Black Hole Coffee House
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
An extensive coffee menu is just the icing on the cake at Black Hole, which also has delicious, locally made cakes and desserts. While they specialize in caffeinated concoctions, you can also find plenty of non-caffeine drinks such as the absolutely amazing Matte-Latte. Black Hole-ites go there for the good brew and good eats, but it's also a see-and-be-seen coffee spot where you can find many a Mac laptop user banging away on his or her latest poem or novel. Go for the coffee and the Montrose people-watching, and stay for the good music always playing, the friendly staff and the free Wi-Fi.

The Suffers have Houston's best stage show because there's so much to look at: cucumber-cool keyboardist and bandleader Pat Kelly; steady-rollin' drummer Nick Zamora; guitarists Kevin Bernier and Alex Zamora; bassist Adam Castaneda; a three-man horn section doing that old JBs side-to-side; "Chapy" Luna going to town on all manner of percussion — congos, timbales, bongos and more — and of course Kam Franklin up front, a singer whose voice is as bodacious as her Afro. The multiple Houston Press Music Awards winners have so much going on onstage at any given time, they're as fun to watch as their intoxicating Island-flavored stew of reggae, rocksteady, ska, R&B and a whole lotta Gulf Coast soul. And even still, the Suffers' stage show is not even kind of close to the action they create on the dance floor.

Architect Mohammed Nasr vacationed in the Yucatán just before he was set to design downtown's Heritage Plaza in the 1980s. His time in Mexico is directly reflected in the building's postmodern design; the building's cap is a granite stepped pyramid inspired by the Mayan constructions he saw there, and the interior lobby shows off more Mexican influence with a plaza-like design. The building is one of the last projects of this scale to be completed before the economy took a turn for the worse. Heritage Plaza stands as a gleaming expression of Houston's then-wealth and optimistic future.

Rick's Den

This small but lively Tejano club on the north side was named Oscar's Place for a very long time, but a young man named Rick has converted it into a very nice Tejano dancing venue. A strict dress code is enforced, so take your time getting ready. Inside, the dark room is highlighted with just the right amount of color, not too loud or too blinding, but comfortable. DJ Steve-Audio and DJ Lalo play a mix of Tejano, cumbia and even some tropical. Rick's also hosts live Tejano acts on a regular basis, so you might get lucky and catch Tejano legends Ram Herrera or David Lee Garza on any given night.

There's more that's unique about choreographer/dancer jhon r. stronks than just his name; he's one of the most daring and innovative dancemakers in town, and his company, There...in the Sunlight, is among the city's most ambitious. Recent productions include B.L.K. Gurls ~n~ W.H.T. Boiz: Singin' 'bout Gawd!, an evening-length program of solo and duet performances by stronks and former student/fellow choreographer Jasmine Hearn. The production explored issues of race, gender, sexuality and reconciliation. Those might seem rather serious topics, but stronks and There...in the Sunlight approached them with a sense of humor and whimsy.

The Corkscrew
David Rozycki

Nothing about the Heights' resident wine bar, The Corkscrew, follows those stuffy conventional wine-bar rules, and that's a good thing. This wine bar has built a good reputation among the wine-loving crowd by offering a solid selection of vino in a laid-back, come-as-you-are atmosphere. Resident musician Nick Greer can be found tickling those ivory keys among the aging Malbec and Cabernet bottles most nights, belting out everything from big-band hits to gussied-up hip-hop songs, and he's been known to throw in a bit of burlesque, complete with dancers, for good measure. Wine and burlesque; really, what more could you ask for?

Once upon a time a salacious, R-rated performance artist named Y.E. Torres who calls herself a "bad unicorn" hijacked a PG-rated visual artist named Lisa Chow who's notorious for her sweet-as-pie creations. The result of this artistic commandeering was a visual and performance-based collaboration to end all collaborations. The concept for this merger was simple: Torres's dark work would literally and figuratively take over Chow's light and whimsical art pieces during a monthlong stint at the ARC Gallery at Fresh Arts. Torres turned Chow's lovely daydream into something of a nightmare in the most wonderful way, and the results were perfectly aligned.

The Original OKRA Charity Saloon

Right in the heart of downtown's historic district lies the (thankfully) unhidden gem that is OKRA Charity Saloon. The striking space, featuring a barrel vault ceiling with a stunning wooden arch, is housed in one of downtown's oldest buildings. Freckled brick walls and sleek gaslight fixtures surround the always-bustling oval-shaped bar in the saloon's center, bringing a classic yet modern feel to the room. And if the space alone isn't breathtaking enough, their mission is; OKRA donates 100 percent of the bar's proceeds to a different Houston-based organization or social cause each month. Just grab a drink, earn a ticket and cast your vote for one of the elected charities. It's a beautiful thing.

House of Blues

There are many upscale and private establishments to be found in this great city, but there's only one Foundation Room. Entering through the front door is for amateurs. This members-only lounge has its own elevator, which transports guests into an Indian palace of luxury. There is no paying-off-the-doorman routine here — you must be on the membership list to enter. Once you're inside, options for dining and drinking are both top-shelf and exclusive. For business or for pleasure, impress your date by opening the doors to this world that is far above your ordinary nightlife experience.

Many Spanish radio stations are known for their loud and flamboyant disc jockeys, fast and energetic music programming, and over-the-top contests and giveaways. Recuerdo is none of that. Its on-air personalities speak softly and smoothly, and the music consists of boleros and música romántica that will at the same time calm you and put you in an amorous mood. Throughout the day, you might hear anyone from Vicente Fernandez, Ana and Juan Gabriel, Los Temerarios, Los Bukis or Juan Luis Guerra.

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