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Arts & Entertainment

  • Best Bar

    The Mink - CLOSED

    While a never-ending parade of Houston's best indie-rockers, punks and DJs, plus out-of-town acts of all shapes and sizes (many on their first-ever tour, or playing Houston for the first time), shuffle through The Mink's aptly-named adjacent Backroom, up front is one of the city's coziest, least assuming saloons. The dim lights and comfy seating (especially the couches up front)… More >>
  • Best Pool Hall

    Slick Willie's

    There aren't too many places competing for the Best Pool Hall in town, but among the few, none match up to Slick Willie's. Houston has about a dozen locations, but our favorite is no doubt the one in the heart of Montrose, where there are more than 20 big, solid and clean tables. If you're just an every-now-and-again player used… More >>
  • Best Concert Food

    Fisher's Barbecue, The Continental Club

    If they even offer food at all, most Houston music venues couldn't care less about how that food actually tastes. And true, most people who need something to snack on while watching a band are more interested in soaking up all that booze than in any kind of fine-dining experience. But anyone who's sampled the fare at Adam and Lena… More >>
  • Best Festival

    Japan Festival

    Think of it as the little festival that could. Compared to local mega-events like the Houston International Festival and the Bayou City Arts Festival, the Japan Festival is small fry. So why is it our choice for Best Festival? Because, despite its size, Japan Festival delivers a big dose of fun. It's an excellent mix of entertainment, people watching and… More >>
  • Best Bar Bathroom

    The Backroom @ The Mink - CLOSED

    What we love about the bathrooms at the Backroom at The Mink is that upon our last count, there were about four of them. One for men, one for women, one for "whatever" and another mystery head with no designation. It's fun because when you encounter these signs, depending on your level of inebriation, you may have an existential meltdown.… More >>
  • Best Bar You Can Still Smoke In

    Marquis II

    For freedom-loving Americans, the day the fascists on Houston's City Council passed the smoking ban in bars was a shot to the heart. Sure, sometimes stale nicotine-filled air can be a bummer, but what's even more of a bummer is when you have a crappy day and just want to go knock back some liquid poison and chase it with… More >>
  • Best Dive Bar

    Lone Star Saloon

    Whenever we're at Lone Star, we feel the need to pick at least one song from Bob Seger's Night Moves, on the juke. Bob's soulful croon, alternating between tender and downright raunchy, seems like the perfect soundtrack for this downtown watering hole. And we don't mean "dive" in a bad way, mind you. We mean it in a sort of… More >>
  • Best Strip Club

    The Men's Club

    The strippers at The Men's Club are about as sexy as can be desired. But forget about them and head to the amazing all-you-can-eat lunch buffet — for just the $12 cover, it might be the best dining deal in town. A guy in a chef's hat doles out choice cuts of prime rib; another makes stir-fries to order. Gourmet… More >>
  • Best Stripper

    Julie at Treasures

    Julie is not saving money for school. She strips 'cuz she likes it, and it pays the bills. "I'll keep stripping until there's a ring on this finger," she says. At the notoriously rambunctious Treasures, where, as the deejay announced on a recent Thursday night, "It's harder to get a stripper to the stage than it is to get the… More >>
  • Best New Bar

    Community Bar

    Food, booze, music and good friends are really the only things one needs in this life. With all the turmoil going on around our little terrestrial mudball, sometimes it's imperative we have a place where we forget about the entire clamor of the world. That place has been Community Bar for us this past year, with owner/chef Bob Covington giving… More >>
  • Best New Club

    Mango's

    Like most music venues, Mango's isn't strictly new. Plenty of former Houston punks and hardcore kids have fond memories of the vegetarian restaurant's mid-'90s run as the Oven, and it's been a staple venue of the resurrected Westheimer Block Party for at least a couple of years. But when Free Press Houston editor/publisher Omar Afra and friends took over full-time… More >>
  • Best Steak Night

    Under the Volcano

    In this city of carnivores, choosing a steak night — by which we mean, a pre-designated night a local tavern fires up the grill outside, not a trip to Fleming's or Texas Land & Cattle — is as easy as choosing which night of the week you want to eat steak. Some places even do it twice a week. And… More >>
  • Best Wine Bar

