"See the Chinese meditatin' / smell the Dietrich's coffee percolatin' / hear the train whistle blow down at Main Street Station / when it's springtime / down in the 'Trose." So runs our favorite verse of this lovely little Dixieland ditty. Too often, songs that mention Houston do so only in passing, and the city comes across as generic as our detractors claim it to be. But here, Kinsey, one of the frontmen of local old-time/punk/bluegrass ensemble Sideshow Tramps, conjures Montrose magic with a keen eye for telling details like the ones mentioned above and the "bells of St. Thomas," picnics in Menil park and "ladies fine as dandelion wine." And it's all set to a sweetly melancholy fiddle, guitar, banjo and clarinet melody. Not since Juke Boy Bonner's evocations of Fifth Ward misery has any one neighborhood been so specifically evoked in song.

We'll tell you right here off the bat, this isn't some giant spot with 10,000 TVs where you can watch the Romanian Curling Championships. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a locally owned neighborhood sports bar. Chain sports bars are like McDonalds for sports fans. Jonny's is the spot with the kick-ass chicken-fried steak you wouldn't know about unless some local took you there first. If you want to watch the Astros, Texans or Rockets and want a relaxing place to do it with friends, this is your spot. They also play all the big UFC pay-per-view fights, making it a good place to watch those sans meatheads.

Under The Volcano

Sometimes it seems like there are as many steak nights around Houston as potholes, and they'll all fill your belly up real good. But Under the Volcano gets the nod, because the Bissonnet shrine to Malcolm Lowry's novel (and all things tropicalia) has the good sense to have its steak night on Mondays, and it's always a good idea to start out the week with a good, solid meal. Actually, make that several meals: With a giant rib eye or strip, tasty mound of garlic mashed potatoes and salad for the eminently reasonable price of $12, sometimes we're living off steak night until Wednesday or Thursday. Drinks sold separately, though.

Treasures

Most people think strip clubs are all the same: parasitic businesses featuring emotionally damaged young women with fake boobs and daddy issues, clinically gyrating for the prurient pleasure of sad, gold-chain-wearing chodes whose frigid wives and fears of intimacy are enough to make them buy shockingly overpriced watered-down booze and pretend that the vacant-eyed vixens are actually interested in what they have to say. And, well, people are right. But, see, the difference between a bad strip club and a good one is that the latter really minimizes the inherent Pathetic Factor, so your soul doesn't feel dirty during the whole ordeal. A good strip club emphasizes the "it's all in good fun" and the "these girls aren't forced to be here, you know" ethos. And Treasures does that in spades. So go have fun — the icky feeling won't hit you until the next day, we promise!

Colorado Bar & Grill
Photos courtesy of The Colorado

Angelic is the best stripper in Houston because she's smoking hot. She dances at The Colorado Bar & Grill, but she doesn't blow fire or do back flips or twist her body into crazy stripper positions. Simply. Smoking. Hot. Brutha. "When I first started, I would just shake my ass like I was at the club," Angelic says. "Now I dance slower. Guys don't care if you can shake your ass. And smile. Guys hate it when you don't smile onstage." Angelic started dancing when she was 18, but it didn't take. So she got married and landed a job at Enron. Both of those flopped, and Angelic returned to The Colorado. She's branched out a bit, recently starring in a music video for West Coast rapper Young iLego. She's been offered another spot in a rock video, but she doesn't aspire to be a video star. She wants to focus on her business career. At 27, Angelic says that younger dancers can be intimidating, but her bosses say that her personality keeps her regular customers coming back. "I'm more ­sensual. I don't just rub my ass on a guy's crotch. I touch my body," Angelic says. "I've learned to seduce a man."

Texas Tattoo

What do you get when a Vietnamese kid is raised and steeped in all things Texas while growing up in Pearland? An Asian tattoo artist with a serious Southern drawl who has an interest in tat'in kick-ass skulls and naked chicks onto your skin — and who can do it better than most. Antoine has patiently honed his skills with the tattoo gun, slowly earning recognition and respect from his fellow artists and other enthusiasts. Get your work done now while you can still book time with him. Demand is going up, so don't blow your chance to get a permanent Picasso on your body.

Give a theater $100,000 and you expect something great, but the real test of a group of artists is what they can do with a next-to-nothing budget. We could all take a lesson from Mildred's Umbrella, a company dedicated to the strangeness of theater that manages to keep its artistic integrity on a shoestring budget. Many of their provocative productions are built around original scripts — this year, the group toured Rot, written by their resident playwright John Harvey with Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre, across Texas. They also produced innovative scripts like the Obie Award-winning One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace. If anyone deserves a big fat grant, it's these very hardworking and dedicated artists, currently fabricating whole theatrical worlds out of dreams.

The Next Door Bar

No, the Next Door is not an after-hours club per se; no secret knock or any of that Al Capone-type stuff. However, if you're reasonably well acquainted with the staff and don't piss them off (which is not exactly easy to do, but it does happen), they're not always in a hurry to chase you home at the stroke of 2 a.m., either. We certainly don't want to get anyone in trouble, so we'll just leave it at that. (Yes, they do pick up the drinks, Mr. TABC man.) With its reasonable drink prices, first-rate jukebox, giant projection screen (often showing fare like Fight Club or one of the Terminator movies), air-hockey table and all sorts of funky art — the life-size wooden mummy sculptures are especially sweet — the Next Door kind of feels like an after-hours bar in the middle of the afternoon, too.

The members of News on the March didn't rush into the spotlight, but instead took the time to hone their craft. The result was a standout offering of first-time performances, featuring the most perfect three-part harmonies ever heard live from a start-up act. News on the March plays Nashville-style pop that's more country than most country these days. The group is just as ready for the Opry as it is for Walter's, and given its already polished talent and widespread appeal, we're guessing Houston will have to share with out-of-towners sooner rather than later.

13 Celsius Wine Bar
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

Tucked away in a corner of Midtown, 13 Celsius is housed in a cozy, window-filled, 1930s Spanish-style building. This sets the stage for a laid-back atmosphere complemented by a staff ready to give you as much or as little attention as you need. Want to know what the folks behind the bar recommend? The wine list always includes a detailed explanation of staff favorites — both edible and drinkable. If those aren't what you're looking for, the bartenders are always willing to guide you through the abundant and rotating selection.

Best Of Houston®

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