People are spilling out the door of this little lounge on Almeda, a rare sight for a Monday night. Most bars in this area are ghost towns, closed for the night to avoid the dreaded weekday slump.
But not Cafe 4212 (4212 Almeda). On Mondays, the cozy lounge straddling the Museum District and Third Ward is packed.
"Hey, man! Hurry up! We've been waiting for you for an hour now."
A dapper older man looks at his watch impatiently while his friend, dressed in an updated, hip version of nerd attire (complete with sweater vest), swaggers up to the door. He's cool as a cucumber, and grins and makes his way up to the group.
This Andre 3000 lookalike is in no hurry, but his friends are. After all, the music is about to start.
There's a good reason for the massive crowd. Cafe 4212 normally hosts live jazz, blues and zydeco, but every Monday since last Labor Day, Debonair Lounge has welcomed many of Houston's up-and-coming urban artists. And more of their dressed-to-the-nines fans.
On these nights, as the city's hottest rappers and R&B crooners perform, the crowd preens and struts.
"Ooh, girl! Look at those heels!"
A group of gorgeous women are posted up by the door, talking and laughing as they bob their heads to the smooth-moved soul singer onstage. As a leggy, dark-haired beauty strolls past, something other than the music has caught their attention: her shoes.
"Those are the cutest things I've ever seen! I love those. Hey! I love those!"
The most fashionable member of the group waves her down, traipsing after her and clutching her Chanel bag closely. She's here for the music, but those leopard heels are way too chic to ignore.
In terms of ethnicity and lifestyle, this mix of high fashion and sultry R&B makes the Debonair crowd about as integrated as it gets for Houston. Long legs and short skirts are everywhere.
No matter which way we turn, another tall and tanned woman struts past, but the men play it cool. Between the pulsing music and the fashionable crowd, it feels at times as if the bar is just one big catwalk.
Perhaps we should have also worn leopard shoes.
From the outside, the ebony-and-ivory mix of folks talking and laughing over cocktails seems like a rare sight on the city's bar scene. Something about it makes the mood feel more glamorous.
"Look at that drink! What kind of cocktail is that?"
The woman behind us is gushing about the drink that has appeared on the bar in front of her. It's not hers — the bartender is mistaken — but she's enthralled with the way it looks nonetheless.
"Just give me one of those instead."
Even the drinks at 4212 give off a swanky urban vibe, to go with the exposed brick walls and steel bar stools that sit cold against the warmth of the plush seating. Every solid element is met by a softer counterpart, as with the eye-catching art pieces. It's the perfect backdrop for an event like Debonair Lounge.
As presided over by emcees Tay Mitch and Brad Gilmore, Debonair Lounge has managed to do the impossible. It's morphed the young professionals' view of the weekend, making Monday into the new Friday night.
"Man, I was so hung over today," we hear from nearby. "We gotta stop going so hard on Sunday if we're gonna make it out here after work."
The guy to our right is wearing a fantastic fedora tilted down over his eyes. Despite his story, his stocky build gives off no illusion of pain. It seems Sunday Funday has met its match, at least for now.
He raises his glass and laughs.
"Luckily, this will keep me going for tonight. But seriously, no more Sunday. Please."
It's true. Given Houston's love of brunch, it can be tough to stretch the party into Monday. But these elegant, soulful nights at Debonair Lounge are now a must.