Onion Creek, with its decidedly Austin-esque vibe, is a great place to grab a drink and catch up with friends. Half coffee shop, half wine bar, it's the perfect combination of casual cool and laid-back hip. Go on a Saturday night
and you're likely to see a few local celebrities/Onion Creek regulars hanging out on the patio. As if that isn't enough to entice you, perhaps the fact that Onion Creek serves beer, seafood and steak, and that the Houston Farmers Market is held behind it every Saturday, will get you off your sofa.
Agora
Photo by Craig Hlavaty
Dear Agora: You have us spellbound. So much so that we will risk breaking our neck on your steep staircase and pay a little more than we should for that Greek coffee whatchamacallit or that Shiner Bock. But we will do this because you kick ass. We love your warm, woody interior. We love your belly dancers on Wednesday nights. We love your wine selection. We love pretending we're in some old-world European haunt when we smoke our cigs and lean against your upstairs railing. You're unlike any other coffeehouse we know, Agora. And we're not just saying that so we can taste your baklava.
South Beach
Probably the most popular gay bar among straights and hags, South Beach is the hub of the Pacific Street district, the sparkling gem of Montrose. True, most of the men there are gorgeous. Sure, the go-go boys are divine. Yes, the drinks are stronger than the love of those two cowgays from Brokeback Mountain. But what sets SoBe apart is its fabulous dance floor: There's not a single club in town, maybe in the state, that matches its style. The light displays are exotic and entrancing -- their laseriffic spell will pull even the most rhythmless. And the Kryogen Ifex Liquid Ice Jets bathe the dancers at the center of the floor with a cool mist so thick you can't see the person right in front of you. What an opportunity to misbehave! But, fret not, tiny dancer. What happens at SoBe...
Paul Oddo (pronounced "OH-doe") isn't a giant on the city's professional comedy scene, but he's sparked some humorous fires at alternative venues such Rudyard's and The Proletariat. It's likely his native Houston isn't ready to embrace his long-winded, introspective style: His approach to stand-up is more thought-provoking and anecdotal than the mainstream style this city is typically spoon-fed. He's more like a Patton Oswalt than a Jerry Seinfeld, which is probably why hip, younger crowds inside the Loop love him (and certainly his Dane Cook-like dashing good looks and mesmerizing basso profundo voice don't hurt), while older, more blue-collar crowds in the Pasa-"git 'er done"-dena area shift in their seats and furrow their brows in confusion.
We usually rail on hipster types who begin sentences with "Oh, you mean you've never...," but if you missed these parties, well, it sucks to be you. From the understaffed, expectation-blowing explosion that was the first event to the overcrowded, throbbing mlange that was the last, the Beats of Basquiat were the best all-around parties this town has seen in who knows how long. Break-dancers, blue-hairs, scenesters, fashionistas, hip-hoppers, suits, emos, screamos, frat boys, high schoolers -- the whole town came down to shake its assets amid the works of '80s art star Jean-Michel Basquiat. With headliners such as DJ Spooky, Peanut Butter Wolf, Shepard Fairey and Grandmaster Flash manning the decks, you can bet the MFAH pulled in a lot of folks who normally wouldn't visit a fine art museum. And we're all for that.
Andrea Zittel's work is literally life-changing. Her sculptures and installations reflect the media-driven desire to tweak all aspects of our day-to-day travails, and the solutions she presents -- portable chamber pots, modular living spaces, bizarre escape pods -- often come off as claustrophobic and paradoxical, just like our options in real life. For the show at the CAMH, co-curators Paola Morsiani and Trevor Smith crammed the main gallery with 15 years' worth of Zittel's peregrinations through space and time, practically turning the entire exhibition space into its own installation. By the end we couldn't help but appreciate the cluttered, inefficient confines of our own abodes.
Tom Burckhardt's cardboard atelier blew us away. Using brown cardboard and black paint, the artist took over DiverseWorks's project space and re-created an entire studio, complete with a vintage storefront entrance decked out in graffiti. Inside, we felt like Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit: utterly confused in a cartoon world both real and surreal. And then the artistic in-jokes started slapping us in the face. There were nods to Marcel Duchamp's urinal, Jasper Johns's coffee can, Andy Warhol's soup cans, Edward Hopper's potbellied stove, Jean-Michel Basquiat's "SAMO" and Jackson Pollock's drip-drenched shoes. It was almost enough to inspire us to start painting on the spot, although we're not sure how much luck we would've had with those cardboard brushes.
Alice's Tall Texan Drive Inn
David Rozycki
Call it a semantic paradox: Once a place gets labeled a dive bar, it ceases to be one. Regular drunks don't use the term "dive bar" -- only hipsters do. And once the hipsters show up, well, you know where we're going with this. But Alice's Tall Texan somehow has managed to buck the trend, keeping true to its dive-bar roots (and clientele) no matter how many of the gentry walk through its doors. In fact, this joint in the Heights is more akin to the Mexican bars dotting the surrounding area than to any of the other so-called dives frequented by tattooed and pierced partiers. There are neon signs aplenty, a dusty gumball machine in the corner and a wall covered in Western-themed wallpaper that would fit in a little boy's bedroom circa 1950. But what keeps us coming back are the $1.25 Lone Stars, served up in fishbowl schooners that require two hands to lift. Now that's an exercise regimen we can embrace.
No one can beat the ne'er-do-wells at Rudz when it comes to scatological cleverness. The normal bathroom taggers are well represented: Chicken Boy, I Love You Baby, Consumer, GY and DTS. But it's the literary odes that get us chuckling when going about our business. Take the mullet haiku, for example: "O squirrel, my brother / Your tail, my hair, we are one / Yet, I must eat you." Granted, this haiku is widely available on the Internet, but still, it makes us laugh. Some of these scribbles have been up for years, and it's a testament to the folks at Rudz that they haven't whitewashed any of them. There are some new additions, too, such as "The New Orleans disaster is not natural." Well, damn. That's actually not very funny, but at least it makes you think.
Under The Volcano
Many bar owners are content to let jukebox vending companies stock their boxes for 'em. That's why you so often see the same Otis Redding, Patsy Cline and Eagles discs everywhere you go. And while there's nothing wrong with those, it's cool when you see and hear something different. Under the Volcano owner Pete Mitchell is all about the difference. An avid music fan, Mitchell personally loads his juke with his faves, which range from New Orleans brass bands to West African pop and bluegrass to cutting-edge hip-hop. What's more, he changes things up once or twice a year. Where else in H-town will you hear Mamadou et Mariam followed by the North Mississippi All-Stars, Manu Chao and Louis Armstrong? Only at the Volcano.

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