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- Readers' Choice
Best Blues Club
The Big Easy
Ritzy Rice Village has an improbably rich history with the blues and R&B. Besides the Gallant Knight, a mainstay of live jazz and soul from the '70s to the '90s, the Big Easy celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and today sits at the epicenter of Houston's very much alive...
Best Art Gallery
Moody Gallery gets the nod for Best Art Gallery this year in part because of its well-received exhibition "Luis Jiménez: Prints, Drawings & Sculptures." It was the first solo exhibition of the late Houston artist since his death. With it, gallery owner Betty Moody did what no one else had...
Best Radio Station
KPFT is much more than a radio station: It's a public forum, community bulletin board and a lifeline to those of us who are completely put off by what passes for commercial radio these days. (It's got a great history, too, being firebombed by the KKK shortly after signing on...
Best Band Name
Race to the Moon
There's an irony that in Space City, it's so hard to see the stars some nights. We still have the moon, for now at least, and we've got indie-rock group Race to the Moon to remind us of the heavens every time we see their name. Race to the Moon...
Houston Ballet's Romeo & Juliet
Stanton Welch, artistic director for the Houston Ballet, created an important new work for last season, a new Romeo and Juliet. (For the last 28 years the company has been performing a production created by Ben Stevenson.) Bringing a fresh take on the classic romance, Welch found a lovely mix...
Best Biker Bar
The Dam Ice House
The building that houses this biker bar is an old Jiffy Lube that converted perfectly into an icehouse. This friendlier-than-most biker joint has plenty of character, the kind of place with bras hanging from the ceiling and a whole bunch of really nice Harleys parked out front. The Dam Ice...
Marian Luntz, curator of film and video, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
We go back and forth on what we think about the job of Marian Luntz, curator of film and video for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Some days we think, "Wow, she gets to travel around the world to dozens of film festivals. She sees hundreds of movies, documentaries...
Best Neighborhood Bar — Village
Under The Volcano
Taking its name from a 1947 novel by English writer Malcolm Lowry that was made into a film by legendary director John Huston in 1984, Under The Volcano is an eccentric bar with a unique style and atmosphere about it. The features include elements from the novel, such as a...
Best Small Museum
Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts
The Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts has snagged a Best Small Museum nod before. It wins again this year for the very simple reason that it's doing excellent work. The brilliance in its programming is that it showcases works rarely seen publicly from small, private collections held locally. Early...
Best Latin Club
This Miami-inspired, upscale Latin nightclub has a trio of house DJs who spin a mix of salsa, merengue and bachata music, as well as hip-hop, Top 40 and Spanish rock. Fuego has an impressive audio and lighting system that was installed by the same company that handled the lights and...
Not only does this Washington Avenue grill serve some excellent burgers, dogs and tacos, but you can also hit up the drive-through window to get a couple of margaritas to go. We repeat. Margaritas. TO. GO. (It's legal because they cover the straw hole with tape. On a side note:...
Best Public Art
There are more than 2,400 traffic signal control cabinets in Houston: Big, drab gray boxes that sit on the side of the road. Thanks to the Mini Murals project, dozens of them have been covered by bright, colorful mini murals. Elia and Noah Quiles of UP Art Studio launched the...
Best Cigar Bar
Because of municipal code changes over the past few years, there aren't really any "cigar bars" in the traditional sense inside the city of Houston aside from a few private establishments with hefty membership fees. The key is to find a place with a patio large enough that you can...
Best Reading Series
International literary stars Salman Rushdie and Sandra Cisneros are two of the nine noted authors appearing at the 2015/2016 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. Houston-based Mat Johnson, who many believe is destined for the same level of success, is on that list. The series has hosted 56 Pulitzer Prize...
D&T Drive Inn
According to D&T Drive Inn's web site, until 1959 it was an actual icehouse, a place that stored and sold blocks of ice until in-home freezers became viable options. When a Mrs. McKeehan bought the place, she named it after her sons, Dan and Ted. Today, D&T sports more than...
