The focus of this blog has never been local, but given that we live in the fourth largest city in the U.S. and the fact that it seems that everyone has to pass through here at some time in their life, it is inevitable that we’ll write about Houston now and then. Despite the fact that this city, not to mention this state, have a way of getting on my last carpetbagging nerves at times, both Houston and all of Texas can be amazing places. Despite the things you see on the news, most Texans, natives and transplants, are beautiful, generous and just plain nice people. It’s not that those batshit politicians you see on TV, the ones that comedians and pundits love to crack wise about aren’t real, they most definitely are, it is that they represent the average Texan in only a marginal way.
I say these things not as political commentary, but as a way of showing that things are not always what they seem. When I first came here the breadth and depth of my misconceptions, and how quickly I had to discard them, was astonishing. I expected tumbleweeds and got palm trees. Where I was looking for a desert I found sandy beaches instead. Even better, if I want to see the things that I expected to see, this state has them too. Texas has a lot to offer. It may not be the paradise that some would make it out to be, but it isn’t the backwater hell that others say it is.
Two things will always define Houston’s true character for me, and both of them were hurricanes. When Katrina devastated New Orleans as she passed by (the eye passed well to the NE of NO), it was Houston that took in the majority of those that had to leave their homes. It wasn’t without some conflict and pain, but the generosity and love far outpaced those lesser traits shown by the fearful and those who like to stoke such fears. In the end many evacuees stayed on and Houston is a much richer place for that fact. The other event that showed Houston’s spirit was Hurricane Ike which hammered Galveston and Houston. Despite the damage inflicted and the horrible mess left behind, the people of this area banded together and helped themselves. Even our politicians worked together for the common good and put aside party ties entirely. They had to, their federal counterparts were useless. Eventually things became more normal for both cities, mainly through the efforts of the people who live here.
So, there you have it, my long-winded introduction to the joints that are on my short list of places I like to drink. Just like the city they are part of, some of these places can be pretty damn surprising.
First on the list, if for no other reason that it was the most recent place where Amy and I had a glass or two, is Cha. While Cha bills itself as a Champagne bar, they also have an extensive selection of quality wine and beer. Their food menu isn’t quite as extensive, but what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. If you get a chance try the BBQ Duck Pizza or the Foie Gras Terrine, they’re my favorites at least. Our friend Iris told us about Cha a while back and it is one of our favorite stops when are up that way. Between their happy hours, entertainment and frequent special events there is always something going on at Cha. Our recent visit was for a tasting of some very nice Bandol wines, but the conversation with staff, strangers and friends kept us there for hours afterwards.
Cha is located at 810 Waugh Dr. Houston, TX. 713.807.0967
Madeleine’s Wine Bistro
Amy reviewed Madeleine’s a few months back, calling it the “classiest place around.” While she wasn’t wrong at all, that description might make some folks think that this place is stuffy or pretentious. It wouldn’t be classy if that were the case, and classy it is. It is also one of the warmest, welcoming and friendly bars I have found anywhere. Great wines, great food, and great company make Madeleine’s a favorite of ours.
Madeleine’s Wine Bistro is located at 707 Bradford Kemah, TX. 713.385.8893
It might be the antithesis of Madeleine’s, but I love this place. It is dark and slightly grimy looking, but it reminds of the kind of beer joints I *ahem* grew up in. But underneath the appearance there are some surprises. A shot and a beer joint takes on new meaning when the shot is Maker’s Mark and the beer is an icy Shiner Bock on tap, and for a very reasonable price. The staff is always wonderfully friendly, and the crowd is the same way. During football season I walk through the door to a warm greeting before being directed to the TV that will be showing the Lions game. After seeing us suffer through so many losing seasons many of the regulars have even become nominal Detroit fans. One caveat, I have never visited later in the evening and have been told that is a much younger and um, exuberant crowd than when I typically stop in. But for my money there isn’t a better place to watch a game.
Third Base is located at 16504 Sea Lark Rd. Houston, TX. 281.480.2626
Long-time readers know that we have written about Chelsea many times. In fact, some of the posts on this site were written while sitting at their bar. It is funky, friendly and a veritable Cheers for winos. The only problem the place has is that it is so comfortable and fun that a promise to stop for just one glass almost always gets broken. It still has one of the best jukeboxes on the entire planet to go along with one of our favorite people on the planet, Mayra, pouring the juice.
Chelsea Wine Bar is located at 4106 NASA Pkwy. El Lago, TX.
Block 7 Wine Company
We don’t make it up to Block 7 often enough, but it is definitely a favorite. One common element of all of the places listed above is that they are not typical wine bars, one isn’t even a wine bar at all. Block 7 Wine Company kind of looks like a typical modern wine bar. If you are like me and avoid these kind of places at all costs, don’t be deceived by first impressions. This is no place for know-nothing hipster wannabes sipping overpriced glasses of whatever the distributor bought too much of. So, if you know any of those people don’t tell them about Block 7, okay? Houston has enough of those kinds of wine bars catering to that crowd. Here is what Block 7 Wine company offers: A fantastic selection of wines, excellent prices (drink there or take home for the same price) and a great menu that was designed for wine lovers.
Block 7 Wine Company is located 720 Shepherd Dr. Houston, TX. 713.572.2565