As with most of the Houston brothers' bars, finding the entrance to Break Room 86 requires a little bit of work. Head to the back side of K-Town’s Line Hotel, where you'll most likely discover a line already forming behind a bunch of tough guys guarding a mowhawked model type in acid washed jeans and a fanny pack. She's your key to getting inside. Forget the solid 30 minutes of standing beside a dumpster—you’ve made it.
Once inside, “Take On Me” bursts through the sound system. Grab your nearest VHS tape (i.e. the drink menu) to figure out what you’ll be quaffing tonight. Will it be a pre-batched sesame-strawberry daiquiri wine cooler or a gin-absinthe-lime-juice blend made with Panther Sweat that goes by the name of Purple Rain? There’s a wall wholly dedicated to cassette tapes and another to lockers straight out of “The Breakfast Club,” cheesy album covers at every turn, a DJ booth made out of boomboxes, an old Pepsi vending machine that opens up into a karaoke room (one of four)—as well as vintage arcade games, because duh. Throughout the night, performances by breakdancers and a convincing Michael Jackson impersonator materialize on a hidden stage behind the bar. In the corner of your eye, you just might spot the phone booth from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Most outstanding, indeed.
Good for: The sort to wear their sunglasses at night, get giddy over Donkey Kong and binge-watch John Hughes flicks. Valiant night owls inclined to down enough sugary drinks to guarantee them a hangover the next day, get their karaoke on, and end the night with a pop tart (or two).
The scene: Hip 20-to-30-somethings, some of whom weren't even born during the decade this bar pays tribute to. Between the buzzy jams and colorful libations, the place exudes a familiar, relaxed vibe. Imbibers share booths, chit-chat with the bartenders and break out their cabbage patch on the dance floor. No one takes themselves too seriously.
Drink this: Let's be real—the '80s weren't exactly the golden age of cocktails, but Houston Hospitality beverage director Joe Swifka has made some improvements. The cocktails here are, for the most part, well-balanced and boozy. Some favorites off the menu (all around $14) are the Tiki-style Dr. J!, a deceptively strong tipple made with Irish whisky, rum, lime, orange and pineapple juices, served in a tall glass over ice; the immensely refreshing Ecto Cooler—a concoction of tequila, vermouth, cucumber syrup, sage, lime juice, celery bitters, rimmed with smoked sea salt; and, for fellow coffee drinkers, the toasted pecan bitters, fruit juice and whiskey-rum blend known as the Big Time.
Our tip: Aside from getting there early, which every Houston Hospitality fan has down pat, don't miss the Lunch Box for $15. Choose from Cup O' Noodles, Bagel Bites, Hot Pockets and Reese's Pieces.