Best Concert Venue
Drive by Fitzgerald's most weekend nights, and plenty of weeknights, and the line to get in often snakes out the door and around the corner, and sometimes around the block. It's a pretty good sign that something great could be about to happen on one of the venue's two stages...
Best Neighborhood Bar — Montrose
Opened in 1982, Lola's Depot, Houston's ultimate dive bar, still counts among its loyal regulars people who have been hanging out there since the '80s; in recent years the bar has had a resurgence as a whole new generation of thrill seekers has discovered the place thanks to social media...
Best Radio Personality
KCOH's sports director and Sports Rap host Ralph Cooper is a Houston institution. In 2010, the Houston Association of Black Journalists honored his 40 years in print and broadcast media with a lifetime achievement award, recognizing his work in the late 1960s for the Forward Times and Houston Post, on...
Best Bar Atmosphere/Decor
Wooster's Garden is the definition of a clean, well-lit space. The front wall and ceiling are composed mainly of iron and glass, which lets in lots of sunlight. The aged, white-painted bricks of the back wall reflect it, filling the space with a natural glow. At night, wire framework lanterns...
Mat Johnson, University of Houston Creative Writing Program professor, has carved out a unique place in the American literary scene. He writes about the serious aspects of contemporary race relations, and he does it in hilarious prose. The New York Times Book Review compared Johnson's latest release, Loving Day, to...
Best Happy Hour
There are certainly a whole lot of contenders for this action-packed category, but Midtown's newest cocktail and beer garden has a dedication to excellence that shines through. With 49 craft beers on tap, a rotating selection of around 40 inventive cocktails, and a wine and spirit list to rival that...
Best Film Festival
Jazz on Film
The competition for Best Film Festival is always fierce. Between the dozens of themed festivals including the Indian Film Festival of Houston, which hosts dozens of exciting contemporary Indian filmmakers every year, and Latin Wave, which brings in provocative, cutting-edge Latin American filmmakers; a half-dozen superior micro-cinemas in town; Rice...
Best Dance Club
You can, and maybe you do, dance in a different venue every night in Houston. We're a city with a lot of great spaces to shake your thing, but there's something about Barbarella that feels different. Maybe it's the way everything seems to glow inside it, creating an atmosphere that's...
Hubcap Grill on 19th Street
It's not often you find a great jukebox in a burger joint, but owner Ricky Craig is a huge fan of music, especially from the '80s. The jukebox at Hubcap Grill is stocked with hits from Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Tears For Fears and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. For...
Best Art Exhibit for Kids
Philip Worthington's "Shadow Monsters"
Located in the cavernous main hall of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, "Shadow Monsters" is a clever and whimsical interactive art exhibit that kids have to see to believe. Using projectors and a vision-recognition program, you can transform your shadow into an ever-shifting monster on one of the three...
The area behind the 100-year-old cabin that houses Rainbow Lodge is so lush and expansive, it's like the patio to end all patios. There are multilevel decks and bridges that make the most of the abundant natural beauty, including a citrus grove and creek bed. The sophisticated wild game and...
Best Downtown Bar
The Nightingale Room
The Nightingale Room is a small, intimate space with a good sound system that offers patrons the fun experience of choosing a vinyl record from the bar's large collection of around 2,000 discs for the bartender on duty to play for them, or they can bring their own albums to...
Lynn Lane is a master at photographing performing artists, dancers in particular. No trick shots, mind you. With just their athletic artistry and his creative vision, he's done some of the most stunning dancer portraits we've seen in the city. When he isn't busy shooting around town, he's teaching photography...
Best Neighborhood Bar — Galleria
The West End
The West End has a massive patio that can seat more than 400 people, making it a good spot for after-work get-togethers and parties; the clientele is made up largely of young professionals and business people who work in the Galleria area. The bar food menu is extensive, so you...
