Save your pupils some pain and prep them upon entry and exit.
Houston’s Montrose neighborhood has seen upscale bars and restaurants descend upon the once gritty area of the city nestled just west of downtown. But still Lola’s Depot persists, a purple, windowless cave of a dive bar filled with an extreme amount of graffiti even by cave-like dive bar standards. But of course therein lies the appeal, the lack of a sign and the fact that the front door resembles a warehouse loading dock more than entry to a bar only accentuating the dive bar credentials of Lola’s Depot.
Opened in 1983, Lola’s Depot is a purple fireball full of stickers and graffiti illuminated with only the faint hint of light. The building consists of little more than a shack with an expansive back patio, some of the stickers affixed to the cluttered walls quite possibly load bearing at this point. The floors are deteriorating, the ceiling painted black, the walls on occasion lined with Christmas-grade tinsel. The roof sometimes houses a massive inflatable and the bar’s interior design includes a human-sized replica bottle of Maker’s Mark.
Founder Lyle Mitchell gave the dive bar its name but ownership transferred to Marilyn Arnold not long after opening, Arnold’s guidance serving the Montrose dive bar for the majority of its life. And with the guidance has come little in the way of redevelopment or reimagination of the space, a welcome trait given the prevalence of reworked properties nearby. The building sits a few feet above the road, parking available along the side of the building during operating hours (parking is prohibited over night).
A hint of the expansive back patio can be seen from this outdoor view, the purple slats of the building a trademark feature of Lola’s Depot that give way to a fenced-in backyard. Entry into the front door requires a bit of a resting period for one’s pupils as daylight quickly turns to evening, all light inside absorbed by the near total coverage of black surfaces across every inch of the space. Action revolves a bar that sits in the center of the space, a circular path providing access to varies nooks and crannies within Lola’s.
Not content with black ceiling tiles, Lola’s Depot hangs a fair amount of let’s call them decorations from above, cramping the space even further. In addition to posters and a ceiling fan or two, bras provide the most common ceiling accent, a dense array of undergarments dangling overhead. The sticker game here is intense, one full wall of the interior space consumed by designs that range from self-promoting band or business logos to bits of dive bar-friendly wisdom better discovered in person than written here.
Bar specials are listed on a small chalkboard behind the bar, one such special the attractive $1.75 beer special active during happy hour, just one example of the inherent affordability of Lola’s Depot. Traveling further through the space, one corner of Lola’s Depot houses a well-loved pool table atop a cracked floor adjacent to an old school jukebox that still plays (gasp) physical media. The collection is as eccentric as Lola’s Depot itself, a number of gems uncovered while satisfyingly flipping through the real CD liner-covered pages of a real machine.
Wall designs shift as the rooms go by, mosaics of colorful masks transitioning into patches of stickers or illuminated signs. A massive mural of Bob Marley can be found along a short wall in the rear of the space, as at home as anything else in what is a well-varied set of decorations. A second pool table can be found in back, the path winding back to the bar that wraps around not the entirety of the space but a good portion of the available area. A disco ball, red string lights and countless other items hang above, near and attached to the many surfaces inside Lola’s Depot, making for a new experience every visit.
A short back porch sits adjacent to the sprawling backyard behind the Lola’s Depot structure, offering a bit of shelter. Just as Lola’s Depot feels like a shoebox inside, the creeping vines and trees that ring the fenced-in back area create the feeling of coziness outside as well. This picnic table-dotted area feels secluded from the city outside the confines of its aging fence, offering a bit of escape matched only by the dim dive bar serenity of the Lola’s Depot interior.