Otabenga Jones & Associates may have hit the big time, but they're not letting it go to their heads. OJ&A — aka Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans and Robert A. Pruitt — first met in a freshman art class at Texas Southern University. The collective's inclusion in the 2006 Whitney Biennial put OJ&A on the radar of all kinds of people. They've had a New York gallery exhibition, and they have a show at the Menil Collection. They even received a celebrity-style mention in Vanity Fair, which they thought was "weird." They remain nice, down-to-earth guys — with some pretty freakin' great art. Unless somebody goes and marries Yoko, this fab four should be around for a long time.

Isabella Court opened in 1929, the year the Great Depression began, but the lovely Spanish-style building is a survivor that made it onto the National Register of Historic Places. Purchased in 1991 by Trudy Hutchings, Isabella Court has been lovingly preserved and restored. The building's stunning courtyard is legendary, and its original murals, faded with time, lend the building a romantic elegance. The apartments may have central air now, but each still has its own milk box out front. Originally designed as a mixed-use building with commercial space on the bottom and apartments on top, the residential space has always drawn artsy tenants, but now the downstairs commercial space is pretty darn artsy as well. Commercial tenants fled during light rail construction, but now the downstairs is fully leased — three galleries, an art consultant and an architecture firm call the building home. Isabella Court has become an art destination.

Houston Ballet's opening-night performance of Christopher Wheeldon's Carnival of Animals had the audience roaring, thanks to a special per­form­ance by two-time Tony Award-winner John Lithgow. The multitalented actor and children's book author wrote the dialogue for this family-friendly ballet, and he performed it with scene-chewing zeal in Houston for two nights during the May premiere. He danced the part of Mabel Buntz, the school nurse who does a waltz as a "pert pachyderm." Even without the legendary Lithgow, this cute, sassy ballet is the best one for children since The Nutcracker (and more fun for the parents, too). But with him, it was an elephantine event.

Unfortunately, the most memorable and original name for a band is Doo Doo Butter. No other moniker could better burn "disgusting" into a person's mind. What it means exactly — well, we'll let you figure it out on your own. Doo Doo Butter is just gross on so many levels that you can't escape it, nor fail to admire it. But, hey, if you think that's bad, you should check out their songs. It should come as no surprise that a band with such a ridiculous name would have even more ridiculous songs, like the aptly named ballad "Bukkake."

The legendary ska/norteño/rockabilly/punk vatos rudos went out the way they came in — playing a packed house full of brawling, beered-up pachucos and peckerwoods. (There were no less than four fights that night at the Continental Club.) Their particular only-in-Houston brand of Second Ward psychosis and Navigation Boulevard madness might never be heard again. Since then, frontman Felipe Galvan has kept a pretty low profile, while various sidemen have gone on to form such bands as Ryan Scroggins and the Trenchtown Texans and the Umbrella Man.

Rudyard's

Rudyard's has captured countless Best of Houston® awards, including Best Veggie Burger, Best Burger, Best Bar Food and Best Neighborhood Bar. It's really about time it was recognized for being everything patrons love about a bar. The jukebox is usually off, but the staff's eclectic preference for everything from jazz classics to the latest in rock never draws complaints, and upstairs there's a regular rotation of local and national live music and comedy. The British pub also has most every other bar activity covered, including pool and darts. There's plenty of inside and outside seating, and a menu that will make you wish you hadn't grabbed something to eat before a night of barhopping.

Whether you're looking to make eyes with a cutie at the end of the bar, shoot pool with friends in a hunter's lodge or listen to a piano man in a room of gorgeous wood paneling and fancy mirrors, Leon's Lounge is your place. Just off the McGowen stop on the METRORail, it's the bar you've always wondered about, thanks to the red London-style phone booth just outside the door. Once inside, you'll be greeted by bartenders as happy as they are honest. (One friend was told he didn't want a whiskey sour and that they don't take Sacagaweas.) The details give Leon's the character and charm that keep customers coming back to sit at the long wooden bar that stretches across the first room. A second bar is surrounded by comfy leather seating, and the pool room is complete with dead heads — no, not Jerry's — we're talking deer and goats, people. Completing the appeal is a well-stocked jukebox of new and old hipster favorites. Oh, and they have a shuffleboard table, too.

Pearl Lounge

Montrose-area bar patrons have been delighted to have this man pouring their hooch for years now. Many claim he makes the meanest margaritas this city has to offer. Others claim that his famous Bloody Marys have the healing powers of black magic. Whether that's true or not, Moore will greet you with a smile, remember your name and most likely remember your drink of choice, just as you like it. These days you can find him at Pearl Bar, where he'd love to talk with you over a beer about old local bands and his undying devotion to the Astros.

JR's Bar & Grill

Our selection for Best Bingo Night this year is JR's Bar and Grill's Drag Queen Bingo. Now, bingo played à la JR's has some special rules. For one thing, the opening instructions include "Pay attention to your drag queens!" For another, every time the number "O-69" is called, everyone has to swoon, "Ohhhh, sixty-nine!" and the bar offers dollar shot specials for the next five minutes. Led by drag queens Cher and Craven (the current Miss Merry Christmas), Drag Queen Bingo is a fund-raiser for local HIV/AIDS charities. There are the usual free giveaways and prizes — well, kind of. These giveaways are gift certificates to adult video stores and T-shirts with bare bottoms or beautiful men on them. Oh, and there's one more rule you should know about: If you call out a false "Bingo!" you become Cher's slave for three minutes (kind of a gay version of the hockey penalty box).

The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club

The Big Easy is big fun. Nowhere else in Houston can you find live blues six nights a week. The venue features music legends like Guitar Shorty (Jimi Hendrix was a fan) one night and local favorites like Tony Vega or Earl Gilliam the next. They take turns keeping the dance floor crowded. And as if being the best blues club in town isn't enough, The Big Easy plays host to a Zydeco show every Sunday.

Best Of Houston®

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