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Etta's LoungeOlder African-American regulars, young University of Houston students and Montrose hipsters mix easily at this Third Ward institution, especially on Sunday nights, when Grady Gaines and his Texas Upsetters take the stage for a long night of blues and soul. The dilapidated building and, uh, unique decorating scheme only add to the charm. (Do they ever take the Christmas decorations down?) And this seals the deal: The cover is a measly $3 and they'll serve you cold beer in a bucket if you ask for it. 5120 Scott, 713-528-2611.
Eureka Club10414 Hempstead Hwy., 713-682-9125.
510 Club7410 Fairbanks, 713-896-1381.
F2Pizza, burgers and dogs aren’t the only draw at this little downtown eatery/lounge, which is owned by the folks who brought you Frank’s Pizza. Inside the bold orange facade you’ll also find a couple of dart boards, DJs spinning hip-hop and acid jazz, and a full bar, while outside seating on Main allows you to view downtown’s nightlife while you eat. F2 also has a pizza window — open until 3 a.m. — where weekend wee-hours revelers can grab a slice and go. 306 Main, 713-229-9999.
Face’s 1453 Witte, 713-463-9099.
Firehouse SaloonIf rockin' Texas country is your disease, then put on your pearl-snap shirts and pull on your Ropers and head to the Firehouse for the cure. Here you see Texas music acts before they play at Willie's Picnic. Get there early if you want a seat at the picnic bench. Otherwise, expect to stand. 5930 Southwest Fwy., 713-977-1962.
Fitzgerald'sThe granddaddy of them all on the Houston scene has undergone many drastic changes in style over the years. Long ago it was a Polish dance hall, then it had a long run under the current ownership as a blues/roots venue, and today, it's Houston's punk, underground rock and metal mecca. Somehow the substance of the place has remained unchanged: It's hot, dirty, spacious and eclectic, just like the city it's in. Midlevel national acts perform upstairs, while up-and-coming national and local bands perform downstairs on multiband bills. Don't miss the upstairs patio overlooking the boulevard. 2706 White Oak Blvd., 713-862-3838.
Forgetta Bout It Club13245 Jones Rd., 281-807-4116.
Front Porch PubStanding right in the middle of newly gentrified Freedmen’s Town, this friendly watering hole offers upwardly mobile urban homesteaders a huge array of beers to choose from. As the name implies, you can kick it alfresco here and luxuriate in beery splendor, right there in the shadows of the Skyline District. 217 Gray, 713-571-9571.
Gallant KnightThis is the home of real-deal R&B with live bands three nights a week, and the atmosphere is as down-home as the music. Middle-aged regulars surround the bar while Rice University students sit on lumpy, threadbare couches. The zigzag layout means plenty of dark corners for lurking, Shaft-style. 2337 W. Holcombe, 713-665-9762.
The GatsbyAt first, this deco "social club" sought to bring some upscale nocturnal class to the Rice Village, where this spot rests comfortably above the many eateries and businesses on University. But then, the spot switched aesthetics and became the premier hip-hop/house dance club for those looking to get a taste of sin, downtown-style, without having to take on all of the traffic and parking ordeals. Good luck getting in, though; you may need the Jaws of Life to pry your way up to the front ropes. 2540 University Blvd., 713-874-1310.
The Ginger Man As the encyclopedic (if not downright pedantic) beer list attests, this is a microbrew snob’s paradise. Of course, any bar that features bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale is asking for it, perhaps, but the Ginger Man is up to the challenge. Featuring a great CD jukebox and a crew of dressed-down, het-up Rice Village regulars, this is the place to go if you want to hear the finer points of John Ashcroft’s singing style debated while a soundtrack of “The Card Cheat” by the Clash nags at you in the background. 5607 Morningside, 713-526-2770.
The G.R.A.B. Built on the site of the former downtown favorite Globe News, the G.R.A.B. (Game Room and Bar) maintains a neighborhood-bar feel within the deluge of downtown’s trendy martini watering holes. The G.R.A.B. manages to retain a core group of liver-spotted regulars while still appealing to a younger, beer-swilling and tequila-shooting clientele. On Saturdays, a DJ spins vinyl from the likes of Perry Como and Iron Maiden, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the midst of a heated nine-ball tournament while glassy-eyed quasi-bohemians take in the hackneyed Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon “event” on the big-screen TV. 809 Pierce, 713-655-0707.
Grand 1894 Opera HouseWhether you squeeze into the smallish wooden seats to hear the Galveston Symphony, an aging pop star or country legend or a touring blues or jazz tribute, the natural acoustics of this hall easily eclipse any lack of knee-room. (It must be true: People were smaller back then.) No seat inside this historic building, which survived the Great Storm of 1900, seems far from the stage, even in the balcony, making any concert an intimate affair. (Tip: There are a few vision-impeding posts, so check out the seating plan before you buy.) 2020 Postoffice, Galveston, 800-821-1894.
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