You’re in Houston for the Super Bowl, and the crowds are starting to get to you. There are still a few days before kickoff, and you would love to grab a bite or a beer without waiting in a huge line. So here’s the secret: find the Houston METRO light rail, buy a ticket, and let it transport you away from the herd.
Most visitors who plan to attend the game will probably stay along the train’s red line, running north and south through downtown and on to NRG Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LI on February 5. The stops near the stadium, as well as those downtown, will be the most popular, but there are plenty of stops in between with some of the best of what H-town has to offer.
Going northbound from NRG Stadium, hop out when the train gets to the Dryden/TMC stop in the world-famous Texas Medical Center. Look for Houston Methodist Hospital’s Scurlock Tower, whose ground floor houses Miller’s Café (6560 Fannin Ave, Suite 110). Since 1980, Miller’s has been the “Home of the Almost Famous Burger,” which means these are some of the best burgers in Houston. If you’re in a chicken mood, go for a grilled Clucker. And don’t be afraid to dig in to the double bacon cheeseburger – lots of people around here know CPR.
Ride the train three more stops to the Museum District platform, and walk around the Park Plaza Medical Center building at 1200 Binz until you find Bodega’s Taco Shop. Try the three-taco plate or, if you are with a group, monster nachos. Bodega’s has a full bar so you can enjoy margaritas or beer on the spacious patio, weather permitting.
Further on up the line, when you step off the train at the Ensemble/Houston Community College stop be warned – you may experience some Austin-style déjà vu. Yes, that’s the Houston outpost of the world-famous Continental Club (3700 Main), featuring the same mix of local bands and traveling artists as the Austin original. Catch a free happy hour at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2 with Beetle (music, no mop tops) or slide on back Feb. 4 at 10 p.m. for a show by rockabilly great Wanda Jackson. Purchase tickets at the door, or at Sig’s Lagoon record shop a few steps away.
While you’re in the neighborhood, try some home cookin’ at Natachee’s Supper N’ Punch, grab and go at Tacos A Go Go or relax with a drink at Double Trouble Caffeine and Cocktails. Better yet, visit the area in the morning and walk around the corner to the Breakfast Klub (3711 Travis) for some killer-diller chicken and waffles.
Don’t be frightened, but Mongoose Versus Cobra (1011 McGowen) lurks less than a block away from the McGowen Station. This midtown watering hole offers 42 craft beers as well as cocktails with a Space City punch. Check the groceries menu for a small selection of sandwiches, sausages and cheeses to take the edge off any hunger pangs.
Roll up a few more stops and you’ll start to see the traditional offerings of downtown Houston. Some are long-time stalwarts, like Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (705 Main; Central Station) or new locations of local favorites, such as Local Foods (420 Main; Preston Station). Better yet, use the Preston Station as a starting point for a short walk west to Treebeards (315 Travis) for some fine, Cajun-style dishes.
At Central Station, transfer to the eastbound Green Line and get off at the Eado/Stadium stop. Walk southwest a few blocks, past BBVA Compass Stadium (where the Dynamo soccer pros play) to Neil’s Bahr (2006 Walker). This is H-town’s premier nerd/gamer hangout with old-school video and arcade games, episodes of “The Simpsons” running continuously on the bar TV, and a wall rack of comic books to enjoy with your beer. Some nights, Pablo the Patio Chef does his magic with grilled burgers and tacos.
You can pick up rail tickets at any stop along the line; fares are $1.25 good for all transfers in a three-hour period, or a day pass is $3. Download the METRO mobile ticketing app to have your tickets right on your smartphone.