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The Pros of Khon's

Occasional outburst aside, Midtown's boutique bar is as laid-back as it is hip.

Scott Ritter has just walked back into the soft light and currently calm atmosphere of Khon's Bar (2808 Milam).

He picks up the cell phone he's left at the bar, clicks the screen on, then shouts "OH YES, MOTHERFUCKER!" to nobody in particular.

This is worth mentioning for two reasons.

First, obviously, is a man standing in an otherwise docile environment shouting curse words. When you hear someone screaming profanities, your brain automatically tries to piece together what's just happened. It's an instinctive reaction.

Are two people about to fight? Did somebody just drop something really expensive? Was a baby swiped out of her mother's arms by an albatross?

Cursing loudly in a quiet public place is the equivalent of walking into a bank with your shirt off: You automatically look interesting if you do it (and you'll probably be asked to leave, if not be thrown out).

So there's that.

Second, a bit less obviously, is the fact that Ritter left his phone on the bar while he was outside. It wasn't an accident. He just decided to leave it there. He knew nobody was going to take it. And tonight, it's not even the only such instance of E.D.A. (Electronic Device Abandonment).

Michael Kahlil Taylor, whom you might recognize from his work with the Community Artists' Collective, leaves his laptop to fend for itself for a good while too. Apparently, that's the type of place Khon's is.

"We kind of immediately fell in love," says Ritter of the first time he and his friends wandered into the Midtown coffeehouse/bar. "They've got great art, a great bar and, as I've come to find out, great people."

Perhaps the only thing more noteworthy than the unofficial "We Won't Steal Your Shit" mantra at Khon's is its general ethos. During the 17 months it has been open, it has established itself as one of Midtown's most consistently hip venues.

It doesn't beat you over the head with it; on the contrary, Khon's gravitates much closer to Boutique Bar than to Smarmy Hipster Bar, a complaint often lobbed at places like Poison Girl or Dean's. It's just sort of confident within itself.

So much so, in fact, that even its location in a strip center somehow seems en vogue.

Khon's holds high-end art openings once a month ("I've been painting since I was a kid," says owner Khon Lu, "so I know what's good and what really sucks"), regularly features a vast range of live music — everything from B L A C K I E's experimental prog rap to Cory Wilson's sax — has what the ownership has dubbed "the largest selection of Abita [beer] in the city" and hosts festivals of all orders.

It's what's helped cultivate the crowd, which is pretty varied in its own right.

"I think our crowd is a very good reflection of Houston culture," says Cory, the current bartender on duty and a member of local indie-rock band The Manichean. "We have a lot of liberal thinkers that come in and mingle with right-wingers who own guns and have roots in Texas."

Even on a night when the crowd only reaches about the halfway point of Khon's 49-person capacity, Cory looks to be right. Khon's is a convivial, welcoming environment where you're likely to find something interesting happening.

Even if sometimes it's only ­someone cursing at their cell phone.
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LAST CALL

Two things:

1. Khon's serves a drink called the Mirror of Truth. It's sake and it's supposed to be pretty good. But we mention it only because it sounds like a movie that Eric Roberts would own in, and an Eric Roberts reference should never be passed up.

2. Owner Khon Lu turned out to be a very likable fellow. You might recognize him when you see him; he worked as a bartender at La Carafe for seven years before opening his own place. Interesting tidbit: Lu met his wife after she evacuated here during Hurricane Katrina. Oh, and he has a ponytail. How can you not root for someone like that?

 
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