Jaime Lawrence, a 24-year-old student and Continental Airlines employee with a hairdo that looks very expensive, is sitting at the bar at Midtown Lounge. This is her first visit, and she likes what she sees.
"It's an upscale lounge for young adults," says Lawrence. "Men will occasionally offer to buy a drink, but it's respectful. It's not a place where you'll find a bunch of 18-year-olds."
Midtown Lounge, more famously former after-hours hangout Club Vision, is a lounge. And it's in Midtown. The club may have the most perfectly specific name in all of Houston nightlife, like if IKEA called itself "Furniture That Will Fall Apart Soon."
2117 Chenevert, 832-537-5739
It isn't an upscale lounge, but it's certainly not a dive, not at all. Located on the second floor of an old strip center, Midtown Lounge takes advantage of the location's height with an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. It's the most interesting part of the decor in the otherwise typical layout of tiled ceiling, unremarkable flooring and standard bar, but it's definitely reason enough to visit.
Aesthetically, Midtown Lounge can't line up with places like Hudson Lounge (2506 Robinhood), 88 Keys (2736 Virginia) or Monarch Lounge (5701 Main). It doesn't seem like it's trying very hard to, either.
It's easiest to think of the place as an interim Skybar — it's nice, but its appeal lies more in the general atmosphere, and the management appears to recognize that.
"I like how it's far enough away from the rest of Midtown that it feels a little different," Lawrence says.
This is an astute analysis, and why most people who frequent Midtown Lounge say they come back. The bar is located at the edge of Midtown, right near where I-45 and U.S. 59 cross. As such, it is just far enough removed from the fray that it offers the cachet of a Midtown address without becoming fully engulfed by Midtown bars' notorious self-seriousness.
It's a neat trick to pull off.
"I've been here about three times," says Vicki Lymuel, also 24. "It's calm, relaxed. I come here to enjoy the music. They always have a good amount of people here. It stays pretty packed."
It's something that gets noticed by more than the early-twentysomething black crowd that typically congregates there.
"I've never been to just hang out," says SMR Entertainment owner Kelly James, 35. "I'm not a club guy anymore, but I book at least two shows a month here. I used to book shows at a sports bar over off of 59, but I like this place better.
"The vibe is kind of gritty in a way, because it's like it's the attic of a venue," James adds. "But it's nice. There's a huge stage, which is actually a dance floor on other nights. It's always a good vibe."
Midtown Lounge has an occasional free buffet and a serviceable happy hour, and is open seven days a week. It may not be the flashiest bar in town, but it seems to specialize in making its customers feel welcome.
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"We like to hang out on Washington [Avenue] or at Zake (2946 S. Shepherd)," says Lawrence. "But this place is nice. We'd come back here to hang out."
This Friday, likable local alt-rockers skyblue72 are playing at Rudyard's (2010 Waugh). All proceeds will go to the band's friend Joey, who lost his pets and most of his earthly possessions in a recent house fire. Other names on the bill include Americana champs Southern Reverb and punks Penny Arcade. It wouldn't matter if the plan was to just throw a bunch of chickens up onstage and watch them wander around for 45 minutes, though. For cripe's sake, the man lost everything. And two dogs. Have you ever lost one dog? It feels like the Earth is caving in right on top of your head.