Boomtown Houston of the past was infamous for brawling and duelling. Today, the fight is to be noticed, and Margaritas, Mojitos, and Martinis are the beverage weapons of choice. As new nightspots and restaurants open at a furious pace, each throws down a gauntlet it hopes will be taken up by a city that loves to go out at night.
The competition is intense and razorous, but not rancorous. Those in the restaurant and bar business become as excited about the opening of a new place as anyone else. Contributing to the friendly spirit is that some share interlocking owner groups, but the prevailing sentiments seem to be that the city can support more clubs and restaurants, that keen competition keeps everyone sharp, stimulates alertness, attention to detail, and innovation, and that the success of like businesses benefits all. Especially when a cluster of clubs and restaurants opens up a new area and forms a critical business density.
From the beginning, the location seemed to promise something to those willing to stake a claim. The Allen brothers stepped onto what others called a swamp, and saw Possibility. Armed with the deed to 9,000 unimproved acres, Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen went looking for a celebrity endorsement. Sam Houston, himself no stranger to restless self-creation, agreed, and the town of Houston . . . well, there was no town yet, not without that vital American ingredient, promotion. The brothers advertised in the Telegraph and Texas Register in 1836 for settlers. Houston, the Allens claimed, would soon become “the great interior commercial emporium of Texas.”
A steamboat pushed through the muddy Buffalo Bayou in 1837, and trade was on, sugar exported and whiskey imported. It was always a town that valued a good drink. A hundred years ago, there were 100 saloons: the Little Sport, the Sample Room, the Metropolitan and the Snow Flake among them, a dream of coolness in the tropical climate. Spirits still land in the Port of Houston, today supplying the city’s bars, clubs, and 11,000 restaurants with single-malts, Irish whiskey, Brazilian cacha