Chango’s Havana Club may be a stretch from your normal nightlife circuit, but don’t let that deter you. Across from the Dominion along I-10, the cocktail lounge and cigar bar is located in a shopping center outside the 1604 loop, but Chango’s makes venturing just outside of town decidedly worth it.
Weeknights are known for being loungey and relaxed, but your dancing shoes are a prereq on Friday and Saturday. Live music is a staple seven nights a week, with bands like LUSH, Mark Chandler, and Altered Natives heating up the weekend dance floor with tunes that span the catalog. I headed out on a Sunday night, friends in tow, for a change of pace. A calm crowd of regulars watched the second half of the Spurs/Hornets Game 4 on various screens.
The lounge is dimly lit and cozy — oval glass fixtures emanate a reddish-orange glow, and baja ceiling fans evoke the tropics. The blasting AC makes a welcome respite from the South Texas heat, and floor-to-ceiling maroon velvet curtains cool the creeping sunlight. But the outside patio is a worthy standalone destination. A small stream trickles by the boardwalk-style seating area and settles in a tranquil rock pool alongside the patio, where outdoor live music reigns Thursday through Saturday.
Mojitos are a big seller at Chango’s, as are specialty martinis in Key Lime and Pomegranate flavors — which, sadly, I didn’t discover until after I ordered my drink. The dirty martini I requested was just a tad shy of expected dirtiness, but great nonetheless. Note to self: extra-dirty next time. A friend with a sweet tooth opted for a chocolate martini, which he swears by, and tried out an Earth Nectar flavored cigar.
“I think I just found my new favorite,” he said after a couple of puffs. He went on to relate that Chango’s is his place of choice for a drink and a good smoke, largely because of the exemplary stogie selection and relaxed vibe. I have to agree. Though Chango’s upscale atmosphere feels like it might warrant a strict dress code, regulars are equally comfortable in shorts, sundresses, and flip-flops as in office-turned-happy-hour dressy casual. The club’s sizeable humidor offers a moderate to high-end assortment, and a VIP-cordoned area features a huge, leather wraparound couch that seats 12 more than comfortably.
We settled into the regular seating, just as comfy with leather two-seaters, dark wooden coffee tables, and chairs. Brothers Matt and Bobby Kirk took the stage post-game until midnight, their usual set of rousing classic-rock and blues-jam selections augmented by some notable guest performances, including their mother, blues-singer extraordinaire Sylvia Kirk. The Kirks are a staple on the Gruene Hall circuit, but this night was particularly superb — it was Mother’s Day and the blues jams were flowing. Other standouts in the set included the blues anthem “Goin’ Down,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” “Honky Tonk Woman” sung by N’awlin’s native Charlie Cuccia — a pompadour-sporting, Mick Jagger stand-in complete with strut and swagger — and an incredible rendition of CSNY’s “Almost Cut My Hair,” sung by Tom Devine, an older gent sporting a flowing white beard and suspenders. The night’s show was a hip melding of young and old, the hearty applause and occasional standing ovations attesting to an exceptionally talent-laden night.