Step inside the Bellaire Broiler Burger dining room and you'll find yourself transported back to a time when burgers weren't fusion food, and a ten-spot could actually get you a satisfying dinner. The Happy Days malt-shop decor includes vinyl booths, knickknacks right out of Grandma's living room, faded plastic flowers and worn-down linoleum. It's all very clean, mind you, but it's all very, very old. Try the double meat burger with cheese, bacon and anything else you'd want -- for less than $6.50. We're talking a solid, Texas-size burger that you need both hands to lift. Add an order of hand-dipped onion rings or an old-fashioned malt, and you've got a great meal for less than $10.
Music -- way more so than movies, books or fashion -- has the power to put you in the Waybac Machine and plop you instantly into the past. Hearing the opening notes to "The Safety Dance," "Addicted to Love" or "Goodbye to You" will take more years off your visage than any beauty cream. For three years, Houston's premier (well...only) '80s cover band, Molly & the Ringwalds, has provided a live soundtrack to the Reagan years most Fridays at the Continental from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The show is always free, there's Ringwald Karaoke for the brave, totally bitchin' dancing, and sometimes manager Pete Gordon springs for free nachos. A totally gnarly time! Fer shure.
Ever wonder what it was like to see silent films in the old days, with an orchestra providing a dramatic soundtrack? Wonder no more. The film department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston regularly includes silent films along with offerings of classic and contemporary cinema. And some of those silent-film screenings feature live orchestral accompaniment. During the 2006-2007 season, the MFAH will present the 1919 German thriller The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with Two Star Symphony. In only its second season, the Silent-Film Concert Series is popular with film buffs and a great change of pace for folks tired of the mega-mall movie theaters.
Cezanne Jazz Club
Everyone has a front-row seat at Cezanne, since the bar holds only 150 people. Upscale without being stuffy, the club's intimate setting makes it the perfect place to take in local jazz favorites such as David Caceres and Sebastian Whittaker, as well as national acts. (Joshua Redman made his Houston debut at the club in 1993, though he's so big-time now that Cezanne might not see him again.) Performances usually sell out quickly for the bigger names, so plan to get your tickets early.
It's not only Houston fans who are getting to see LoneStar PornStar's stage antics: The group is now making regular appearances in Austin, Corpus Christi and San Antonio, as well. And antics -- loud antics -- is the correct term for these hard rockers. Singer Greg David Stegman commands the stage, stomping from one side to the other, jumping and screaming (on key, of course) during the entire show. If the group sometimes starts a little late, it's because they've had to tie up the sound engineer backstage. That's the only way they can set the speakers to make-everyone-deaf levels. But it's not just manic, and it's not just loud, it's fun. LoneStar PornStar takes their audience along for the ride every time they hit the stage.
Azteca's Margarita Bar and Grill
Robert Z. Easley
People go to Azteca's for dinner, but that's not the main draw. The main draw is the live music. Oh, and the $2 margaritas. And the jamming happy hour. And the crazy DJs. Located on the edge of Montrose, Azteca's is not for the faint-hearted. When it gets crowded (which is often), the service can get slow and the parking can get scarce. But don't let that deter you: If you're looking for Latin music in a fun atmosphere, you're looking for Azteca's.
Most of Houston knows Ronnie Renfrow from the Ronnie Renfrow Big Band. But bandleader Renfrow turned radio host a while back and has been spinning jazz and big-band tunes on the Swinging 650 -- Classic Cool show on 650 AM for more than a year now. He's on air seven days a week with partner Tom Richards (weekdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and weekends from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.). This is swinging music, bound not by era or genre but by quality, and he plays everything from Frank Sinatra to Norah Jones. Renfrow knows all about each song and singer, the backstories, the gossip and the official line. Funny, smart and on the inside, the show is the coolest spot on the AM dial. And they take requests; listeners can call in to 713-965-0650.
Rice Village is a prime place to go to forget you're in Houston or, hell, even in Texas. It's a textbook example of the glitzy hodgepodge of strip malls that's homologizing the country, but hidden amongst the Gap, Starbucks and Kinkos is Two Rows Classic Grill & Brewpub, an establishment you can find only in Texas, serving brews you can find only at Two Rows. Brewmaster Ian Larson and his compatriot at Two Rows' Addison location have engineered a spectrum of beers, from the light Honey Blonde to the yeasty Osage Golden and the full-flavored Vienna Lager. It's enough to curb your Double Mocha Frappuccino cravings.
Sometimes it seems as though Junico and Tracy Velarde are rubbing it in. Not only did they score the phone number 713-942-WINE, but their Wine Bucket Boutique & Bar seems designed to attest to the fact that no other couple inside the Loop knows more about wine and wine drinkers. The bar and gift shop has everything even the most finicky oenophile could ask for: The bar offers more than 50 worldly wines, by the bottle and by the glass, for the ever-enjoyable practice of sampling; they sell requisite smelly-in-a-good-way cheeses; and they carry fur-trimmed, leather bottle bags in case you find something you'd like to take home. All of these pleasures are presented in a delightfully Tuscan atmosphere. Best of all, the prices are reasonable, especially for a place with such fancy decor.
Yeah, we know it's meant to be a "peaceful sanctuary" and all, and no, we're not exactly arguing. But we must respectfully ask: What's more peaceful than death? The, shall we say, negative capacity of the black canvases on the walls is not to be underestimated as environmental design, but we find it terribly difficult to shake the knowledge that this was indeed the last work of visionary artist Mark Rothko, who committed suicide by slashing his wrists shortly after completing it. Still, one man's intimate, meditative space is another's stultifying sepulcher, we suppose. Perfect spot for a goth wedding.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of