houston Press sent you.

"If I won the lottery, I would buy you Louboutins," the guy down the bar from me tells a bartender. "And dildos."

Apparently everyone else in the bar would get $100,000 each from this older gentleman, a regular (though I've never seen him), but this guy, Christopher...he'd get shoes. And sex toys.

It's Christopher's last day at 13 Celsius, and it's the birthday of another bartender, Kristen. There's a lot to celebrate here. We do so with champagne. And spritzers. And some funky red wine that is making my day so much better right now.

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Hump Day Cocktail: Tuxedo Martini a.k.a. Sexual Chocolate at Char Bar

Categories: Bar Beat

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Just wait until Char Bar after dark.
It's Wednesday. Hump Day. Still two days until the weekend. Honey, you look like you need a drink. Here's our suggestion. Tell 'em the Houston Press sent you.

"You can't write about what you see upstairs."

Jeremy, the bartender at Char Bar, is wary of me. He knows I'm a writer, not a regular. Everyone else at the bar eyes me warily too.

"Last time we were written about, they said the tailor shop was closed, and it's not. They didn't even come here before they wrote about it. That hurts our business."

Let it be known: The tailor shop is very much open.

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First Look: Julep, An Old-Fashioned Southern Cocktail Bar With Modern Sensibilities

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
A julep and a raw oyster--the ideal southern afternoon.
When you first drive up to Julep, the chic new cocktail bar from Alba Huerta of Anvil and Pastry War, all you can see through the large glass windows is white lace with whispers of people floating somewhere behind it.

It's a cool, easy vibe made cooler by the mounds of ice you see sailing past on trays once you enter through the doors in the back. It's an ode to wealth and excess, to the people who could afford to buy ice and quality bourbon back in the day and who flaunted their high status with mint juleps, overflowing with chipped ice and fresh, green mint.

Today, of course, the space is air conditioned, and we can get ice at any corner store. But Huerta wanted to be sure and maintain the notion of ice as a symbol of decadence in her new bar, and the icy drinks, along with a small but powerful menu of cold seafood and hot sides, make for a truly unique experience--a tip of the hat to the southern past on modern day Washington Avenue.

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Hump Day Cocktail: The Ekvator at Provisions

Categories: Bar Beat

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
As the guy next to me said, "Even the bartenders are totally hot." Noted.
They're using science tools to mix the drinks. There's a beaker and an eye dropper and careful measurements, but then there's the rhubarb and the garlic honey and Etta James playing over the speakers giving the place a homey, easy feel. Science meets soul.

I'm drinking an Ekvator, described as bready but clean, but all I taste is clean, almost chemically so. You could scrub tiles with this genever drink, and yet a piece of pickled rhubarb mellows it out, makes more easy and comfortable. Science and soul, baby.

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Hump Day Cocktail: Old Fashioned at Poison Girl

Categories: Bar Beat, Booze

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
There aren't usually this many people here at 5 on a weekday.
It's Wednesday. Hump Day. Still two days until the weekend. Honey, you look like you need a drink. Here's our suggestion. Tell 'em the Houston Press sent you.

"The best thing about this bar is $2 drinks. If you go to Midtown, it's $8. Forget it."

I've never been to Poison Girl during the day, so I've always missed happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., where wells are $2 and drafts are $3. I've also missed the fact that the ceilings have high wooden beams and how wonderfully odd most of the artwork on the walls is. I'm an evening patron of Poison Girl, and I tend to grab a Lone Star then head to the back patio to sit among clouds of smoke and sweaty hipsters.

Today, I'm hitting up happy hour, though. Bryan is behind the bar in all his bearded glory, and my buddy Paul is teaching me the ways of the Poison Girl happy hour regular. There's candy on the bar, he tells me, which I know from squeezing up to the front and digging through the candy jar while I wait for the bartender to notice me. This early in the day, though, there's still good candy.

"There's no other bar where you can sit and eat Laffy Taffy and drink $2 drinks," Paul says proudly.

