With a decent amount of local talent, Houston deserves more stages to feature homegrown comics. Thankfully, Rudz has stepped forward to devote one night a week to nurturing newcomers and showcasing seasoned vets with its "A Couple of Stand Up Guys" shows. Every Monday at 8 p.m. (as of this writing), you can check out a rotating cast of characters, for free — you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find a more fun way to spend a Monday night. Especially if your next Monday night involves going to a funeral. Trust us, this'll be waaaay funnier.

A pre-WWII converted house with an actual rose garden out back, the Rose Garden could also be Houston's leading time warp. The north Heights beer joint resembles somebody's den — toaster oven, mini-fridge, pool table, dusty dartboard in the corner — but the room is dominated by the jukebox, an imposing six-foot-tall piece of amusement equipment that may be the most recent bit of technology on the premises. It's almost surprising that it doesn't play 45s, really, but the juke is stocked with dozens of CDs. Some are greatest hits by artists well known to the Garden's older clientele (Faron Young, Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Eagles), but the vast majority are custom jobs that usually run more than 30 songs a pop, all manner of icehouse-approved artists like Jo-El Sonnier, Boogie Kings, Dwight Yoakam, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dale Watson, Dean Martin, Roy Orbison, Johnny Rodriguez, Marvin Gaye, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Johnny and Rosanne Cash, and way too many more to list here. That's thousands of songs, any of which sounds perfect with a cold one at Rose's cozy little corner of Houston.

Anvil doesn't have bartenders; it has bar superheroes. From the Anvil-exclusive cocktail list to their ability to read minds and build a custom cocktail based on your taste preferences, these guys (and gals) are the real deal. Think barkeep of old; they're trained in their craft, and they're trained well. So well, in fact, that they have been described as being reminiscent of a prohibition-era speakeasy, with the bar ambience to boot. From the spicy Pliny's Tonic to the house-made ginger beer, Anvil is a virtual cocktail utopia aimed at the grown-ups in the crowd.

Peter Lucas repeats as Best Curator. Last year's win was based on his work with Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's "Perspectives 178: CINEPLEX," while this year it was his work with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Jazz on Film series, a monthlong showcase of classic and rarely seen films that illustrated the long and sometimes tenuous relationship between jazz music and the movies. Feature films in the series included Martin Ritt's 1961 drama Paris Blues, which starred Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as American expats trying to find their way as jazz musicians in Paris. French cinematographer Christian Matras's images added to its gritty luster. Also on the schedule was Shirley Clarke's 1985 documentary Ornette: Made in America and Arthur Penn's 1965 Mickey One starring Warren Beatty (a pre-Bonnie and Clyde collaboration between the two). Lucas was able to secure all the films on 35-mm and 16-mm film.

The William Reaves Fine Art gallery specializes in Texas art, from early (Jose Arpa) to modern (John Biggers) to contemporary (Laura Lewis). Home to the ongoing "Texas Aesthetic" exhibition series, the gallery hosted "Broadening the Texas Perspective: Rediscovered Paintings by Emma Richardson Cherry," "The Paths to Abstraction: Paintings by Otis Huband and Jim Woodson" and "North Texas Recalled: The Painterly Chronicles of Jack Erwin" during the past year. Each was another step in unraveling the sometimes tangled history of Texas art.

Dance music — EDM if you want to give it a modern name — is bigger than ever, and its home in Houston is Stereo Live. The crew at Stereo Live have put the money and effort toward ­turning the space into the premier spot for dance music in the city. Every weekend it's packed with people looking to see some of the biggest names in the genre, check out the local talent or just have their insides rearranged by massive amounts of bass. CO2 bursts, confetti blasts and a massive video wall all add to the spectacle, but the main attractions are the music and the dance floor.

Jeff Balke

Sometimes we like to go here and pretend we're dining in some sultry tropical paradise where everyone lives outdoors year-round, because it's that beautiful. When you're on the patio here, it's really not that far of a stretch. Whether you're sitting tree-side at one of the tables or ensconced in one of the cozy cabanas, you're instantly transported to some worry-free oasis. The surroundings are so serene that it makes the food better and the margaritas cooler. Go once, and you'll be a repeat customer for sure.

As noted on its Web site, this upscale gentlemen's club caters to "some of Houston's top businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and professional athletes," meaning you'll get to enjoy beautiful dancers and delicious meals in some very refined company. The club boasts 12,800 square feet of fun, with two full-service bars, bottle service, VIP rooms and the signature "Onyx wings." Be sure to subscribe to Onyx's newsletter so you can stay apprised of featured performers and other special events. You deserve a little luxury now and then, and this is one place that knows how to treat you right.

Houston has quite a few tiny art galleries, from the minuscule Kenmore (a small refrigerator) to Redbud Gallery (a Heights-area shop the size of most gallery entrance halls). But it isn't just size that determined this year's winner, The Closet Box: Micro Gallery / Wonder Emporium inside East End's Box 13 Artspace. It was also programming that pushed Closet Box out as the frontrunner. Rather than attempt to change what was essentially a hallway closet into something more exhibit-friendly, organizers embraced the gallery's physical limitations, inviting artists to develop exhibits that would take advantage of the small space and bad lighting.

The perfect bar in Houston can be hard to find. As much as you may love that dive or sports bar, sometimes you want a joint that's a bit classier but still friendly and welcoming. Oh, and a large selection of draft beer and cocktails is so, so necessary. Enter the interestingly named Mongoose versus Cobra. As you sit at the bar, you're fascinated by the futuristic KeyKeg system that houses the more than 40 beers on offer. Bring a friend and enjoy the utterly delicious pretzel that's the size of a small life preserver, served with a side of homemade mustard. Above all, the atmosphere of the place is nice but not uppity, comfortable without sacrificing service. Cheers!

Best Of Houston®

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