By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Aaron Michael’s 930 FM 518, Kemah, 281-334-3610.
Absinthe If you think you’ll be able to quaff a couple of the notorious “green fairies” of van Gogh and Gauguin infamy before painting your masterpiece, you’ve got another drink coming. No, there’s no absinthe here, but there are plenty of other spirits to get you going. Housed in a former wash-and-fold launderette, this hard-to-locate brasserie is the picture of civility. An older, docile crowd inhabits this roomy, albeit occasionally packed venue. Surprisingly excellent homemade pizzas serve as a nice respite from the usual bar fare, and the clean tile floors and a tasteful decor add a touch of class to a ramshackle stretch of lower Richmond. 609 Richmond, 713-528-7575.
Acadia Louisiana Bar 3939 FM 1960 W., 281-893-2860.
AgoraA pocketful of dollar bills would serve you well here on a Wednesday night, when this usually relatively tame coffeehouse/bar opens up into a belly-dancing arena, complete with onlookers from all walks of life. As befits its name, Agora's overall theme is distinctly Greek, but what has made it work is the clash (friendly, mind you) of cultures that forces the place to so often elude definition. At night, the scholarly atmosphere that prevails by day turns boozy, yet the boozers and the perusers get along fabulously. 1712 Westheimer, 713-526-7212.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema The idea is staggeringly simple. First, get your hands on a regular six-theater mall cineplex. Then remove every other row of seats and replace them with tables. Scatter the tables liberally with menus featuring a wide variety of tasty food and drink. Next, book a constant lineup of current Hollywood offerings, sprinkling in the odd revival and theme night. What you end up with is the ultimate date setup: dinner, drinks and a movie — simultaneously. And no need to come up with any of that pesky conversation. 1000 West Oaks Mall, 281-556-0204.
Al’s Sports Bar The name pretty much says it all. A mind-blowing 15-foot TV screen ensures you won’t miss any of the heavy broadcast-event action (even if part of you wouldn’t mind), and a selection of big-game video concessions leaves no shortage of chances to sort out the alphas from the betas — there’s even one of those plush-animal-grabbing machines so you don’t lose touch with your softer side. Add the fact of Wednesday-night karaoke and live bands on weekends and you’ve got a recipe for F-U-N. Oh, yeah, and there’s beer. 16203 Westheimer, No. 102, 281-493-9797.
Al’s Sports Bar No. 2 3838 S. Dairy Ashford, 281-493-3838.
Anderson FairThis may not have been the first club on the Houston folk scene, but Anderson Fair has endured to become the mother church. Way back when, former locals Lucinda Williams, Eric Taylor and Nanci Griffith cut their teeth on the stage over the famous red brick floor, and there you can still catch aspirants to their thrones along with touring stalwarts amid a radical '70s vibe. A tiny kitchen dishes out mean quesadillas, while a small adjacent library serves up food for the mind. (No smoking; beer and wine only.) 2007 Grant, 713-528-8576.
Ashbury’s 60’s Bar 4608 FM 1960 W., 281-895-0884.
The AxiomWhen the Axiom first opened 15 years ago, the only toilet was in the middle of the dance floor, and if you looked up in certain places, you could see stars. Now, after changing names several times, the joint has been fully renovated by underground drama group Infernal Bridegroom Productions and serves as both their theater and the punk/indie rock club it once was. Drinks are cheap and the clientele ranges from slacker to artsy. 2524 McKinney, 713-522-8443.
Azteca'sThis multilevel Mexican restaurant at the crossroads of the Montrose area and Greenway/River Oaks is quickly becoming Houston's premier venue for Spanish alternative music. Rocenrol, tango, techno, hip-hop, salsa and pretty much anything that can be infused with a lil' Latin influence are showcased here on a nightly basis. The crowd reflects the venue's eclectic vibe, and the energy level is always high. 2207 Richmond, 713-526-1702.
The Balinese RoomThough cheesy trinkets are now plunked in the gift shop that fronts this over-the-water pleasure palace on the seawall, the newly renovated Balinese still exudes the roguish Rat Pack vibe that once made it the most popular illicit gambling palace in Texas. During its Eisenhower-era heyday, everyone from Duke Ellington to the Chairman of the Board played the club's bamboo-walled South Seas Ballroom, which has been painstakingly restored and includes the original murals and art deco black neon palm trees. You can still catch live music there, albeit today of the modern rock, pop and jazz varieties, with the occasional Vegas-style celebrity impersonator thrown in for history's sake. If you're a true Texan, you'll hum ZZ Top's ode to the joint as you take the stroll back toward the ballroom. 2107 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, 409-762-9696.
The Ball RoomIf billiards are your particular vice, then look no further. The Ball Room boasts a bevy of eight-foot red-felt pool tables and a few green professional-sized ones to boot. Games are free every Monday through Wednesday from 8 p.m. till closing, and there’s lots of elbow-and-cue room, copious drink specials and waitresses who will take your order tableside so you don’t have to interrupt the game just to keep the spirits flowing. And if the decisive crack of brightly colored balls starts getting you down, head back to the dance floor for a whole different vibe courtesy of resident DJ Tiger Jones. Rack ’em! Marina Gate Center, second floor, 18307 Egret Bay Blvd., Webster, 281-335-0700.