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Stock Your Bar With These Summer Party Staples Recommended by Houston Somms and Bartenders

Categories: Bar Beat, Booze

Photo by Megan
Well this is a great way to screw with your drunk friends.
As someone who loves to entertain and who loves to drink, I realized recently that my home bar is woefully understocked. When people come over, it's always the same thing: "Would you like tap water, gin, tequila or red wine?" Every now and then I'll have club soda or beer, and on rare occasions I might even have fresh citrus to juice, but by and large my bar setup is pathetic.

Because it's summertime, the time of year when I want to fire up the backyard grill and have a little get-together under the twinkling Christmas lights still hung in my trees, I decided to give the home bar a serious makeover. A primary problem is I need an actual bar and wine rack--not just a shelf where I stack booze--but that will come later. More importantly, I need to know what to stock.

So I turned to some of Houston's best bartenders, sommeliers and restaurateurs to get their advice on stocking a summer bar.

Note: People seem to be on a wine kick, so there's a lot of wine recommended here!

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UPDATED: The Best Spots to Watch the World Cup (and Toast to Every Goal) in Houston

Photo courtesy D&T Drive Inn
Enjoy the games from the large patio at D&T Drive Inn.
Update: After we posted this story on Tuesday, you (our lovely readers) and a number of local businesses reached out to us to tell us we neglected to mention several other bars and restaurants that are showing the World Cup. While we can't guarantee we're going to name every single spot, we agreed that there are a few more worthy of your time. We've added these places and info about their drink specials and celebrations on page 2 of this story. Thanks for all your input!

It's the most wonderful time of the year for soccer fans--The World Cup!

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is being held in Brazil June 12 through July 13. Even though most of us won't have the opportunity to be there for all the international excitement, there are plenty of chances to watch the games and yell at screens with like-minded individuals right here in Houston.

So put on your favorite jersey and join your buddies for some cold beer, pub food and a little country rivalry as we watch the most popular sport in the world at these great bars.

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Where to Get Food and Booze-a Near Comicpalooza

Chuck Cook Photography
All the ladies love a Stormtrooper, expecially if he's buying. (Shot at The Pastry War.)

One of the best ways to guarantee you enjoy any convention is to remember to take breaks away from it. After hours of being on your feet among thousands of fellow fans, it's important to get away for an hour or two, sit down for a while and get some nourishment. Besides that, do you really want to spend your money on overpriced "con food" inside the convention hall when there are plenty of good places to eat and drink within half a mile? (Okay, maybe you do if you're waiting to meet Stan Lee...but after that...)

The following places have confirmed that they welcome your business during Comicpalooza, even if you are in costume. In fact, some of these places really want you to show up if you're in costume. In costume or not, remember your dining-out manners. Just because you're dressed like The Joker doesn't give you a license to try and act like him.

As far as cosplayers walking to restaurants and bars, Houston hasn't reached the level of San Diego, where cosplayers essentially take over the area of downtown near the convention center. However, we'll never get that kind of environment without a few of us brave ones starting the trend. Walking with a few companions will likely give you the most comfortable experience.

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As Julep Nears Opening, Alba Huerta Talks Southern Cocktail History

Photo by Julie Soefer
Alba Huerta carefully constructs a julep, the signature drink of her new bar.
"Who knew I could exercise so much patience?"

Alba Huerta laughed as she recounted the two-year process of getting her new Southern cocktail bar, Julep, from conception to opening. Well, almost opening. According to Huerta, we'll be sipping bourbon from beneath the shade of our wide-brimmed sun hats within the next three or four weeks.

Huerta is more than just an award-winning bartender from Anvil and The Pastry War, though. She's also quite the cocktail historian, as she's happy to prove whenever asked about the concept behind Julep.

"The julep that was once medicine," Huerta says, explaining that the strong mint flavor would cover up the taste of harsh medicines. "Then it was a cocktail, and then a status symbol. It became important after the Civil War. The cost of ice was three times more than the cost of dairy, so if you could afford a julep filled with crushed ice, you'd made it."

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