Nestled in the eastern clutches of the Lone Star State—whose proper name springs from the Spanish term for allies; go figure—Houston has come to represent a host of conflicting ideas over the last hundred years: Space City to NASA nuts; the Big Heart to those who sought refuge in the aftermath of Katrina; Syrup City in hip-hop mythology, thanks to the proliferation of that dizzying purple drank the world is perpetually in a fit about. But lodged in the heart of a state known for its oil, ten-gallon big business and hot-as-hell weather, Houston is also a richly appointed coastal city, home to some of the best food, drinks and combinations of both in America. Once you make it through the sprawl of concentric circles of suburbs surrounding a dense and dynamic center, look no further than left, then right, for what you seek. Our research affirms: it’s there. You’re home.
6 P.M. - TQLA
Makes sense a state so closely linked to Mexico—physically and historically—would serve up an impressive selection of that country’s most famous (legal) export: tequila. And you won’t have to look far for it: the best place to sip on the sacred water of the southland is marked almost religiously by its holy name, though you’ll only be able to dig through a fraction of its long list of luxury and craft tequilas before you’re rendered unable to speak it. With a list 170 bottles strong and a bevy of specialty cocktails therein, warding off jet lag will be all smooth landings. Make like a Mexican Don Draper with the clever Añejo Old Fashioned; it’ll give you the legs to move on to the real heavy lifting.
8 P.M. - Anvil Bar & Refuge
Started by three self-professed cocktail-crazy entrepreneurs, Anvil boasts an almost intimidating list of standard, specialty and house-concocted mixes to suit any taste. Seriously, you might spend more time reading through the list than consuming the drinks it advertises. But as any good night owl knows, to keep the party going all night you need to start with quality rather than quantity. And to keep fuel levels steady, you can snack on Anvil’s sophisticated selection of cheese and charcuterie or—our choice—their BLT made with locally sourced pork belly. Sanctuary!
10 P.M. - Underbelly
Regarded by many as Houston’s most essential restaurant, Underbelly makes a point of creating a narrative for their well-loved dishes: from farm to town to table. Everything they serve is locally sourced, all curing and preparation is done in-house. You can count on solid and strong cocktails—Underbelly springs from the same family tree as Anvil, after all—but gird your loins for the night well under way with a selection from the thoughtful resto’s storied menu that takes Houston’s diverse cultural and agricultural makeup (present and historic) as inspiration. We suggest choosing from the Family Style menu (Wagyu brisket, spicy peach barbeque, slaw and cornbread sounds about right) to break bread with your crew on the move.
1 A.M. - Hughes Hangar
Another nod to Houston’s past, the Hangar is a sprawling ode to Howard Hughes, the enigmatic millionaire who made his home in Houston before moving north to Hollywood. Styled like a speakeasy in vintage leather couches and armchairs with attention to lux detail, Hughes Hangar is the perfect blend of upscale lounge and casual hangout; a watering hole for those dive habitués looking for a more sophisticated crowd to mingle with. And with a gargantuan stone-lined patio that often hosts some of Houston’s top DJs, you’ll have no problems taking off into the late night sky. (Photograph courtesy Hughes Hangar.)
5 A.M. - Magnolia Hotel
Spring for early check-in at Magnolia. Lord knows you didn’t have a moment to spare for it upon arrival in Houston. The night will have taken a toll, so the modernist, simple but luxurious comforts of the city’s premium boutique hotel will provide ample refuge from the hangover to come. Won’t be hard if all you have to do is crawl from bed to poolside; Magnolia’s rooftop pool gives you the perfect vantage point to recharge under the Texan sun while overlooking the night’s trajectory. Gives a new context to the term “urban sprawl.” Don’t forget Magnolia’s finest feature: complimentary town car service that will allow you to do it all again in six to eight hours.