House of Pies
Jeff Balke

There is little in life more satisfying than a full menu of feel-good diner breakfast food after a night of drinking. But throw in a full menu of freshly baked pies and House of Pies is pretty much an irresistible after-hours option. Open 24 hours, the diner serves up breakfast at any time alongside lunch and dinner. That means hearty plates of omelettes, waffles, burgers, melts, chicken-fried steaks and more. But don't leave without a bite of rhubarb pie. Or lemon meringue. Or apple, cherry, peach, pumpkin and Texas pecan. We can't promise a trip here will be easy for indecisive customers.

READERS' CHOICE: Mai's Restaurant

KPFT

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every weekday, all the familiar complaints about Houston radio disappear in the laid-back, commercial-free climate of KPFT's eclectic, perfectly curated Wide Open Spaces. Sometimes loosely organized around a different theme (Mellow Mondays, Classic Rock Fridays), Wide Open Spaces highlights artists of the independent and Americana-leaning variety, many of them from right here in Texas. Host Roark Smith has a classic DJ's voice, with just enough gravel and hype to make listeners trust whatever he says implicitly. Especially on Fridays, large swaths of the show are devoted to artists playing in the area over the weekend; that's true of any other weekday, just to a lesser degree. And just about every show features at least one on-air performance accompanied by a Q&A session with Smith, who has a gift for getting artists to open up in a way they rarely do anywhere but onstage.

Rose Garden

There are a lot of great dive bars in Houston, but when we're longing for a true bastion of cheap beer, with a good jukebox in an atmosphere as unassuming as a scene can be, we head to the Rose Garden in the Heights. The wood-paneled walls are decorated with pictures of John Wayne and Elvis Presley without a hint of hipster irony. The bartenders keep the suds coming, and the bar is red and white, the same colors as the Polish flag. This spot was a refuge for Polish Texans who moved to Houston from the sticks around the time of World War II, and that welcoming vibe has lasted through the years.

READERS' CHOICE: Lowbrow Bar & Grill

Just as mother of pearl seems to change color when viewed at different angles, the iridescent grids of "Cloud Room Field" twinkle and change with movement and light. Commissioned by the Houston Airport System through Houston Arts Alliance, the ten-foot by 60-foot dichroic glass, aluminum and stainless steel sculpture graces the atrium near the main departures entrance at William P. Hobby Airport. Christian Eckart has produced similar but smaller pieces before, but this super-sized installation with 600 panes of glass at varying 45-degree angles, using nine pastel colors, is the big kahuna. The properties of the glass reveal different colors in transmission and reflection, producing tertiary colors as the sun rises and sets. The final piece is dreamier than its original saturated mock-ups, adding just the right amount of cool to calm even the most harried traveler.

Rudyard's

Okay, before we get into the great beer selection, featuring plenty of local craft beers; before we get into the no-frills, old-school, welcoming décor; before we mention the kick-ass comedians and bands who perform upstairs throughout the week; before we throw in something about how Rudz has been serving up suds to folks of all stripes for nearly 40 years — that's basically four centuries in Houston-Time — we have to mention the menu, featuring some of the best bar grub around. We skip the grilled chicken breast and go straight to the fish and chips, with tater tots on the side. Hey, you gotta soak up that alcohol with something — might as well make it decidedly and deliciously unhealthy.

The Men's Club of Houston

This venerable institution has been entertaining bons vivants since 1989, and it's easy to understand why with such plush surroundings, talented dancers and stellar food options. You can start the week off with steak and shrimp specials on Monday, and then come back Thursday for a "Kick Ass Filet." Saturday night is couples night, with free cover before 10 p.m. and a dinner special. If you'd rather not bring sand to the beach, so to speak, you can always roll solo and let the gorgeous dancers and friendly waitresses treat you like a tycoon.

READERS' CHOICE: The Men's Club of Houston

Jimmy's Ice House

The TVs are ancient museum pieces, the bartenders no-nonsense, it's cash only and the beer (which is the only alcoholic beverage they offer) is damn cold and cheap. Just as an icehouse should be. Jimmy's, located spittin' distance from Fitzgerald's in a tumbledown abode, is a throwback to bars of old — or your dad's garage that always has a cooler brimming with brewskis. Along with lowbrow snacks like Cheetos, the mostly open-air dive offers daily specials, such as even-cheaper prices on Lone Star, Pearl and PBR during "White Trash Day."

Camerata at Paulie's
Photo by Jeremy Parzen

When you're longing for the perfect glass of wine but don't know what you want, it's time to hit up Camerata. Situated next to neighborhood Italian restaurant Paulie's, Camerata draws in all kinds of people, from wine aficionados to regular folks who just enjoy a good glass of Chianti. Or Champagne. Or Pinot noir. The sommeliers know their wines inside and out, and the bartenders are always ready to help figure out just what your tastebuds need.

The other day we tuned into Houston Matters and were enthralled by discussion of an issue that would probably bore even loyal public-radio listeners to tears: why appraisal districts and corporations often end up in court. Hosted by the poised and sanguine Craig Cohen, Houston Matters does this a lot, breaking down even the most arcane topics into easy-to-grasp layperson's terms. Producers also understand what makes a well-rounded episode, and that same program featured a story outlining responsible Pokémon Go etiquette. To top it all off, Houston Matters can claim the greatest barometer of local news we've seen yet: If a story isn't mentioned in Friday's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" segment, it obviously wasn't that important to begin with.

Houstonians are a diverse group, but we're united by a few things. We all hate traffic. We all sweat in the summer. Our hearts are broken time and time again by our sports teams. And we all shop at Ikea. Next time you go there, take a break from your own hunt for build-it-yourself home furnishings and really look around you. Ikea is a microcosm of Houston, bad traffic and all. We're all looking to save some money on furniture, which means we all end up at Ikea, no matter where we're from, what language we speak or who we love. Ikea is massive and there's no such thing as an in-and-out trip, so slow down and do some people-watching while you're there.

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