Agora Okay, so Agora isn't just a coffee house -- if all you want is a tall latte to go, we suggest Starbucks. This is a place to linger, to sip, to read. Dark and cozy like a library in one of those rambling Agatha Christie manors, Agora is an easy place to curl up with a book and lose a few hours. But just because it has a dreamy vibe doesn't mean it's quiet all the time: There's a great jukebox, and they serve beer and wine, too. The patio isn't huge, but it does have a nice, shady view of the Westheimer bustle.

Agora
Photo by Craig Hlavaty
Agora Okay, so Agora isn't just a coffee house -- if all you want is a tall latte to go, we suggest Starbucks. This is a place to linger, to sip, to read. Dark and cozy like a library in one of those rambling Agatha Christie manors, Agora is an easy place to curl up with a book and lose a few hours. But just because it has a dreamy vibe doesn't mean it's quiet all the time: There's a great jukebox, and they serve beer and wine, too. The patio isn't huge, but it does have a nice, shady view of the Westheimer bustle.

"give up" Consisting of posters and flyers wheat-pasted to metal boxes all over the Montrose, the "give up" series preaches its message of ironic apathy to all who cruise by. One poster (near Bagby and West Alabama) features a forlorn woman's face and a Pink Floyd-esque row of hammers. "SWEETNESS, I was only joking," says the message at the top. The anonymous artist's trademark "give up" at the bottom serves as both a signature and a tongue-in-cheek addendum. Another work on Westheimer and Taft is a print of a hammer banging nails into the dirt. The whole thing reeks of postmodern appropriation of communist imagery. But before you start thinking too much about the hidden meaning of the series, just remember: The whole point is to give up.

"give up" Consisting of posters and flyers wheat-pasted to metal boxes all over the Montrose, the "give up" series preaches its message of ironic apathy to all who cruise by. One poster (near Bagby and West Alabama) features a forlorn woman's face and a Pink Floyd-esque row of hammers. "SWEETNESS, I was only joking," says the message at the top. The anonymous artist's trademark "give up" at the bottom serves as both a signature and a tongue-in-cheek addendum. Another work on Westheimer and Taft is a print of a hammer banging nails into the dirt. The whole thing reeks of postmodern appropriation of communist imagery. But before you start thinking too much about the hidden meaning of the series, just remember: The whole point is to give up.

Carolyn Wenglar Okay, since we're talking about Warren's, we'd better make this one "best bar moms." The bartending babes -- young and old -- of this venerable downtown watering hole are all delightfully skilled in the stuff of drinks. They can mix virtually anything with flair and flavor; and they can most certainly mix it up with the eclectic blend of patrons drawn to this Market Square institution. When namesake Warren Trousdale died about 15 years ago, there were fears that the place would go with him. But sister Carolyn Wenglar took over and took Warren's to new heights. She and her crew survived the near-death of downtown, the regrettable passing of master bartender Jose Serna and stiff competition from newcomer nightspots. Credit more than a little motherly love from this wonderful cast: Mom's the word when talk turns to Warren's.

Warren's Inn
Carolyn Wenglar Okay, since we're talking about Warren's, we'd better make this one "best bar moms." The bartending babes -- young and old -- of this venerable downtown watering hole are all delightfully skilled in the stuff of drinks. They can mix virtually anything with flair and flavor; and they can most certainly mix it up with the eclectic blend of patrons drawn to this Market Square institution. When namesake Warren Trousdale died about 15 years ago, there were fears that the place would go with him. But sister Carolyn Wenglar took over and took Warren's to new heights. She and her crew survived the near-death of downtown, the regrettable passing of master bartender Jose Serna and stiff competition from newcomer nightspots. Credit more than a little motherly love from this wonderful cast: Mom's the word when talk turns to Warren's.

Gulf Coast Reading Series Born from the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, the Gulf Coast Reading Series offers any hungry bibliophile a can't-miss opportunity to witness up-and-coming literati before they hit the big time. Organized by (and featuring) graduate students from the UH program, the Gulf Coast series has introduced many young writers -- including poet Cate Marvin and fiction writer Vikram Chandr -- who've gone on to publish award-winning work in books and in such publications as The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Unlike many chain-store-style readings, where the author tries to carry on amidst noisy and indifferent passersby, these readings are usually held on Friday evenings after Brazos Bookstore has closed its doors. They're intimate sit-down affairs where readers can really get into the tone, the pace and the subject matter of the writing, and audiences can enjoy words that may someday make Houston proud.

Gulf Coast Reading Series Born from the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, the Gulf Coast Reading Series offers any hungry bibliophile a can't-miss opportunity to witness up-and-coming literati before they hit the big time. Organized by (and featuring) graduate students from the UH program, the Gulf Coast series has introduced many young writers -- including poet Cate Marvin and fiction writer Vikram Chandr -- who've gone on to publish award-winning work in books and in such publications as The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Unlike many chain-store-style readings, where the author tries to carry on amidst noisy and indifferent passersby, these readings are usually held on Friday evenings after Brazos Bookstore has closed its doors. They're intimate sit-down affairs where readers can really get into the tone, the pace and the subject matter of the writing, and audiences can enjoy words that may someday make Houston proud.

La Strada Perched above one of the noisiest areas of Westheimer, the second-floor patio at the newly remodeled La Strada is classy, casual and deliciously above it all. It offers a roof to shield patrons from the sun, track lighting to cut the darkness, and piped-in air conditioning and ceiling fans to keep the breeze moving. You can barely glimpse the signs for body piercing and tattoos over the boxes of pink bougainvilleas lining the railing. Yet for all the care given to protecting its patrons from Houston's sun, heat and chaos, the patio still manages to feel airy. It's the perfected execution of alfresco dining for a city that prefers the indoors.

La Strada
La Strada Perched above one of the noisiest areas of Westheimer, the second-floor patio at the newly remodeled La Strada is classy, casual and deliciously above it all. It offers a roof to shield patrons from the sun, track lighting to cut the darkness, and piped-in air conditioning and ceiling fans to keep the breeze moving. You can barely glimpse the signs for body piercing and tattoos over the boxes of pink bougainvilleas lining the railing. Yet for all the care given to protecting its patrons from Houston's sun, heat and chaos, the patio still manages to feel airy. It's the perfected execution of alfresco dining for a city that prefers the indoors.

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