This contemporary dance company, headed by Sam Houston State University professors Andy and Dionne Sparkman Noble, has a gift of combining traditional dance athleticism with sparkly production qualities, especially in its use of special effects. A NobleMotion season often consists of three glamorous Houston productions, like L'Dor Vador: Three Generations of Poetry and Dance, which was presented during the 2015-2016 season; a run to the East Coast, whether it's participating in New York City's Dance Gallery Festival or the Boston Contemporary Dance Festival; and Texas-centric outreach, such as teaching master classes to university students in Laredo and touring as a member of the Texas Commission on the Arts.

READERS' CHOICE: Houston Ballet

To be so good so early is perhaps unfair to a public hungry for missteps and knocked-knees, but new trio Rough Sleepers are already vets of the cola wars. Singer-guitarist Tyler Morris and drummer Charlie Patranella were two-thirds of well-loved dub-goth act Balaclavas and its funky sequel, Subsonic Voices. With the addition of synth player Jonathan Story, Rough Sleepers sound like a Frankenstein's monster of Chrome's android rock and Trance Syndicate's pharmaceutical amp worship, which is to say that Rough Sleepers are heavy and hard-wired to the freak matrix.

David Rozycki

For 23 years, Nick's has been perfecting the science of what makes a great sports bar. Think you can just tune a TV to ESPN and put a fried dairy product on the menu and call yourself a sports bar? No, sir. You really have to nail the atmosphere, for one thing — you want a welcoming, almost familial vibe. We're talking about a sense of community, not just a collection of disparate dude-bros. Nick's boasts 40 screens, and even though there are cavernous franchises out there with even more TVs, they aren't real neighborhood sports bars. Those places don't have Nick's pizza, with its recipe cribbed from heaven's chef, nor do they have the jalapeño cheeseburger sticks or fried chicken pieces we love, despite the fact they're called "Nicknuggets."


It's not just that they keep it local — because, heck yeah, we're all Texas proud — it's the multi-pronged way that William Reaves and Sarah Foltz promote artists from the Lone Star State at their ten-year-old gallery. They produce beautifully written essays explaining each piece's provenance; they invite experts to give lectures at community events; and they publish gorgeous exhibition catalogues. The knowledge base of gallery owners Reaves and Foltz is incredibly deep, and they often interject fascinating anecdotes about luminaries from key periods of the 20th century. They've got some heavy hitters in their stable — legendary greats who have pieces in the major museums down the street — offering savvy collectors an opportunity to acquire rare secondary-market gems.

READERS' CHOICE: Winter Street Studios

Movie theaters are constantly stepping up their games. Everywhere you go, there are bigger screens, fancier menus and reclining seats, no matter if you're paying $8 or $30 for a ticket. The competition is fierce, but in the end, the Vintage Park outpost of the Alamo Drafthouse remains on top because of its focus on what matters most: movies. A crazy idea, to be sure, and one the friendly staff supplements with solid food and drinks, but the Drafthouse has always put movies front and center. With pre-show entertainment you won't see anywhere else and screenings of cult as well as current films, the Alamo Drafthouse continues to create a moviegoing experience unlike what you'll find anywhere else.

READERS' CHOICE: Alamo Drafthouse

You can't escape politics this year. No matter what apps you're using, no matter what channel you're on, hell, no matter where you're sitting, someone is saying something about this year's election. The members of A More Perfect Union probably didn't mean to be part of that trend when they picked their name, but this is one phrase we're always happy to hear. Whether the words conjure up thoughts of the Constitution or an alternative rock band from Pearland, the name just makes you feel good. If we can all agree on anything, it's that we need to strive toward A More Perfect Union.

David Rozycki

There are fewer and fewer establishments in the world where a person can enjoy a stogie without violating an ordinance or inciting a tiny riot. That's why a place like the Heights Cigar Lounge — with its leather recliners and sofas, its impressive walk-in humidor, and its friendly, welcoming vibe — is so vital. It's an oasis, a reprieve from the every day hustle and bustle, where you can sit back, relax and enjoy your Arturo Fuente in peace.

For 15 years Nameless Sound has made Houston a more sonically interesting spot. The music education non-profit is rooted in inclusion, whether it's offering children, adults or homeless communities the chance to learn improvised music techniques, or bringing creative music heavy hitters to town to play concerts and teach workshops. For Nameless Sound's classes, director David Dove brings together participants of all skill levels and sculpts a group lesson that encourages contributions in a non-judgy environment. For the 2015-2016 season, the concert-organizing arm of the modest yet powerful outfit presented legendary free jazz pianist Dave Burrell, Scottish free improv vocalist Maggie Nicols and Australian trio The Necks.

Hear that? That's the sound of another pretentious cocktail-cove opening, where mixologists, not bartenders, serve you $12 drinks that inexplicably contain an egg and take half an hour to engineer. And if that's your thing, the Inner Loop is your promised land. But if you like actual bars, you'll love this unassuming joint jammed in the corner of a faceless strip mall, as if the other tenants don't want to play with it. Hunters has a little stage for live music and karaoke, a shuffleboard table, a large patio and a heavenly Thursday steak night. This place is for grown-ups who want a cold beer after a hard day.

READERS' CHOICE: Anvil Bar & Refuge

Tucked between a pair of small-homes-turned-businesses just off Kirby, Simone on Sunset is easy to miss. The gate is lined with greenery and fronted by a cobblestone driveway. Walking onto the patio feels like strolling onto someone's property, which is what gives Simone such a cozy, neighborhood vibe. The bar has a wide selection of wine, beer and cocktails, along with a full menu of pizzas and wine bar fare. Weeknights at happy hour are ideal, but even on weekends, Simone feels more like your neighbor's backyard than a Rice Village bar.

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