Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
When you walk in this joint, the last thing you expect is a killer jukebox. If you come in early, there's a few old codgers watching Jurassic Park or Seinfeld, and the hip-o-meter registers zilch. You expect to find the juke stocked with plenty of Journey, Stevie Ray and Steve Miller, with a little Buffett thrown in for that -- cue Hank Hill voice -- "fun in the sun" vibe. And the G.R.A.B.'s box has all that. But then what's this? Fifty-odd tunes by the Ramones sprawled across two CDs? A UGK full-length? A Violent Femmes retrospective? Classics of old-school hip-hop by Run-DMC, LL Cool J and Eric B & Rakim? And it's not all oldies, either -- there's also the latest from Gorillaz, Bloc Party and a mess of other fresh new hits. What gives? Well, there's a sign posted on the juke that says the owners will put your favorite CD on their box if you ask 'em nicely. And then there's the fact that DJs Ceeplus and the Dum Dum Crue have been making this place a regular haunt for a few months now, and one would suspect they have a hand in the juke. Anyway, it's a welcome surprise.
Readers' choice: Mezzanine Lounge
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