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Gay Restaurants & Bars

Houston's gay-friendliest restaurants and bars: New faves and old haunts make the scene

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Original Barnaby's on Fairview interior with diner
Located in the heart of Houston’s gayborhood, Original Barnaby’s offers a single salad that's big enough to feed two. Google Maps
Beaver's chick on chick fillet written on menu board
Beaver’s response to the Chick-fil-A scandal in 2011 earned Monica Pope’s restaurant the top spot on the most pro-marriage equality restaurants list. BeaversHouston.com
News_Ninfa's on Navigation, patio
Local gays know to arrive by 7 p.m. Sundays for the social scene at the Original Ninfa's on Navigation. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Places-Eat-Baba Yega Restaurant-exterior-1
Voted the best gay-friendly restaurant, Baba Yega has been serving hearty yet healthy meals for 30 years. Courtesy of Baba Yega
Hollywood Vietnamese Restaurant entrance
At Hollywood Vietnamese Restaurant, you’ll see everyone you just saw at FBar. Google Maps
The Usual bar in Houston with crowd in patio
The Usual is an LGBT favorite in the LGBT community. The Usual - Neighborhood Pub/Facebook
Original Barnaby's on Fairview interior with diner
Beaver's chick on chick fillet written on menu board
News_Ninfa's on Navigation, patio
Places-Eat-Baba Yega Restaurant-exterior-1
Hollywood Vietnamese Restaurant entrance
The Usual bar in Houston with crowd in patio
Amy Chien head shot column mug October 2013

We’re lucky in Houston. I can’t think off the top of my head of any bars or restaurants that aren’t gay-friendly (although I’m sure there are some out there). That said, there are a select few places that gays and lesbians naturally flock to, either for the eye candy or for spectacular deals.

None of these places are officially “gay” — instead the buzz has built by word of mouth.

No, Elton John does not rule the Velvet Mafia and there aren’t any secret gay codes to get in to these establishments. If you’ve lived in Houston long enough, you probably know where the happening spots are, but here's a full guide to fabulous fun.

Original Barnaby’s

We love the Original Barnaby's, located in the heart of Houston’s gayborhood, where a single salad is big enough to feed two. Make sure to ask for the "bull's eye" sauce (honey mustard mixed with BBQ sauce) and “red eye” sauce (ranch dressing with Sriracha) to dip those delicious, crispy skinny fries in. On the weekends, green eggs transcend gender preference as many wait for tables outside — even during Houston’s blistering hot summers.

Beaver’s

Beaver’s' response to the Chick-fil-A scandal in 2011 earned Monica Pope’s restaurant the top spot on the most pro-marriage equality restaurants list. The "Chick-On-Chick" Filet sandwich was described as "two loving chicken breasts married on toasty buns with a honey mustard witness and joined in celebration with tolerant fries."

Industry folk, barbecue lovers and craft cocktail drinkers alike come to Beaver’s for unpretentious and well-priced food and drinks.

1308 Cantina

Everyone knows to "pregame" at 1308 Cantina on Montrose before heading out to the clubs. If you’re not a fan of the extra strong margarita (first of all, what’s wrong with you?) give the pina coladas or mojitos a try. They are just as flavorful, not to mention potent. 1308 Cantina’s skinny margaritas taste almost as good as those skinny jeans look on you.

 Cantina’s skinny margaritas taste almost as good as those skinny jeans look on you. 

Speaking of skinny, Friday might just be the one night a week many gay men take off from their usual gym routine, so the entire restaurant gets packed early. Get there the second you leave the office to insure a good spot on the patio.

House of Pies

I’ll never forget the time at House of Pies when our waiter set down our gigantic cokes and loudly proclaimed, “The next time you see me, I will have transformed into a beautiful butterfly.” Transform he/she did.

In three-inch platform heels and full makeup, our waiter patiently clicked his/her pen as we tried to decide between Bayou Goo or Cottage Fries, at the end coming to the only logical conclusion: Both.

Fondly nicknamed "House of Guys," this iconic establishment on Kirby Drive suffered a fire last November and is still not up and running. The diner is loved by all, sculpted and non-gym-bunny gays alike, and we can’t wait for the phoenix to raise from the ashes.

Where else can we gorge ourselves on BLTs and bigger-than-your-face waffles only to make room for pecan pie?

