The Red Door Lounges seem to be popping up all over Midtown, but the Red Door has managed to stand firm in the capricious scene. Once you pass the eponymous port of entry, you find yourself surrounded by attractive twentysomethings who are dressed to impress and sloshed to excess. They mingle around the circular bar, exchanging and avoiding glances in turn. Upstairs is a patio with a kick-ass view of the downtown skyline, where groups gather around tables for a little more privacy. But no matter where you choose to set up camp, you can't avoid the bumpin' beat and the dancing talent.

The Red Door Lounges seem to be popping up all over Midtown, but the Red Door has managed to stand firm in the capricious scene. Once you pass the eponymous port of entry, you find yourself surrounded by attractive twentysomethings who are dressed to impress and sloshed to excess. They mingle around the circular bar, exchanging and avoiding glances in turn. Upstairs is a patio with a kick-ass view of the downtown skyline, where groups gather around tables for a little more privacy. But no matter where you choose to set up camp, you can't avoid the bumpin' beat and the dancing talent.

Best New Effort to Inject Culture into Houston

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Okay, maybe it's not high culture that the Alamo Drafthouse is injecting into Houston, but they're catering to film buffs who like their brew. The Alamo features independent films alongside Hollywood smash hits, underground classics like the Toxic Avenger series and plenty of Japanese anime. They serve decent bar-type food such as pizza, wings and spinach dip, and their drink specials can't be beat. Where else can you get wait service while watching a film? Where else can you hear a live DJ spin an original score to some Japanese anime? No place else in H-town, that's for sure. Welcome to the west side, Alamo.

Best New Effort to Inject Culture into Houston

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Okay, maybe it's not high culture that the Alamo Drafthouse is injecting into Houston, but they're catering to film buffs who like their brew. The Alamo features independent films alongside Hollywood smash hits, underground classics like the Toxic Avenger series and plenty of Japanese anime. They serve decent bar-type food such as pizza, wings and spinach dip, and their drink specials can't be beat. Where else can you get wait service while watching a film? Where else can you hear a live DJ spin an original score to some Japanese anime? No place else in H-town, that's for sure. Welcome to the west side, Alamo.

Divergence Houston Ballet is under construction while it morphs from longtime director Ben Stevenson's baby into a balletic butterfly, compliments of new artistic director Stanton Welch. His restaging of an earlier work, 1994's Divergence, blew the doors off the Wortham Theater Center and had balletomanes howling for weeks. Sandwiched into a rep evening earlier this year, the short, abstract work was a fast-paced, in-your-face classical ballet romp -- with black bustiers and rubberized tutus by Vanessa Leyonhjelm -- that sent ripples of hope through the dance crowd. Set to music by Bizet, the piece showcases Welch's dancemaking talents at their finest and most forward-reaching.

Divergence Houston Ballet is under construction while it morphs from longtime director Ben Stevenson's baby into a balletic butterfly, compliments of new artistic director Stanton Welch. His restaging of an earlier work, 1994's Divergence, blew the doors off the Wortham Theater Center and had balletomanes howling for weeks. Sandwiched into a rep evening earlier this year, the short, abstract work was a fast-paced, in-your-face classical ballet romp -- with black bustiers and rubberized tutus by Vanessa Leyonhjelm -- that sent ripples of hope through the dance crowd. Set to music by Bizet, the piece showcases Welch's dancemaking talents at their finest and most forward-reaching.

Leon's Lounge Piano bars should be divey, but also have a touch of class. There should be history and mystery in the air. You should be able to envision yourself as Humphrey Bogart, and that shapely woman at the bar as Ingrid Bergman. They should inspire you to think up and use corny dialogue in lieu of your usual speech. There should also be a hint of danger to it all, and the people who work there should have plenty of character. In other words, piano bars should be like the one in the back room at Leon's Lounge. A renovated area of the oldest continuously operating bar in downtown/Midtown, the dark wood paneling, smoky mirrors and big chandeliers of Leon's speak of a faded grandeur, while its location by the Greyhound bus station attracts a colorful clientele. Sure, not many of them look like Ingrid Bergman, but if you can knock back a couple of belts and get the piano man to play "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," you might not care.

Leon's Lounge
Leon's Lounge Piano bars should be divey, but also have a touch of class. There should be history and mystery in the air. You should be able to envision yourself as Humphrey Bogart, and that shapely woman at the bar as Ingrid Bergman. They should inspire you to think up and use corny dialogue in lieu of your usual speech. There should also be a hint of danger to it all, and the people who work there should have plenty of character. In other words, piano bars should be like the one in the back room at Leon's Lounge. A renovated area of the oldest continuously operating bar in downtown/Midtown, the dark wood paneling, smoky mirrors and big chandeliers of Leon's speak of a faded grandeur, while its location by the Greyhound bus station attracts a colorful clientele. Sure, not many of them look like Ingrid Bergman, but if you can knock back a couple of belts and get the piano man to play "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," you might not care.

Club Tropicana You can hear the salsa pumping from almost a block away. Inside, Club Tropicana is chock-full of attractive patrons. The salsa, merengue and bachata (the spicy music from the Dominican Republic) throb compliments of perennial local stars Mi Rumba. DJ Salserin, who's getting props around town for his mad salsa spinning, accents Mi Rumba's tunes on Fridays. It's almost painful to watch the short skirts and sculpted calves spinning on the dance floor. Need a dance crash course? Arrive early and take a salsa class before the crowd shows up. Or, just buy a bottle of Herradura, spark up a Macanudo and kick back in the lounge and watch guapo guys ogle the gorgeous Latinas who flock to the restrooms to reapply, refresh and repeat.

Tropicana Nite Club
Club Tropicana You can hear the salsa pumping from almost a block away. Inside, Club Tropicana is chock-full of attractive patrons. The salsa, merengue and bachata (the spicy music from the Dominican Republic) throb compliments of perennial local stars Mi Rumba. DJ Salserin, who's getting props around town for his mad salsa spinning, accents Mi Rumba's tunes on Fridays. It's almost painful to watch the short skirts and sculpted calves spinning on the dance floor. Need a dance crash course? Arrive early and take a salsa class before the crowd shows up. Or, just buy a bottle of Herradura, spark up a Macanudo and kick back in the lounge and watch guapo guys ogle the gorgeous Latinas who flock to the restrooms to reapply, refresh and repeat.

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