The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston When the original Museum of Fine Arts in Houston opened its doors in 1924, it was the first art-museum building in Texas. Eighty years later, the MFAH is the grande dame of the local scene, holding court over a burgeoning contemporary shift in the district. It might be all that great impressionist and expressionist art, including the second-largest collection of Jackson Pollocks in the country. It might be all those pieces from Central America and Africa, which gave visitors exposure to multiculti objets d'art before it was cool. Include the variety of lectures and film series the MFAH hosts weekly, and you've got Houston's high-culture epicenter pegged. And with 54 new pieces added this winter -- many of them important 20th-century paintings from the bequest of benefactor Caroline Wiess Law -- the MFAH seems to be just entering its prime.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston When the original Museum of Fine Arts in Houston opened its doors in 1924, it was the first art-museum building in Texas. Eighty years later, the MFAH is the grande dame of the local scene, holding court over a burgeoning contemporary shift in the district. It might be all that great impressionist and expressionist art, including the second-largest collection of Jackson Pollocks in the country. It might be all those pieces from Central America and Africa, which gave visitors exposure to multiculti objets d'art before it was cool. Include the variety of lectures and film series the MFAH hosts weekly, and you've got Houston's high-culture epicenter pegged. And with 54 new pieces added this winter -- many of them important 20th-century paintings from the bequest of benefactor Caroline Wiess Law -- the MFAH seems to be just entering its prime.

Robert Pruitt The man is ubiquitous. The Contemporary Arts Museum, DiverseWorks, Lawndale Art Center, Project Row Houses, OneTen Studios, you name it -- Pruitt has shown his work just about everywhere in town that has an available wall. His series of "Black Stuntman" cartoons chronicles the life of a hapless antihero, doing his best to make it in this whitewashed world. His hip-hop-based work with Otabenga Jones and Associates has graced the walls of several spaces around town -- not to mention a few outdoor places in the urban landscape, like the video return box at Hollywood Video. And then there are his paintings: computerized re-creations of Norman Rockwell classics with a blaxploitative twist. In one, white farmers gawk at a woman's booty and white kids stare at their Afroed counterparts.

Robert Pruitt The man is ubiquitous. The Contemporary Arts Museum, DiverseWorks, Lawndale Art Center, Project Row Houses, OneTen Studios, you name it -- Pruitt has shown his work just about everywhere in town that has an available wall. His series of "Black Stuntman" cartoons chronicles the life of a hapless antihero, doing his best to make it in this whitewashed world. His hip-hop-based work with Otabenga Jones and Associates has graced the walls of several spaces around town -- not to mention a few outdoor places in the urban landscape, like the video return box at Hollywood Video. And then there are his paintings: computerized re-creations of Norman Rockwell classics with a blaxploitative twist. In one, white farmers gawk at a woman's booty and white kids stare at their Afroed counterparts.

Late Nite Pie Sometimes the party just has to keep going, even after last call. And it's always a good idea to drop something solid down your gullet before passing out. Late Nite Pie has one thing few other after-hours joints can offer: good food in the form of truly authentic, New York-style pizzas. It also serves up video games, TVs and a good jukebox. And the place is loud, so you'll probably still be awake when the slices are ready (but the staff doesn't mind if somebody accidentally falls asleep on the table). Oh, and if you just can't drag your sorry ass there, they'll deliver to you. Open and delivering until 3 a.m. daily.

Late Nite Pie Sometimes the party just has to keep going, even after last call. And it's always a good idea to drop something solid down your gullet before passing out. Late Nite Pie has one thing few other after-hours joints can offer: good food in the form of truly authentic, New York-style pizzas. It also serves up video games, TVs and a good jukebox. And the place is loud, so you'll probably still be awake when the slices are ready (but the staff doesn't mind if somebody accidentally falls asleep on the table). Oh, and if you just can't drag your sorry ass there, they'll deliver to you. Open and delivering until 3 a.m. daily.

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.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of