    13 Celsius

    For amateurs and oenophiles alike, 13 Celsius is a little slice of heaven. And don't let the Midtown address scare you off; this cozy establishment is thankfully free of the douchiness that plagues many of the area's bars and clubs. No one will laugh at you if you can barely tell the difference between Pinots Grigio and Noir; this is… More >>
  • Best Jazz Club

    Red Cat Jazz Café

    Even if you don't know Miles Davis from Buddy Miles or John Coltrane from John Legend (or jazz fusion from fusion cooking, for that matter), there's something about being in a jazz club that automatically makes you feel more, well, sophisticated. The Red Cat Jazz Café, though, offers uptown sophistication with a down-home Southern twist and spacious brick-wall acoustics that… More >>
  • Best Romantic Hideaway

    La Colombe d'Or

    Everything's big in Texas — everything except La Colombe d'Or, that is. Billing itself as the smallest luxury hotel in the world, La Colombe has only six suites and a handful of courtyard apartments. There's also a four-star restaurant and well-appointed bar on-site. The hotel is the former family home of oilman W.W. Fondren, built in 1923. Did we say… More >>
  • Best Sports Bar

    Buffalo Wild Wings

    These days, mixed martial arts might be more popular than baseball and hockey combined, but in Texas, football is still king. And there's no better place to post up and watch a game than Buffalo Wild Wings near Rice Village. The food is better here than at most sports bars in town, and even the boneless wings, which usually are… More >>
  • Best Cigar Bar

    Downing Street Pub

    Downing Street was a little slice of paradise for both cigar aficionados and part-time stogie-smokers even before the fascists on City Council banned smoking in bars; but after that anti-Texan, anti-American chokehold went into effect, Downing Street became even more important. It's great to have a place like Downing Street, where a grown-up can unwind at the end of a… More >>
  • Best Happy Hour

    Oishii Japanese Restaurant

    "Happy Hour," in this case, is a misnomer. It should be "Freakin' Ecstatic Hour." From 3-7 p.m. on weekdays and 3-6 p.m. on Saturdays, domestic beer is a mere $1.25, and imports (Asahi Dry, Kirin, Kirin Lite) are only 50 cents more. Or if you prefer alcohol of the rice variety, you can get a large hot sake for $3.… More >>
  • Best Icehouse

    Sheffield's Ice House

    We've all been to West Alabama Icehouse and Jimmie's, and fine icehouses they are. But here we're suggesting one that harks back to the days of the fatally hard-drinking Eagle Pennell's cult 1983 movie Last Night at the Alamo. Sheffield's Ice House was founded in 1942 and has been standing guard on the same Telephone Road corner in the Golfcrest… More >>
  • Biggest Beer for the Buck

    The Tall Texan Drive InnD&D Inn

    Real Texans drink from goblets, it seems, or maybe the massive glassware at this homey watering hole-in-the-wall is just the only option for holding all that beer. It's $1.25 for a goblet of Lone Star and 25 cents more for one of Shiner, and two or three should see you well on your way to a hangover. You might end… More >>
  • Best Patio

    Cedar Creek

    Rasquachismo is a Mexican term (of Nahuatl origin) that roughly translates to "creating the most from the least." With regards to our flat, relatively featureless natural environment, Houstonians are forced to adopt the principles of rasquachismo, and no place does it better than the Cedar Creek Bar & Grill. Sited on a grassy parcel of Heights-area land, one side of… More >>
  • Best Local Rapper

    Scarface

    Experts call Scarface one of the premier rappers in the country, not just Houston. With new albums out the last three years running (the latest, Emeritus, is rumored to be his last), the 38-year-old South-sider has been going strong for a full two decades. He got his start by helping to make the legendary Geto Boys the first Houston act… More >>
  • Best Resurrected Musical Format

