Friday, September 6, 2013


1131 Uptown Park Blvd
Houston, TX 77056
Neighborhood: Galleria/Uptown

Labor Day Weekend. Too many parties, too much drinking, too much ratchet,  too much crazy. However, you have to go out on a high note, and it had been a while since I'd been to Plan B. Slightly drained after a few days of partying, I felt I could depend on Belvedere. Sundays they advertise free entry for everyone until eleven, they've got parties going on outside on the patio and inside the main rooms, and the place looks classy. The Professor, though, is not happy. Want to know why? Read on.
The start of a good night?
Let's get the technicalities out of the way. Belvedere is in a great part of the city, located in the Uptown area nearby a wonderful shopping and dining area. For the casual sports viewer there's a Champps close by, the paths between the stores look like quaintly lit European streetways, and the clientele and esthetic is relaxed and classy. There's parking as far as the eye can see, and Belvedere itself is lit up like a Miami Night, with a sleek interior, a lovely White Room at the rear, plenty of reserved seating, a lengthy bar, and a spacious patio. There's so much to love about the place.
It looks really nice.
The DJs are always on top of their game. Fridays they have what they call International Nights, which blend hip hop, dance numbers and reggae under the watch of one of Houston's most well rounded DJs, DJ Shinski. Sunday night they had hip hop and reggae on the patio blending with classic hip hop and 80s New Wave tracks for a diverse dance experience. Inside it was absolute hip hop, cycling through numbers by 2 Chainz and others, your expected urban hip hop experience. The club was absolutely packed, with people lining the bar, every VIP section bought up, and the patio area moving and flowing. Sounds like a great night, correct?
The night was going strong.
It is. It normally is. I just have one, huge complain, that has nothing to do with the club. I want to be clear, the staff of Belvedere is exceptional and incredibly friendly. Any one of the men or women working the bar and pouring your drinks is professional, courteous, speedy and helpful. A bottle of beer will run you five dollars, slightly higher than Houston's standard but expected in an area with this level of demand, clientele and experience. The same goes for their Jack and Coke, which runs nine dollars, which is just about the ceiling for that drink in Houston. I've got no problems with those prices, in this area, with this sort of crowd and service. Really, no complaints about either the wonderful service or the drinks, which have a strong pour. They've even got a massive wall of four large tvs to help watch any number of games on that day.
A view from the bar.
 What earns my ire is the false promotion used for their Labor Day party. The experience you want to deliver is one of consistency, quality and happiness. The promoters for Sunday night were Lisa Rogers and Steve Rogers, who traditionally take a 20 dollar cover at the door after eleven. That's something to be aware of if you're coming in for a visit. Man or woman, you will pay 20 if you're coming in late. But if you come in earlier, you're fine. No cover. That's the expectation of Plan B, the party they hold on Sundays.
Four tvs for you sports nuts.
What earns my ire is the false promotions. I like to carry cash with me so I know how much I'm spending, so I drew out my normal amount for an evening like this and proceeded to the club. Guess my surprise when I arrived, shortly after ten, to find out that Lisa and Steve had falsely promoted the night as being free before eleven. Look, I get that it's the Labor Day weekend. I know this is your chance to make extra money. I don't have any problem with that. In fact, that was common at a number of places around town. What I don't want is for you to lie on your flyer just to draw in a crowd, because if I can't trust your promotions here, why should I trust them at Sugar Hill, or the rumored Scott Gertners that Steve is supposedly attached to?
It was packed.
Be honest with me. Don't lie. Now look, I've never had problems with the Rogers and their promotions before, so maybe there was some sort of mix up on their flyers. I don't know, so I'm not going to hold it against them too much. But the one thing I need from a club, a bar, a promoter or an owner is trustworthiness. If I could separately rate Belvedere apart from Steve and Lisa for my experience Sunday, I would. As it is, the deception really bothered me and still does, because I get around far and wide in Houston. I expect a quality experience and a fair sale, nothing more. So despite how much I love Belvedere, for this night I can't rate it higher than average. I talked to lots of women, had good drinks and loved the music, but the promoters really need to get their game straight. I consider this a first strike, so I'll re-rate Belvedere after a future visit. Also, if I might mention, the story right now is the Sunday night has been on a steady decline. The bump this Sunday was from the Labor Day crowd. So, with increased competition abounding on Sunday nights, I'd advise Steve and Lisa to be upfront with their promotions in a future.

The Final Call:
Facilities: 5/5
Staff: 5/5
Service: 1/5
Drinks: 4/5
Food: N/A

Overall: 3/5 (A rating of my overall positive or negative feelings on the night.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Elan Lounge

Elan Lounge
526 Waugh Dr
Houston, TX 77019
Neighborhood: Montrose

In search of another place to get my fill of hip hop without feeling as if I were part of a cattle herd, I avoided the super large scenes again to visit a relatively new place here in Houston. Located on the opposite side of the highway from the normal Washington strip of Drinkery, Brixx and Kung Fu, this new spot is known as Elan Lounge. Located on the second floor of a small shopping outlet adjacent to a number of nice looking homes, it has no signs indicating that it exists. Passing by, I found it difficult to spot, and upon arrival I found out parking may be as high as 20 dollars after ten in the evening. There's parking in the surrounding housing areas as well, and some of the parking lot is apparently free of charge, but I arrived too early to really understand all the details. Just know up front there is a chance you'll have to pay high to park, not to mention have to pay cover at the door unless you RSVP.

