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Volume 69, Issue 18, Thursday, September 18, 2003

Arts & Entertainment
 

Marfreless a perfect romantic hideaway

Liquid Diet

Mario Gudmundsson

They don't advertise and there's no sign outside, so Marfreless is a little hard to find, even if you're looking for it. There's a parking lot in front of the white building, and if you keep an eye out, you'll spot a small blue door beneath a staircase. If you can find it, you've stumbled across one of Houston's best and longest-kept secrets. 

It's dim and quiet inside, where soft classical music mingles with a low buzz of conversation. The bar is the first thing you see, spanning the length of the room. Bottles of high-end liquors line up on lighted shelves behind the granite bar. A large, painted screen above the bar shows an idyllic scene of the antebellum south, complete with mansion and riverboat.

Drinks aren't cheap, but the service is attentive, quick and discreet. Mixed drinks, starting at $6, are abundantly strong and made with good quality booze.

Happy hour, from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights, gives a small reduction in prices and might be more reasonable for college students with skinny wallets. Red Hook, Chimay and Bud Light beers are offered on tap for around $3, but the focus at the bar leans towards martinis and exotic cocktails.

The décor is English and clubby, with dark woods, red carpeting and brown leather sofas. The walls are painted taupe and covered with matted photographs of Houston landmarks. Aside from a few dim lights over the bar and spotlights on the photos, dozens of flickering candles provide the scant light. The serenity and romantic atmosphere, coupled with the darkness, has, in the past, given Marfreless the reputation of a hush-hush haven to have an affair. In other words, it's a make-out bar.

"The title of 'make-out bar' really cheapens the place," bartender Adam Hong said. "I mean, you can make out anywhere, but I guess the low lights and romantic music could be conducive to some, well, romance."

Despite Hong's objection, there were indeed a few couples getting to know each other upstairs. It's a nice place for it, really, with lots of roomy leather sofas and soft candlelight. The walls here are painted a deep red, and have more big prints of Houston landmarks. A smaller room at the very back of the loft is a little darker and cozier, and definitely conducive to romance.

"The crowd's so eclectic that sometimes it's hard not to just enjoy being an observer of all kinds of people. It's better than being locked down to one kind of patron, like at a sports bar," Hong said.

Mostly well-dressed locals, ranging in age from 21 to around 40, make up the crowd. Some of them show up for the flirtation, but a lot of people come with their friends for some killer drinks and good conversation.

"It's an intellectual place, where you're not hindered by loud music and you can hear the person you're with," Hong said. "It's about dialogue here, not about being overwhelmed by atmosphere."

Marfreless

2006 Peden St.

The verdict: Houston's greatest hidden treasure.
z

Mario Gudmundsson

x

They don't advertise and there's no sign outside, so Marfreless is a little hard to find, even if you're looking for it. There's a parking lot in front of the white building, and if you keep an eye out, you'll spot a small blue door beneath a staircase. If you can find it, you've stumbled across one of Houston's best and longest-kept secrets. 

It's dim and quiet inside, where soft classical music mingles with a low buzz of conversation. The bar is the first thing you see, spanning the length of the room. Bottles of high-end liquors line up on lighted shelves behind the granite bar. A large, painted screen above the bar shows an idyllic scene of the antebellum south, complete with mansion and riverboat.

Drinks aren't cheap, but the service is attentive, quick and discreet. Mixed drinks, starting at $6, are abundantly strong and made with good quality booze.

Happy hour, from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights, gives a small reduction in prices and might be more reasonable for college students with skinny wallets. Red Hook, Chimay and Bud Light beers are offered on tap for around $3, but the focus at the bar leans towards martinis and exotic cocktails.

The décor is English and clubby, with dark woods, red carpeting and brown leather sofas. The walls are painted taupe and covered with matted photographs of Houston landmarks. Aside from a few dim lights over the bar and spotlights on the photos, dozens of flickering candles provide the scant light. The serenity and romantic atmosphere, coupled with the darkness, has, in the past, given Marfreless the reputation of a hush-hush haven to have an affair. In other words, it's a make-out bar.

"The title of 'make-out bar' really cheapens the place," bartender Adam Hong said. "I mean, you can make out anywhere, but I guess the low lights and romantic music could be conducive to some, well, romance."

Despite Hong's objection, there were indeed a few couples getting to know each other upstairs. It's a nice place for it, really, with lots of roomy leather sofas and soft candlelight. The walls here are painted a deep red, and have more big prints of Houston landmarks. A smaller room at the very back of the loft is a little darker and cozier, and definitely conducive to romance.

"The crowd's so eclectic that sometimes it's hard not to just enjoy being an observer of all kinds of people. It's better than being locked down to one kind of patron, like at a sports bar," Hong said.

Mostly well-dressed locals, ranging in age from 21 to around 40, make up the crowd. Some of them show up for the flirtation, but a lot of people come with their friends for some killer drinks and good conversation.

"It's an intellectual place, where you're not hindered by loud music and you can hear the person you're with," Hong said. "It's about dialogue here, not about being overwhelmed by atmosphere."

Marfreless

2006 Peden St.

The verdict: Houston's greatest hidden treasure.

 Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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