Drinking Houston: OKRA Charity Saloon Bar Review

OKRA Charity Saloon--the view from the balcony

It took me a few trips to be able to review OKRA coherently. It's not the kind of place that you can "get" in just one visit.

First of all, the space is amazing. It looks like they enclosed an ally between two downtown Houston buildings. That's not what they did, though. What they did is even cooler. They tore down the back wall of the existing structure and then added a sort of atrium onto the back so that it flows from the original structure. They even mimic the look of the original structure's roof. Glass and metal along with organic materials: that's my kind of place.

The Suffering Bastard Punch at OKRA
But my first trip there wasn't that spectacular.

I had a Pine Belt Pale Ale and an Old Fashioned. The beer was good, of course, but the Old Fashioned was only so-so. It had too much fruit in it for my taste. As one of the bartenders at the Brooklynite in San Antonio told me, "An Old Fashioned should not be a fruit salad." In other words, skip the cherry and orange. Just go for the booze.

The second time, I had the daily punch for $6, which was a Suffering Bastard (rum, curacao, orgeat, lime, orange) punch. It was tasty, but I finished it in just a couple sips.Way too small, even for six bucks.

But then I had the Lone Pint Yellow Rose American IPA. And that beer blew me away. It's everything I love about pale ales--citrus, metal, bitter. I even took a picture of just the beer, it's that good.

The Lone Pint Yellow Rose American IPA
I have been back several times, and the place is always good. The next time, I had a Vieux Carre. I told the bartender that I liked boozy stuff, and that's what he made me. It was actually a very good Vieux Carre, the best I have had, and better than I remember them being when I made them at home.

So OKRA is a decent bar. The cocktails and beer are pretty good, and the space is gorgeous. Don't go in there expecting a proprietary cocktail menu, and you will be fine. And order the food, too. The Parmesan fries are excellent, and the beef jerky is damn good, too.

And the best parts are that it's fairly inexpensive for a downtown bar of its caliber, and it gives all of its profit to a charity every month. That's a good deal.