Best of Houston®

Best Of 2002

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Art Gallery
Inman Gallery

Inman Gallery is nothing if not hip, so hip it's been included in New York's Amory Show, that commercial mecca of über-cool contemporary art, for the past two years. Inman focuses on emerging artists with an emphasis on Texan talent, and their openings are attended by a roll call of the Houston art world. If you're looking for Bill Davenport's quirky sculptures and paintings or Amy Blakemore's lushly skewed photographs, this is the place to hit. The gallery consistently presents high-caliber work and thoughtfully composed group shows. Next year will find Inman in a brand-new space. The 1925 brick home that has housed the gallery since 1990 will be demolished to make way for a new and improved venue. An expansive, high-ceilinged gallery space will replace the narrow converted living room that previously doubled as the central exhibition space, allowing Inman greater flexibility in the scale and number of works it shows. During the construction process, the gallery has temporarily relocated to Lawing Gallery's gorgeous downtown space while owner Doug Lawing is on sabbatical from his own schedule of cutting-edge exhibitions. The interim space on Travis is known as Inman@Lawing.

214 Travis, Houston, 77006
MAP
713-529-9676
Best New Club
Walter's on Washington

The jewel in Pam Robinson's Washington Avenue crown -- and the nerve center in the three-club cluster she calls Pamland Central -- Walter's is less a nightclub than a neighborhood bar with a stage. On that stage, the music comes from both near and far, the musicians both semifamous and downright illustrious. Everyone from rookie bandleader Hilary Sloan to Grammy-winners Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez to living legends W.C. Clark and Tony Joe White have performed in the medium-sized room, which offers some of the most intimate surroundings in town. The bartenders -- one of whom is the cousin of Walter's regular guest Mike Barfield -- know just as much about music as they do about mixology. And thanks to the nearby railroad yard, you can listen to the lonesome whistle echoing back the blues, rockabilly and honky-tonk sounds billowing out of Walter's.

4215 Washington, Houston, 77008
MAP
713-862-2513
Best New Club

The jewel in Pam Robinson's Washington Avenue crown -- and the nerve center in the three-club cluster she calls Pamland Central -- Walter's is less a nightclub than a neighborhood bar with a stage. On that stage, the music comes from both near and far, the musicians both semifamous and downright illustrious. Everyone from rookie bandleader Hilary Sloan to Grammy-winners Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez to living legends W.C. Clark and Tony Joe White have performed in the medium-sized room, which offers some of the most intimate surroundings in town. The bartenders -- one of whom is the cousin of Walter's regular guest Mike Barfield -- know just as much about music as they do about mixology. And thanks to the nearby railroad yard, you can listen to the lonesome whistle echoing back the blues, rockabilly and honky-tonk sounds billowing out of Walter's.

Best Club for Local Acts
Fitzgerald's

It's tough in Houston for new local acts to get gigs. It's a catch-22: While everyone wants to see the next big thing, local audiences can be blasé about going out and seeing new bands. A band has to get a rep before people start coming out to see them, but how can they earn their spurs if nobody will let them get up and play? Fitzgerald's will. Now in its 25th year, the rambling old Polish dance hall has survived conversion from a blues and roots bar into the proving ground for fresh rock and punk acts. It has outlasted and absorbed its main competitor, Emo's, and even gives the late Montrose landmark a weekly memorial with its Wednesday-night tributes. Want to get ahead of the curve and be able to turn your nose up and say, "Well, you should have seen them when..."? Then get thee to Fitzgerald's often and stay late.

2706 White Oak, Houston, 77007
MAP
713-862-3838
Best Club for Local Acts

It's tough in Houston for new local acts to get gigs. It's a catch-22: While everyone wants to see the next big thing, local audiences can be blasé about going out and seeing new bands. A band has to get a rep before people start coming out to see them, but how can they earn their spurs if nobody will let them get up and play? Fitzgerald's will. Now in its 25th year, the rambling old Polish dance hall has survived conversion from a blues and roots bar into the proving ground for fresh rock and punk acts. It has outlasted and absorbed its main competitor, Emo's, and even gives the late Montrose landmark a weekly memorial with its Wednesday-night tributes. Want to get ahead of the curve and be able to turn your nose up and say, "Well, you should have seen them when..."? Then get thee to Fitzgerald's often and stay late.

