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Blu Torch Lounge Perhaps what one notices first about this trendy downtowner is the enormous marble statue of a buxom woman with her head on fire behind the bar. It’s that distracting. Complete with a makeout room in back and expensive paintings for sale in front, the Blu Torch actually does a good job of transplanting a New York feel while keeping bargoers aware that we’re still in Texas. The Blu Torch is roomy and has a down-home chic that might be attributed to sofas that look like they were taken from your parents’ house — if your parents had a cooler house and a DJ over on the weekends spinning favorites from Tone-Loc to unremarkable but inoffensive techno. 809 Congress, 713-228-3409.

The Boardwalk Grill 2651 S. Hwy. 146, Baytown, 832-556-0486.

Boaka BarHoused in the 92-year-old former Isis Theater and conjoined by a side entrance with the Mercury Room, this opulent, czarist Russia-themed dance club offers spectacular decor: a winding faux-marble staircase and giant chandelier dominate the interior, where the late twentysomething, see-and-be-seen crowd dances feverishly to dance remixes. While you might think that members of Cirque du Soleil will start trickling down from the ceiling, the Boaka Bar is far from a circus. 1010 Prairie, 713-225-6372.

Bogart’s 1208 Uvalde, 713-455-5022.

Bojangles 1913 NASA Rd. 1, Seabrook, 281-474-5500.

Bonnie’s Club1309 College Ave., 713-944-3070.

Borski’s I-45 at Shepherd Hill, Willis, 936-344-6212.

BrasilWhat Houston establishment is likely to have a doctoral candidate stewing over her dissertation and sipping French roast while seated next to some Montrose hipster guzzling a Shiner? Brasil -- the perfect coffeehouse/bar hybrid. Roomy, with a smoking section and an outdoor patio, the full menu includes wine, beer, coffee and a broad selection of mostly healthy salads, sandwiches and pizzas. An eclectic variety of (often ethnic) live music and poetry readings draws in a varied crowd of foreign students and Montrosians. 2604 Dunlavy, 713-528-1993.

Brian O'Neill's The Rice Village Irish pub has a unique feature: a walk-up Guinness counter that supplies patrons out front with pints of the dark stuff. Inside is a dark Irish pub, complete with a cozy living room area with comfy leather couches. On weekends, blues, rock and country bands transform this into the loudest Irish pub in town. 5555 Morningside, 713-522-2603.

Bryant’s Ice House26913 Katy Fwy., Katy, 281-392-5741.

Bucks550 FM 1959, 281-481-2552.

Buffalo Fred’s 2708 N. Shepherd, 713-863-9409.

The Bull & Bear Tavern & Eatery There’s a real sense of symmetry and security within the confines of this westside hangout. Prominent dartboards and a selection of those quaint Punch magazine-style Guinness posters festoon the homey, wood-paneled walls, helping to create an environment nurturing to the Celtophilic athletic supporter in all of us. To top it off, a handsome display of about 30 taps lines the back of the bar, so curious consumers can see exactly what pint is being pulled and how. Still, patrons who initially stumble in for a drink often wind up coming back for the tasty and diverse food options. 11980 Westheimer, 281-496-6655.

Byzantio From the outside, this coffeeshop/bar looks like just another brick bungalow awaiting the wrecking ball and eventual transformation into town houses. But step inside and you’ll be swept away from the Gulf Coast and taken to Aegean shores. Owners Ilias Giannakopoulos and Dora Manolopoulos have transformed Giannakopoulos’s former abode into an authentic upscale Greek taverna, complete with Mediterranean snacks, lots of coffee and wine, and plenty of music. DJs spin Greek pop and hip-hop on weekends, while midweek nights find tango addicts and belly dancers sashaying across the hardwood floors. It’s a little like Helios for the well heeled. 403 W. Gray, 713-520-6896.

Cactus Moon Blues Cafe This no-frills joint is the premier blues venue for the north Houston crowd. Its small stage hosts a surprisingly strong number of high-profile blues acts (many on the Rounder, Bullseye and Alligator labels) as well as local and regional faves. You can count on many shufflin' and clinchin' bodies on the dance floor. Also has a full menu and bar game area. 22250 Eastex Fwy., 281-446-2202.

Cactus Music and VideoFrequent in-store performances turn Houston's roots-music retail haven into something akin to nirvana. Not only is there never a cover, but the beer is always free. It bears repeating: There's never a cover, and the beer is always free. Over the years everyone from Billy Joe Shaver and Townes Van Zandt to the Police and the Ramones have taken the Cactus stage. 2930 S. Shepherd, 713-526-9272.

Cadillac Bar 1802 Shepherd, 713-862-2020.

Cafe Artiste Menil-goers, St. Thomas and Rice students and neighborhood locals play the Parisian in this Montrose-area coffeehouse. A small library and free papers here feed the mind, while a full breakfast menu and light lunches and dinners feed the body. And if you want to imbibe, you can do with beer, wine or any of a bevy of hot nonalcoholic bevvies. A great place to mull over all those New Guinea tribal masks you just saw at the museum around the corner. 1601W. Main, 713-528-3704.

Canary Club 711 Freeport, 713-453-9437.

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