Best Place for Cocktails
Johnny's Gold Brick
treadsack.com/johnnysFans mourned The Boom Boom Room when it closed its doors, but the building is now home to a worthy successor. While the bartenders at Johnny's are perfectly capable of coming up with complex cocktails (some of them even compete in local and national competitions), the real appeal here is...
Best Place to Take a Selfie
For some, it may be nostalgia. For others, perhaps it's a final requiem to a dying icon. Whatever the case, there is no better option for getting your selfie on than in front of the Eighth Wonder of the World. With all due respect to the David Adickes sculpture "We...
Best Dance Company
NobleMotion Dance Company
Andy Noble and Dionne Sparkman Noble introduced NobleMotion Dance just six years ago at the 2009 Big Range Dance Festival in Houston. In the last season, the company filled Hobby Center's Zilkha Hall for a two-night run — a rarity among local performing arts companies. The company, part of the...
Best Dive Bar
Alice's Tall Texan
Generally speaking, nothing ruins a good dive bar like talking about what a great dive bar it is — because then the people who "just love dive bars" show up in droves — but Alice's Tall Texan has long been the exception to that rule. With its neon signs and...
Best Tourist Attraction
San Jacinto Monument
It was perhaps the most important 18 minutes in American history, the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto. Texas forces led by Sam Houston faced off with the Santa Anna-led Mexican army and the fate of two nations hung in the balance. Houston's forces won; Texas became an independent nation, eventually...
PJ's Sports Bar
The last time we went to PJ's, we waited in anticipation inside the nearly empty upstairs cave while the Karaoke Man set up the sound system, tweaking this knob and that. We wanted to get there early to get a good seat. He wore all black, which blended nicely with...
Best Indoor Playground
Even before the construction of Frolic's Castle, Memorial City Mall sported the best indoor playgrounds in the city. Now it's so good it's hard to believe it's free. It features a massive, multi-story castle set among an equally huge fairy-tale forest, and kids can run, jump, climb and play for...
The death of izakaya Goro & Gun was sad, but it made way for new life in the form of an innovative bar. Moving Sidewalk (run by Goro's former bar manager, Alex Gregg) initially received a lot of attention for creating nitro-frozen cocktails, some of which were designed to change...
Best Movie Theater
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema — Vintage Park
Okay, so you can catch the latest blow-'em-up blockbuster at any of dozens of movie theaters around town. Why pick one over the other? Parking? Prices? Popcorn? All those things are important, sure, but Alamo Drafthouse Cinema — Vintage Park takes our Best Movie Theater award because of its super-special...
Best Radio Host (Talk)
Craig Cohen (Houston Matters)
Somewhere along the radio dial, amid the bluster of conservative blowhards and guy-centric sports talk, is public radio. And while those words can be code for "liberal, hippie, elites" in a state like Texas, KUHF has managed to deliver the kind of legitimate local discussion so often missing from radio...
Best Breakout Author
Jennifer Mathieu has the perfect combination of skill and curiosity every good writer needs. On top of that, she considers teens and young adults, who make up both her characters and her readers, "fascinating." Mathieu's first young-adult novel was The Truth About Alice; it examined the results of malicious gossip...
Best Art Exhibit
"Luis Jiménez: Prints, Drawings & Sculptures"
The exhibit "Luis Jiménez: Prints, Drawings & Sculptures," the first solo show for the artist since his death in 2006, was almost a decade in the making. Moody Gallery owner Betty Moody and her late husband, artist Bill Steffy, were friends with Jiménez, who died in a studio accident during...
Best Sports Bar
Established in 1965, Griff's claims to be Houston's "oldest surviving sports bar," which sounds right. One thing we know for sure: It's our favorite sports bar. We attribute that in large part to the friendly neighborhood vibe, but there's also the 22 TVs, every NFL game and a happy hour...
