Houston Bar Catbirds Gets a Refresh Under New Owners but Still Keeps an Edge

The barside Catbirds marquee

At the end of July, an announcement was made that Catbirds, located at 1336 Westheimer, was temporarily closed and its assets had been sold. A very short time later, there was a second announcement that Bobby Heugel and his business partners had taken the reins at the Houston dive. It reopened November 21 and we can take a breath of relief.

Established in 1995, many Houstonians have made at least one lasting memory at Catbirds. I  finished celebrating my college graduation by throwing a few (too many) back on the patio. Seeing Heugel’s name, who has a well-earned reputation for posh imbibement establishments such as Anvil, Refuge and Tongue Cut Sparrow (RIP), may make fans of Catbird’s dive-bar atmosphere nervous.

View of Catbirds from the exterior, looking in.
View of Catbirds from the exterior, looking in. Photo by Ryan Baker.

Unless you are overly attached to the restrooms’ previous, mildly terrifying state or the splintering planks on the patio, there is no need to worry. Even then, both were simply polished and fixed. The restrooms are clean, but still have much of the same character (graffiti and stickers). As for the patio, it is the same, just outfitted with fresh wood. The walls received new coats of paint in the same bluish-purple tint. The mural from Dizzy’s Jazz Bar (which preceded Catbirds) still lights up the room. And, as far as I can remember, all of the signs and flags are still there.

There is now a billiards table at the entrance, but it fits so succinctly with its surroundings that it feels like it should have been there all along. Also new is a small, reasonably-priced selection of quality Mexican spirits. That’s a Bobby Heugel trademark, and the additions are tequila, mezcal and sotol, as well as a Mexican gin. The spirits list, as a whole, received an upgrade.

The upgraded backbar at Catbirds.
The upgraded back bar at Catbirds. Photo by Ryan Baker.

Even with the spirited additions, Catbirds is still a great place to go for a simple, relaxing drink. Beer (bottle or can) runs $3 to $5. Guests can choose from low-key favorites such as Miller High Life (which appropriately matches the barside marquee), Lone Star, Montucky Cold Snack, Coors Banquet, Saint Arnold, Karbach, Yuengling, Austin East Ciders and White Claw. The on-tap options are concise and also low-priced, costing between $4 and $5. The current lineup includes a Saint Arnold’s seasonal, Tiki Wheat from Galveston Island Brewing and Lone Star. The Lone Star is available by the pint or 21-ounce frozen schooner. 

New Orleans-style frozen daiquiris are $9; make it flavored for a dollar more. Wine is available by the glass for $8 or bottle for $28. Weekday happy hour, which runs from 330 to 630, features wells and all beer at $3.50 (or less). The bottom of the menu reads, “not a cocktail bar but if ya want one they’re $10.” Even with the new ownership, ordering a Manhattan feels out of place, and that may be the best sign that the spirit of Catbirds has not changed.

With so few core changes, the reopening of Catbirds appears to be a return to form, allowing both regulars and new customers the opportunity to enjoy one of Houston’s most iconic dives. Catbirds is open 365 days a year from 3:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Comments (1)

Share Your Thoughts on This Article

  • December 11, 2023 at 1:10 pmpatrick mckee