If you’re among the thousands of people flooding into Houston for the Super Bowl, don’t waste an opportunity to explore a new city by spending the whole time at your hotel and the stadium. There’s a lot more Houston has to offer, including some of the country’s most unique food and drinks. And during the week before the event, locals and visitors will be out and about pre-gaming for Super Bowl Sunday.
The area right around NRG Stadium is mostly a drinking desert, but the METRORail will take you between the game and some of the city’s popular and up-and-coming neighborhoods. Here are some bars to swing by before the final teams face off.
Main image by Jamaal Vince Photography/@jvincephoto
Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor whose work has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Village Voice and more.
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In this outdoor beer garden, you'll find people lounging in colorful hammocks while listening to local musicians or watching movies against the backdrop of the Houston skyline. Don't worry about the February chill—there are heat lamps outside, as well as TVs and board games indoors. The menu includes an impressive variety of craft beers served through hand-crafted figurine tap handles. While Axelrad itself doesn't serve food, it lets you bring your own from the trucks on rotation outside and Luigi's Pizzeria next door. Between the entertainment, garden plots, picnic tables and guests coming and going, the atmosphere feels more like a block party than a bar.
Photo by Adam Brackman
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2. Double Trouble
If you want to start your drinking early—or prefer coffee to alcohol—Double Trouble's
menu divided into "caffeine" and "cocktails" will make the morning easy for you. But the best drinks are those that contain both. The Kon Tiki Cooler mixes coconut rum with cold brew coffee and coconut la croix, and the Double Agent blends the unlikely combination of espresso, Absolut Citron and white creme de cacao. You can see the METRORail from the tiki bar's enclosed outdoor seating, and the inside fills with workers on laptops by day and social gatherings by night. From the Thursday before the Super Bowl through the Sunday of it, there'll be a block party outside with live music, vendors and bars.
Photo by Bryan Chan
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3. Anvil Bar and Refuge
This tire store-turned-bar, owned by well-known mixologist Bobby Heugel, combines classy decor with upscale hors d'oeuvres and unique mixed drinks, including 100 classic cocktails plus eight original ones. The Irish coffee has a layer of alcohol-infused cream, and the whiskey sours are extra frothy. Anvil Bar and Refuge
is a bit pricier than some other bars, but you're also paying for the atmosphere, complete with brick walls and leather-cushioned booths.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
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You'll feel like you've traveled back in time and into an old saloon when you walk through the doors of notsuoH, Houston spelled backward. Mannequins peek through the windows, disco balls dangle from the ceiling, antique lamps stand on the bar and old portraits adorn the walls. It's common to catch live bands and DJs filling this quirky space with music. The bartenders and regulars aren't shy about making conversation with guests, so this is the place to go if you want to get to know the locals and the city's eccentricities.
Photo by Suzannah Weiss
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5. 13 Celsius
This wine bar's name references the temperature wine is best stored at, and it reflects 13 Celsius's obsession with perfecting its drinks. The menu includes hundreds of reds, whites and rosés with origins ranging from Texas to Italy, but its most unique offering may be its orange wine. To accompany their beverages, they've got paninis, cheese and charcuterie. If you make it there after the game Sunday (or any Sunday, for that matter), all open bottles from the night before will be half-priced—the perfect way to close out the weekend.
Photo by VJ Arizpe