Tuesday through Saturday, Caps Piano Bar boasts one of the best house bands in town. Jazz and blues hits from days long gone by may be the artists' favorites, but they'll happily play you some Top 40 hits, as long as you keep the tips coming. And don't worry about racking up a huge bill: The drinks are affordable, and there's no cover charge.
While you wait on your beverages, enjoy some complimentary popcorn while you listen to the tunes and watch as couples cut a rug on the dance floor. Caps is hidden just behind House of Pies off Westheimer, but well worth finding. 2610 Briar Ridge 713-784-0024
Weekly burlesque shows, swing dancing and an emphasis on craft cocktails? Oh my. Prohibition is proud to further romanticize this era, and customers follow suit, showing up dressed in fedoras and suspenders, cigar in hand.
But Prohibition isn't just a piano bar; stop by on Sunday for brunch and tea, and the upstairs area, dubbed the "Voyager Room," is available for private parties as well. Reservations are required for the burlesque shows and encouraged at all other times. 5175 Westheimer, 281-940-4636, www.prohibitionhouston.com
Next door to House of Blues' Bronze Peacock Room is this little gem, a favorite for bachelor/bachelorette parties, birthday parties and anyone willing to bribe the musicians onstage with a few bucks to hear their favorite tunes. The pianists' repertoires are plentiful, but if they can't play your song, they will offer to play something similar or another tune by the artist you've requested.
Despite its size, Pete's can get pretty packed on a busy night, especially on weekends or after an event at House of Blues, so if large crowds and immobility aren't your thing, it may be best to show up early, before all the seats are taken. 1201 Fannin, 713-337-7383, www.petesduelingpianobar.com
Let's be clear about one thing: Howl is a party. Whether you're looking to spice up an otherwise mundane Friday night, celebrate a friend's birthday or just want a change of scenery, Howl has the best atmosphere of the bunch and drink specials to boot.
Don't know what buckets are? Get yourself one, share it with a friend, sing with some strangers and take a cab home. The place is usually pretty packed, so patrons should be ready to stand up for most of the night. Unless, of course, you call ahead of time and reserve a few tables. But even if you don't, you'll hear all the music, and the friendly staff will serve your buckets and beers with a smile. In case you only want to stop in, Howl happens to be in the heart of Midtown, well within walking distance of plenty of other bars, too. 612 Hadley, 713-658-9700, www.howlatthemoon.com
1. FUAD'S Best of Houston® winner, 2012:
The first thing you need in a great piano bar is a piano, and a master behind it, and Fuad's has one in the form of Geoff Allen, an unstumpable maestro on the keys. The second thing you need is great atmosphere, and Fuad's vaults that bar with gold-medal ease.
There's the ambience: plush, red-leather booths and candlelight. And then there are the people. In the words of one fan, "It's a neighborhood bar where everyone is a regular after one visit," a place where "you never know if the guy sitting next to you buying your drinks is an oil baron worth a billion, a guy out on bail for a Ponzi scheme, a famed attorney or some hardworking oil-field worker."
And then there's the food: There's never a menu, but where else in Houston can you get a rack of lamb, a ridiculously crustacean-filled bowl of lobster bisque or an expertly seared filet mignon after midnight? Nowhere else but Fuad's, where everyone is made to feel like J. Howard Marshall, and Anna Nicole, too. 6100 Westheimer, 713-785-0130