Knockouts Grill House wrestles hunger into submission with a brawny menu of edible Americana. Waitresses clad in Western wear put out appetite fires with the help of starters such as stacked nachos which come piled high with blackened chicken, grilled house pico, chipotle sour cream, and—for an extra $1.99—guacamole ($8.49). Gorge on greenery such as the Knockout steak salad with balsamic vinaigrette and blue-cheese crumbles ($9.99), or hunt down a dinner of barbecue-bathed meatloaf matched with mashed potatoes and onion rings ($9.99). The ground beef and chorizo of the Macho burger show off their meaty manliness by carrying around a culinary cargo of ham, pepper-jack cheese, cilantro mayonnaise, lettuce, and pico ($8.99). A selection of breakfast items available all day helps rouse drowsy taste buds from noontime power naps and dreamless evening trances.
The taxidermal animals at Trophy Room help to create an ambiance that toes the line between a lodge and a natural-history museum. In addition to a bighorn sheep and a bear, the space includes terrariums with everything from deer to foxes. The bar actually rests on a line of these terrariums, allowing visitors to enjoy their drinks beside posed scenes with pheasants and iconic copies of National Geographic.
The dedication to hunting culture extends to the menu, which features hearty burgers and sliders with buffalo, elk, and venison patties. Familiar finger foods round out the selection and include beer-battered onion rings and hand-cut tortilla chips with roasted-tomato salsa. Bartenders augment meals by siphoning off sudsy pints of domestic and imported microbrews.
Between bites and drinks, Trophy Room invites guests to demonstrate their skills on red-felted pool tables, dartboards, or scattered arcade games. The bar stages free Texas hold’em tournaments throughout the week, and high-definition televisions and a jukebox keep patrons entertained with live sports broadcasts and hidden birdcall tracks.
Wolfies nourishes packs of roving diners with a menu of fresh crawfish, burgers, wings, and ribs. Wings ($7.99/10 wings) are available in a range of spiciness from little red to howling hot. Dip Wolfies' signature crawfish (market price) in the savory sea of your choice, such as butter or seasonings. The catfish platter comes fried or blackened with hush puppies ($9.99). Well-built tongues can absorb protein while bench-pressing a half rack of St. Louis–style ribs ($9.99), or a flame-grilled 14-ounce T-bone steak ($15.99).
At The Mezzanine Lounge, a sports-oriented upstairs and a lower-level lounge stack atop each other inside the double-decker bar that Citysearch named Best Sports Bar in 2008 and 2009. The kitchen, like the bar, stays open until 2 a.m. daily, grilling chicken tenders and fresh half-pound patties for burgers such as the Twisted Texas burger, slathered in spicy barbecue sauce and topped with jalapeños. DIRECTV and other cable packages wire round the clock sports coverage to the bars’ more than 30 TVs sprinkled artfully throughout the venue, supplying clear sightlines from anywhere, including the restrooms. Between strolls to the covered patio, patrons can aim cues atop red felt pool tables and drop quarters into an internet-capable jukebox, which stocks more than 150 CDs and can download further titles or add fictitious Grammy wins to Percy Sledge’s Wikipedia page.
Thick branches of 140-year-old oak trees stretch above Live Oak Bar and Grill, shrouding its wooden outdoor patio in a gentle blanket of leafy shade. The patio stands behind the restaurant itself, a home built in 1876 that is still decorated with photos of its original occupants and recent shots of their poltergeists.
And while the building itself is steep in century old history, the grill's cooks prefer to use ingredients whose age doesn’t match Live Oak's historic surrounds. Instead, they source fresh, natural ingredients from local farms to create their homestyle versions of classic bar dishes, from half-pound burgers to fish tacos smothered with jalapeno ranch dressing. Feasts unfold amidst rounds of billiards, sports flashing on flat-screen TVs, and weekly karaoke, while outside, live musicians occasionally take to the stage to serenade diners.
Griff’s has been a neighborhood favorite and prime sports bar since 1965, when the only ideal ways to follow a game were to go to your local bar or invent the internet. The technology may have changed since then, but the welcoming spirit here has not. Just take a look at Griff’s Army, a devoted pack of likeminded sports fanatics who gather at the bar to watch the games on large TVs or board Griff’s party bus to attend one in person. Of course you don’t need be a member of to take advantage of Griff's big TVs, nightly specials, Jagermeister machine, or its menu of classic pub grub fare, which includes buffalo wings and half-pound burgers. Then again, it may be worth joining just for access to toga parties or bus rides to Astros, Rockets, and Aeros games.