The lack of zoning in Houston, for better and worse, has forged a dynamic unknown to most other cities around the country. Sure, it allows for the occasional straggler strip club to operate not too far from a church and townhomes can overshadow the bungalows next door, but it also gives H-town some unsuspecting offerings that would never come to exist otherwise.
Take Wakefield Street in the Garden Oaks neighborhood. A random residential strip of asphalt just outside of 610 that’s home to four down-home bars in walking distance of each other. All of which are ground zero for some of the most well-seasoned professional beer swillers around and not just because they all open up prior to noon (which they all do.)
Because they’re all bars with a certain panache (and let’s face it, being able to walk anywhere in Houston is such a rarity), I implore you make this alcohol-fueled cannonball run down Wakefield and explore some of the more interesting and less frequented establishments in our good city. Now put on your helmet.
Plan your crawl to start here. Belly up to the bar and get yourself a Lone Star or some Bud product, because you’ll be hard pressed to find much else. It’s a beer and wine only place but the locals don’t seem to mind. Drinking liquor might get you somewhere quicker but this place is all about the journey and lots of patrons are already well on their way. Especially since many of them probably started drinking at the Dutchman long before you were born. Don’t be scared, the bartenders are as nice as can be and though the customers can be a bit on the surly side, it’s the jovial type of surly where you’re just as likely to be befriended as punched. Take that how you will.
Red’s Country Place
Mosey 50 feet directly across the street and you’ll find yourself at your next stop. Unlike the Dutchman Red’s serves liquor, so naturally the ‘weird shit happening’ factor is increased tenfold. Red’s feels less of a legal drinking establishment and more of a clubhouse. A clubhouse where some grizzled old-timer with a shotgun will barge through the door at any moment and accuse you of sleeping with his wife. But don’t worry about that now. For now get yourself a cheap stiff drink and immediately start playing video poker to attempt to blend in with the regulars. There’s an enclosed patio at the place that might be larger than the actual bar and could make a good place to hide if Grizzly Adams comes looking for you.
Bonus: Last time I visited, there was a random plate of leftover meat offered to the patrons. You can’t survive on only booze and video poker, though you totally can in my dream world.
The Catty Corner
Stumble (or perhaps run the next 1,000 feet if Grizzly Adams still wants to shoot you) to the Catty Corner. Even if you shake him you should probably watch your back at this ice house. It’s the kind of place even bums would look down on you for drinking at. But for that reason, it makes the perfect place to hide out from the world for the evening and shoot pool. Don’t make eye contact with the patrons unless you want to hear some crazy story, which you probably should. Drink your beer quickly and cautiously and move along for your own personal well-being. There’s still more drinking to do and the mission isn’t over.
The Petrol Station
Crawl 1,500 feet to the evening’s final watering hole. Drinking at the Catty Corner makes coming to the Petrol Station much more rewarding. Nobody is going to stab you here or make you listen to their story about how they lost their ear. You won’t find any Bud products; instead you’ll find some of the nicest microbrews to be found at this old converted gas station. The bar staff is knowledgeable about their beer if you have questions and the place actually roasts and serves their own coffee. So people are actually there in the morning drinking other things besides beer, unlike other places down the street. Get a fancy beer and if the weather is nice, sit outside at one of the picnic tables. Reflect upon your evening and call a cab to come pick you up. You drank all the way down Wakefield street.