Connor Walsh was just 21 years old when he was promoted to principal dancer with the Houston Ballet making him the youngest person ever to achieve that level with the company. He joined the company in 2004 as a member of the corps de ballet (that was the same year...
Best Gay Bar
With the recent Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, it's important to recognize and appreciate the history and importance of early Houston gay bars like The Ripcord, which opened back in 1980, when our city was not as tolerant toward the LGBT community as it...
Houston Museum of Natural Science
In the past year, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has featured exhibits about a lost Chinese civilization, incredible nature photography, samurai warriors and one-of-a-kind jeweled creations from one of the most famous design houses in history. That's in addition to all of its permanent exhibits on ancient Egypt, Texas...
Best Neighborhood Bar in the Heights
Jimmy's Ice House
This little open-air spot has all the charm of Houston's other favorite icehouse down in Montrose, but is just a little more gruff, unpolished and down to earth, giving Jimmy's its signature cool, relaxed vibe. On weekends, you can catch chatty old-timers elbowed up to the bar, armed with stories...
Patrick Renner's Funnel Tunnel on the Montrose esplanade in front of the Art League Houston building was a real attention getter. The 7,000 pound wood and steel sculpture introduced the found-object artist to a city-wide audience. Over the last year, he's gained a regional audience. A vibrant mix of engineering,...
Best Radio Program (Talk)
When you think talk radio in Houston, tune your brain in to Houston Matters instead of all that right-wing rabble on the AM dial. Every weekday at noon, host Craig Cohen and his well-informed guests undertake an always thoughtful, sometimes provocative consideration of all things Houston, balancing topical affairs with...
Best Neighborhood Bar — Midtown
Nouveau Antique Art Bar
Nouveau Antique Art Bar has been around for a while now as trendy clubs have come and gone nearby and the fact that it actually has a large parking lot is unique itself in Midtown; the big draw here is the large collection of reproduction Tiffany lamps and Art Nouveau...
When Chanson d'Eau, a contemporary Belgian circus and dance troupe, came to Discovery Green for Maravilloso! 2015: The Water Festival, the group was looking for a local partner. Chanson d'Eau found Karen Stokes Dance. Choreographer Stokes created DRENCH!, a site-specific commissioned work performed in water. Stokes, both a past Houston...
Best Place (Intimate) to See a Concert
McGonigel's Mucky Duck
Between the low lighting, comfortable chairs and scrumptious bar food, it's easy enough to mistake the Mucky Duck for someone's actual den. The only thing that gives it away is the soundboard console, big and intimidating enough to resemble something out of a '60s or '70s sci-fi film. Other details...
Best Arts Festival
La Chicana Laundry Pictures founder and filmmaker Stephanie Saint Sanchez was inspired to start Señorita Cinema by Real Women Have Curves filmmaker Josefina Lopez's Boyle Heights Latina Independent Film Extravaganza. Sanchez screened her film The Legend of La Llorona at the festival a few years ago and was so encouraged...
Best New Bar
This laid-back, family-owned neighborhood bar in the Heights features a nice little patio out front that local food trucks come and visit so you can get some grub; venture a few steps inside and get some craft beers or excellent signature cocktails to wash your food selections down with. There...
Best Tattoo Studio
Rose & Anchor Tattoo
From script to sugar skulls, hearts to portraits, and yes, roses and anchors, your best bet for that amazing body ink is Rose & Anchor Tattoo. Husband-and-wife team Erik and Victoria Del Rio take pride in their award-winning work, with more than 20 years of combined tattooing experience between them...
The Firehouse Saloon is so popular with its customers that it started booking private holiday parties in July. Owned by retired West University firefighter Tom Imber, the honky-tonk at 59 South and Fountain View is known for the pairs of cowboy boots suspended from the ceiling, the impressive collection of...