    Cassettes

    Hipsters, it seems, will do just about anything if there's enough of a retro-kitsch factor involved, which generally boils down to an idea that sounds really, really good when you're baked. Only a few short years ago, after all, sales and manufacturing of new vinyl LPs were as dead as Elvis, and now that's one of the fastest-growing (and only… More >>
  • Hip-Hop Producer

    Mike Dean

    One of the key figures behind the "Dirty South" movement that has taken hold of mainstream rap is an unheralded white guy with a country western background. Mike Dean has helped to craft some of the most unique sounds in rap — from Houston's Scarface to L.A.'s Kurupt — while serving as in-house producer for local titan Rap-A-Lot Records. He… More >>
  • Best CD By a Local Musician

    Little Joe Washington, Texas Fire Line

    No static CD could ever match the intensity of one of Little Joe Washington's live shows, which are one part gospel revival and one part juke-joint boogaloo breakdown, but Texas Fire Line sure comes close. Recorded live in the studio (that sure helps), Fire Line is a frenzied tour de force from one of Houston's biggest musical treasures and free-spirited… More >>
  • Best CD Cover

    Eli Sebastian Brumbaugh, Carrots (Young Mammals); Microscopic Metronomes (Wild Moccasins)

    Eli Sebastian Brumbaugh seems like the go-to guy for illustrating Houston's burgeoning "H-pop" scene. The twentysomething artist and graphic designer, who has also done posters for News on the March and Free Press Houston's Summerfest, puts the same sort of vivid, vibrant oddness in his artwork as bands like Young Mammals and Wild Moccasins do in their music. His cover… More >>
  • Best Local Music Blog

    Breakfast on Tour

    We're not sure where Breakfast on Tour gets its travel budget, but we're a little jealous. The Houston-based music blog chronicles the cross-country travels of writers Eggs, Toast and Bacon, who don't miss too many music festivals — or much else. Recently, Breakfast readers have feasted on extensive reports, with lotsa photos and video, from Tennessee's Bonnaroo and Michigan's Rothbury… More >>
  • Best Band Name

    Come See My Dead Person

    This Houston gypsy-punk outfit sounds just like a southern-fried Gogol Bordello, but without all that pungent Eastern Bloc business. The band's name stands in stark contrast to its jammy and quaintly morose neo-folk, leading you to believe it would be a gang of blood-swilling metalheads on crank. There are no crazy stories behind their moniker, and as Mike Mejia clarified… More >>
  • Best Band Stage Show

    The Homopolice

    With a revolving lineup of local noise luminaries like Rusted Shut's Don Walsh and a healthy dose of leather, the ear-melting Homopolice have been the best and weirdest show for the money this past year. Any appearance by bassist Beau Beasley's brainchild brings out a curious cast of voyeurs and sickos waiting to watch the band bludgeon themselves or each… More >>
  • Best Song About Houston

    Umbrella Man (Nick Gaitan), "I've Found My Weakness in You"

    One lazy Houston afternoon, Umbrella Man bassist Nick Gaitan was sitting upstairs in his apartment on "The Island" at 3700 Main, the South Midtown building that houses the Continental Club, Tacos a Go-Go, Sig's Lagoon and Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge. At the time, Gaitan was pulling down shifts at all of them, and as he stared out his window… More >>
  • Best Coffee House

    The Coffee Groundz - CLOSED

    Whether it's Tweeting its fool head off or hosting a "Geek Gathering," Coffee Groundz is one damn fine coffeehouse. Ridiculously great coffee, free whiplash Wi-Fi and a wide selection of beer — all CG really needs is a bank of showers and a few cots to fully cover all the needs of the modern man. Its location in the heart… More >>
  • Best Band to Get Together in the Last Year

    Roky Moon & BOLT

    Sometimes a music scene doesn't even know it's been missing a band until that band shows up. That was the case back in January, when Roky Moon & BOLT appeared fully formed one chilly evening at Walter's on Washington. Within about five minutes of going onstage, Moon and friends — cobbled together from American Sharks, Black Black Gold and a… More >>
  • Best Band to Leave Town

