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.

The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection main building is lauded almost as much as the artwork it contains. Plans for a museum complex that would house the John and Dominique de Menil family art collection started in the late 1960s. Italian architect Renzo Piano worked with Dominique de Menil to create a museum that looked "small on the outside but [would] be as big as possible inside." They succeeded brilliantly. The Menil's nearly 30,000 square feet of gallery and public space seems intimate but spacious. In addition to art exhibits, the museum often hosts concerts and lectures (we're willing to bet Piano and his client talked about acoustics somewhere along the way).

Big Star Bar

Whether you're looking for a cheap beer or a good stiff drink, Big Star Bar is the place to go. You can grab your drink — they've got a fine selection to choose from, particularly in whiskey — and head on out to the patio; settle in on an ancient-looking, so-beaten-up-it's-actually-comfortable couch or chair; or just sidle up and grab a seat at the bar proper. The clientele is a mix of hipsters and amateur beer snob types thrown in with guys who know how to hold their liquor and how to gauge the true value of a generous pour. Basically, Big Star is everything a good neighborhood bar should be.

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