Trendysomething in SoMo
CultureMapping the many levels of Montrose's Grand Prize Bar
Nearly eight months have passed since Grand Prize Bar opened its doors to the huddled Montrose masses. It's hard to say it's passed the test of time, but when it comes to nightlife, making it this long is a marker of otherwise questionable longevity (I'm looking at you, Wonder Bar).
And with time comes the establishment of turfs by respective subcultures. Let's endeavor to map out the United States of Grand Prize Bar.
Firstly, you don't want to arrive by any method other than a Vespa, fixey or by foot — unless you're ironically commuting via H2 limo tonight. Slip past the bouncer (he should know you), and walk straight towards the bar (the seating area on the right is an over-exposed no-go zone).
After getting your drink, it's customary to loiter in the slim passageway. Eventually you'll be pushed out, at which point you'll realize it's time to join the cohorts in the backyard.
On the way outside, observe the playground of video games. This is the sole place you'll find garden variety yuppies, who somehow got lost on the way to Barcadia. Go ahead and sympathize with with the tube-topped girls on first dates. "I've been that girl," says a friend. "It's a no-win situation," describing that awkward power play, in which the man (in his "going out shirt") backs up against his date as they both clutch a plastic "Buck Shot" rifle. Take a date to this corner, and chances are you'll find that grand prize ever more elusive.
Standing on the perch leading down to the back patio's gravel hipster litter box, the people watching vista is at its prime. With the use of quality binoculars, the cliques can be easily identified by cigarette brand.
The obvious choice is American Spirits, although the less self-conscious types are comfortable being seen with a pack of Camel Turkish Silvers. Marlboro Reds are the tobacco of choice for industry workers (think blue-chip chefs on their night off). Trustafarians like Parliaments, as they communicate the pretense of a limited budget. TV beer drinkers who like house music will most likely have a Camel Crush in the other hand. And then, there's the apotheosis of alternative righteousness, the hand-rolled cigarette smokers.
You have a 15-to-20 minute bracket outside before you'll be approached by an unwanted character, be it a misplaced bro, high school drug dealer or a stoned stranger who wants to tell you about his new Texas-shaped tattoo. Excuse yourself to powder your nose before heading to the second story.
Brace yourself for the ascent upstairs. To the immediate right of the landing is a wood truss — this isn't an architectural element to keep the roof up, but was installed as a stalking post for wasted ex-boyfriends. Do not let your eyes pan in this direction, or you'll immediately find yourself in a conversation about how he still listens to the mix CDs you made him, or is moving to Buenos Aires and won't-you-come-with-him. To the left, in the southwest corner seating area, is the Rice graduate student enclave.
The shorter line for drinks at the upstairs bar is an illusion, as you'll be waiting just as long for service. The bartenders up here can be a little uptight, in that they'll threaten to kick you out if they see you drinking from your own bottle of Tanqueray (even if it's mostly empty already). Watch out for the wandering locals grumbling about how much they miss the time when "Consolation Prize" was Ernie's on Banks. That college dorm décor was so real, right?
Move along to meet your friends on the balcony. By now you should be buzzed enough to sit down next to the token foreigner to discuss how Salzburg has beautiful parks, or reveal that you're really excited for the iPhone 5. Make yourself comfortable around the roaming space cadets, and don't be afraid to leverage temporary possession of a chair for another gimlet or Lone Star — you've earned it.