    Papermoons

    It gets frustrating, growing to love a local band and then watching it move on to greener pastures. In Houston, as we all know, that happens to more bands than it doesn't (though, thankfully, somewhat less so lately). At least indie-twang duo Papermoons had a better reason for decamping for Austin and Ohio than simply wanting to be in a… More >>
  • Best Concert Series

    Capital One Bank's Thursdays Rock at Discovery Green

    Out-of-towners from northern metropolises like Chicago and New York like to scoff at the idea of Houston as a "real city." Their claim — which is sadly not without some justification — is that ours is a city of endless concrete, infinite strip mall-sprawl, insipid suburbs, and choked freeways. They claim we lack the public spaces that make great cities… More >>
  • Best Local Reading Series

    Houston Public Library's An Evening with...

    The Central branch of the Houston Public Library renovated more than just its building during its recent makeover. Its programming got a new face, too. Most impressive among the current offerings is the An Evening with... reading series. Over the last few months, Houston's own Katherine Center (Everyone Is Beautiful) and Gwendolyn Zepeda (Houston, We Have a Problema) joined a… More >>
  • Best Local Book

    Houston, We Have a ­Problema

    Like her protagonist Jessica in Houston, We Have a Problema, author Gwendolyn Zepeda grew up in Houston and works in insurance. But while Zepeda admits to being a little superstitious from time to time, Jessica has made superstition an art form. She often consults the plastic Virgin Mary that hangs from her rearview mirror and relies on a fortune-teller to… More >>
  • Best Local Film

    The Messenger, 360 Days of Bolivar

    Moviemaker Shawn Welling stumbled upon a fascinating group of "swamp men" during a bike ride on Bolivar Peninsula. Hunting for a public restroom, he stopped into Norbert's Bait Camp & Bar. (It was like stepping into the bar scene in Star Wars, he would later say.) Inside Norbert's, Welling met a group of men with varied pasts, some shadier than… More >>
  • Best Film Series

    Domy Books Movie Nights - CLOSED

    Movie Nights at Domy Books are a varied affair. Films are screened as many as five nights a week and include classics (The Third Man), anime (Akira), horror (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) and even industrial shorts (The Steel Reef). There are even foreign-language gems (Lemonade Joe) and pop-culture standards (Space Is the Place). The strength of the series is its… More >>
  • Best Film Festival

    Houston Palestine Film ­Festival

    The Houston Palestine Film Festival focuses on cinema that fights against what organizers call "reductively politicized depictions." Festival organizers, including the two founders, Houston-based Palestinian-Americans Iman Saqr and Hadeel Assali, present a slate of complicated, often surprising films about their motherland. Dramas, comedies and documentaries are all part of the annual screenings, which are often accompanied by visiting actors and… More >>
  • Best Movie Theater

    River Oaks Theatre

    Built in 1939, this historic jewel has so far escaped the clutches of townhouse development that first threatened to destroy it in 2006. The idea was blasphemy to preservationists and folks who just think it's a damn cool theater. And it is — both aesthetically, and by the selection of indie, foreign and "midnight movies" that don't make it to… More >>
  • Best Movie Theater with Dinner

    Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - CLOSED

    Okay, so a $3.50 Lone Star isn't exactly the best price, but you're not going to Alamo for a bargain; you're going to spoil yourself. You're going so you can kick back and watch the latest Harry Potter or Seth Rogen "comedy" while chowing down a burger, fish and chips, or perhaps the Kevin Bacon Lettuce & Tomato. Or maybe… More >>
  • Best Downtown Bar

    La Carafe

    La Carafe or Warren's, Warren's or La Carafe? That is the question. That anything other than one of Carolyn Wenglar's two venerable Market Square bars is the downtown's best is a fool's proposition. Right now we are in a La Carafe mood. We love the candlelight and the stalagmite-like wax formations, the amazing lore accreted on the brick walls, the… More >>
  • Best Local Poet

    Tony Hoagland

    You get a sense of poet Tony Hoagland's outlook from the titles of his books (What Narcissism Means to Me and Donkey Gospel) and poems ("Benevolence" and "The Replacement"). His commentary on contemporary life is straightforward, sans flourish. He seems to avoid appearing intellectual when being ironic will do just as well. The winner of the James Laughlin Award and… More >>
  • Best Comedian

