Onion Creek

Onion Creek first sprang to the owners' minds while they were tubing in the Hill Country, and was birthed while the Heights was recovering from Tropical Storm Allison. Since, it has attracted a loyal, eclectic following: Bikers find it a place a tad nicer than most, gays and lesbians feel right at home, yuppies feel hip and happenin' by dint of the other, eclectic patrons, and all enjoy generous portions of not-too-shabby food and excellent Katz's coffee. The yuppie contingent tends to raise the bar for the rest of us: On a recent visit, one of the friendly baristas asked a stay-at-home mom how the kids were, and she took the opportunity to regale him about little Caleb's latest antics. Then, grateful for being able to talk to another adult about her favorite topic, she placed a $5 tip on the bar with a flourish. The barista seemed nonchalant: When we left, with the smoothest, richest lattes this side of Portland, Oregon, the fin was still on the bar.

Rodney Yarbrough, a.k.a. Lil Brough, has been on the Houston scene for more than 15 years. He's toured nationally and was invited to perform at the Houston stop of Dave Chappelle's Block Party Tour a couple of years back. He makes regular appearances at local venues like The Improv and the Laff Stop, but is also known to frequent open-mike nights at the Proletariat and Mike's Ultimate Bar. His subject matter has him classified under "raw and urban," but Lil Brough can wax comical on subjects that range from big-girl lovers to how weed brings the world together — "I don't care if you're white, black, Latino, Asian, everybody got high and thought Phil Collins's 'In the Air Tonight' was the jamming-est song you ever heard" — in a way that will have everyone's sides hurting. You should see him soon, before he blows up and out of H-town.

We'll probably get some threatening letters from the folks at Doomsday Wrestling for calling them a "Comedy Show," but rest assured, it's in good fun. It's hard to believe either the wrestlers or producers don't see the humor in their events. Especially considering Doomsday's roster, which includes Precious Jewels, a guy who wears a silver spandex S&M costume and gets fouled for humping the referee; a masked woman in a wedding dress who spits blood and goes by "The Plague"; a tag team known as The Stormin' Mormons whose signature move includes running over opponents with a bicycle; and Dirty Sanchez, a manager from south of the border (he's actually contributing Press writer Erik A. T. Dieckman), who at a recent match challenged announcer Tex Lonestar to a "stare-down." It may not be the most well-choreographed brawling you've ever seen, but chances are you'll be too busy booing, hissing and throwing cheese balls at the least-popular wrestler (read: bad guy) to notice.

Kim Davenport has made Rice Gallery a treasure trove of installation art in the middle of the Rice University campus, an institution far better known for engineering than for visual art. This past year, Davenport brought in two particularly outstanding installations. The first, "Rip Curl Canyon" by the young collaborative team of Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues, completely transformed the space into a roiling landscape made of cardboard. Davenport is always on the lookout for new artists, and Ball-Nogues were two young architects whose work had just come on the scene. But she isn't just spotting and bagging young talent — she's showcasing legends like Judy Pfaff. Pfaff, the doyenne of installation art, took over the gallery and created "....all of the above." The phenomenal installation looked like a three-dimensional drawing made with assistance from Dr. Seuss and provided a rare opportunity for Houstonians to see Pfaff's work.

Graceful and strong at the same time, with a style that masks the difficulty of the dance, Houston Ballet principal dancer Randy Herrera glides effortlessly from role to role (his favorite is Basilio in Don Quixote). Herrera is both smooth and explosive in his performances, with effortless jumps and pirouettes. The Acapulco-born Herrera was with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago before he joined the Houston Ballet as a soloist in 2001. He was promoted to first soloist in 2006, and then became a principal dancer earlier this year. Herrera, who has won several international awards and most recently represented the Houston Ballet in the 2006 International Ballet Competition, sparkled during Houston Ballet's last season, playing the lead in the company's performances of Velocity and Wild Life.

The Cozy Corner

Stepping into this dark, friendly cavern of a tatterdemalion strip mall bar near the ruins of Westbury Square is like entering a portal back to 1980, with a difference. Yes, it's got the requisite low ceiling, cheap drinks, smoky ambience, early opening time (11 a.m.) and friendly, take-no-shit service you expect from any old-school dive worth its salty peanuts. And yep, there's not much on the jukebox to thrill the ears of trendoid Hot Chip and Lightning Bolt fans — we're talking stuff like Wet Willie, Hank Sr. and .38 Special. But this isn't your average suburban strip mall dive by a long shot, as any trip to the Cozy's Friday and Saturday night karaoke extravaganzas will prove. Let's just say Westbury more than lives up to its "Little Montrose" nickname during Cozy Corner karaoke night.

A veteran who's been down in the trenches of the music scene for years now, Ceeplus (aka Eric Castillo) has a love for music of all genres that shines through his DJ sets. Any given night, the man behind the black-framed glasses will take you from Baltimore club sounds to Italo disco to punk rock to Houston hip-hop and then back again. With his motley crew, known as Reprogram Music, he rocks the airwaves weekly on KPFT and is also the one to thank for curating the sounds at the Starbucks Mixed Media Music Series at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Previous Readers' Choice Best Drag Queen winner Kofi is originally from Louisiana, but she's been in Houston for so long, she calls herself a local girl. Regulars at JR's Bar and Grill and South Beach know her well — she hosts the Tuesday- and Sunday-night shows (a mix of drag queens and male strippers). Kofi's own act regularly includes Patti LaBelle's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Nell Carter's "Gimme a Break" and Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" (an audience favorite). And then there's the "Request It" challenge, in which audience members shout out the names of obscure tunes and Kofi does her best to sing them (sometimes she knows the songs, sometimes she's completely faking). Patterned after the Patti LaBelle "down-to-earth diva" model, Kofi is a former Miss USA-at-Large (a plus-size title). She just celebrated her silver anniversary as a female impersonator last month.

Artful, surprising and truly fine in so many ways, the Alley Theatre's Spring production of Sarah Ruhl's Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Clean House was thrilling. Houston's inventive cast turned each and every character into a creative joy. Josie de Guzman's Matilde, the Brazilian maid who didn't like to clean, was a gift of sweet sadness who found a perfect foil in Elizabeth Heflin's obsessively tidy Lane, the boss from hell for any maid. Add Annalee Jeffries's amazing performance as Lane's goofy sister, Virginia, and Paul Hope and Karmín Murcelo's supporting roles as two different couples in love, and the chemistry onstage all but caught the place on fire. If only all plays could be blessed with an ensemble of performers as perfectly right as these five were.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Houston was once home to AstroWorld, amusement park extraordinaire. Sadly, AstroWorld is gone, but we still have a world-class family entertainment facility – the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Wait, wait, yes, it's a museum, but it's not the kind where you have to whisper and the exhibits are safely tucked behind velvet ropes. Here, kids are encouraged to talk and touch, even to squeal with delight, if they are so moved. Blending education with entertainment, the museum presents a variety of permanent shows and a year-round schedule of touring exhibitions. Previous shows have included "Imperial Rome," "Frogs! A Chorus of Colors" and the internationally touted (and controversial) "Body Works 3."

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