“Someone’s opening a Little Woodrow’s.”
“In San Antonio?”
“That’s awesome, I love the ones back home.”
That wasn’t the only conversation I’ve had recently with buds and admitted fans of the Houston-based chain of bars. For years, an old roommate’s been going on about “turtle races” and hangouts inside Austin and Houston locales.
My interest piqued, I popped into the new location at 2535 Babcock, a cavernous building that previously housed a Fast Eddie’s. Gone were most of the pool tables, and in their place was the most intricately curated chain bar I’ve seen since Flying Saucer. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing. But this makes sense as the brand has six Houston locations; three in Austin (with a fourth in the works) and the SA spot makes 10. No, it’s not a dive, but it feels like it wants to be. If I’m completely honest, the space looks as if someone took Yardhouse’s tap system, added local brews, a sports bar, games, a casual vibe, babely servers, kitschy beer signs and plenty of seating, and stirred.
I really must stress the enormity of the place. The entry gives way to a collection of comfy couches and bar games including electronic beer pong, a skee ball-esque “beer ball,” Playboy pinball and a suspect Duck Dynasty hunting game. To the right is the commanding bar with its 50-beer tap system that wraps all the way back to the restrooms and is manned by at least four bartenders. Much like the Flying Saucer, Little Woodrow’s hangs its hat on an exclusive beer club. Here “The Big 50” is made up of a well-rounded mix of big beer brands and local favorites. A Bud Light shares the spotlight with Karbach’s Hopadillo and Real Ale’s Hefeweizen. Why not?
Although pricing is nonexistent, which usually is cause for some alarm, I did appreciate the descriptions on the menu. Drafts are broken down into cutesy sections such as “Seasonals,” “Join the Dark Side,” “Hop-To-It,” “Your Dad’s Beer,” “Fruits + Vegetables,” “Wheatsville,” “Easy Does It,” “Lighten the Mood” and “Belgian Inspired.” Yes, Little Woodrow’s has a full bar, but I was especially impressed by the list of “Good Stuff,” a collection of 24 bourbons and whiskeys, 14 single malt Scotch offerings and six blended varieties.
A visit to Little Woodrow’s can be a bit overwhelming. Do I want to sit at the long communal picnic table under the faux-night sky complete with string lights, or do I want to take advantage of the giant patio and unusually cool weather? Should I choose a booth, a tall bar table or regular dining? What TV should I sit closest to? Doesn’t matter, there’s more than 30 of them. Do I want to sit at all? There’s corn hole and two surviving pool tables beckoning me. Then again, I could get over my fear of karaoke and rent one of the private—and more importantly, soundproof—karaoke rooms. For those musically inclined, the rooms are open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and noon to 2 a.m. on weekends, available for $25 an hour.
And then there are the theme nights: Tex Mex Mondays, Big Ass Beers Tuesdays (with trivia); free karaoke rooms on Wednesdays (along with day-long happy hour); $5 vodkas on Thursdays for Ladies Night (which is kind of annoying and presumptuous–give me the Glenlivet for fuck’s sake); $4 frozen “Woody’s” and Bloody Marys 11 a.m. to 7p.m. on Saturdays; and $3.50 drafts on Sundays from 7 p.m. to close. It’s as if a hyperactive boozehound designed the offerings. Oh, and if you’re feeling peckish, Little Woodrow’s comes through with a pretty solid burger and staple carb-y offerings such as pretzels and fries.
Is it a little fratty? Yes, but there’s so much going for it that I’m willing to overlook the occasional beefed-up bro. The bar manufactures the atmosphere, but no one seems to mind. The scene was animated during my last visit, but not rowdy. There’s not turtle racing quite yet, and that dive kitsch is missing, but Little Woodrow’s is off to a good start.