By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Poison Girl Lower Westheimer has long needed a bar like this one: a long and narrow no-frills dive with cheap drinks, a few pinball machines, a killer jukebox and a lush rear patio — and a foursome of Rudyard’s employees and regulars have finally done it. While the hot pink exterior and superurban ambience might lead you to believe you were in San Francisco’s Mission District or Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, the jukebox brings you right back here, as all the music comes from Texas. And if you think the Lone Star State is all about country, this jukebox will enlighten you. Sure, Bob Wills, Horseshoe and Townes Van Zandt bring the twang, but there’s also plenty of punk, garage rock, blues, indie rock and hip-hop. It’s the perfect spot to unwind after a hard afternoon’s antiquing, or to prepare for a hard night under the tattoo needle. 1641-B Westheimer, 713-527-9929.
Ponderosa Club 4650 Knoxville, 713-734-0640.
Pop’s Ice House 22721 Loop 494, Kingwood.
President Sam’s Bar & Grill 16205 Westheimer, 281-759-2887.
Privé The heads of a young, T-shirt- and flip-flop-sporting crowd nod to insistent techno rhythms while sipping from a diverse menu of specialty martinis with provocative names like the Pussy Galore, the Pearl Necklace and the Love U Longtime in this laid-back but ultrahip Montrose nightspot. The provocative decor creates an overriding salacious mood perhaps best brought to fruition on one of the vast panoply of comfy couches spread throughout Privé’s upstairs lounge, which opens onto a spacious patio with an amazing panoramic view of Westheimer, perfect for viewing the Pride Parade or just the everyday procession of Houston’s finest exhibitionists. 916 Westheimer, 713-522-2542.
Project Row Houses 2500 Holman, 713-526-7662.
The ProletariatVintage threads, youth and attitude are the triumvirate of dictators at this Montrose Proletariat, which regularly hosts some of the city's top DJs and indie rock bands. When the stage is quiet, the primo juke blasts out everything from the Geto Boys, Prince and the Pretenders to the Flaming Lips, Spoon and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the bar game area houses a couple of pool tables and a vintage Galaga machine. Cheap beer's on tap at the three-sided bar, but for those who don't want to see or be seen, couches tucked away in nooks and crannies offer up more of a cozy living-room feel. 903 Richmond, 713-523-1199.
Puffabelly'sWith its woody aesthetic and walls festooned with vintage gas station and beer signs, Puffabelly's tries to evoke a railroad nightclub from the days of yore, albeit a highly sanitized one that happens to be located in the middle of a high-spending tourist mecca. All those peanut shells on the floor aren't an example of sloppiness: You're encouraged to shuck 'em and chuck 'em, but goobers aren't the only thing on offer here. In addition to serving a full menu and basic bottled beer, Puff's also has a small performance stage, featuring regular country and folk singer-songwriter nights during the week (with both local and regional artists) and the occasional touring band on the weekends. But don't expect to see Boxcar Willie jumping off the train from the track near the door. 100 Main St., Old Town Spring. 281-350-DEPO.
R Bar This onetime biker/stripper bar has undergone a recent face-lift with the new management, so don’t let the inflatable bikini-chick facing the front door give you the wrong impression — the transition is not yet complete. Crawfish boils on weekends and an increasing focus on presenting original music help make this a unique destination for H-town’s way-out-westers. 16205 Westheimer, 281-556-9707.
Red Cat Jazz CafeHouston's most laid-back jazz venue, the Red Cat offers up jazz in many colors under its high ceiling. Mondays and Tuesdays are given over to jam sessions, while Thursdays are hosted by the Wave, Houston's smooth jazz station. Wednesdays and Sundays see more international fare take the stage -- Latin jazz group Batacha anchors the midweek, while D.R.U.M. hosts a Caribbean/reggae night to ease you back into the workweek. On Fridays and Saturdays, Dean James's house band rules the bare brick-walled roost. Hungry cats can also get a bite from the club's full menu. 924 Congress, 713-226-7870.
Red LionEnglish ownership ensures that this River Oaks-area pub's ambience is as British as steak-and-kidney pie. It's one of the few area pubs that evokes a feeling of being in Blighty rather than visiting a Brit-themed amusement park. In an attempt to stimulate a conversation-friendly atmosphere, the owners keep the TV locked in a cabinet, though they'll bust it out on special occasions, such as Astros, Rockets or Texans games, or big soccer matches from across the pond. There's a full menu of English fare, not to mention dozens of draft and bottled brews, and darts for the sportier set. 2316 S. Shepherd, 713-782-3030.
Red Star It’s like perestroika never happened at this downtown hot spot, where the vodka flows like...well, you know. The DJs are ultramodern, but otherwise Bad Mutha Russia is evoked around every corner without much regard for historical veracity. Relax under the steely gaze of the bust of Lenin in the martini lounge, or head to the Siberia room to chill out with your memories of the cold-war era, fondly remembering a time when commie-paranoia was as bad as it got. 2606 Fannin, 713-655-7827.