The time has come to celebrate the nominees for the Bar of the Year in the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. From casual patio spots to intimate lounges, these establishments are ready to provide venues for a wide range of occasions.
As selected by our judges of restaurant industry experts and former winners, these bars set themselves apart. They’re united by their welcoming atmospheres, smooth service, and creative drinks. But, they set themselves apart with a range of environments, specialities, and, in many cases, food that’s as compelling as their drinks.
Who will win? Find out May 25 at the Tastemaker Awards party. We’ll dine on bites from this year’s nominated restaurants before emcee Bun B reveals the winners. Buy tickets now.
Bar No. 3 at La Colombe d'Or
Hotel bars have a certain air of mystery; it’s the whole strangers passing in the night thing. That’s certainly the case at Bar No. 3, which opened last year as part of extensive renovations to the historic Montrose property. Even more than the appealing cocktails and shareable snacks, an intimate setting and solicitous service set Bar No. 3 apart: making it the perfect place for a nightcap after a meal at one of the area’s celebrated restaurants.
Creating the right atmosphere for a bar is tricky, but starting with a slightly out-of-the-way location and getting the lighting exactly right certainly don’t hurt. Such is the case with this intimate wine and cocktail spot that opened last year in the historic Star Engraving Building on Allen Pkwy. Whether interacting with strangers around the lively bar or conversing with friends on the lounge-style seating, owner Mason Clark and her partner Army Sadeghi have created a see-and-be-seen spot that always feels like a party.
This Spring Branch establishment serves as a true passion project for its proprietor Steven Salazar. The longtime operating partner of The Kirby Group’s popular bars (Wooster’s Garden, Heights Bier Garten, etc.), Salazar blends his various experiences with locally sourced produce to create drinks that patrons won’t encounter anywhere else, like the Day at the Beach, which comes in an edible chocolate mug, or the Cereal Milk, which is served in a pitcher with housemade Frosted Flakes. A tidy menu of well-executed snacks completes the destination-worthy experience.
Eight Row Flint
Located in the heart of The Heights, Agricole Hospitality’s patio bar continues to provide its neighborhood with creative cocktails and craveable fare. Whiskey lovers know it for Morgan Weber’s barrel picks, lockers that allow them to purchase favorite bottles, and the annual event where it sells its entire allocation of Van Winkle bourbons at cost. For others, enjoying the atmosphere while sipping a ranch water and eating a couple of tacos makes for a pretty satisfying way to spend a couple hours.
Johnny’s Gold Brick
Having recently celebrated seven years in business, it’s time to acknowledge that Johnny’s remains one of Houston’s best cocktail bars. At a time when prices across the city are creeping over $15, its classics menu — painted on the wall for easy reading — still offers well-crafted favorites for just $8. Drink fans know the bar’s monthly menu always offers something fresh to try, and special events keep things lively.
Unfortunately, this entry is more of a memorial to a once-promising bar than a celebration of its accomplishments. After bursting onto the scene last summer with a combination of thoughtfully prepared cocktails, an affordable menu of Mexican-inspired fare, and a retro-inspired design with a rooftop patio, the bar saw its founders depart unexpectedly a few weeks ago. Currently, the bar remains closed with an uncertain future.
Much like its sister concept Nobie’s, this tiki-inspired bar from Nobie’s owners Sara and Martin Stayer and bar manger Sarah Troxell blends a whimsical attitude with a rigorous approach to its food and drinks. That means dishes like pork dumplings use housemade wrappers and vegetarians have plenty of flavorful choices. Most importantly, sipping a painkiller or a jungle bird under the palapa feels like a mini escape the hassles of life in a big city.
This formal, Japanese-inspired cocktail bar from Anvil owner Bobby Heugel offers one of Houston’s most elegant environments for savoring a cocktail. Rigorously crafted recipes that utilize premium spirits mean each drink sets a new standard in flavor and presentation. Refined service and quality glassware further enhance the experience.
Three of the people who briefly made Bernadine’s one of the Houston’s best restaurants — chefs Graham Laborde, Chris Roy, and Benjy Mason — teamed up to create this casual, Louisiana-inspired bar and sandwich shop. With both a lighter, fresher take on cocktails like the hurricane and hand grenade and fun riffs on sandwiches like a fried chicken crunchwrap that’s inspired by both KFC and Taco Bell, Winnie’s offers lots of compelling choices to suit a range of tastes. Winnie’s hosts special events that keep things exciting, like its Monday night pop-ups with guest bartenders that raise money for the Southern Smoke Foundation.