Nothing quite like a bring-your-own-meat ice house dive.
The term “ice house” is one of many phrases co-opted by new bars, particularly in Texas, hoping to manufacture a link to a more authentic past. There is nothing manufactured about Houston’s Catty Corner Ice House, a garage door-lined, indoor-outdoor space never to be confused with a trendy grab at Texas nostalgia. Catty Corner Ice House is every bit the divey, communal, no-frills drinking establishment embodied by the classic Texas ice house and all that term entails.
Just north of Houston’s Heights district in an area usually referred to as Oak Forest-Garden Oaks, Catty Corner Ice House is more a complex than it is a single structure, the indoor-outdoor nature of the space amplified by a sprawling yard that surrounds a low, brown building. Garage doors are rolled up the front door left open when Houston weather allows, making for a seamless transition between building and surrounding property.
The Catty Corner Ice House motto is “where friends meet friends,” a vibe enhanced by three, free-to-play pool tables that command the most divey nook of the Catty Corner Ice House structure. Chalkboard-like wood planks surround the tables, scrawled upon liberally in an ever-renewing depiction of dive bar graffiti and wisdom. The exposed wooden slats above the pool tables host similar but more permanent artistry, the names of past visitors scrawled just above the three vintage-style pool lights that hang above the pool tables.
In the middle of the space, the bar counter provides stool seating on all four sides, another enhancement to the communal vibe of the Houston dive bar’s layout. Portals to the bar’s sprawling patio can be found throughout the structure’s exterior, the typical feeling here one of lightly-sheltered outdoor drinking that can batten down the hatches should conditions require. The interior walls here have been updated over the years, decorations including a fairly contemporary array of bar neon and the occasional flag.
In addition to the always-free pool tables, the calling cards here are equally free dart boards and a smoker-friendly environment aided by the indoor-outdoor nature of Catty Corner Ice House. The backyard is another major attraction, the large plot of land in back of the structure maximized through prevalent outdoor seating and a permanent sun shade that sits over a paved patio adjacent to the main building. In the past, outdoor shows have been staged atop this covered slab, adding some versatility to the area.
In true ice house fashion, the grills that can be found out back are communal, visitors allowed to bring their own to-be-grilled items that often end up shared among the locals and regulars typically assembled at the Houston dive bar. Enhancing that same communal feeling is the slate of holiday-centered events like costume contests and potlucks that rotate through the Catty Corner Ice House annual calendar.