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Best Midtown Club Houston 2008 - Shoeshine Charlie's Big Top Lounge

Let Midtown get as gentrified as it can, certainly not a problem these days, but walking into the Big Top ("No phone, no pool, no pets") will always feel like being transported back to 1976. A toy store once upon a time — supposedly the place that provided the inspiration for Toys "R" Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe, no less — the Big Top retains its playtime theme in everything from the circus-themed paintings on the walls, leftover toys behind the bar and the circus-parade grillwork and elephant-trunk door handles out front. It's easily one of the darkest bars in town and, whether you're bellied up to the bar on one of the plush barstools or sunk into one of the booths, one of the most comfortable. The satellite radio is stuck on Sirius's '70s station, and frequent musical guests such as Peter & James (soft-rock piano/guitar request kings), the Light Rock Express (famous for their "Takin' It to the Streets" processional) and the Allison Fisher Band (vintage Gulf Coast R&B) keep the retro vibe intact without ever needing to fall back on the crutch of kitsch.

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