    John Gard

    They say write what you know, and John Gard is a dork from Houston, so he jokes about Star Wars and the ever-present thick Texas accent of his hecklers. His unique perspective allows him to find an inappropriate angle for any situation, such as why it's not the best idea to engage in sexual role-play with a trained method actor,… More >>
  • Best Photographer

    Ben Tecumseh DeSoto

    Documentary photographer Ben Tecumseh DeSoto spent 25 years as a photojournalist for the Houston Chronicle. He shot tragedies, historic moments, everyday people and famous faces. These days, photography is still his medium, but his message has changed a bit. Now the award-winning artist is focused on not just capturing the world around him but changing it as well. His Understanding… More >>
  • Best Artist(s)

    Patrick Medrano and Katy Anderson

    Painter/sculptor Patrick Medrano and photographer Katy Anderson were two of the winners of last January's Mastermind Awards, and we just thought they deserved another win. The married couple conceptualized the Fodice Foundation, an artist residency compound housed in an abandoned WPA school in the East Texas town of Fodice. To hear the two talk about the project, one imagines established… More >>
  • Best Nonprofit Art Series

    Impulse! Artist Series

    Pianist Jade Simmons has just one mission in life — to give classical music a new reputation. She's out to replace the image of a stuffy, staid collection of dead guys in white wigs with fresh, young, cutting-edge artists (herself included). While she'll say she's had plenty of help in creating the Impulse! Artist Series, a weeklong event featuring concerts… More >>
  • Best Art Show

    Ben DeSoto and Ann Walton Sieber's "Understanding Poverty"

    Ben Tecumseh DeSoto and Ann Walton Sieber's photography exhibit "Understanding Poverty" at DiverseWorks was harrowing for its unflinching look at Houston's homeless. The show chronicled, from the late '80s to today, the story of Judy Pruitt, a.k.a. "Snow," an abandoned street kid begging, tricking and stealing to survive, as well as that of Ben White, a homeless man DeSoto and… More >>
  • Best Museum

    Station Museum of ­Contemporary Art

    Before you step into the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, be forewarned — it ain't gonna be pretty. It's going to be glorious and challenging. It might even be life-changing, but it's definitely not going to be pretty. The Station Museum most often deals with social and political issues, which, while powerful and thought-provoking, don't usually lend themselves to serene… More >>
  • Best Art Gallery

    Gallery Sonja Roesch

    No one is more dedicated to the maxim "less is more" than Gallery Sonja Roesch. Focused on reductive and concept-based art, the gallery breaks with the pop culture norm and instead shows work by artists who rebel against visual overload. Case in point is German painter Mario Reis, a frequent guest at the gallery. Reis is well known for his… More >>
  • Best Student Art Program

    FotoFence

    FotoFest likes to start them young — as photographers and as fans. Its student art program FotoFence, a Literacy Through Photography project, had 2,500 kids in 22 Houston-area schools producing some surprising results. Working with professional photographers and arts educators, students from fifth through twelfth grades wrote essays and created posters, photo-blogs, self-portraits, collages and mixed-media artwork. The assignment? "Reflect… More >>
  • Best Original Theater Show

    Ps and Qs:The ABCs of Manners at Main Street Theater

    It might seem that life is just too busy to be polite anymore. But don't tell that to the folks at Main Street Theater, where Steve Garfinkel, along with the Emmy-nominated band Trout Fishing in America, has developed Ps and Qs: The ABCs of Manners. Shaped like a radio show along the lines of A Prairie Home Companion, the charming… More >>
  • Best Dance Club

    Brazos River Bottom - CLOSED

    The people at this gay dance hall like line dancing so much, they'll teach you for free. Lessons on the spacious wood dance floor (with disco ball overhead) are on the house from 8 until 10:30 every Thursday night, and on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. The instructors try to bring it back to basics for the… More >>
  • Best Theater Company

