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.

Walter's Downtown
David Rozycki

Walter's Downtown is the best kind of family business. Owner Zack Palmer inherited the warehouse-like venue north of downtown after his mother, beloved Houston nightlife matriarch Pam Robinson, passed away in late 2014, and he has carried over the anything-goes booking policy that makes Walter's one of the most accessible and artist-friendly clubs in town. Many acts who pass through Walter's do so without much commercial attention or outside financial support, and its DIY hospitality props up a broad spectrum of underground music, from indie-pop to hardcore punk and all sorts of laptop-beats alchemists. Walter's got even cooler when the vinyl-only Deep End Records, run by local musician and Walter's primary booking agent John Baldwin, opened last fall in what used to be the club's lobby.

You probably know somebody who is a walking encyclopedia of music, but rarely do those people share their knowledge with a wide audience on a regular basis. Houston is lucky to have Clint Broussard's radio program, Blues In Hi-Fi, on KPFT, but neither the length nor formatting restrictions of his FM slot could really do justice to the depth or breadth of his musical brain. Enter A Day In the Life, the podcast Broussard started in January. With 80 minutes at his disposal each time — not wanting to exceed the amount of content a typical CD-R can hold — Broussard presides over a meticulously curated, deeply personal journey through music's back pages.

Mockingbird Bistro

A French restaurant and wine bar serving up $20 appetizers and $30 entrées isn't exactly the first place you'd think to go for cheap drinks and eats after work. But when chef John Sheely gives you a taste of his menu for literally one-fourth the usual price and serves drinks for $5 and under, you take advantage. Mockingbird has what it calls a 5-5-5 deal: You can order bar bites, such as the daily ceviche special, mango-barbecue meatballs and pork sausage with braised red cabbage, for $5; wines by the glass from Italy and Spain for $5; and cocktails, including mojitos and margaritas, for, yep, $5. Select craft brews are just $3.50.

New public art has been sprouting up all over Houston, and this past spring one such piece flashed back to when one of our true musical icons could pull off a four-night stand at one of the city's prime concert halls. Created by native Houstonian Jamal Cyrus, Lightnin' Field recreated a vintage block-style poster of Lightnin' Hopkins's January 1975 appearances at Liberty Hall — once located just a few blocks from the mural — on a 40'-by-60' patch of wall above the Just A Dollar store on Main. Erected as part of the Downtown District's Art Blocks initiative, the mural has since been replaced, but for a few months it stood as a fittingly larger-than-life tribute to a musician and a venue who both helped put Houston music on the map.

Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails

Located in the more relaxed portion of Midtown, Double Trouble is aptly named. On most days, this spot opens at 7 a.m. and doesn't shut down until 2 a.m. During those hours, the relaxed staff is either slinging some of the best coffee and espresso drinks in town or pouring cocktails inside the comfortable, tiki-like space. Because the staff is totally chill with you bringing in your own food — Tacos A Go Go across the street is a bulletproof option — there's really no reason to leave once you're seated at the bar, high tables or cozy patio drinking a frozen Suffering Bastard (Kentucky bourbon, London dry gin, lemon, angostura and spicy ginger beer) or Captain's Orders (old overholt, dry vermouth, allspice dram, orange bitters and absinthe).

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