Helios Hands down, Helios is the best club for local artists, and by "artists" here we mean every kind: musicians, painters, poets, dancers, DJs, rappers and comedians, to name a few. Helios is home to them all, with various permutations of the above often performing simultaneously, whether on one of the club's three stages (two indoor and one out) or sometimes even on the same one. And by "local," we mean just that. Virtually all of the talent that appears at Helios -- a nonprofit art gallery/performance space/coffee house/bar -- is Houston-based. With one sweeping glance across the downstairs bar area of the converted Montrose house, you can take in the paintings of one local artist on the wall, the belly-dancing moves of another Houston artist on the dance floor, the hip-hop stylings of a local rapper and DJ on the stage, and another local boy scratching some poetry into a notebook stageside.

Helios Hands down, Helios is the best club for local artists, and by "artists" here we mean every kind: musicians, painters, poets, dancers, DJs, rappers and comedians, to name a few. Helios is home to them all, with various permutations of the above often performing simultaneously, whether on one of the club's three stages (two indoor and one out) or sometimes even on the same one. And by "local," we mean just that. Virtually all of the talent that appears at Helios -- a nonprofit art gallery/performance space/coffee house/bar -- is Houston-based. With one sweeping glance across the downstairs bar area of the converted Montrose house, you can take in the paintings of one local artist on the wall, the belly-dancing moves of another Houston artist on the dance floor, the hip-hop stylings of a local rapper and DJ on the stage, and another local boy scratching some poetry into a notebook stageside.

Shoeshine Charlie's Big Top Lounge As much as we've always loved the Continental, it's long needed a chill-out room, and this vintage circus-themed bar two doors down fills that bill just right. Though there are occasional live performances here, the usual routine is quiet conversation amid vintage furniture over stiff drinks. Music from one of the last 45 jukeboxes in town -- stocked with singles from the likes of Doug Sahm, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Buddy Holly -- provides the soundtrack to it all. It's the perfect antidote to the Continental hullabaloo, and convenient for many trips back and forth.

Shoeshine Charlie's Big Top Lounge As much as we've always loved the Continental, it's long needed a chill-out room, and this vintage circus-themed bar two doors down fills that bill just right. Though there are occasional live performances here, the usual routine is quiet conversation amid vintage furniture over stiff drinks. Music from one of the last 45 jukeboxes in town -- stocked with singles from the likes of Doug Sahm, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Buddy Holly -- provides the soundtrack to it all. It's the perfect antidote to the Continental hullabaloo, and convenient for many trips back and forth.

Toaster Oven Nightmare Squad We like names that give us some kind of picture. That's why we like Toaster Oven Nightmare Squad. Toaster ovens are, by their very nature, nightmarish contraptions. It seems like every time we use one, we burn our food or start a fire. And that's why we'd be reassured by the existence of some kind of squad, like the one hinted at in this band name: a uniformed crew of heroes-in-waiting, lingering by the phone, eager to bail our hapless asses out. "Good afternoon, Toaster Oven Nightmare Squad. What is the nature of your toaster oven nightmare? No problem -- we're dispatching a squad of toaster oven commandos your way immediately."

Toaster Oven Nightmare Squad We like names that give us some kind of picture. That's why we like Toaster Oven Nightmare Squad. Toaster ovens are, by their very nature, nightmarish contraptions. It seems like every time we use one, we burn our food or start a fire. And that's why we'd be reassured by the existence of some kind of squad, like the one hinted at in this band name: a uniformed crew of heroes-in-waiting, lingering by the phone, eager to bail our hapless asses out. "Good afternoon, Toaster Oven Nightmare Squad. What is the nature of your toaster oven nightmare? No problem -- we're dispatching a squad of toaster oven commandos your way immediately."

JR.'s JR.'s is a standby in the Houston gay community -- for more than a decade, it's been the place to go for a good buzz and the hook-up that often follows. With its sexy ranch-house atmosphere, $2.50 domestics and other notoriously cheap drinks, beefcake dick dancers in tight shorts, and ceiling-mounted TVs showing hot guys doing hot things, this playground is a turn-on for partyers of all sexual orientations. Fun-loving, loquacious queers and their straight brethren populate this Montrose institution, where you can find lively conversation and good old debauchery any night of the week. On Sunday nights, when other bars around town get sleepy, the crowds descend for karaoke.

JR.'s JR.'s is a standby in the Houston gay community -- for more than a decade, it's been the place to go for a good buzz and the hook-up that often follows. With its sexy ranch-house atmosphere, $2.50 domestics and other notoriously cheap drinks, beefcake dick dancers in tight shorts, and ceiling-mounted TVs showing hot guys doing hot things, this playground is a turn-on for partyers of all sexual orientations. Fun-loving, loquacious queers and their straight brethren populate this Montrose institution, where you can find lively conversation and good old debauchery any night of the week. On Sunday nights, when other bars around town get sleepy, the crowds descend for karaoke.

Josh Pena In a city chock-full of world-class breakers -- so many of whom deserve accolades for using their art to stay out of trouble -- the safest bet for B-boy of the year is busting out from Youth Advocates and its home crew, Havikoro. There have been some up-and-comers in 2004, including Nathan Cano and Kirk Beecher, who join the established legends at the rec center off the Gulf Freeway. Just barely edging them out, though, is Josh Pena, an 18-year-old graduate of Dobie High. Pena's not the gaudiest breaker around. He relies on tight, technical styles, fluid threads and more footwork than power moves. It might not grab your attention like a head-spin-to-air-flare combo, but the discerning observer knows the boy's got flow.

Josh Pena In a city chock-full of world-class breakers -- so many of whom deserve accolades for using their art to stay out of trouble -- the safest bet for B-boy of the year is busting out from Youth Advocates and its home crew, Havikoro. There have been some up-and-comers in 2004, including Nathan Cano and Kirk Beecher, who join the established legends at the rec center off the Gulf Freeway. Just barely edging them out, though, is Josh Pena, an 18-year-old graduate of Dobie High. Pena's not the gaudiest breaker around. He relies on tight, technical styles, fluid threads and more footwork than power moves. It might not grab your attention like a head-spin-to-air-flare combo, but the discerning observer knows the boy's got flow.

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