In a city in which most bar owners' decorative aesthetic runs toward merely plastering the walls and ceilings with garish beer and liquor ads, the 141-year-old La Carafe (which over the decades has been an Indian trading post, a steam bakery and a Pony Express stop) stands out like a Vermeer among velvet Elvises. The walls there have not been festooned with art as much as they have simply accreted tangible history. The old portraits of luminaries like Jack Yates and Sam Houston, the ancient show prints and sheet music, the political propaganda from public dins long since quieted, the photographs dating from the dawn of the medium, and the musty mirror (taken from a church baptismal) -- all are among the pitiful few public reminders that Houston is rapidly approaching its bicentennial. The famous candles stuck in wine bottles that have been growing like stalagmites further the notion that a trip to La Carafe is like a voyage into a magic cavern of the Bayou City's past. What's more, the jukebox is one of the best in town, and the beer is always ice-cold. Have one, and hoist a toast to the sunny slopes of long ago.