Best of Houston®

Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Downtown Bar

Shay McElroy's Irish Pub Consumption of spirits in a relaxing downtown locale always comes easy, thanks to the McElroy clan. They started with the comfortable beachhead pub in Shepherd Plaza, stepped up to the stylish setting of the State Bar & Lounge at the Rice Lofts, and have balanced that beautifully with the quietly cordial Shay McElroy's on the Main Street side of the Rice Hotel. Let the newly arrived drinking establishments downtown jack up the decibels and try to outdazzle and disco one another to death. As with the venerable La Carafe and Warren's, Shay is content to do what counts most: offer up quality drinks at reasonable prices, in the clean, cozy confines of a small neighborhood bar. In the bedlam of a downtown scene that's just beginning to find its true self, Shay McElroy's is as authentic as they come. The McElroys have managed to make their newest place look and feel as if it has been there since the beginning. May it last forever.

Best Bar Decor

Under the Volcano Taking its cue from the Malcolm Lowry novel of the same name, Under the Volcano is a colorfully riotous celebration of El Día de los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead -- all year round. As you walk in, there's a glassed-in shrine to recent notables who have passed over, complete with clipped-out newspaper obituaries and fresh flowers. Boldly colored Mexican folk art statues, glowing tin lamps and dusty, old paper flowers cover the walls, which are themselves painted in festive pastel shades. The tropical theme even extends to the parking lot, which is walled in with oleanders, bougainvillea and other flowering shrubbery. The vibe here renders you powerless to resist ordering up one more drink.

2349 Bissonnet, Houston, 77005
MAP
713-526-5282
Best Bar Decor

Under the Volcano Taking its cue from the Malcolm Lowry novel of the same name, Under the Volcano is a colorfully riotous celebration of El Día de los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead -- all year round. As you walk in, there's a glassed-in shrine to recent notables who have passed over, complete with clipped-out newspaper obituaries and fresh flowers. Boldly colored Mexican folk art statues, glowing tin lamps and dusty, old paper flowers cover the walls, which are themselves painted in festive pastel shades. The tropical theme even extends to the parking lot, which is walled in with oleanders, bougainvillea and other flowering shrubbery. The vibe here renders you powerless to resist ordering up one more drink.

Best Jazz Club

Cezanne Sure, there are more glamorous spots to catch jazz in this town. You can delight in the sights of open-backed, little black dresses and power players at spots like Scott Gertner's Skybar or Sambuca. But jazz has always been about the music. And traditional, straight-ahead fans have always flocked to tiny rooms to listen to serious players. Tucked up above the Black Labrador, Cezanne is hardly noticeable to nonfans, but there it sits, home to local and statewide cats such as Kellye Gray, Sebastian Whittaker and David Craig, as well as the occasional national act. For jazz fans who love performance over pretension, shows here promise all the intimacy of an exclusive gig in your friend's living room.

4100 Montrose, Houston, 77006
MAP
713-522-9621
Best Jazz Club

Cezanne Sure, there are more glamorous spots to catch jazz in this town. You can delight in the sights of open-backed, little black dresses and power players at spots like Scott Gertner's Skybar or Sambuca. But jazz has always been about the music. And traditional, straight-ahead fans have always flocked to tiny rooms to listen to serious players. Tucked up above the Black Labrador, Cezanne is hardly noticeable to nonfans, but there it sits, home to local and statewide cats such as Kellye Gray, Sebastian Whittaker and David Craig, as well as the occasional national act. For jazz fans who love performance over pretension, shows here promise all the intimacy of an exclusive gig in your friend's living room.

Best Set Design

Infernal Bridegroom Productions' Symphony of Rats Stepping into the Axiom theater for Symphony of Rats was like entering an attic from another world. In a place where presidents receive messages from robots -- who make bubbles and smoke cigarettes as they discuss philosophical constructs -- Infernal Bridegroom's production of Richard Foreman's play called for serious set creativity. Designed by the company as a group, the stage was a crazy quilt of cartoon images with messages like "Oil Isn't Fuck Glitter" and "CB Head Face Machine" splattered across the cinder-block walls. TVs, space ships and skeletons drifted in the melee. Official-looking papers and folders were scattered across the floor, and in the middle of the stage sat an enormous Plexiglas box where the president of the free world tried to learn golf. Symphony of Rats came together with its own delicate logic, and it owed much of its success to this chaotic atmosphere.

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