Houston Press released a list of best dive’s in Texas. It’s clearly not representative of Southeast Texas; only Thirsty’s got a nod. Thirsty’s is amazing, and I’m glad it got the shout out. Still, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw in my own opinion.
First, I gotta say – props to Houston for considering us at all. We smell like broccoli farts over here, refining the oil that drives your economy. A little media representation goes a long way for our ego.
Ok, the criteria as defined by the Houston Press:
Our Big Tex Road Trip guide to Texas dive bars doesn’t abide by some sort of strict and arbitrary definition of what constitutes a “true” dive bar. (Tiny, often deserted, with attitudinal bartenders and an overpowering waft of urine is always preferred, but it’s not required.) Instead, whether it’s drinking on a short bus, alongside ghosts, or at a Texas dance hall while listening to shredding country music, these are some of the state’s most fun, bizarre and potentially scary places to drink.
I’d rather focus on the parenthesized section and rattle off a few local not-so-hot-spots:
Tiny, often deserted, with attitudinal bartenders and an overpowering waft of urine is always preferred, but it’s not required.
BEAUMONT: I mean, clearly King Arthur’s Pub in Beaumont comes to mind. Tiny, check. Deserted, check. Spicy bartenders, double check. Urine? Not so much, but you get the idea. I would’ve given it to the Clubhouse but they’ve changed ownership since my last visit.
PORT NECHES: I know people will want me to pick the Riverside Tavern, but I’m going a different route. I’m picking the Green Door, because they don’t take kindly to rough language, which makes it a quainter form of dive. Also this is one of my favorite local bar reviews.
PORT ARTHUR: If we’re talking Port Arthur, The Shop is where it’s at. I won’t repeat myself but it meets the above criteria and adds a level of unique patrons. One explained to me at length his leather creations, one of which were little leather lassos for nipples. Sorry Good Times, but you’ve gotten too classy. Keep up the good crawfish, though.
NEDERLAND: Mid-County! There is too much of you! Tammy’s? Ember’s (apparently this review wasn’t archived, but here’s Beth’s take)? And technically Capri Club is in Port Arthur? Man. I’m gonna sit this one out and let y’all decide. But I’m leaning toward Ember’s because you can view parked R.V.’s from their patio.
LUMBERTON: Ok, Lumberton’s a little lame and was dry until recently, so I’m ignoring it. You can keep your white flight, for now.
SILSBEE: Try the Thirsty Rose in Silsbee. These folks take their dive bar and add in a very serious karaoke vibe. It’s all about talented solo vocalists – a friend and I tried to sing “Summer Lovin'” but they were having none of that cliché crap.
ORANGE: Let’s move over to the TX/LA border. I know I should cite the Capistrano because they’ve got great karaoke and they run shot specials whenever a train rolls by, but I’ve got to hand this to the Bayou Club. They win somewhat because they’re on the Bayou, and actually have an good view, but mostly because I witnessed a fight in the parking lot, which sends it on a higher dive plane.
WINNIE: What am I missing? Oh. Winnie. I dig your Tiki burgers but of course this goes to the Spotted Dog for the following quote, “The bartender recalled one such Sunday where she considered cutting the whole bar off, looked at the clock and realized it was only 9:30 p.m.” Get down with your bad self, Spotted Dog. I still have your koozie.
BRIDGE CITY: I can’t find an archived piece for Big Nasty’s in Bridge City, but know that since you started calling yourself the Texas Ave Saloon, we aren’t talking anymore. Even though we loved your checkered floors. I still need to get out to the Silver Fox; it sounds mighty fantastic.
CRYSTAL BEACH: Oh man, I almost forgot the Bolivar Peninsula! Obviously this goes to the Ship’s Wheel, and if you needed further proof, I’m supplying a link to Beth’s review of the bar since I enjoyed the Ship’s Wheel too much to write about it accurately. Classic Ship’s Wheel.
However, I would like to throw out two last spots, for people who want the dive bar experience, with a side of class: Thirsty’s (here’s where I give them the quintessential dive bar title) and the Boudain Hut.
Thirsty’s is a great place to be surrounded by locals, without being forced to engage. Bonus points: they stock great liquors, and their bartenders are super talented.
The Boudain Hut, on the other hand, serves you food, beer, live entertainment – they just ask you to have a willingness to accept mini bottles of Crown Royal from a white-bearded stranger’s camouflaged fanny pack. Which, let’s be honest, is awesome.
So those are the dingiest, best places to drink in Southeast Texas. Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments. Or let me know if I miss a city – I’m not from here, so I sometimes forget about some of the more remote spots.