Houston's bar scene goes far beyond run-of-the-mill honky tonks and cowboy saloons. This Southwest city is home to a flourishing gay scene, too. Montrose is the epicenter of the LGBTQ+ community in the Bayou City, boasting everything from gay-friendly coffeeshops to boisterous drag clubs. If ever you're looking to join in on Houston's most enlivened nightlife scene, then merely stand at the cross section of Westheimer Road and Montrose Boulevard and follow the noise.
Aside from its plentiful offering of gay watering holes, Montrose is also a foodie haven. This young and funky district is home to countless diners, delis, and dinner spots worth visiting before (or after) a night of drinking. Now, book yourself a night at the posh, 1920s-style La Colombe d’Or, put on your party shoes, and hit the town.
Houston's bar scene has a little bit of everything: understated and sophisticated wine bars, downright rowdy cowboy bars, upscale cocktail lounges, riotous nightclubs, and beyond. Montrose, itself, is a ragbag of nightlife options. For a low-key weeknight beer, date night, or pregaming ahead of the big night, head to one of Houston's finest bars.
- Anvil Bar & Refuge: A dark, hipster-hallowed bar and "refuge" along Westheimer Road in Montrose, Anvil rakes in a lot of bearded dudes and dressed-down dames (some gay, most straight, but everybody's quite welcome). The draw here is the well-crafted cocktails (try the Shaddock Sour, with Nicaraguan rum, charred grapefruit, key lime, and rosemary) and delish bar victuals.
- Guava Lamp: A lively, welcoming lounge with a contemporary aesthetic and a location a bit outside the main Montrose bar cluster. Guava Lamp is not quite as loud or as much of a scene as the bigger clubs, and the interior (comfy leather booths and a long bar) is more conducive to conversation.
- JR's Bar & Grill: Like its namesakes in Dallas and Washington, D.C., JR's has been a mainstay of the gay scene for decades. This gay bar opened inside a vintage redbrick building in the heart of Montrose many years ago, and it's been going strong ever since. There are multiple bars for mingling and lounging, great karaoke nights, a huge patio with lush landscaping, and fun themed events (amateur strip shows and block parties are the norm).
- Pearl Lounge: This endearingly quirky lounge isn't a lesbian bar, per se, but it is women-owned and caters strongly to a female crowd while also welcoming everybody else. A mixed gay/lesbian/straight bar, it's an inviting space, with soaring beam ceilings, exposed-brick walls, leather sofas, and vintage chairs, in the hipster-approved Heights neighborhood, along the trendy Washington corridor, which helps to account for the diverse crowd.
- RIPCORD: Just a good old-fashioned gay leather bar, RIPCORD is entirely without pretense, and very much a welcoming spot if you're into bears, otters, leather-and-Levi's, kink, and fetishwear. There's even a boutique inside that sells jockstraps, chaps, toys, and the like.
- George Country Sports Bar: If it's a classic country-western vibe that you crave, this is where you'll find it (with a gay bent). Grab a beer and challenge your mates to a round of pool.
- Crocker: Everything you would expect to find in a neighborhood bar is what you'll find at Crocker. It's both lively and friendly with a hopping happy hour and the occasional DJ playing throwback bangers.
- Michael's Outpost: An evening at this old-school Montrose hangout is guaranteed for a good time, seeing as it's been known to host drag shows and piano concerts on any given night.
Sometimes a casual cocktail at a kempt and bougie lounge just won't cut it. If you're in the mood to get wild and sweaty, eschew the fancy martini and opt instead for a shot of tequila and a thumping dance floor. Houston clubs that are especially gay-friendly include:
- Eagle: What started as a one-day-a-week party has become a mainstay in Houston's gay community. A relaxed crowd with draft beers, craft beers, and liquors await. Houston Eagle is also home to the Mr. Texas Eagle annual competition. DJs play on the weekends and on Sundays, Houston Eagle hosts "Dangerous Disco."
- Barbarella: Not all gay clubs are in Montrose (it's not like the neighborhood has a patent on them, after all). Although not technically classified as a gay establishment, this Midtown haunt—known for its world-class DJ acts and weekly theme nights—is popular among the LGBTQ+ crowd.
- Blur Bar: While you're in the area of JR's, stop by Blur Bar to end the night with a wild dance party (cue the amateur pole dancing).
- Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon: Learn how to dance the two-step at this popular Northwest Houston saloon.
- ReBar: Once known as Rich's, the revamped ReBar in Montrose still has that same old disco ball, dance floor, and weekly themes its predecessor was known for.
After the margaritas have worn off, you'll be jonesing for a breakfast burrito or a sizzling plate of huevos rancheros to prevent the symptoms of a savage hangover. Look no further than:
- Hamburger Mary's: Hamburger Mary's in Montrose is known for its weekly drag shows. On Wednesdays, enjoy "Boom Boom Room," Thursdays are for a singalong, and Fridays play host to a "Cyn-Ful" show. The menu varies from Asian to Mexican to burgers and comfort food.
- Barnaby's Cafe: A Montrose institution that's long had a following with the LGBT community. It's a go-to for satisfying breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and all at affordable prices. Start the morning with banana nut pancakes, huevos rancheros, and other hangover cures that you'll appreciate after a night of hopping around the several gay bars in the neighborhood. American food, often with world-beat influences, is served at other times, including one of the best meatloaf plates in town.
- Blacksmith: Blacksmith beholds some of the finest artisan coffee in the city, served in a cool and inviting vibe (there's a nice big patio to the side and several tables inside its industrial-chic space). Coffee options range from single-origin and house-roasted Swedish coffees to exceptionally delicious flavored coffees (butternut, English toffee, toasted coconut...). The food is good, too.
- El Real Tex Mex Café: Among the many excellent restaurants in Montrose specializing in South-of-the-Border fare, El Real scores high marks for its festive bi-level dining room, proximity to several gay bars, and hearty, stick-to-your-ribs cooking. Favorites from the extensive menu include classic Frito pie, skillet-cooked pork tamales, and "tin can" crunchy tacos with smoked chicken, all designed to be washed down with a refreshing margarita.
Annual Events & Festivals
Houston has been known to host a behemoth of a pride festival each summer, but it also throws a number of parties leading up to the main event (and after it, too). Book your trip for the month of June to participate in the city's most gay-popular events of the year.
- Pride Galveston: Okay, so it's not in Houston proper, but Galveston—an hour away—holds a beach bash so big that it's worth enduring the commute. It used to be called Galveston Gay Beach Weekend, but it's recently adopted a more mainstream title: Pride. Head to East Beach in early June for boozy volleyball, horseshoes, and seaside fun.
- Rainbow on the Green: Every June, Land Rover Houston Central puts on an LGBTQ+ music festival for the ages.
- Houston Pride: Houston's annual Pride celebration is the biggest in the Southwest, attracting thousands upon thousands of revelers every year. The block party typically takes place at the end of June and features a parade, notable music acts, hundreds of merchants, a beer garden, and more.
- QFest: That's right: Houston has it's very own LGBTQ+ film festival, bringing independent, queer film to various venues throughout the city every July for two whole decades.
Tips for Going Out in Houston
- According to Texas' state liquor laws, Houston bars can't serve alcohol past 2 a.m., but dance clubs can remain open for longer (and rest assured they do).
- Liquor stores are closed on Sundays and alcohol cannot be purchased elsewhere until after noon.
- The gay-popular neighborhood of Montrose is about 15 minutes from downtown Houston, so book a hotel nearby if you don't want to drive.
- Consult My Gay Houston for an up-to-date LGBTQ+ events calendar.