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reports and thoughts on legal issues, music, Orthodox Christianity and/or whatever else strikes my interest

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Location: Houston, Texas, United States

My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Russian Bear

Last night I paid a visit to the Russian Bear Restaurant for the first time.

I had heard a lot about this place but had never had a chance to check it out before. It has gotten some write ups in the local press before including this piece.

Well it certainly lived up to all the hype.

The restaurant is located in a fairly non-descript strip-shopping center on Houston's far west side. Once you walk in the door, however, you definitely don't feel like you are in Houston anymore. Actually that feeling started even before I got to the front door as I passed by several people in the parking lot who were all speaking (arguing?) excitedly in Russian.

Once inside I was immediately assaulted by the loud music and flashing lights from the dance floor which is almost immediately adjacent to the front door. The dance floor was packed. I arrived late, about 10:30pm, when the weekend night switch from Russian restaurant to international nightclub has formally been made.

When I came in the nightclub scene was in full effect. There were two young Russian women who were belting out some Russian dance tunes on the karaoke machine. It seemed at least half the clientele was out on the dance floor and the bar was rapidly filling up.

The whole place was pretty packed and it was controlled chaos just trying to maneuver through the room to our table.

Unfortunately I had missed out on the dinner side of the nightclub/restaurant set up so I can't comment on the food. I've heard it is very good if a bit on the overpriced side.

I finally made my way to the bar and suddenly began to wonder if: (a) this place had any Russian beer, and (b) would the bartender speak any English?

Fortunately for me they came through on both counts.

Somewhere recently I had read about the attributes of a Russian beer called Baltika. I have seen this beer carried at a few places in town and had been meaning to check it out.

Once I had been assured that they had Russian beer. I asked what kind they had? Evidently they only carry Baltika because the bartender immediately said "We have #'s 1, 3 and 9!"

"I'll take a #9." I said, hoping that meant the strongest not the weakest flavor.

No problems there. They brought me a nice pint sized bottle of #9 which has about an 8% ABV. I can definitely recommend this as a good beer. Now I'll just have to work my way down through the rest of the Baltika series.

For the rest of the night I just sat back with my #9 and watched the scene unfold. This definitely seems to be the night spot for Russians in Houston. The place was full of Russians of all ages.
There were also plenty of non-Russians on hand as the place seems to have a reputation for a great party club.

The music also reflected this with a mix of Russian dance tunes, Latino music and even some Patsy Cline being played! Some folks at my table who had been there before said the music was usually a lot more eclectic and they were playing a lot more English selections that night than they usually did.

Unfortunately we also arrived too late (or maybe it was too early) for the folk and belly dancing.
At some point I will have to go back just to check out those shows.

To sum it up, the "Bear" was a fun place to visit and offered some good Russian beer. This would be a great place to visit with a Russian acquaintance. I will definitely have to make some return visits.


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