Best Gay Bar
Meteor

For all those tired of the scene, Meteor might well bring you back into the fold. This sleek joint off Fairview offers a fresh take on the neighborhood gay bar. It's decked out in modern threads with neato ceiling fans and comfy oversize high-backed couches. The numerous TV sets around the room showcase music videos of the latest dance grooves without overwhelming the conversation you started up with that really cute guy drinking the cosmo. It's the kind of ultrahip, classy place where you can bring the straights along for a night on the town. It's trendy but not pretentious, attractive but not flashy -- kinda like most of the guys you'll meet here. Whether you're out with old friends for a drink or looking to make new ones, give Meteor a try. It just might become your new scene.

2306 Genesee, Houston, 77006
MAP
713-521-0123
Best Gay Bar

For all those tired of the scene, Meteor might well bring you back into the fold. This sleek joint off Fairview offers a fresh take on the neighborhood gay bar. It's decked out in modern threads with neato ceiling fans and comfy oversize high-backed couches. The numerous TV sets around the room showcase music videos of the latest dance grooves without overwhelming the conversation you started up with that really cute guy drinking the cosmo. It's the kind of ultrahip, classy place where you can bring the straights along for a night on the town. It's trendy but not pretentious, attractive but not flashy -- kinda like most of the guys you'll meet here. Whether you're out with old friends for a drink or looking to make new ones, give Meteor a try. It just might become your new scene.

Best Lesbian Tejano Bar

Didn't know there's a lesbian Tejano bar in town? Tight niche. Mela's has been filling that niche free of competition since 1980, back when few folks were comfortable with the thought of lesbianism and fewer were familiar with the word Tejano. Owner Herlinda "Mela" Contreras, 55, was born and raised in Houston as one of 16 children. Contreras was honored as the female grand marshal for this year's pride parade. Her family always knew she was gay but never gave her anything less than full support. That support has been instrumental in her success at keeping her bar open more than 20 years. Mela's has changed with time, with its guests branching out to lesbian and straight couples alike, Latinos, bolillos (gringos) and every other race. Order up a michelada, a house favorite made with Mexican beer (usually Corona) mixed with lime and hot sauce. The spicy coolness strikes a tasty balance against Houston's heat.

Best Lesbian Tejano Bar

Didn't know there's a lesbian Tejano bar in town? Tight niche. Mela's has been filling that niche free of competition since 1980, back when few folks were comfortable with the thought of lesbianism and fewer were familiar with the word Tejano. Owner Herlinda "Mela" Contreras, 55, was born and raised in Houston as one of 16 children. Contreras was honored as the female grand marshal for this year's pride parade. Her family always knew she was gay but never gave her anything less than full support. That support has been instrumental in her success at keeping her bar open more than 20 years. Mela's has changed with time, with its guests branching out to lesbian and straight couples alike, Latinos, bolillos (gringos) and every other race. Order up a michelada, a house favorite made with Mexican beer (usually Corona) mixed with lime and hot sauce. The spicy coolness strikes a tasty balance against Houston's heat.

Best Jukebox
The Big Easy

Not many jukes can take the pressure of having their own theme night, but Tom McLendon's Big Easy box can. Every Monday, he turns off the coin slot and customers have free rein to play all the Lightnin' Hopkins, Ray Charles, Neville Brothers and George (both Porter and Jones) they want. There's free pool, too, so if you want to go in and bone up on your billiards and your Gulf Coast classics some Blue Monday, the Big Easy's your best bet.

5731 Kirby, Houston, 77005
MAP
713-523-9999
Best Jukebox

Not many jukes can take the pressure of having their own theme night, but Tom McLendon's Big Easy box can. Every Monday, he turns off the coin slot and customers have free rein to play all the Lightnin' Hopkins, Ray Charles, Neville Brothers and George (both Porter and Jones) they want. There's free pool, too, so if you want to go in and bone up on your billiards and your Gulf Coast classics some Blue Monday, the Big Easy's your best bet.

Best Bar for Kids
Valhalla

Tack an extra digit onto your SAT scores. Valhalla is a grad student-run bar tucked into a corner of the old chemistry building on Rice's abundantly treed campus (look for the red arched door). Even without the verdant surroundings, Valhalla's ridiculously cheap 75-cent beer is a sufficient lure for anyone interested in the effects of ethanol on the human body. The bartenders are volunteer Rice staff, faculty, students and alumni. Out on the lawn, perpetual doctoral students and their families lounge on the grass while their four-year-olds debate the existence of the Higgs boson particle and deconstruct Finnegans Wake. As DEET-coated children play Frisbee to observe laminar flow, adults take turns making beer runs into the dim, quasi-subterranean bar.

6100 Main St., Houston, 77005
MAP
713-348-3258
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Best Art Gallery: Inman Gallery

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