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By William Michael Smith
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By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
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Drink HoustonYou want to hit a variety of clubs and get your drink on. A big party atmosphere would be nice, or a chill video lounge, or a honky-tonk; maybe a movie later. But you don't want to get a DWI en route from lounging to two-stepping. Though Drink at the Marq*E Entertainment Center offers a smaller version of City Streets' multi-party-plex, the main club (modern dance music, hip-hop and retro) is not scaled down by any means. The video lounge, billed as a spot to settle down for conversation, can be a bit loud but has a cool modern vibe. The country bar, like traditional ones, plays rock occasionally to step up the energy. It's also the most intimate space, with a small dance floor, a couple of pool tables and plenty of tables. 7620 Katy Fwy., 713-290-0041.
Duke of Hollywood TailorsProbably the weirdest place in downtown with respect to its marriage of the old and the new. What used to be, and in fact still is -- a tailor's shop opened by Duke Shapiro -- has been beautifully remade into a Market Square watering hole. A shoeshine booth sits to the left as you enter, followed by a behemoth working counter and the bar to the right, creating a bit of a squeeze, but none for the worse. The cabinets in the walls are still full of fabric and dress shirts, which, along with the various photos and newspaper clippings plastered around the place, help with the nostalgic feel. The only drawback is the music, which is all wrong for such a place, but serviceable drinks and a cigar-friendly atmosphere will make up for it in the eyes of many. A great place to bring someone visiting from out of town. 305 Travis, 713-227-5867.
Ebony Club5505 Langley Rd., 713-631-6072.
Eldorado Ballroom From the depression era until about 1970, the Eldorado was the city’s top upscale blues and jazz club. A roll call of the greats that have played there is endless — suffice to say that on one long weekend in the 1950s, Guitar Slim, Etta James, Clifton Chenier, Jimmie Reed and Charles Brown all played at “the home of happy feet.” (Reed, James and Chenier on the same bill!) Desegregation spelled the club’s doom, as well as that of most of the rest of the once-thriving black-owned businesses on nearby Dowling Street — the happy feet found other homes. Until 2003, when the artists of nearby Project Row Houses reopened the club. Now a historical landmark, today the club is open on special occasions. 2310 Elgin, 713-526-7662.
El PueblitoThe back room of this piquant Guatemalan-Mexican restaurant often hosts live music — usually a solo artist with keyboard or guitar or a small combo. Tropical good times result there and on the adjacent back patio, where torchlight and margaritas round out the sabor. 1423 Richmond, 713-520-6635.
Elvia's Okay, it's billed as a restaurant and cantina, but nobody ever, ever eats here. This southwest Houston hot spot is just for dancing. Flamenco shows and salsa lessons warm up the early crowd, and live cumbia and merengue bands take over after 10 p.m. Novices beware: The competition on the dance floor can be cutthroat. 2727 Fondren, 713-266-9631.
EM. I. Karaoke BarFour whole nights (Thursday through Sunday) of solid karaoke action, with full bar and a throbbing, young, polycultural vibe. Simultaneous DJ/MC Ekin runs the show, keeping the multilingual (English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, etc.) sing-alongs moving and spinning trance and hip-hop in between, while the foxy waitstaff attends to your every (well, most every) need. Good clean fun, or a new Gregg Araki film waiting to happen? The choice, she is yours. 6101 Wilcrest, 281-495-7078.
Empire BarThree floors' worth of dancing and music are interspersed at this weekend spot housed in an old law office in an otherwise empty block of NoDo. While most of the original brick and flooring has been saved, it is now accented by new, refined lighting and a thunderous sound system. The first floor serves as a staging area, vacant except for a few stragglers just wandering in and getting their first drink, while the second and third floors serve as the pulsating dance areas. Hip-hop's on floor two, with Latin music just above. 108 Main, 713-223-9108.
The Energy Corridor Pub 1001 Dairy Ashford, 281-584-9631.
Engine RoomDiverse crowds turn out for the equally eclectic shows at this metal, alternative and hip-hop venue with the mechanical moniker, but don't expect a scene from the bowels of the Titanic when you go. The large warehouse-style club has minimal frills and decor but is equipped with fancy, intelligent lighting and a decent sound system. The bar offers blue-collar beers (Lone Star, Pearl) and stiff mixed drinks. 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
Ernie's on BanksTired of TV-saturated sports bars that make you feel like you've gotten trapped insides a sports kaleidoscope? Ernie's on Banks is for you. It's not the place to go if you're a fan of some weird team like the Seattle Seahawks -- they just don't have enough TVs. But if you're a Houston homer and want to watch the game and converse with your pals, Ernie's is the place. The baseball-themed downstairs area -- which is stocked with a jukebox, a pool table and a library -- is worth a visit even if there's no game on. Unlike all too many bars in the Montrose/Museum District, Ernie's is as pretension-free and laid-back as Charlie Rose on Valium, and that's what makes it one of the best neighborhood bars in town. 1010 Banks, 713-526-4566.
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