So, what to do in a strange city when you’ve got a few hours to kill? I could have looked up my cousin, but I’ll see her in a couple months at our family reunion (sorry, Les) so I took a more adventurous approach. I put my web search skillz to use. I wanted to see if I could discern from afar some pockets of coolness.
I don’t know much about Houston, Texas, but I know what I like. And I found it at a place called Anvil. It’s an old tire shop which has been tastefully converted to a bar.
But the drinks are out of this world. I mean they are seriously good. Their menu lists a dozen or so seasonal cocktails and 100 classics. We had a number of delicious drinks. I got a Pliny’s Tonic, an invigorating sensation, made with gin, lime, turbinado syrup, cucumber, mint and some sort of spicy chile. Meanwhile the Boss Lady got a Balmoral. (Strangely enough the Food Princess seems to have written about the same two drinks on her blog.) For round two I enjoyed a Dixieland which was much more sedative, and exactly what I needed after the Pliny’s. It was made with rye whiskey and a bit of absinthe and I forget what else. Very, very good.
The Boss Lady and I could probably have stayed at Anvil all night, but the third member of our party (Nan) was less of a drinker so we decided to shove off and get some food. We walked down the street to a Thai place that was quite excellent as well. But my heart remains at Anvil.
Really, it’s a shame there are aren’t more places like Anvil. The cocktail is one of America’s significant contributions to world culture. It should be celebrated widely.
I did see this place as we walked to the restaurant:
Perhaps it’s my destiny is to move to Houston and give Anvil some competition?
So much for Friday. The next night represented more of a challenge: Halloween in Houston.
First we attended the conference awards banquet, where as previously noted, we did not win but did place as finalists. The persistent question which dominated our thoughts throughout the planning of this trip: Who schedules a banquet for Halloween night? I suppose it was just an unfortunate coincidence. Boss Lady is an enthusiastic Halloween celebrant as well as a thoroughly acculturated New Orleanian. She wanted to be in full costume down on Frenchman Street. And my daughter is just getting to the age where she can appreciate dressing up, so I would have liked to spend Halloween with her.
Instead, we were in downtown Houston.
So we went to notsuoH.
This place looks like it was a shoe store maybe 30 years ago, which was probably the last time it was cleaned. Old merchandise still sits on the shelves in boxes. Meanwhile lots of weird funky art has been added, and an eclectic freaky laidback crowd hangs out here. In New Orleans terms, maybe it’s a cross between the Saturn Bar and the old Mermaid Lounge. But in New Orleans a place like this would blend in with the surroundings. In downtown Houston it kind of stands out — at least that’s my impression from a single visit.
As fate would have it there was an excellent band playing there Hallowe’en night, the Free Radicals.
Cool funky jazz rock, mostly instrumental. The one song they sang was about healthcare reform. They were awesome. The crowd was into it. Some people were in costume, some were not, and with some it was hard to tell. But everyone was dancing and having a time.
So Hallowe’en in Houston turned out pretty cool after all.
One last weird footnote: In the wee hours of the morning, as Boss Lady and I made our way back to the hotel, we found ourselves dodging bicycles. Soon (around 3 AM) the otherwise deserted streets were streaming with cyclists. The next morning, on the way to the airport, we asked our cabbie and he said they did this every Sunday morning. That doesn’t really make sense to me. Why would people get up at that hour to ride their bikes downtown? Maybe that’s just how the roll in Houston.