Inprint!

International literary stars Salman Rushdie and Sandra Cisneros are two of the nine noted authors appearing at the 2015/2016 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. Houston-based Mat Johnson, who many believe is destined for the same level of success, is on that list. The series has hosted 56 Pulitzer Prize and seven Nobel Prize award winners over its 34 seasons. Ensuring that there will be plenty of future prize winners, Inprint has also provided some $3 million in scholarships and support to local writers and held hundreds of writing workshops and dozens of Cool Brains! Inprint Readings for Young People events at local middle schools.

D & T Drive Inn
David Rozycki

According to D&T Drive Inn's web site, until 1959 it was an actual icehouse, a place that stored and sold blocks of ice until in-home freezers became viable options. When a Mrs. McKeehan bought the place, she named it after her sons, Dan and Ted. Today, D&T sports more than 50 beers on tap, and there's a homey food menu that goes perfectly alongside. Our favorite beer snacks at D&T are all included on the Dan & Ted's plate: pimento cheese, salami, pickled eggs and house-made pickles. It's happy hour all day on Monday, steak night is Tuesday and Wednesday is "Dog and A Beer Night," when a quality hot dog on an El Bolillo bun and a beer costs just ten bucks.

READERS' CHOICE: West Alabama Ice House

Fitzgerald's

Drive by Fitzgerald's most weekend nights, and plenty of weeknights, and the line to get in often snakes out the door and around the corner, and sometimes around the block. It's a pretty good sign that something great could be about to happen on one of the venue's two stages. Since the summer of 2010, Fitz has hosted countless sold-out shows by acts from any musical genre you'd care to name, and has become an anchor for the thriving area radiating from the corner of Studemont and White Oak. Even when it's crowded — which it is, often — Fitz doesn't feel claustrophobic; rather, the close quarters help enhance the communal experience so fundamental to enjoying live music. Last month Fitz entered yet another chapter of its long and illustrious history as one of the best sound engineers in Houston, Lauren Oakes, took over the general-manager role at the venue; her first task is supervising a series of much-needed renovations designed to bring the venue up-to-date and make it even more fan-friendly. That could be a tall order considering the recent success Fitz has enjoyed, but it's also hard to imagine anyone better qualified for the job.

READERS' CHOICE: Cynthia Woods Mitchell ­Pavilion

Lola's Depot
By Bill Olive

Opened in 1982, Lola's Depot, Houston's ultimate dive bar, still counts among its loyal regulars people who have been hanging out there since the '80s; in recent years the bar has had a resurgence as a whole new generation of thrill seekers has discovered the place thanks to social media and funny reviews on Yelp. The appeal of Lola's is the authenticity and realness of its staff and patrons; there is no other bar quite like it that we have run across in Houston or any other city, for that matter. The atmosphere is that of a dirty punk rock bar, yet at the same time Lola's is truly a neighborhood bar that appeals to a whole cross section of the larger population in Montrose, those who live there and those who'd like to. It's hard not to have a good time here under the influence of heavily poured drinks or cheap Lone Stars and PBRs in the company of friendly faces.

KCOH's sports director and Sports Rap host Ralph Cooper is a Houston institution. In 2010, the Houston Association of Black Journalists honored his 40 years in print and broadcast media with a lifetime achievement award, recognizing his work in the late 1960s for the Forward Times and Houston Post, on through his sports coverage for KYOK, KCOH, the Houston Defender, KTRK and many other outlets. Cooper was there for Muhammad Ali's Astrodome bouts, and his "Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman. According to the KCOH website, Cooper has interviewed Satchel Paige, Roberto Clemente and Wilt Chamberlain, just to name a very, very few. He's also a huge supporter of local high school and college athletes. But here's the thing: You don't have to know the difference between a pigskin and a softball to enjoy Sports Rap. Listening to Cooper's avuncular tone and delivery, matched with a quick wit, you'll soak up some real Houston history. The man is a local treasure.

Wooster's Garden
David Rozycki

Wooster's Garden is the definition of a clean, well-lit space. The front wall and ceiling are composed mainly of iron and glass, which lets in lots of sunlight. The aged, white-painted bricks of the back wall reflect it, filling the space with a natural glow. At night, wire framework lanterns mounted to the ceiling cast a pleasant glow on up-and-comers enjoying some of the best beer and cocktail selections in Midtown. Outside, guests lounge on the wood-decked patio. In a bar this nice, there's no reason for anyone to be in a big hurry to leave.

READERS' CHOICE: Julep

Mat Johnson, University of Houston Creative Writing Program professor, has carved out a unique place in the American literary scene. He writes about the serious aspects of contemporary race relations, and he does it in hilarious prose. The New York Times Book Review compared Johnson's latest release, Loving Day, to Invisible Man, while NPR has called him "one of the funniest writers in America." Salon, Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times have added their own accolades. Johnson's work often features characters who, like him, identify as black but look white. Along with his novels (Pym, Drop and Hunting in Harlem) Johnson has written several comic books (Incognegro and Dark Rain) and a nonfiction novella about murder in 18th-century New York (The Great Negro Plot).

Wooster's Garden
David Rozycki

There are certainly a whole lot of contenders for this action-packed category, but Midtown's newest cocktail and beer garden has a dedication to excellence that shines through. With 49 craft beers on tap, a rotating selection of around 40 inventive cocktails, and a wine and spirit list to rival that of any bar in town, these guys are pretty serious about their drinks. But they're just as serious about their food and chill neighborhood vibe, too. Hit their misted-up patio during the happiest of hours (which runs Monday through Saturday because they are awesome) to get $3 select beer taps, half-off wines and half-off house cocktails, ranging from "refreshing" and "bitter" to "straight up boozy." You'll need those to wash down the hot, buttery pretzel and queso made with beer. Like we said, they're awesome.

READERS' CHOICE: benjy's

The competition for Best Film Festival is always fierce. Between the dozens of themed festivals including the Indian Film Festival of Houston, which hosts dozens of exciting contemporary Indian filmmakers every year, and Latin Wave, which brings in provocative, cutting-edge Latin American filmmakers; a half-dozen superior micro-cinemas in town; Rice Cinema; Houston Cinema Arts Society; and all the pop-culture cons that are bringing in more films every year, it's a crowded field. So what tips the scales in favor of Jazz on Film? Curator Peter Lucas. He finds an exciting mix of films that show on-screen jazz performances, films that skillfully utilize the music to further the plot line and, as he did with Mark Cantor this year, knowledgeable film archivists/historians who present rare clips and insider stories. A favorite film in the festival this year was Jack Johnson, a documentary about the Galveston boxer who became the first black world heavyweight champion in 1908; it featured a dazzling jazz score by Miles Davis, recorded shortly after his landmark Bitches Brew.

You can, and maybe you do, dance in a different venue every night in Houston. We're a city with a lot of great spaces to shake your thing, but there's something about Barbarella that feels different. Maybe it's the way everything seems to glow inside it, creating an atmosphere that's fun but not obnoxious, silly but not grating. It's a space that encourages you to explore and more and not just sit at the bar or on a couch and passively watch. With a variety of themed nights and the addition of live music, Barbarella is a place that you'll want to visit over and over again.

READERS' CHOICE: Numbers

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