The Harp

A single, female friend of ours describes this place as "the yuppie Rudyard's," and we have to agree. Here, just as at any bar, you'll find tons of dudes drinking away and looking for love. But the crop at this Irish-tinged pub is a little creamier, if you know what we mean. Nothing attracts future yupsters like a clean bar with a wide variety of Euro beers on tap, and this place delivers. You can snag yourself a future doctor or lawyer before he gets all rich and full of himself — not that a little confidence is a bad thing.

Whole Foods

Here's the trick: Just walk in, grab a cart, stroll over to the book aisle and pick a diet, any diet. Let's say you go with the Master Cleanse. Fill up your cart with all the ingredients except one, like, say, maple syrup. Walk up to the first hottie you see — and there should be plenty to choose from — and ask her if she knows where the syrup is. She'll no doubt look down at your cart and recognize the diet you're on, since she's done them all. And voilà, you're instantly in the middle of a conversation, discussing the merits of wheat grass or some other hippie concoction. Closing the deal is up to you. But if you succeed, you can rest assured she's flexible from all that yoga.

Where can you see Houstonians from every race, age and walk of life: Zulu warriors in full tribal regalia, Australian aborigines, Chinese kung fu experts, Indian fakirs, Kazakh belly dancers, Tuareg musicians, Japanese drummers, Greek dancers, Rastafarian CD salesmen, Irish bagpipers and Caribbean brass bands with a full complement of dancing hotties in sequins and spangles? The Houston International Festival, that's where, the one event where Houston's status as a first-tier world city is not in doubt. It's the people-watching that makes I-Fest every bit the feast for the eyes that it also is for the ears and taste buds.

McGovern-Stella Link Neighborhood Library
So many libraries are stale, stiff, silent. Theyre more like mortuaries than hubs of active study and learning. Not so McGovern-Stella Link, located in a modern glass and brick building with sleek furniture, efficient computers, a buzzing snack area and loads of natural light. With a line that forms outside on most mornings, it passes the most important test for any great library: People use it.

Okay, so the best duo in local radio is really a trio: Roula, Ryan and their sidekick engineer, Eric. Roula's vivacious and impassioned; Ryan's hunky and impassioned; and Eric sounds all nerdy (yet impassioned). They're not the usual radio schlubs: They're telegenic enough for a career in TV, but they'd have to lose a lotta IQ points. The Texas trio seems more intelligent than most on radio. While they have the silly patter you'd expect sandwiched between endless replays of Fergie and Justin Timberlake, they also spent an hour recently interviewing the father of a murder victim. The show airs weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. We're serious about lovin' the creativity, wit, brainpower and nurturing all in one unlikely place: pop radio.

Houston used to be a thriving town for radio news, but those days are long past. Clear Channel has taken a big ax to the newsrooms of KTRH and KPRC, and while the reporters who remain do stellar work, in many ways the product is a shell of what it once was. Which makes the choice for local radio news an easy one: KUHF. As a public radio station, they're not as driven by the bottom line and can devote more time and resources to covering the city. Laurie Johnson and Rod Rice are talented, dedicated and know Houston well. We all might wish KUHF would put even more resources into the newsroom, but at this point, we have to take what we can get. Luckily, what we're getting from KUHF is pretty damn good.

Best Regular Public Speaker at City Council Meetings

Senator Robert Horton

Unless he's throwing eggs at them, Senator Robert Horton is generally ignored by City Council members, who are so used to his cryptic mutterings that there's no novelty left to them. To wit, an entry from one council meeting reads: "Senator Robert Horton...appeared and stated that he was God and continued expressing his personal opinions until his time expired." The Senator generally sits quietly in a front-row bench at each council meeting, patiently awaiting his turn to address the officials in his capacity as Senator of the World. He had some stiff competition for this category, what with a man named President Joseph Charles of Royalty, who regularly asks the council for travel expenses to cover his visits with the Queen of England. But Horton wins by a nose, thanks to his decision to throw eggs at council members on two separate occasions, ensuring his immortality on YouTube. So even if City Council won't recognize you, Senator, the Press will.

Harrisburg Plaza, the newly renovated 1929 blond-brick building with a terra-cotta roof and reflective steel canopy, would look right at home on any ivy-covered college campus. Instead, it houses an auto parts store and payday loan center on Houston's rough-and-tumble east side. Designed by German-born architect Joseph Finger, the building blends nicely with the adjacent church and always-busy Eastwood Park. Check it out: It's a great building to gaze at, and there are great prices on motor oil.

Like his Democratic Best of Houston® counterpart, we've had our disagreements with State Senator Kyle Janek's record. But the anesthesiologist from West U has shown some impressive thinking on health issues. This year he helped spearhead the drive to make Texas high schools test for steroids. Anyone who's seen the giant kids being produced by some of the state's football powerhouses knows there's been something fishy, not to mention something terribly cynical about programs willing to put kids' health at risk. Janek's bill requires random testing of athletes and educational programs for coaches. It doesn't go as far as some would like, but it's an important first step, and Janek is responsible.

If you reside on the northeast side, Bissonnet Street won't do you much good. But if you're anywhere on the southwest side, Bissonnet represents not only the best but also the most sane route to downtown. Offering a much-needed respite from Houston's choked, monotonous highways, Bissonnet will glide you through economically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods such as Sharpstown, Gulfton, Bellaire and West University, then drop you off in the Museum District at Main Street, where you can follow the light rail into the city's ­center.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of