Best Hotel Bar
806 Lounge at JW Marriott
Part of the fun of drinking at this recently built, sleek downtown hotel is how many places you can do it. Drink at the long bar adjacent to restaurant Main Kitchen. Drink on one of the plush sofas and people-watch. The best way to drink here, though, is with a...
Best Place to People-Watch
On a basic level, Discovery Green is a fascinating place to people-watch because there's so much going on around the park at any one time. Depending on the time of year, we're talking festivals, music, ice skating, people playing with their dogs, people getting fancy photos taken, art installations, flea...
"Sam Houston did not come to Houston to RENT"
Texas Real Estate & Co. commissioned the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston to paint an outdoor mural on a wall of the company's parking lot. Showing a stylized black-and-white portrait of Sam Houston accompanied by a silhouette of the Houston skyline against a blue sky, the mural has a simple...
Best Strip Club
When we heard that one of our favorite adult film stars, Alexis Monroe — star of Buns of Anarchy 2 — was coming (heh) to Houston in August, we didn't even have to ask where she'd be performing. Of course it would be Vivid, which is also scheduled to host...
Best Band to Get Together in the Past Year
By only opening her mouth, Moji Abiola echoes some of the greatest music of the past while pushing her eponymous trio in bold new directions. Abiola and her bandmates, David Garcia (drums) and Troy Creagh (guitar), have hardly been together a calendar year, but already there's no other group in...
Best Bar Games
Monday is "Geeks Who Drink Trivia and Steak Night" at this unabashedly nerdy bar, and Sunday is "Magic The Gathering." Truth be told, though, there are games every day at Neil's Bahr, because the space abounds with them. There are stacks of board and card games in the various lounge...
Best Pool Hall
This Montrose mainstay has stayed the same while aggressively hip and trendy bars and shops around it have come and gone. We expect Slick Willie's to be there even after the mattress stores leave, and perhaps it will even survive a nuclear war, which would be awesome, because even radioactive...
Best Wine Bar
No other Houston wine bar is as focused as Camerata is on serving a side of knowledge alongside a glass of wine. That said, this is no boring classroom (even if the back wall does look a bit like a chalkboard). The staff of Camerata will wax so enthusiastically about...
Best Place to Bring Out-of-Towners
It's easy to take for granted just how cool Hermann Park is if you live in Houston. On those rare days when it doesn't feel like the world is melting, there's no better place to be outside. Not sure how to spend a day with company? If they enjoy zoos,...
Best New Club Owner
Zack Palmer, Walters Downtown
Zack Palmer came by the nickname "Zack on Washington" honestly, literally growing up in the nightclub business as his mother, Pamela Robinson, ran Walters on Washington and then Walters Downtown. He had the kind of adolescence that many kids dream of, working for his mom for many years and eventually...
Best Art Installation
"Ben Butler: Unbounded"
Rice University commissioned artist Ben Butler to create a site-specific installation. Butler, an assistant professor of art at Rhodes College, crafted "Unbounded," a maze of 10,000 hand-cut sticks of poplar wood. He pre-assembled some 300 flat sheets in his Memphis studio, transported them to the Rice University Art Gallery and...
Best After-Hours Hangout
House of Pies
Just because it's 2 a.m. doesn't mean you have to head back to the house. Nothing quite caps off a night out of dancing/drinking/singing/(choose your own adventure) than a bite to eat with the people you love. When it's too early to go home but too late to stay at...
Best Internet Radio Station
Houston is currently without an FM station that plays Texas country and Red Dirt music, apart from one of KILT's HD feeds, but Badlands Radio is more than just the next best thing; it's probably better. The only commercials are brief spots for Firehouse Saloon's open-mike night or musical happenings...
Best Jazz Club
Cezanne is such a self-contained little island within the Houston music scene that it's sometimes easy to forget it's not a private club. But there it is, sitting atop ivy-covered Montrose pub the Black Labrador, open to all every weekend. Besides its movie-worthy aesthetic surroundings — a better date-night spot...