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By Marco Torres
By Angelica Leicht
By Angelica Leicht
By Charne Graham
2401 San Jacinto This huge 20-year-old dazzler — formerly the gay dance palace Rich’s — has been renicarnated as a more general-purpose boogie castle. While the exterior may be nondescript, the interior offers up a total of five bars, a patio, a dance floor and even an art lounge where local artists can exhibit their work. Hip-hop rules the roost on weekdays, while weekends often find the club pulsating to house beats courtesy of local, national and international DJs. 2401 San Jacinto, 713-759-9606.
UBar and Level One Lounge 2002 Bagby.
Under the VolcanoOne of the most intriguing jukeboxes in town is the main musical drawing card at this thatched-roof tiki hut of a bar on the fringes of the Rice Village. Zydeco, Latin, sacred steel, jazz, blues and vintage rock are among the diverse platters stored within by the music-loving owner. Very occasionally, the Volcano hosts live bands meeting one of the above descriptions, but mostly it's a place for well-off twentysomethings to meet, mingle and shoot pool. 2349 Bissonnet, 713-526-5282.
Union BarHow hip do you have to be to qualify as hipper-than-hip? This Montrose-area groove mecca all but rolls over and begs the question. Candles, head-nodding DJ beats, luxurious couches in the Red Room and doting service are the order of the day. Finally, a place where the beautiful people can go without having to feel so self-conscious. Poor beautiful people. Ya gotta love ’em. 202 Tuam, 713-529-5296.
Uropa 3302 Mercer, 713-627-1132.
ValhallaThe periodic table painted on the wall should tip you off that this is a haven for grad students -- of both the perpetual and temporary varieties. Eggheads hunker down here in this dungeonlike basement pub beneath the old chemistry building at Rice, and what keeps them coming back is perhaps the cheapest beer in town. (Volunteer bar staff help keep prices low.) Then there's the conversation: You can scour the country far and wide, but you would be hard-pressed to find a bar with a brainier clientele. And don't let the warlike name fool you -- geeks are more likely to find paradise here than any deceased Viking warrior. Beer, cider and wine only; closed Saturdays. Snacks and sandwiches available. Rice University, 6100 S. Main. No phone.
The VaultHoused in what was most recently Club Azure, this swanky downtown dance club finds an eclectic clientele boogying on the split-level dance floor to everything from the blues of Muddy Waters to the crunk of Lil’ Jon. Dramatic red lighting bounces off bronze walls and psychedelic disco balls, and the VIP room to the left of the entryway is among the city’s plushest. Unlike many of its competitors, the Vault creaks open early — it’s a cool spot for a long afternoon happy hour. 723 Main, 713-224-6891.
Velvet Melvin Upwardly mobile twentysomethings love to slum it at this large laid-back purple pub near Greenway. Big-ass beers and big-ass steaks pack them in on Wednesdays, while the big-ass deck out front is a nightly draw, as are the pool tables inside. A denlike lounge area — complete with coffee table, recliners and battered couches — vies with standard barstools and tables in the seating-arrangement stakes. The strategically placed big-ass TV makes this a great pick for chilling with a pitcher while you watch the Astros underachieve yet again. Weekends offer occasional live country and rock performers. 3303 Richmond, 713-522-6798.
Verizon Wireless TheaterHome for mid-level national touring acts, mostly rock and country artists either on the rise or past their commercial heyday, this versatile venue can accommodate a mosh pit one night and cabaret seating the next. With excellent sound, sight lines and -- most important -- easy-access restrooms, you can fill your bladder and empty it while missing only a couple of choruses. 520 Texas Ave., 713-230-1600.
Vito’s Deck HouseWith a distorted, James Gandolfini-esque tough guy staring you down from their logo and images from various mob-related flicks lining the walls, this brand-spanking-new Richmond Strip hangout might not be too popular with the American-Italian Defense Association, but less uptight types should have a great time. The titular deck is spacious and inviting, and the cozy wood-paneled interior is home to banks and banks of TV screens tuned to various sporting events. While basking in the cathode-ray glow, the local paisanos pound back pitchers of the pointedly named Obnoxious Frozen Screwdriver while they mangia on subs and delectably greasy pizza slices, available all the way up to 1 a.m. Now that’s Italian. 5810 Beverly Hill, 713-334-VITO.
Walter's on Washington The drinks are stiff but the covers aren't at this twangy, down-to-earth Washington Avenue newbie. Touring and local country, blues and roots-rock bands dominate late nights from the intimate stage, while early evenings are a good time to chat with the regulars or shoot pool to a honky-tonk jukebox soundtrack. Or you can just sip a cold one and listen to the freight trains rumble past a couple of blocks away. 4215 Washington, 713-864-2727.
The Warehouse Music Cafe 1801 Washington Ave., 713-864-9226.
Warren's InnLike La Carafe, its neighbor catercorner across Market Square, Warren's has long been known for its top-notch jukebox full of American classics like Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins and George Jones. Unlike at La Carafe, here you can sip mixed drinks as well as beer and wine. Warren's is the slightly divier of the two, La Carafe the more romantic -- that is, unless you get goo-goo eyes over Chroniclereporters and lawyers on benders. 307 Travis, 713-247-9207.
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