I intended to only do one more guide entry, called “My Favorite Things” but I got to thinking that I had neglected a couple of important topics, namely the fuel of champions! So here I’ll do a quick survey of coffee options downtown/around the convention center, and then a few of the more notable drinking establishments in the area that haven’t been mentioned already.
I should mention that I am not a coffee aficionado. I mean, I like a nice medium roast Latin American or African coffee, which I brew at home. But years in the field and a raging caffeine addiction mean that I can swill the worst hotel and gas station coffee to jumpstart my day if needed. I don’t know much of anything about baristas and cold pressed and what not; I’m that dude who orders a medium cup of house blend and goes about his day. With that said…
Let’s start with a place not far from the Convention Center and run by an acquaintance of mine and his brother: Wright Brothers Brew and Brew, on 5th street 2 short blocks east of I-35. In addition to a full espresso bar that opens at 7am, they also have 38 craft beers on tap for afternoon and evening enjoyment. There’s also breakfast available to get your day started, and sandwiches for later in the day.
A little further east, on east 6th between Attayac and Navasota, is Rio Rita. They open at 8am and don’t have much in the way of breakfast, but there’s a number of espresso and coffee drinks available. Even better, stop by later in the day for happy hour or evening drinks and try one of their cocktails featuring a variety of infused liquors.
If you’re south of the river, drop by Jo’s Coffee Stand on south Congress, (they also have a location on west 2nd Street) or Dominican Joe at south Congress and Riverside (near hotels and not far from Convention Center).
Houndstooth Coffee is a favorite of a friend of mine, and they have a location at 4th and Congress, not far from the Convention Center and close to some of the hotels. Also on Congress, at 2nd Street inside the Austonian, is Caffe Medici.
For those seeking something more familiar, a certain world famous coffee chain has a spot on 6th and Congress, two other locations closer to the Convention Center, and I think they also have a stand inside the Convention Center itself.
Finally, an unlikely place that I’ve heard has the best coffee in town: Frank, on 4th and Colorado. Frank is a fancy (and delicious) hot dog and sausage restaurant, but they open at 8 am daily with breakfast and coffee.
Now, something I know a bit more about: BOOZE. I already covered Rainey Street, so we won’t mention that again (but you can click on the link to read the post). Downtown has numerous restaurants and bars, ranging from gross college shot bars with doorguys trying to reel you in with $2 wells, to upscale craft cocktail places where mustachioed mixologists with arm garters and porkpie hats will tell you about their custom bitters.
First: for happy hours and general social drinking, just avoid Dirty Sixth street (the stretch between Congress Avenue and I-35). In fact, outside of eating at a couple of places I’ll mention tomorrow, just try to avoid that stretch entirely (use Red River). BUT, tucked away on Trinity St, between dirty 6th and 7th, is Chicago House, an excellent and quiet craft beer bar (with a booze menu as well). A rotating menu of local and national craft beers, mainly seasonal, catering to all tastes. I fell in love with sour beer here.
Mugshots, just west of Red River on 7th, is part of a local chain known for their heavy pours. In general, this is a pretty chill dive bar with cheap drinks, pool and foosball, a decent jukebox, and a photobooth (hence “Mugshots”). Worth dropping in if you’re in the area.
On the east side of Red River on 7th is Sidebar, my favorite bar west of the highway. It’s also a pretty chill dive bar with cheap drinks and pool, and really nice bartenders. They are also notorious for their heavy pours, so much so that the “Sidebar pour” has an Urban Dictionary entry. This is definitely a good place to grab a happy hour drink before eating or evening sessions, and I suspect some of my readers will be there on Thursday for the potlatch.
More upscale drinking can be found and Congress and west, between Cesar Chavez and 6th. I generally don’t frequent this area, as I’m a lowbrow guy. Also, like most archaeologists, I’m not wealthy and would prefer to get 8 beers for $20, rather than one cocktail. THAT SAID, I’ve enjoyed fancy cocktails at Peche, and they have good food too. Several other good bars are also along that 4th St. strip, and Frank is nearby with their delicious dogs and signature cocktails, like The RedHeaded Stranger featuring bacon-infused Tito’s Vodka.
East of the highway is a mix of upscale and lowbrow, and considered to be the “hipster” bar and dining area. There are too many places to list over here, with so many bars and food trailers and more opening weekly it seems. Some spots were already mentioned under BBQ, tacos, and live music. Here are a couple more:
Violet Crown Social Club is a relatively quiet, dark bar that mixes upscale and lowbrow nicely. Not as hipster as other places. They also have the Via 313
cheesy bread Detroit-style pizza trailer out front, and you can order from there and have it delivered inside to enjoy with a nice cold beer.
East Side Show Room is your closest craft cocktail place and gourmet restaurant.
Wonderland took over what used to be Cheer-Up Charlies, but maintains a dive-bar attitude. They also house the East Side King Thai-Kun trailer. And speaking of trailers, one of the main food trailer parks is located next door.
Finally, there’s The Brixton, which was also known as Rocket Room 6 for one weekend thanks to Bar Rescue. I actually haven’t been here since the remodel but, like many of the places I’ve mentioned, it’s a nicer dive bar with cheap drinks, a good happy hour, a good jukebox, a nice outdoor area, and a good crowd of regulars. They have local beers and seasonal cocktails to go with the tallboys and shots of Jameson and Fireball.