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CityCentre's Breezy Bars Teem With Nightlife

'Hi. Can you make me a ­lychee martini?"

"A what?"

"A lychee martini -- it's on your menu."

"I don't think we have those."

"I'm pretty sure you do; you guys serve them at dinner. And at lunch. L-Y-C-H-E-E martini."

We're trying desperately to communicate with the bartender at Straits, but there's no use in screaming over the thumping dance music. Still, it's a lychee martini, made from the Chinese subtropical fruit, and some things are worth the effort.

It's not usually this crowded here. The business-lunch crowd that flocks to this CityCentre (800 Sorella Court) spot may be seeking sustenance during daylight hours, but tonight it's alcohol and dancing and Straits is the place to be.

Every square inch of the Singaporean fusion restaurant/bar is packed. No one seems to mind the close bodily contact -- everyone but us, that is.

Pressed against the bar in a bid for a drink, we are losing oxygen. It's hard to get the staff's attention in here, considering half the room is attempting to do the same thing. But if we want a lychee martini, a drink that Straits is indeed known for -- despite the bartender's puzzled looks -- we're going to have to tough this one out.

So is Amir, the guy next to us. He's been trying to order for nearly ten minutes now, but the bartender is constantly being dragged away on another task. Getting a drink is becoming more and more difficult, which is interesting considering that Amir appears to know all the bartenders by name.

"I come here all the time," he laughs. "It's always packed, but I can walk back up to my place, since it's basically right upstairs from here. You get to know everyone, and you kind of just deal with the crowds.

"Besides, it's kind of the place to be around here," adds Amir. "So it's worth the wait." It's not that difficult to tough out the crowds at Straits, though. Plenty of beautiful people are dancing around and networking, all of them with a drink in hand, so there is indeed hope for imbibing if you're patient.

Beckoning outside is Straits's massive patio full of posh white outdoor seating. An array of low-slung couches and chairs is nestled under several private cabanas; the only problem is that the patio is so packed right now, you'd be hard-pressed to snag one.

With twinkling tree lights and glowing fire pits on its patio, Straits feels more SoCal than Houston. Perhaps that vibe is why it's such a hotspot for social young professionals. It's downright hip, the antithesis of the traditional Memorial-area crowd.

Then again, so is most of CityCentre.

Story continues on the next page.

Down one lychee martini but up a handful of accidental gropes, we made our way over to Yard House, the beer-centric bar nextdoor. At this massive space, an insane number of taps -- between 130 and 250, depending on the night -- and a miles-long menu of artisan bar food attract twenty-somethings like moths to a flame. The crushing madhouse that was Straits is nothing compared the throngs of people here.

If you want to get a beer at Yard House, apparently, you better make your way there early. Every seat in the bar is occupied, including the booths and high-top tables surrounding the enormous bar in the middle. Standing it is, with a feeling that the beer will be well worth it.

At Yard House, we are no longer on the ­receiving end of the accidental groping. Instead, we are the gropers, a weird and slightly unwelcome change. In order to flag down the bartender, we have to interrupt an ongoing conversation between two guys, Chad and David. Luckily, they're the friendly sort, and only slightly side-eye us as we apologize for breaking up their party in our beer-­seeking haste. It seems the idea of more than 100 beers has us nearly as pushy as Straits's lychee martinis.

"It's always like this in here," says David, gazing around at the crowd. "It's loud and the crowd is ridiculous. It's fun as hell, though."

Apparently, his version of fun is people constantly pushing their way past him for a Clown Shoes Galactica IPA or some random hefeweizen. But David doesn't seem to mind the chaos at Yard House; the beer and the vibe are worth it.

But really, every bar at CityCentre is crushingly busy on the weekends, from RA Sushi to Eddie V's on down. The development that replaced Town & Country Mall has become a social beacon for young people in a previously desolate area, now thriving with nightlife. If you want to come drink here, you better be prepared to make quick acquaintances with your neighbors, because you'll be pressed up against them soon enough.

Send your after-dark tips to nightfly@houstonpress.com.

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