Divey appeal of a shotgun bar mixed with outdoor Texas drinking.
For a city the size of Houston to exist in Texas without a massive inventory of country-focused honkytonks is a bit of a surprise given the saturation found in other major cities in the state. There are honkytonks to be found, of course, but Shady Acres Saloon in the Heights / Shady Acres district of the city has found a niche bringing a bit of honkytonk dive bar flavor to an area that has seen considerable redevelopment.
As one online review put it, Shady Acres Saloon is “red neck in a good way,” as good a description as any and fitting of the Houston dive bar’s exterior that resembles a classic rural front porch. Narrow windows and vertical wood slats make for a very dive bar-friendly appearance, a bench here and a cactus there adjacent to the gravel parking lot that wraps around the Shady Acres Saloon building. There are modern features found outside and throughout the Houston dive bar, including the clean, black sign that hangs from a metal support outside the front door. The large mural devoted to Lone Star Beer along the bar’s front exterior wall is, of course, a welcome Texan touch.
The Shady Acres Saloon interior is a mix of modern and rustic features, certainly giving off a divey vibe, albeit in a “clean” way. Wall decorations run the gamut from kitschy to vintage, framed Old West artwork mixing with old metal lunchboxes and more than one used license plate. Dollar bills can be found stapled to surfaces sporadically throughout the space, a concentration found affixed to the black ceiling tiles but well distributed among Shady Acres Saloon decorations.
Wood paneling provides a bit of dive bar-like warmth to the main interior room, the perfect backdrop to an intense diversity of visual elements too numerous to catalog. The bar counter accounts for about half of the long main area’s length, a small, L-shaped structure topped by a vintage, brown, peg-board style menu that includes dive bar favorites like pickle shots and a sampling of the bar’s can beer selection. Aged bottles are perched precariously above the bar because no bit of surface area at Shady Acres Saloon is left unembellished, even the beer cooler dotted with assorted stickers.
Where the Shady Acres Saloon interior leans heavily on dive bar appeal, the expansive back patio feels more like a classic, rural Texas beer garden. Large bulb string lights hang over a long, dog-friendly backyard area populated with numerous picnic tables and a multitude of tin signs attached to nearly every exterior structure. Umbrellas, mercifully, sprout up from the middle of almost every outdoor seating element, necessary protection during Houston’s sometimes sweltering afternoons.
Live music has been known to grace the back porch stage, a perfect complement to the neighborhood, casual vibe in back of Shady Acres Saloon. All told, this large outdoor drinking area stretches over half an acre under pecan trees, making for a perfect complement to the narrow interior’s more concentrated burst of dive bar décor. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this rear space was repurposed into a drive-in movie theater of sorts, one of many efforts employed to keep dive bars like Shady Acres Saloon afloat.