Hollywood Vietnamese Restaurant

I’ve never been a huge fan of Hollywood Vietnamese Restaurant. The decor is nice; they have a spacious patio and a full bar; the bathrooms are clean, and the food is just above average . . . and maybe that’s the problem.

However, there is a certain charm about the restaurant that keeps me coming back. When it’s 2 a.m. and I’m tired of diner food, Hollywood is certainly a fine (and close) option.That’s probably why you’ll see everyone you just saw at FBar laughing at nearby booths. It seems like the staff here has seen just about everyone and everything too, as they laugh good naturedly while the inebriated glitterati throw rice noodles across the table at each other.

Original Ninfa's on Navigation

Co-founder of the Young Professional Board for Bering Omega (an organization focused on physical and emotional needs for people with HIV/AIDS), Paul Pettie lists The Original Ninfa's on Navigation as his favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston and for good reasons. Local gays know to arrive by 7 p.m. Sunday nights for the social scene.

These days the party seems to get started earlier and earlier in order to enjoy brunch beverages such as the Horchata Borracha, the adult version of the childhood favorite drink.

Baba Yega

Voted the best gay-friendly restaurant, Baba Yega has been serving hearty yet healthy meals for the last 30 years. It is not only gay-friendly, it is friendly in every aspect. I remember the time when I was waiting outside for a table along with the rest of the hungry diners when, in typical Houston fashion, the skies went from sunny to sudden downpour. We all rushed into the restaurant to get cover from the rain.

Instead of being startled at the abrupt increase in clientele as I’ve seen happen in many restaurants, the helpful and friendly staff welcomed us by offering free mimosas and of course, refuge from the rain. When it’s not pouring outside, you can watch people cure their hangovers on the rainbow-clad patio across the street from South Beach, which is where they probably were the previous night.

Dua (formely Mo Mong)

Sadly, our Wednesday favorite hangout is temporarily closed for remodeling. Mo Mong announced on New Year’s Eve that this is not goodbye, but simply a "see-you-soon." A new face requires a new name, and it looks like Mo Mong’s new identity will be Dua.

If the Louis Vuitton chopstick case on Dua’s new Facebook cover image is any indication, we can expect that it will continue to be just as fierce as Mo Mong was. Fingers crossed that staples like the mango rolls and tofu luc lac will stay on the menu, as well as the frozen cosmos and $3 martinis.

The Usual

The Usual is one of the few remaining lesbian bars left in town after Chances closed. Started by a group of former The Hobbit Cafe wait staff, The Usual is your typical neighborhood dive bar. After it was passed on to the hands of new owners, The Usual became a LGBT favorite.

On Tuesdays, the patio is popular for the bar's weekly steak night. Since it used to be on the wrong side of the tracks (the building has housed Anna's Spa, Penthouse Thai Message and then a rumored private gambling club), The Usual has come a long way.

Royal Oak

Sunday Funday could be an article in and of itself, but I will highlight the most happening spots. As you drive down Westheimer, you’re sure to notice the throngs of good-looking guys and girls on Royal Oak’s patio.

The $4 Bloody Marys and $7 pitchers of mimosas flow freely as the fans blow your hair back, making you look like Gisele. And there's an extensive menu in case you get really hungry.

Rivas Italian Restaurant

A seemingly unlikely choice for gay brunch, Rivas Italian Restaurant attracts a laid-back and genial audience. Small and unassuming, the staff’s enthusiasm is contagious and the restaurant manages to pull off being family friendly but high energy simultaneously.

Saint Genevieve

Taking the fancy level up a notch, Saint Genevieve truly defines the phrase “to see and be seen” at its popular Sunday brunch. It is best to make a reservation ahead of time or else your wait time can be up to two hours, although lounging at the mimosa bar isn’t the worst way to kill a weekend.

 Make sure to wear your Sunday finest, but show some skin so your Grindr stalker isn’t too disappointed. 

Make sure to wear your Sunday finest, but show some skin so your Grindr stalker isn’t too disappointed.

Kroger on Montrose

While not a restaurant or bar per se, no list would be complete without this venerable Montrose institution. In 2011, many feared “Disco Krogerwould lose its charm after a facelift. Fortunately, the renovations didn’t sterilize the store, but rather added some much needed elements like natural light, new signage, a sushi station and the most exciting addition — a tortilleria.

Just make sure you hide those fresh, pillowy carbs under the Lean Cuisine meals as some shoppers roaming the aisles have been known to judge you by the contents in your carts.

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