Ashford Pub

I remain convinced that Ashford Pub is one of the great undiscovered gems in Houston. And I like it that way. So why am I writing about it, telling the world of its greatness? Well, it is OTL after all (that’s “outside of Loop 610” for us mouthbreathing knuckledraggers who live in the suburbs). And more than just OTL, it’s OTSL (outside the second Loop — Beltway 8), so I don’t expect it to be rushed by roving gangs of hipsters any time soon, review or not.

Ashford Pub is in a grotty old strip mall off Dairy Ashford, between Memorial Drive and Interstate 10. For being in a relatively wealthy area of town, both Ashford and its host strip mall are incongrously seedy looking, as are most businesses along this stretch of Dairy Ashford. Maybe that’s why I like it.

Inside, low ceilings and dark carpet give the pub an almost den-like feeling. Non-functioning brick fireplaces with wooden mantels at either end of the pool table/darts area and chairs with well-worn cushions only add to that sense. The bar is small but well-stocked, with friendly bartenders and your average assortment of regulars, and the entire place feels like you’ve stepped into your neighbor’s basement. It’s a welcoming feeling.

Every Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m., Ashford hosts a trivia night. This isn’t your fancy, hand-held, television-screen, compete-with-random-people-in-Buffalo trivia, though. This is old-school trivia, called out over a scratchy microphone and written down on sheets of paper that are turned in at the end of the game. Twenty questions, three bonus questions, all deceptively difficult.

Wes Mantooth

Teams competing range from white collar types who just got off work at Technip or BP America or Chevron, blue collar types who play pool in between questions, retirees with walkers and portable oxygen tanks (who comprise a particularly tough team to beat: Van’s Vandals), your run-of-the-mill stoners and burnouts, and neighborhood regulars young and old. Each team speaks in hushed whispers as they consult one another over the trickier questions, no one wanting to reveal a possible answer to the other tables, and then pens begin scribbling furiously as an answer is expelled onto the paper, which is — in turn — quickly and pointedly turned over. People here take their trivia seriously.

But that’s not the only charm of Ashford. If it was, I wouldn’t be writing about it on a food blog. Every Tuesday night when you walk in, you’re greeted by the smell of homemade food. You never know what it’s going to be, but you can count on it being good. Ashford doesn’t have a permit to serve food — or, rather, to charge you for the food they serve — so the food is always free. This could possibly cloud my judgment on how good it truly is, but I like to think that I’m not that easy.

Week after week, the owner hauls in crock pots and chafing dishes and wicker baskets filled with the kind of food you only ever find at church potluck suppers: beef stroganoff with egg noodles, meatloaf with deliriously creamy mashed potatoes, meatballs in gravy with fresh bread for making sandwiches, salisbury steak with a dark mushroom sauce, fried chicken, King Ranch casserole, garden salads with iceberg lettuce and Ranch dressing, red velvet cake, apple pie and — this past week — pumpkin pie with whipped cream. This isn’t Textile or *17. This is the basement at the Columbus Avenue Church of Christ on a Sunday afternoon, intimate and comfortable and redolent of home.

It’s certainly a strange thing to have in a bar — especially one that looks as seedy as Ashford does from the outside — but the thing I love about Ashford is that it isn’t truly a bar. It’s a pub, in the most British sense of the word we Americans can muster. It’s a gathering place for the community, for friends, for families. People don’t come here to drink and party. They come to reconnect. Tuesday Trivia and home-cooked meals are just one example of how Ashford helps to forge and strengthen those bonds.

In our crazy lives, it’s such a relief to walk into a place and just…relax. To be with friends who know me by my real name, not the fancy, trumped-up professional name I’ve used since college. To know which chair I want by sight, since it’s the one that has the softest green cushion because it’s slightly broken. To tease the little Irish bartender about the accent that we still swear is fake after all these years. To see the same smiling faces, week after week and year after year, keeping you grounded. To tell the same old stories, which somehow grow funnier and more grandiose with time.

I hope everyone has a place like Ashford. But if not, come by some time on a Tuesday night. We’ll even let you join our team — we could use the help.

12 thoughts on “Ashford Pub”

  1. “I hope everyone has a place like Ashford.”

    I have a place EXACTLY like that.

    So Van’s Vandals have retaken their place at the top? Mensa Unplugged has fallen off quite a bit of late. That’s a shame.

    Nice review!

  2. I spent (too) many nights in that pub when I lived in the area. Sounds like it’s still the same great place to hang out. Glad to see some appreciation for the place!

  3. Ahhhhhhhhhh…the Ashford…like Chris, I too have spent many a night there in mid 90’s – love the Hunter family and all the gang!
    Been too long, K~
    I would LOVE to meet up with you guys next time you play!!! 🙂

  4. wow. i can’t say i’ve heard much about Ashford in a long time. i used to go there regularly (for years) to play trivia, dominoes, and 31. as a matter of fact, i met my wife there – we went back there for our 10th anniversary last July but didn’t know anyone anymore.

    glad its still doing well.

  5. A basement turned into a den is exactly what it looks like.

    You forgot to mention the lasagna.

    It has Stella on draft.

    You can let people join our team, but we don’t need help. We got second place, remember? If only someone had written down polar bear like she was told we would have won first…

  6. Remember when we used to go there…. Hmm… I think we need to go there again and take back the $50 bar tab that was once so rightfully ours.

    And if we lose I bet I still have about 50 free drink tickets laying around somewhere.

  7. I appreciate the compliments on my trivia and for the record I do use a microphone, but when it is out (and that is a distinct possibility on any given night) I have been known to call the questions with my “scratchy loud voice”.

  8. Andy, you did a wonderful job this Tuesday. I am looking forward to next week but please ask questions I know the answer too. Thank you in advance.

  9. So not really on the same topic as your post, but I found this today and I just cant resist sharing. Mrs. Agathe’s dishwasher quit working so she called a repairman. Since she had to go to work the next day, she told him, �I’ll leave the key under the mat. Fix the dishwasher, leave the bill on the counter, and I’ll mail you the check. Oh, and by the waydon’t worry about my Doberman. He won’t bother you. But, whatever you do, do NOT under ANY circumstances talk to my parrot!� When the repairman arrived at Mrs. Agathe’s apartment the next day, he discovered the biggest and meanest looking Doberman he had ever seen. But just as she had said, the dog simply laid there on the carpet, watching the repairman go about his business. However, the whole time the parrot drove him nuts with his incessant cursing, yelling and name-calling. Finally the repairman couldn’t contain himself any longer and yelled, �Shut up, you stupid ugly bird!� To which the parrot replied, �Get him, Spike!�

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