Houston still has a few monuments to the city's blues heyday. Back in segregation times, one aging bluesman recently recalled, "we created heaven on earth in our own neighborhood since we couldn't have it where the white people lived." The Third Ward was home to blues clubs, variety theaters, dance halls and ballrooms. And the Eldorado Ballroom was one of the finest. The club still stands, and Project Row Houses, the public art project located in the Third Ward, is restoring it to its former glory. Renovations haven't yet been completed, and an official grand opening date hasn't been set. But the space is being used for special occasions such as this month's Juneteenth celebration, the "Wang Dang Doodle." The gala will feature performances by Step Rideaux and the Zydeco Outlaws, Sherman Robertson, Texas Johnny Brown and Carolyn Blanchard. Blanchard, who frequented the club in its heyday, remembers the elegance and grace of nights at the ballroom.
A sense of history still permeates the Eldorado. Narrow windows line the walls facing the street, just at eye level with the Elgin and Dowling street signs, reminding guests of the splendor that once existed at this intersection -- and the rebirth of that same majesty. 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, June 19. 2310 Elgin. For tickets, call 713-526-7662 or stop by Project Row Houses, 2521 Holman. $10. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman
STIRRED AND SHAKEN
It was just before noon, and the stripper I had gone home with the night before was in the bathroom. To say she was coyote-ugly would have been generous, and I quickly gathered my things and bolted out the door. Remembering I was somewhere in the Village, I headed to benjy's (2424 Dunstan, 713-522-7602) to hide out for a bit and have a quick bite. The place was full of people, and I wished I was invisible. A little hair of the dog was just what I needed, so when the waiter suggested a drink, I didn't hesitate. Benjy's Raintini tasted like candy, with strawberry-infused vodka that nearly cut a hole in my already swollen liver. I needed food, and I needed it fast. The dance music playing overhead was giving me a headache, and the thought of falling over backward on the cement floor made me shaky. When a huge portion of pasta was placed in front of me, I forgot about my surroundings for the moment. Then, just when I thought it was safe, the stripper's roommate came strutting in the front door. I slowly sank down into my chair -- probably the most uncomfortable one I'd ever sat in.
2-1/4 ounces strawberry-infused
Rain vodka (see below)
Splash of simple syrup
Strawberry for garnish
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In a covered jug (an iced tea container works perfectly), mix ten to 12 ounces of Rain vodka with two dozen large strawberries. Cover tightly and let ferment for a few days. To make the simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan and reduce by half. Place two ounces of vodka in a martini shaker filled with ice. Add a splash of the simple syrup. Shake well. Garnish with strawberry. -- J.W. Crooker
Jack and Meg White are cool by virtue of being pale, chain-smoking dorks. Infused with the garage-rock sensibility of Britain's Yardbirds and Detroit homies MC5, the White Stripes have become larger than life. Along the way, they've released some decent albums, each cut with the duo's trademark herky-jerky shards of instrumentation. Our favorite rumors about the band: that Jack and Meg not only were previously married, but also are brother and sister (eewww!), and that Meg is actually a robot built by Jack after the real Meg died in a car crash. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 24; Whirlwind Heat is the opening act. Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas Avenue. For tickets, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. $30. -- Greg Barr
Smell Ya Later
Most clubs engage at least four of the five senses pretty well. But the poor schnozz is usually neglected. One solution: the hookah, with its fragrant tobaccos that act as a sort of club aromatherapy. "Hookahs have been popular in New York and Europe for a while now," explains Mike Babaie, general manager of Bar Code. But you don't often see them in Houston. The grand opening of Bar Code will feature the deep house spinnings of Sharam Tayebi of Deep Dish, which won a Grammy in 2002 for remixing Dido's "Thank You." The music will go down nicely with a deep toke. Doors open at 9 p.m. Saturday, June 21. 902 Capitol. For information, call 713-229-0400. For tickets, visit www.ticket web.com. $20. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman