Bar Retro may be a different kind of "ultra lounge" experience than you're used to.
Bar Retro may be a different kind of "ultra lounge" experience than you're used to.
Larami Culbertson

Assumption Junction

A man in his underwear is blindfolded and tied to a bed. A women dressed in a negligee has mounted him. She is kissing his stomach and his chest. The man thinks that the woman kissing him is his wife.

It is not. His wife is standing off to the side of the bed watching and fuming. The audience on hand thinks this is uproarious.

It's early in the evening at Bar Retro (5757 Westheimer #105), a venue located in a strip center about a block east of Spotlight Karaoke (5901 Westheimer). The blindfolded man is on BET's The Game, playing on all nine of the venue's flat-screen televisions.


Bar Retro

5757 Westheimer #105; 713-780-2400

Now, five fairly common assumptions could be drawn from the information given thus far, and every single one of them would be incorrect to some degree. To wit:

Assumption 1: It's called Bar Retro, so the place must be retro-themed.

Wrong, though not entirely. Bar Retro actually was '80s-oriented at the onset of its life cycle, but shut down and changed the business plan when things weren't going well. For the past six or so months, Retro has operated as what owner J. Kadohiro dubs "an ultra lounge."

This means, he says, "We serve food, so you can have dinner here. And we have a bar, so you can drink. And we have a dance floor, so you can dance. It's a combination of all three things." It makes sense, even if the technical definition of "ultra lounge" is something altogether different.

Assumption 2: Because it's in a strip center, it must look pretty shoddy.

Wrong. Kadohiro, who's lived in Vegas, designed the venue with just enough pizzazz to make you forget you're in a strip center, though not so much pizzazz that you feel like you're in a bar trying to make you forget you're in a strip center.

There is tiger-striped carpet — not as terrible as it sounds — subtle track lighting and enough leathery seating to keep most of the venue's 174-person occupancy pleased. That, and they've built a small dance floor directly in front of the room's stage, which makes a nice surprise when you walk through the unassuming front doors.

Assumption 3: They're playing The Game, so Retro must be a black club.

Wrong again. The crowd can be predom­inantly black, but that's not the case on Friday and Saturday nights, when Retro is the busiest. On those evenings, it's mostly a mature, racially mixed crowd.

Assumption 4: The Game is a good television show.

Dead wrong. The Game is bad. It's essentially a soap opera that wants to be more than a soap opera. It is clichéd, uninteresting and best described as the televised equivalent of getting a paper cut on your eyeball. But Tia Mowry did receive a Teen Choice Award nomination for Best TV Actress in a Comedy, so there's that.

Assumption 5: It's a strip-center club, so Retro doesn't have any "regulars."

Strike five. "I've been coming here for about six months," says Carlos Cosani, a 57-year-old self-employed mechanical engineer. "I've never had one problem here — it's been perfect. The scene has been really laid-back. I've always come for the jazz music, but they don't have that tonight. It's more energetic."

Highlights of Retro's weekly in-house entertainment include a ­Tuesday live ­music extravaganza and date-night ­Saturdays, with dinner, dancing and plenty of time to get home to tip the babysitter. Each night draws its own recurring crowd.

"We really want to be a place that people can go to experience everything they need for the night," says Kadohiro. "Why do you need to drive all over the city if every­thing you need is in one place?"

Now if they'd only change the channel.


KPFT annual fundraiser

First, and this didn't seem to fit into the article anywhere in particular, but one of the items on Retro's menu is something called "Tuna Tacos," which sounds like two things that should never be combined. Second, this weekend is KPFT's (90.1 FM) annual fundraiser. KPFT generally gets high marks from just about everyone who works with or listens to them. Support the station's efforts by heading out to McGonigel's Mucky Duck (2425 Norfolk) starting at noon Sunday and giving them things of value. Namely, money.


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