Anvil Bar & Refuge

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.

William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art

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.

Stereo Live Houston

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.

El Pueblito Place
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.

Club Onyx

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.

Box 13 ArtSpace

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.

Mongoose Versus Cobra

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!

Jones Hall For the Performing Arts

Houston certainly has newer and arguably nicer music venues than Jones Hall, but the building at 615 Louisiana has been offering one of the most satisfying concert experiences in town for nearly 50 years, for far more than just classical crowds. Of course, Jones is best known and most often employed as the home of the Houston Symphony, but it has recently hosted concerts by R&B sexmonger R. Kelly, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and even "The Power of Love" players Huey Lewis & the News. Award-winning for both its architecture and its acoustics, and with several significant pieces of civic art on the premises (such as the sculptures "The Dancer" and "Two Horses"), Jones Hall is everything a world-class, big-city concert hall should be.

Lucky's Pub

Multiple screens tuned to all the games you don't want to miss? Check. Pool tables for if you want to "exercise" while watching said games? Check. Killer beer selection at great prices? Affirmative. Friendly staff? That'd be a yes. Wings, fried pickles, burgers and quesadillas? You bet your bippy. Really, there's no shortage of sports bars in Houston, but we've got a special place in our heart for Lucky's. We've also made plenty of room in our stomach for them as well. Now, excuse us while we get back to the game — halftime's almost over!

Best Of Houston®

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