Best of Houston®

Best Of 2008

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Cigar Bar
Downing Street Pub

This one's a natural. It has the dark wood, the leather sofas and chairs, the black-clad ­waitresses — all the class, none of the ­snobbishness. Here's what you do: Walk in and head to the 400-square-foot humidor. If you don't have a favorite, or if the last cigar you had was ten years ago, the gentleman behind the counter will help you choose among the Fuentes, the Montecristos, the Punches and the Davidoffs — not to mention many more. He'll cut and light it for you. Then sit yourself down in one of the plush leather chairs and flip through the drink list. Are you a Scotch lover? What do you like — Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glengoyne, Glenrothes? Not to sound crass, but they've got Glens out the wazoo. When the friendly waitress comes, order your drink — but even though you might be tempted, don't do it in a lame country-club accent. You don't want to sully this cigar-smokers' sanctuary.

2549 Kirby, Houston, 77019
MAP
713-523-2291
Best Alternative Club

Curious who might be on the Warped Tour next year? Chances are they'll play this nearly 4,000-square-foot, all-ages room way up in Spring first — or that they already have. Since JavaJazz relocated from Old Town Spring to its much more spacious FM 1960 quarters in 2006, several of the fastest-rising names in emo and punk-pop — Paramore, Plain White T's, Say Anything, From First to Last — have stopped by. Credit owner and booking agent Michael Kelley's perceptive ears for keeping JavaJazz just ahead of the ever-changing musical curve, and his partner Linda Sporkin for fostering an environment that's half after-school clubhouse, half CBGBs (and thus a frequent stop on the fire marshal's rounds). But mostly credit JavaJazz's clientele, whose ravenous appetite for music keeps them coming back again and again and again. Just remember, no booze; but rest assured there'll be plenty of water on hand since a mosh pit is almost sure to erupt.

1503 Chartres, Houston, 77003
MAP
Best Art Show

With works including everything from square-dance dresses to Pilgrim mannequins to shadow puppets committing antebellum sodomy, "The Old Weird America" presented a weirdly insightful take on America. CAMH senior curator Toby Kamps honed in on bizarre strains of American folk culture in contemporary art and came up with a provocative collection of works that made viewers take a long, hard look at their cultural assumptions. Among the highlights was Cynthia Norton's Dancing Squared (2004), a sculpture that uses hidden motors to turn bouffant square-dance dresses into hypnotic hillbilly whirling dervishes. Meanwhile, Sam Durant salvaged hokey museum wax figures to present a revisionist history of the first Thanksgiving, an event that was more about genocide than intercultural potluck suppers. Even more unsettling, Kara Walker presented a video using vintage music and master-and-slave shadow puppets to create a disturbing and darkly satiric vision of the dark and disturbing Old South. Perhaps as an antidote to the imagery of Walker's work, Greta Pratt found and photographed contemporary Lincoln impersonators who come across as history-geek versions of a superhero.

5216 Montrose Blvd., Houston, 77006
MAP
713-284-8250
Best Art Space
The Station Museum of ­Contemporary Art

There are no better artistic agents provocateurs than Jim and Ann Harithas and the Station Museum of Contemporary Art. The Station is privately funded and directed by the Harithases, which allows them to essentially do whatever the hell they want. A former director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston as well as the Corcoran Museum of Art, Jim Harithas has the brains and the art savvy as well as the social and political convictions to make the most of the situation. In past shows, the Station has presented highly charged contemporary art from Palestine as well as an exhibition of work addressing the missing and murdered women of Juárez. The Station's achievements over the past year include the American debut of the Russian art collective AES+F's dramatically apocalyptic video Last Riot and the FotoFest exhibition "Apertura/Colombia," a showing of politically fearless and often poignant Colombian contemporary art that blew away everything else in the photography biennial.

1502 Alabama St., Houston, 77004
MAP
713-529-6900
Best Bachelorette Party ­Entertainment

Houston's self-proclaimed "Misfit of R&B" is equal parts sex, soul and hilarity. You(genious) is known on the local music scene for his ability to lay down sultry vocals while busting plenty of moves with his well-dressed, more-to-love torso. For him, every show is a chance to woo unsuspecting female audience members with tunes like "3 Minute Romance," "Is Your Mind Right?" and "Sex on a Spoon" — a fan favorite that includes the line "Make you howl at the moon — Woo!" You(genious) always manages to captivate a crowd of hipsters, and we're guessing he'd do just as well in front of a group of drunken Betties donning veils and various penis paraphernalia.

Best Ballet

Poor little Aurora. In Dominic Walsh Dance Theater's version of Sleeping Beauty, she was a rebellious teen suffering from narcolepsy, drug abuse and, well, general sluttiness. Walsh turned the fairy tale on its head and created a splendid fast-footed, semi-comical, quasi-tragic tail of love, lust, teen angst and fantasy. The princess was a pain and the prince a geek, but it all worked out in the end. Walsh gave himself a star turn as Dr. Lyle Lac, who saved the day, sort of, with flying leaps and sci-fi-lit mime scenes. The company dazzled, the ­choreography sizzled, and the overall concept was fun and thought-provoking. For fans of DWDT, this was a pure gem of genius.

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Best Cigar Bar: Downing Street Pub

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