    Catastrophic Theatre ­Company

    Good things come in small packages — that's the lesson to take from the short season, only three shows long, produced in 2008-2009 by Catastrophic Theatre Company. Last fall, the company produced two plays by Mickle Maher: The Strangerer, a disturbing story about the bizarre lies and theatricality of political debates, and Spirits to Enforce, an astonishing ensemble piece that… More >>
  • Best Actor

    Todd Waite as Jan in Rock 'n' Roll at the Alley Theatre

    Few characters are as complicated as those built by the mighty brain of Tom Stoppard. Happily, actors as fine as Todd Waite make sure that all that complexity gets translated to the stage. The guiding force of the Alley Theatre's supercharged production of Rock 'n' Roll this past spring, Waite played Jan, a Czech lover of music. As Jan, he… More >>
  • Best Actress

    Luisa Amaral-Smith as Bessie Berger in Awake and Sing! at Main Street Theater

    The kvetching character at the center of Clifford Odets's Awake and Sing! is no walk in the park for any actress — she's mean, destructive, even cruel. But Luisa Amaral-Smith managed to find the soul of Bessie Berger, the iron-fisted matriarch of the Jewish family Odets created. Bessie is the most terrible of mothers, crushing her family members even as… More >>
  • Best Public Dick

    Greg Dean in Hunter Gatherers

    The Catastrophic Theatre's production of the comedy/drama Hunter Gatherers won a rave from our reviewer, but Lee Williams failed to mention Greg Dean's incredible hard-on, waving around for all to see in the intimate Stages setting. Dean, playing a disturbed ex-jock, had been off-stage for a while before making his dramatic blood-engorged re-entrance, so we imagined him backstage furiously reading… More >>
  • Best Dance Performance

    Houston Ballet's Marie

    Every once in a while, audiences witness a performance that goes beyond being excellent, but that actually moves the art form forward. Such was the case for this year's Marie, presented by the Houston Ballet. Based on the life of French queen Marie Antoinette, Marie is not the stuff that fairy tales are made of: A young queen embroiled in… More >>
  • Best Dance Company

    Dominic Walsh Dance ­Theater

    Innovative and daring, the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater rests on the broad shoulders of its founder and namesake, Dominic Walsh. Formerly a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet, Walsh struck out on his own, founding his own company and becoming a highly respected choreographer of contemporary ballets by expanding not only the repertoire but also the vocabulary of his classically… More >>
  • Best Gay Bar

    Montrose Mining Company

    In the shadow of massive, irreverent South Beach and its sparkling, Christmas light-coated palm trees sits the unassuming entrance to the Montrose Mining Company. Inside, there are studly table-dancing cowboys to rival any club in the city, along with pool tables and a long, inviting bar. The chilled out, spacious patio out back makes this a prime spot for dates… More >>
  • Best Sound System

    House of Blues

    Really, now: You didn't think we were going to give Houston's newest (and priciest) concert hall "Best Drink Prices," did you? But House of Blues deserves credit where it's due, and it has due aplenty for bringing in artists who might otherwise skip Houston altogether — legends like Willie Nelson and rising stars à la Santigold alike — and even… More >>
  • Best Jukebox

    Little Bigs

    Owner Bryan Caswell is a fervent proponent of local music, and when he acquired a jukebox for his slider shack off Montrose, he set out to de-Journey the machine by adding in some of our city's best indie acts. From the spry indie-pop of Wild Moccasins to the wail of The Tontons, the jukebox is quickly amassing quite the 713-centric… More >>
  • Best Bar Atmosphere/Decor

    D&D Inn

    This clapboard East End beer joint might not look like much from the outside, but a surprise awaits those who venture in. A golden Buddha squats in one corner, while paintings of Frida Kahlo and Marilyn Monroe take pride of place on two walls, where they compete with several specimens of the fine art of taxidermy. On the bar, there's… More >>
  • Best Musical

    Grey Gardens at Stages

    A musical about two old cat ladies bitching at each other endlessly in annoying accents? Doesn't sound like a great idea. Even if you toss in the facts that it's based on a true story, the two eccentric recluses were related to Jackie O, and one dated Joe Kennedy, Jr. But Stages' production of Grey Gardens was the marvel of… More >>

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