Ladybird's
David Rozycki

This laid-back, family-owned neighborhood bar in the Heights features a nice little patio out front that local food trucks come and visit so you can get some grub; venture a few steps inside and get some craft beers or excellent signature cocktails to wash your food selections down with. There is a bit of an upscale ice house feel here, with the bar's windows being opened up when the weather is nice; check out the owner-curated CD jukebox which offers some great selections of classic rock, country, soul and pop. This is a good spot to come out and just drink and chat with friends or, if you want to engage in some activities, entertainment includes foosball and pool tables, a couple of video games, a photo booth and a bean-bag toss outside. The location next to some railroad tracks reminds one of a lazy, small Texas town; you can hear, feel and smell the train when it comes roaring through.

From script to sugar skulls, hearts to portraits, and yes, roses and anchors, your best bet for that amazing body ink is Rose & Anchor Tattoo. Husband-and-wife team Erik and Victoria Del Rio take pride in their award-winning work, with more than 20 years of combined tattooing experience between them. After years of working in several studios on the Westheimer strip, the couple opened their own small shop, which has quickly grown into a powerhouse of quality tattoos. Erik's waiting list is usually months long since his specialized lettering style and flair are in high demand. Victoria specializes in vibrant Americana-style ink. So whether your skin is longing for classic black and gray or something with more color, make the short drive west to Katy. Rose & Anchor is well worth the trip.

READERS' CHOICE: Gaslight Gallery

Firehouse Saloon

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.

Discovery Green
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.

READERS' CHOICE: Treasures

Best Band to Get Together in the Past Year

Moji

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.

Neil's Bahr

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.

READERS' CHOICE: Kung Fu Saloon

Slick Willie's Family Pool Hall

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

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