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The Big Top is the little brother of the Continental Club next door and the surlier cousin of uber-hipster watering hole The Mink around the corner. This block is one of Houston's most colorful, its restaurants and music venues teeming with life on the weekends. As hinted in its moniker, the Big Top is heavy on circus decor, festooned with dusty, quaint portraits and signs from that bygone yet uniquely American era of hucksters and freak shows. But that is just a small part of the bar's story. Live music happens most nights the Big Top is open, from garage-rock DJs to various Americana and covers acts playing under a big birdcage in the corner of the bar. If you feel like getting some fresh air under the stars, the back door opens onto the Continental's backyard and the outdoor Pachinko Hut bar.
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The Big Top's circus-themed decor always makes it seem a little like a Fellini movie. First of all, it's dark enough that you almost need to strike a match to see your drink, like every great lounge should be. There's also something a little surreal about nursing a cold one or cocktail surrounded by multiple Elvis portraits, Christmas lights, tabletop video games, an ancient beer-can collection, an old shoeshine stand (once used by the late Shoeshine Charley himself) and all kinds of other... More »
Let Midtown get as gentrified as it can, certainly not a problem these days, but walking into the Big Top ("No phone, no pool, no pets") will always feel like being transported back to 1976. A toy store once upon a time -- supposedly the place that provided the inspiration for Toys "R" Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe, no less -- the Big Top retains its playtime theme in everything from the circus-themed paintings on the walls, leftover toys behind the bar and the circus-parade... More »
Let Midtown get as gentrified as it can, certainly not a problem these days, but walking into the Big Top ("No phone, no pool, no pets") will always feel like being transported back to 1976. A toy store once upon a time — supposedly the place that provided the inspiration for Toys "R" Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe, no less — the Big Top retains its playtime theme in everything from the circus-themed paintings on the walls, leftover toys behind the bar and the circus-parade grillwork and elephant-trunk door handles out front. It's easily one of the darkest bars in town and, whether you're bellied up to the bar on one of the plush barstools or sunk into one of the booths, one of the most comfortable. The satellite radio is stuck on Sirius's '70s station, and frequent musical guests such as Peter & James (soft-rock piano/guitar request kings), the Light Rock Express (famous for their "Takin' It to the Streets" processional) and the Allison Fisher Band (vintage Gulf Coast R&B) keep the retro vibe intact without ever needing to fall back on the crutch of kitsch.
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