The Firehouse Saloon is so popular with its customers that it started booking private holiday parties in July. Owned by retired West University firefighter Tom Imber, the honky-tonk at 59 South and Fountain View is known for the pairs of cowboy boots suspended from the ceiling, the impressive collection of rare vintage neon beer signs, and of course, the fire truck parked out front. For decades it has been, if not the only place to see live country music in Houston, the only place that matters. The Firehouse's list of alumni who have gone on to one level of stardom or another includes Miranda Lambert, who had some kind words for the bar at her most recent Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo appearance. Other acts that have long since graduated to bigger venues or the festival circuit, like Randy Rogers and Cory Morrow, will still squeeze in a Firehouse gig when they can; Wednesday-night open-mike night props open the door for the saloon's next generation of headliners.

READERS' CHOICE: The Redneck Country Club

Part of the fun of drinking at this recently built, sleek downtown hotel is how many places you can do it. Drink at the long bar adjacent to restaurant Main Kitchen. Drink on one of the plush sofas and people-watch. The best way to drink here, though, is with a view of the hypnotic Solanum sculpture in the lobby. It's augmented by a series of projected images that sometimes give the illusion of movement and at other times make it seem as if water is rippling over the surface. Cocktails include pre-Prohibition selections like Boulevardiers and Sidecars and artsy originals like Jar Of Apricots, with Aperol, lemon juice, apricot syrup, egg white and cranberry bitters. The exceptional bar menu includes hush puppies with whipped honey butter, and chewy kale- and sausage-topped pizzas take care of any munchies with a touch of pure class.

Photo by Katya Horner

On a basic level, Discovery Green is a fascinating place to people-watch because there's so much going on around the park at any one time. Depending on the time of year, we're talking festivals, music, ice skating, people playing with their dogs, people getting fancy photos taken, art installations, flea markets, food trucks, yoga and more. It's a space that attracts people from a variety of backgrounds, so the crowds never feel static. Add in the people walking through the park on their way to concerts, sporting events and comic-book conventions, and the only thing you can expect to see at Discovery Green is the unexpected.

Texas Real Estate & Co. commissioned the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston to paint an outdoor mural on a wall of the company's parking lot. Showing a stylized black-and-white portrait of Sam Houston accompanied by a silhouette of the Houston skyline against a blue sky, the mural has a simple — and definitely real estate-centric — message. It reads: "Sam Houston did not come to Houston to RENT."

When we heard that one of our favorite adult film stars, Alexis Monroe — star of Buns of Anarchy 2 — was coming (heh) to Houston in August, we didn't even have to ask where she'd be performing. Of course it would be Vivid, which is also scheduled to host Nikki Benz and Kayden Kross. You don't attract that level of talent unless you're the real deal, and Vivid's four stages feature some of the hottest dancers you'll find anywhere. And check this: free gourmet lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, followed by a free buffet from 4 to 7 p.m. What more could a dude ask for? Oh, how about $2.75 well drinks, domestic brews and wine every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.? Yeah, thought so.


Best Band to Get Together in the Past Year


By only opening her mouth, Moji Abiola echoes some of the greatest music of the past while pushing her eponymous trio in bold new directions. Abiola and her bandmates, David Garcia (drums) and Troy Creagh (guitar), have hardly been together a calendar year, but already there's no other group in town that sounds quite like them. It starts with Abiola's voice, located midway through the spectrum between mysterious jazz chanteuse and fiery R&B diva, but the generous amounts of jazz, soul and indie-rock supplied by her two colleagues give her the kind of sturdy but elastic platform that a dynamic voice like Abiola's deserves. Hopefully the trio's first EP, 2015's Desert Son, is just the first of many compelling releases we'll hear from Moji.

Monday is "Geeks Who Drink Trivia and Steak Night" at this unabashedly nerdy bar, and Sunday is "Magic The Gathering." Truth be told, though, there are games every day at Neil's Bahr, because the space abounds with them. There are stacks of board and card games in the various lounge areas, so it's possible to show up spontaneously with a group and play Cards Against Humanity. Two big arcade emulators in the back room are loaded with hundreds of games, and there's a sofa where guests can hang out and play classic Super Nintendo, Sega and PlayStation console games such as Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. The club even just added an Olympic regulation ping-pong table. Competitively minded gamers should keep an eye on the Facebook page, where Neil's Bahr announces tournaments for games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat X. Patrons can show off their video game prowess and win swag — sometimes even cash.


This Montrose mainstay has stayed the same while aggressively hip and trendy bars and shops around it have come and gone. We expect Slick Willie's to be there even after the mattress stores leave, and perhaps it will even survive a nuclear war, which would be awesome, because even radioactive nomads will need a fun, friendly place to chill after a long week of hunting and gathering. This venerable pool hall has 24 tables, a $3 daily appetizer special, an awesome happy hour and free pool on Mondays (with equal purchase). There's a patio, a party VIP room, and even darts, air hockey and other games. The service is fantastic, and the pool tables are pristine. Rack 'em!

READERS' CHOICE: Slick Willie's Family Pool Hall

Photo by Jeremy Parzen

No other Houston wine bar is as focused as Camerata is on serving a side of knowledge alongside a glass of wine. That said, this is no boring classroom (even if the back wall does look a bit like a chalkboard). The staff of Camerata will wax so enthusiastically about wines you've never heard of from regions you've never heard of that it's absolutely contagious. Suddenly, you'll find out new things, like the fact that you really groove on Chardonnay from Kumeu and that grower Champagnes are the best because they were made by farmers who guided the whole process from the grapes to the bottling. Best of all, you're drinking the whole time and talking with nice people. Go for the wine. Stay for the education.

It's easy to take for granted just how cool Hermann Park is if you live in Houston. On those rare days when it doesn't feel like the world is melting, there's no better place to be outside. Not sure how to spend a day with company? If they enjoy zoos, gardens, paddle boats, jogging trails, picnics or golfing, you're all set. You can also catch a show at one of the best venues in Houston, Miller Outdoor Theatre, or ride what may very well be the best miniature train in Texas. Yes, shopping and eating are fun, too, but Hermann Park is an easy way to show out-of-towners that Houston is more than just sprawl.

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