Trying to find the best bars in Houston to socialize with your friends and enjoy a great night out is one thing, but what about when it comes to the oldest bars in Houston?
Whether you want to learn more about the history of Houston or enjoy the ambiance of an old-worldly environment to enjoy a meal or a drink, I have got you covered with this guide to the oldest yet operational bars in Houston.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to history, and I am always on the lookout for the oldest buildings and most historical sites wherever I visit in the world.
I am no different regarding socializing, eating, and drinking. This is why I have put together this guide, so if you share my interests, you, too, can visit some of the oldest bars in Houston.
The 7 Oldest Bars in Houston And Where to Find Them?
One thing that I love about visiting these old bars is the fact they have so much to offer in terms of atmosphere and character. I especially love it when they hold on to all their original architecture and quirks.
I have been looking in-depth into Houston’s most aged and traditional bars for this guide.
I have looked at what each place offers in terms of character and quaint features, what they serve, and where you can find them in the city.
Also, I will give you a snippet of information about the legacy of the buildings, but don’t worry, I will leave some information for you to discover during your visit.
I have also noted some price scales; whether you’re heading out for a quick drink or a late dinner, I have given you a brief idea of what you can expect to spend.
Let’s do some digging into the oldest bars in Houston.
|Address||3416 Roseland Street, Houston, TX 77006|
Griffs is the oldest sports bar in Houston. Michael Griffin opened it to bring a bit of Irish culture to the city and offer somewhere for the sports fans in the area to come and enjoy the games.
Now, it is the longest surviving sports bar in the area. It is well known for its Irish links and sports fanatics and is also the home of the largest St. Patrick’s festival in the whole of Texas.
The original owners sold the pub a few years ago to pass on to the younger generation. However, if you’re lucky during your visit, you’ll still find him sitting at the bar and enjoying what he once created. I’m confident he’s hugely proud of how popular his creation still remains.
While Michael was running the pub, he set up a group that is still ongoing to this day called Griff’s Army!
The group comprises a bunch of sports enthusiasts and professional players, old and young. Anyone is welcome to join the group, and once a member, you can participate in group game-watching or meet for a drink before heading out to a live game.
The pub has also won many awards, such as the best bloody mary in Houston, the 8th best bar in America, and the best sports bar in Houston, to name a few.
They have a great menu with a wide variety of meals, such as hot dogs, fish and chips, wings, and their world-famous burger. The food is all low cost, and you can get a decent portion for around $10.00.
Although the bar has been used for many purposes over the years, it remains in operation as one of Houston’s oldest bars.
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2. La Carafe
|Address||813 Congress St, Houston, TX 77002|
La Carafe was started initially as a bakery in 1860. It has also been purposed as a salon, a boarding house, and a trading post. It is also thought to be the oldest operational building in Houston.
For this reason, many people don’t consider it one of the oldest bars in Houston. However, I believe that with such history behind it, it definitely makes the cut.
The two-story building was transformed into what it is today during the 1950s. Located in the historic part of the Old Market Square in Downtown Houston, this tiny building is showing signs of wear which is expected for a structure that has been standing for over 150 years.
The bar is set on a sloping street, which adds to its quaint character, yet inside, it’s surprisingly level-floored. Inside, you can see all the original brickwork, although the wooden framed windows have had to be replaced over time.
It may not be much to look at from the outside, but as soon as you set foot inside, you’re swamped with history seeping out of the walls. It feels warm, welcoming, and cozy, with dim lighting and low ceilings. A dimly lit chandelier is hanging above, giving off a slightly eerie ambiance.
In terms of what they offer for entertainment, although they don’t have a food option, they often host quaint jazz nights, a brilliant duke box, and a lovely selection of wine. It’s the perfect spot to go and cozy up with a glass of red wine in the winter while you get to meet the locals.
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3. West Alabama Ice House
|Address||1919 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77098|
This is the oldest operational bar in Houston. However, if you didn’t read about its history, you would not guess on appearance.
This site started as a store that sold ice before people had such things as refrigeration. Over the years, ice houses began selling other products, such as eggs, milk, and gasoline.
Ice houses started to grow in popularity because they were so convenient, and they soon became something of a gathering spot for locals around Texas, and this ice house was no different.
In fact, in the modern day, as other ice houses have fallen off the map or closed down, West Alabama Ice House stands strong and is still as popular as it ever was. I think this is probably because the owners have never been afraid to move and grow with the times.
As it stands today, this ice house is adorned with picnic benches around the front and sides of the building, where you can eat food from local street vendors, such as barbacoa chicken and tacos or crawfish. The food prices vary, as the traders have their menus, but most are more than reasonable.
