Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
While flashier and hipper bars have come and gone in downtown Houston, rock-steady Warren's Inn remains a bar for people who go to bars to drink, not to mingle or self-advertise. The decor is dark and wooden, with a mishmash of tables and a single turret-style elevated booth (the best place to sit). The joint's packed on weekend nights, the service is fast, and the drinks are pretty cheap. Warren's die-hard regulars mix well with the hoppers, and a genuinely friendly vibe fills the air. Bonus: Warren's has an excellent jukebox, with an eclectic mix of classic country, rock, zydeco, oldies and more. The bar's Market Square location puts it in spitting distance of several other watering holes, but it's Warren's classic pink neon sign that truly anchors the area.
Readers' choice: Absinthe Brasserie
Bar hoppers and pub crawlers alike still reminisce about the talent the Ale House's kitchen had for sating the drunken munchies. We find the Stag's Head does more than come close to matching the old classic's mad skillz. It tops them. No need for a late-night Taco Cabana run when the Stag's Head makes stuffed jalapenos, fajita nachos, burgers and Jamaican jerk chicken tenders. Not only that, the pub serves up fresh pizza from a wood-burning oven. And if you still feel something Britter is better, there's also fish 'n' chips, cottage pie, and bangers and mash with Heinz baked beans on the side. We dare you to get Britter than that.
Readers' choice: Rudyard's
Friday nights at Zake are the place to be for raw fish consumption. That's when Elaina "Lushus" Brown, a staple in the local sushi nightlife scene -- yes, there is such a thing -- hits the restaurant's DJ booth to provide musical accompaniment to your evening of Japanese cuisine. We're not giving Brown a shout-out just because she's a gorgeous dame who makes the atmosphere of this swank Montrose sushi spot that much more beautiful. We also think that listening to sweet house grooves while chomping down on uncooked fish is the most exotic way to spend a Friday night.
It's been said that the family that shoots stick together stays together. Of course, Ted Nugent said the same thing about hunting elk, but that's neither here nor there. We suggest visiting Slick Willie's "Family" Pool Hall during the waking hours, before the downtowners get too knackered and the place gets all smoky. The joint has tons of games, both on the table and off: 14 eight-foot pool tables (with one on the outside balcony for nonsmokers), tons of video games (from the classic Galaga to Golden Tee), air hockey and darts. There are even a few TVs for those who prefer to remain spectators. This is no dingy dive full of sharks and hawkers, but it does have a certain authenticity. Patrons down cold buckets of beer, stiff bar drinks and your typical bar fare -- pizza, fried cheese, popcorn, etc. Mosey on over for a few games, but remember: Watch out for the hustlers.
Readers' choice: Slick Willie's Family Pool Hall
Every summer dozens of graff kids hit the streets, wielding cans with skills so lame their scribbles wouldn't look out of place knifed on a park bench. Someone even tagged the Art League Houston's Inversion house, messing up a highly original work. Whoever that hack is, he should take a lesson from YAR!, who's been plastering the Montrose with dope shit all year long. It's YAR! who's been painting all those pictographic faces on walls and Dumpsters, and it's YAR! who's been putting up those bad-ass black-and-white posters on fences and metal boxes. While other graffers seem resigned to crappy scribbles -- hell, even the GRAVEYARD crew is guilty of that, especially around West Gray -- YAR! has taken it to the next level.
"Hip-hop" club Coco Loco's main audience has always been a progressive, young Latin crowd whose collective ear stays planted firmly to the street. From the beginning, the club has featured Latin nights mixed in with more urban fare, but in recent months, Coco Loco has begun to lean more toward the new sounds coming from across Latin America, mainly reggaeton, the salsafied version of reggae that started breaking stateside during the past couple of years. The club's sound system is top-notch, built to rattle your ears and make your chest palpitate. There's plenty of space for VIPs above the main dance floor, not to mention a special second room for getting freaky. (Or so they say.) The whole place is filled with good folks getting down to the latest Latin sounds mixed with hip-hop, much of which comes from our own barrios. This ain't your grandma's cantina -- this is one of Houston's hottest places to party.
Reader's choice: Elvia's