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.

Matthew Drutt Matthew Drutt, chief curator of the Menil Collection, is on a roll. He curated the stellar "Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism," a wonderfully cogent exhibition and indispensable catalog exploring the artist's development of the movement. The show presented Malevich's seminal 1915 Black Square for the first time outside Russia, as well as the artist's lesser-known architectural models. The exhibition was awarded first place by the International Association of Art Critics/USA for Best Monographic Museum Show. (That's like an art-world Oscar.) And this summer, Drutt brought Olafur Eliasson's stunning photographs to the Menil. Less well-known than his installations, Eliasson's photographs investigate nature and man's interaction with it. And in his hands, the results are lush and riveting. The show took three years to plan, but Drutt's timing couldn't have been more perfect -- Eliasson was just coming of his phenomenally successful show "The Weather Project" at the Tate Modern in London.

Matthew Drutt Matthew Drutt, chief curator of the Menil Collection, is on a roll. He curated the stellar "Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism," a wonderfully cogent exhibition and indispensable catalog exploring the artist's development of the movement. The show presented Malevich's seminal 1915 Black Square for the first time outside Russia, as well as the artist's lesser-known architectural models. The exhibition was awarded first place by the International Association of Art Critics/USA for Best Monographic Museum Show. (That's like an art-world Oscar.) And this summer, Drutt brought Olafur Eliasson's stunning photographs to the Menil. Less well-known than his installations, Eliasson's photographs investigate nature and man's interaction with it. And in his hands, the results are lush and riveting. The show took three years to plan, but Drutt's timing couldn't have been more perfect -- Eliasson was just coming of his phenomenally successful show "The Weather Project" at the Tate Modern in London.

Cafe Adobe
Cafe Adobe On the streets below, late-afternoon motorists are still battling the maddening crowds, unaware of the blessed sacrament of happy hour unfolding nearby -- that unique time zone of decompression between the rigors of work and an evening's adventures. But fans of Cafe Adobe are already assembled and ascending, literally, to postwork bliss, with a little help from a bonanza of good Tex-Mex eats. Little wonder that the throngs keep pouring into the cafe's serene outdoor area and up the steps to the Acapulco Bar. There may be places with better prices on happy hour drinks or more exotic food, but the Adobe is the best at blending quality drinks (like $2.75 margaritas) with casa-comfort eats like queso and chips. And the mix of straights and gays -- all dressed to the nines -- takes people-watching fun to new heights.

Best Of Houston®

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