This ice house prides itself on non-judgmental diversity and welcomes customers of all backgrounds, appearances, and ages, contributing to its popularity.
It’s also a hot spot for motorcyclists and college students on the weekend, so if you’re looking for a quieter experience, check it out midweek, but don’t worry, the weekend visitors are a good crowd.
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4. Leon’s Lounge
|Address||1006 McGowen Street, Houston, TX 77002|
Formally known as La Bomba, Leon’s is one of the longest-standing bars in the whole of Houston, tucked away in Midtown’s hippie party scene. It is now a favorite amongst bar dwellers and party hunters in the area.
The bar has changed ownership many times over the years but has been owned by Duane Bradley since 2015, who made it what it is today after a year of closure.
Inside the bar, you walk into a dimly lit lounge-style area with large cushioned seating, beautiful stained glass windows, and elaborate chandeliers which cast a sinister glow over the old dark bar. There are also two back rooms, where you’ll find a foosball table, pool table, and quaint piano lounge.
In the background, the jukebox often ticks away with music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. They also frequently host live music from local artists. Check out their website for their schedule of upcoming events.
They don’t have a food menu here, but they have a great selection of drinks, and it’s a beautiful bar to relax and catch up with friends or meet the locals.
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5. Char Bar
|Address||05 Travis, Houston, TC 77002|
As long as your not looking for a spot to dine, Char Bar Houston will satisfy your desire for a historical and operational bar in Houston.
Located in the old Market Square, this unique bar isn’t all it “seems,” In fact, it’s also a tailor, so if you require a new suit and want to grab a drink in a unique bar while you wait, you’re in the perfect spot. Random, I know, but I love it!
You might be wondering why on earth this bar offers a tailoring service; well, don’t worry, there is a story behind it.
Michael Shapiro is the owner of both the tailors and the bar, and it turns out that his grandfather founded the original tailors back in the 1930s. Michael decided to add a bar onto the tailors when it failed to bring in enough profit, and the concept has stuck to this day.
Inside the bar, you can see all kinds of nostalgia and artifacts, which tell you even more history about Michael and his grandfather. You feel drenched in the family’s remarkable history as you step inside.
Although most of the customers at the bar aren’t there waiting for their suits, the tailors themselves still reign in some pretty good business. I know if I wanted a suit tailored, I would definitely be heading here, merely to be taken back to times gone by.
Here is a handy tip for anyone drinking here, too; they are incredibly generous with their measures. I ordered myself a cocktail, and my socks were nearly blown off (in a good way). You certainly aren’t ripped off with a thimble full.
Overall this is a nostalgic hidden gem you must visit whether you’re a local or just passing through.
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6. D&T Drive Inn
|Address||1307 Enid Street, Houston, TX 77009|
Although the ownership changed in 2018, this drive-in is a perfect spot to call in, share the joy of Houston, and be a part of the community.
With over 50 ever-changing beers on tap, you’re never short of a selection regarding beverages.
This old ice house has been a Houston drive-in since 1959, and though its purpose may have changed a lot over the years, it remains a historic piece of Houston, and the community spirit is as strong as ever.
They also offer a Southern-inspired menu from which you can enjoy sharing platters and homemade sandwiches.
Another thing that makes this place so popular with the locals is the cheap beer prices and friendly atmosphere.
7. Kay’s Lounge
|Address||2324 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX 77005|
According to Houston historians, this lounge/bar is the oldest running bar that didn’t originate as something else, such as an icehouse, bakery, restaurant, or tailor shop. It has also been established by name as a grill and BBQ since 1939. However, the bar and lounge weren’t opened until 1962.
The bar features a cozy and comfortable interior that makes you feel extremely welcomed from the moment you walk in.
They have some cool and fascinating stuff displayed on the walls, such as memorabilia, antique photographs, and vintage adverts and posters. I love absolutely sitting back and taking in the surroundings.
Considering this is a sports bar, it gives off different qualities than you expect. Instead, it feels more like a cool and historic joint to meet up with friends and socialize over an ice-cold beer and a slice of pizza.
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I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the oldest bars in Houston and found it as fascinating as I did when researching them. I also hope you can get out there and explore some of these fantastic and quirky bars for yourself.
If you have found this informative, you might want to take a look at some of these other cool things to explore the next time you visit Houston, such as 7 Must-Visit Exhibits to Experience Some of The Finest Works of Art in Houston, TX, and 7 Best Parks in Houston for Pictures and Picnics.