Miami After Dark: H-Town Goes to South Beach

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Photos by Marco Torres
This past week, I packed my bags and headed east to Miami, that gorgeously naughty city in South Florida that rivals New York City and Los Angeles in its beauty and nightlife. The purpose was a professional one, a marketing and interactive conference for Latinos. But aside from the seminars and gift bags and networking, the most adventurous and rewarding time at any conference or festival is always the afterparty.

Below are just some of the extracurricular activities that had me dancing, and the soundtrack that accompanied them:


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CityCentre's Breezy Bars Teem With Nightlife

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Photos (except Yard House) by Angelica Leicht
The bar at Straits Restaurant is hardly ever this uncrowded.
'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.


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Texas Hookah Lounge: Not Just Blowin' Smoke

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Photo by Angelica Leicht
"Whoooooo...are...youuuuuu?"

Smoke billows from our mouths as we draw out the syllables of each word, then dances above our heads in a mesmerizing manner. We have just taken a drag from the hookah pipe sitting in front of us and are attempting to create clouds of smoke-letters in the air.

Needless to say, we are failing miserably. We look much less like the caterpillar from Alice In Wonderland than we'd hoped..

Fortunately, though, no one here at Texas Hookah Lounge (1431 Westheimer) seems bothered by the abundance of smoke our attempts are producing. The haze is just par for the course in this place. To us it seems pretty late to have such a packed crowd, but the staff doesn't seem bothered in the least.


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Houston Meets -- Gasp! -- Dallas at the Rodeo's Champion Wine Garden

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Photos by Angelica Leicht
"Happy Rodeo! It's like our own little holiday! I love it!"

It's early in the evening, but the wine and the greetings are both flowing at Carruth Plaza in the heart of Reliant Park. The folks here are dressed to the nines for rodeo season, and between the blingy cowboy hats and expensive oversized turquoise jewelry, it's beginning to feel a bit like the set of Dallas -- with a RodeoHouston twist, of course.

Nearby, a well-dressed man is posing on top of the bronze statues in the rodeo's Champion Wine Garden, an outdoor "lounge" right in the shadow of Reliant Stadium, but no one seems to mind his selfies. A couple of glasses of wine will loosen even the stiffest bolo tie, and there is plenty of wine available here to work that magic.


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Don't Mind the Zebras at Houston's Coziest "Strip Pub"

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Photos by Angelica Leicht
"Don't worry, they died of natural causes at a farm out in East Texas," the older man says. "We raised all sorts of exotic animals out there."

Mouth open, we're staring at a pair of stuffed zebras, right past the row of topless dancers flanking them. To be fair, mounted animals are surrounding us, but something about this pair of zebras, glowing eerily under the strip-club lights, had us concerned about the cause of their demise.

Luckily, Frank Kent knows firsthand. Manager of Sharpstown's Colorado Bar & Grill (6710 Southwest Fwy.), perhaps Houston's finest strip club, he was the one who raised them.

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Houston's Top 10 Irish Bars

As our sister blog Eating... Our Words does, from time to time Rocks Off will be giving your our picks for the top taverns in various Houston-area neighborhoods. Of course, the lines can be porous, but here anything with a TABC license that cannot reasonably be considered either a restaurant, coffeehouse or live-music venue is fair game.

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10. ASHFORD PUB
Want to hang out at a legit Irish pub this St Paddy's Day, but can't fathom flying to the other side of the world to do it? Try the west side's Ashford Pub, a dark, dank bar with very Irish owners. What could be better than that? Not much, unless you throw in some free food, plus dirt-cheap drinks, rad bartenders and around 20 beers on tap.

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Lei Low Tiki Bar: A New Taste of Tropical Paradise

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Photos by Brittanie Shey
Houston's finally has a dedicated tiki bar after decades without one. Lei Low, at 6412 N. Main, opened Friday with flaming tiki drinks, aloha shirts and healthy does of Houston's tiki history.

The bar is the brainchild of Russell and Elizabeth Theode, formerly of Downhouse, and Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse, owners of Grand Prize, Big Star Bar and Goro & Gun. The Theodes are avid tikiphiles whose personal collection makes up much of the bar's décor.


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Marfreless Returns, Sleeker and Swankier But Just as Sexy

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Photos by Marco Torres
Still plenty dark, huh?
"Hey, does anyone else smell that? It really smells like wood varnish in here!"

The well-heeled patrons are trickling into the crowded bar at a steady pace, and as they appear, one by one through the hostess area, they all exclaim the exact same thing: This bar smells strongly of varnish. They are right, though. The entire place does indeed smell of wood varnish.

We are at the soft re-opening for Marfreless, the hallowed River Oaks make-out bar, and not even the heavy perfume that settles like clouds amid that varnish scent can detract from it. That varnish smell is to be expected, though. After all, the contractors who are charged with remodeling the dark old bar, packed up and left only about an hour ago.

"The walls, they're red! Oh, and the old mural is still up!"


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The Galleria's White-Collar Hotel Bars Mean Serious Business

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You know the Derek is gearing up for a big Valentine's Day.
"We'll take two Nipple Up's, a Fraggle Rock and a Pipe Stripping, please. And light on the ice, if you will."

You can tell quite a bit about a bar from the drink names on the cocktail list, and this one runs to four pages. Names like "The Jed Clampet" [sic] or "Black Gold" seem fitting given the clientele. We're at least three drinks in, and have yet to see someone order a good, old-fashioned beer.

The menu at Hotel Derek's Vin Bar was recently revamped, adding flights of craft beer to the ever-expanding list. It makes sense. Craft beer is trendy right now, and Hotel Derek is a place that follows trends to a T, even if this crowd seems rather disinterested.


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Houston's Top 10 Latin Bars and Clubs

As our sister blog Eating...Our Words does, from time to time Rocks Off will be giving your our picks for the top taverns in various Houston-area neighborhoods. Of course, the lines can be porous, but here anything with a TABC license that cannot reasonably be considered either a restaurant, coffeehouse or live-music venue is fair game.

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10. BELVEDERE
Belvedere is not technically a Latin bar, but that doesn't mean it can't have a great Latin night, now does it? This upscale lounge has been home to Latin Thursdays for the past seven years, and the awesome DJs keep the place ridiculously packed. So if you're planning to strap on your bachata shoes and head over, best do so early.

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