Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
The first thing you need in a great piano bar is a piano, and a master behind it, and Fuad's has one in the form of Geoff Allen, an unstumpable maestro on the keys. The second thing you need is great atmosphere, and Fuad's vaults that bar with gold-medal ease. There's the ambience: plush, red-leather booths and candlelight. And then there are the people. In the words of one fan, "It's a neighborhood bar where everyone is a regular after one visit," a place where "you never know if the guy sitting next to you buying your drinks is an oil baron worth a billion, a guy out on bail for a Ponzi scheme, a famed attorney or some hardworking oil-field worker." And then there's the food: There's never a menu, but where else in Houston can you get a rack of lamb, a ridiculously crustacean-filled bowl of lobster bisque or an expertly seared filet mignon after midnight? Nowhere else but Fuad's, where everyone is made to feel like J. Howard Marshall, and Anna Nicole, too.
Since Free Press Summer Fest's Omar Afra and Jagi Katial bought Fitzgerald's in July 2010, the old Heights dance hall's transformation has been remarkable. Already one of Houston's most historic venues (Elvis and James Brown played the building), Fitz has upgraded its sound, raised the floor in the big upstairs room and begun attracting the kind of talent that used to laugh out loud at the idea of playing Houston until the packed houses they saw staring back at them shut them up real quick. Now with shows both upstairs and down most nights of the week, Fitz is just as accommodating to Houston's local music community. It's also been an outspoken opponent of Houston's ridiculous new noise ordinance, and a cornerstone of the burgeoning bar/restaurant corridor on White Oak.
Head down to the little house at Westheimer and Taft any night of the week and you'll likely hear live music by a local band, ranging from a new ensemble that's playing for the first time to an established outfit honing its set. The venue never discriminates against genres, meaning that in a span of a few days (and sometimes even a few hours), you'll be exposed to anarchist punk, sludge metal, fragmentary singer-songwriter and high-on-the-decibels bizarro. Bring cash if you want to purchase some merch from the dark alcove, and earplugs if you want to keep your hearing.
Think of the John C. Freeman Weather Museum as the little museum that could. Sitting in the shadow of its bigger, shinier cousins, the Weather Museum is housed in what was once a private two-story home. Each room downstairs has been transformed into an exhibit area, the most popular of which might be the WRC TV Studio, which features a camera, teleprompter, lights and a green screen. Visitors can become faux meteorologists and tape themselves delivering a weather report (you have a choice of intense weather conditions to report on). There's also the Cyclone Room, with its own cyclone chamber; the Weather History exhibit, with antique meteorology equipment; a theater with a variety of videos; and the Weather Wizard Corner, with demonstrations by museum meteorologists. Given Houston's history with extreme weather, it makes sense that we have the country's first weather museum, don't you think?
Houston's favorite dark, hip and nasty rock bar, The Dirt, is now located across from the House of Blues off Caroline after spending its first few years incubating in the Heights. The bar's staff comes complete with fun rocker attitude, with extremely pretty, sorta-dressed girls and tattooed boys who will do shots with you if you're cool. The only hitch seems to be finding street parking on downtown's busier nights, leaving you with the options of walking or ponying up for paid parking.
Sure, you could belly up to a hot singles club or Upper Kirby haunt looking for love in all the wrong places, but why not roll the clock back and head into the Heights for some beer, burgers and bingo? This Thursday night institution in the neighborhood starts the weekend for many a horny and self-respecting, unattached yuppie.