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Midwest native Chris Shepherd embraces his adopted home, Houston, with deep love, so expect some Southern comfort with your order: deep-fried pickle slices, peanut-butter-and-jelly wings (we weren’t sure either, until we tried them, then we were damn sure), and a really solid burger. But the Hay Merchant’s pride and glory is its incredible selection of craft beer. In fact, co-owner Kevin Floyd has been known to dump a beer from the menu as soon as it undergoes a major acquisition, resulting in spontaneous fire sales. It’s not snobbery—if they believe good production practices are being compromised in any way, they won’t support the brewery. Their principles usually mean happy returns for their patrons, like their golden rule that if a Houston sports team is winning the game—like, say, the Astros at the World Series—all eighty-plus taps of beer are offered half-price.

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