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

Camerata at Paulie's
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.

Hermann Park

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.

Walter's Downtown
David Rozycki

Zack Palmer came by the nickname "Zack on Washington" honestly, literally growing up in the nightclub business as his mother, Pamela Robinson, ran Walters on Washington and then Walters Downtown. He had the kind of adolescence that many kids dream of, working for his mom for many years and eventually taking over as manager when her health began to give out. After Robinson passed away from cancer in October 2014, his first test was getting the proper permits transferred to his name, but the transition took only about three weeks. Another hiccup came in April, when the bill came due for the debts that Walters had accrued during Robinson's treatment. Palmer turned to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, where he wrote, "I more crave an affirmation that the people surrounding Walters understand the importance of having a place to belong and are willing to back it." Happily, the club had accrued so much good will within Houston's music community that Palmer met his goal with several days to spare. Since then, some of the hottest indie-rock bands around, like Speedy Ortiz, Waxahatchee and Elvis Depressedly, have been through Walters, along with countless local acts and even Houston punk legends 30footFALL, who played their maiden show at the downtown venue in August.

Rice University Art Gallery

Rice University commissioned artist Ben Butler to create a site-specific installation. Butler, an assistant professor of art at Rhodes College, crafted "Unbounded," a maze of 10,000 hand-cut sticks of poplar wood. He pre-assembled some 300 flat sheets in his Memphis studio, transported them to the Rice University Art Gallery and continued the construction. Butler's sculptural process includes the construction of simple, predictable patterns. By repeating the pattern over and over he creates unexpectedly complex structures. It's a case of the whole being greater than a sum of the parts. "Unbounded," which was both dense and airy, filled the art gallery. As viewers walked around the construction, each step one way or the other produced a completely new view of the structure.

House of Pies
Jeff Balke

Just because it's 2 a.m. doesn't mean you have to head back to the house. Nothing quite caps off a night out of dancing/drinking/singing/(choose your own adventure) than a bite to eat with the people you love. When it's too early to go home but too late to stay at the club, House of Pies is there with warm food and a tasty selection of pies and coffee to keep your eyes open for a few more hours. It's a Houston institution, one that attracts all sorts, so not only can you get something delicious in your system, you can also do some prime people-watching.

READERS' CHOICE: House of Pies

Houston is currently without an FM station that plays Texas country and Red Dirt music, apart from one of KILT's HD feeds, but Badlands Radio is more than just the next best thing; it's probably better. The only commercials are brief spots for Firehouse Saloon's open-mike night or musical happenings like Hitchcock's Rowdy Day Music Festival, which hardly count as annoying ads. Badlands's variety is easily comparable to anything on the airwaves or satellite radio, stretching from Americana acts like Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real to dyed-in-the-wool hellraisers like Kevin Fowler and Randy Rogers Band; it leaves plenty of room for locals, too. Available for desktop and all manner of mobile platforms, the Friendswood-based app is basically a lot like Apple Music, except a lot closer to home.

Cezanne Jazz Club

Cezanne is such a self-contained little island within the Houston music scene that it's sometimes easy to forget it's not a private club. But there it is, sitting atop ivy-covered Montrose pub the Black Labrador, open to all every weekend. Besides its movie-worthy aesthetic surroundings — a better date-night spot cannot be had in Houston — Cezanne has such spectacular acoustics that the musicians who play here hardly even need to plug their instruments in. Besides a rotating cast of top local jazz talents (including Woody Witt, Tianna Hall, Mike Wheeler, Sebastian Whittaker, Henry Darragh and more), the club hosts special events like this summer's tribute to the late, great Ornette Coleman and 80th birthday party for wonderful Houston vocalist Horace Grigsby. Every so often it even brings in artists from far, far away, like Brazilian trombonist Silvio Giannetti. Jazz may not be the common currency of popular music anymore, but at Cezanne, people who appreciate the timeless art it has become have a home sweet home indeed.

READERS' CHOICE: Sambuca

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