It's impossible to spot!
How to describe a place like Elan? Well, let's start with the bad up front. First, their flyers state that they begin opening at nine. I arrived at 9:45, while others had been there at 9:30. The club itself didn't actually open until 10:30, leading to a few patrons leaving. Sadly, it was the women, which clubs and lounges are normally anxious to get inside the door. Once inside, though, there were no problems with confirming my RSVP as some other clubs do.
Although I was staring at this building for half an hour.
So, rough edges to start the night. Hard to spot, and an unexpected wait to get in. Don't get turned off too quickly, though. The staff is incredibly friendly. The front door man is great conversation, and once inside the bartenders are all incredibly friendly. Warm smiles and good conversation in the early part of the evening helped things to get rolling along. In that senses, Elan Lounge really does seem as if it wants to please, and I can't fault their staff for anything more than the late opening. Drinks are all fairly standard fare prices, 4.25 netting you a Bud Light and 8 getting you a Jack and Coke.
The second most important part of an evening.
What else does Elan have going for it? Unlike many lower key lounges in Houston, Elan actually has space. It's the right balance between the much more compact Living Room and the warehouse like Gatsby or Empire. There's a large bar area, with actual chairs and tables for sitting, and for the lower key people hoping to avoid the dance floor and chat, it's the perfect place to spend the evening. It allows you some breathing room, a place to sit and relax.
And it's well stocked.
For all the dancing sort there's more than enough room around the bar, but most people moved their dancing onto the actual dance floor itself, which makes up a whole second half of the bar. So Elan racks up a number of points by being spacious, graciously staffed and providing a good experience for different types of drinkers. This is all helped along by a relatively good DJ, Young Streetz, who party goers might also recognize from Grooves and Sugar Hill. Young Streetz' style is definitely more narrowly tailored to hip hop, though the tracks range from earlier 2000s, such as Amerie's "One Thing", to the typical dance tracks in the clubs now by 2 Chainz, Drake, and others.
The dance floor is practically a second room.
However, the night fell short by a lack of people, which I won't blame on Elan. I've seen the pictures, I know it gets crowded there, which is why I let them know I'd be back in a week or two to see what the scene was like. Houston on Saturday had a number of huge concerts and events going on, and there was a slight expectation that the numbers might be thin that night, which I completely understand. Every place has an off night.

The dance floor from my spot at the bar.
The issue with any spot I visit is the total experience, though, as any follower of my reviews knows. What was the total package? The manager, promoter, door staff and bartenders were all excellent. The place itself, while not the fanciest looking in Houston, has tons of space, a great DJ and a lot of potential, especially judging by the pictures of past nights. However, I also had to wait a lot longer to get in than expected, and once inside there just weren't enough people. This might change between now and my next visit in the next few weeks, at which time I'll post a second review. For now, however, the best thing I can tell Elan is to stick to its time table. You might not be able to get a crowd in every night, but you can at least let people through the door that are there because of the hours you promote, especially on a night when other clubs were opening their new Saturdays beginning at nine o'clock, such as Hughes Hangar. A reputation for timeliness and good service go a long way to putting long life into your establishment. Still, the staff is fantastic, the location is great and the potential is high. I'm provisionally putting it onto my places to go in Houston for hip hop, and am looking forward to coming back again soon too update my rating.

The Final Call:
Facilities: 4/5
Staff: 5/5
Service: 2/5 (For the especially long wait that also pushed clients to leaving.)
Drinks: 5/5
Food: N/A

Overall: 3.75/5

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Living Room

The Living Room
2670 Sage Rd
Houston, TX 77056
Neighborhood: Galleria/Uptown

I needed a break from the club scene I'd been doing the last two weeks. When you back to back Empire and Gatsby, it gets a bit overwhelming. Everybody's on top of everyone, it's hot and crowded, and the dress code seems to basically just "be dressed". There's nothing wrong with that of course. That scene is good from time to time, but sometimes you want something with a bit more of an upscale vibe.

That's what brought me out to the Living Room. It was a hell of a time finding the place, first of all. The exterior is unmarked, it's in a plaza area in the Galleria, and it's hard to tell where the parking is. I was almost deterred, but my love of a good drink and good music kept me going. Glad I did, too.

Because alcohol.
I managed to get parking in the lot next door, and I didn't have to pay, but only because I arrived around 9:45. Parking attendants don't seem to arrive to start charging until 10:00, when the lounge itself opens up. There's also a valet parking option, though I'm sure the charge is higher. There's no cover at the door, so that's a plus, just know up front you'll likely have to pay around ten dollars for a spot. When you consider some of the other clubs and lounges in Houston charge both parking and door cover, the Living Room isn't a bad deal.

Boost Mobile is promoting everywhere in Houston.
Inside, the Living Room seems fairly small, at least while you're on ground level. There are two floors, so we'll start from the bottom. The lighting subdued, a mix of blue and purple, with soft lit candles within the purchased seating along the right wall. Because of space restrictions, seating is restricted to those purchasing bottle service. However, throughout the night, I didn't see too much trouble with the ground floor. People were mingling, enjoying themselves, and never seemed to lack space to get around. At least, I never did.

There is a fee to move to the second level, which I believe is twenty dollars, but I can't say for sure. After all, yours truly did not have to pay. Many of the patrons I saw on the first floor seemed to eventually make their way upstairs, at least at some point. I need to emphasize this: You really don't need to. There's plenty of fun to be had on the first level. There are pretty people, the music is the same upstairs and downstairs, there's no difference in the drinks or prices. Think of the second floor as just one more perk, if you're willing to pay the charge.

Plus you get nice views like this.
Half of the second level is reserved for parties and VIP celebrations, roped off from the main section. This is where the bottle drinks are served, and a few scattered balloons marked a birthday party. It's also where the DJ booth is located. DJ Good Grief was on the deck, and the music was fantastic. Early in the night, the music went between R&B, soul, and a mix of modern and classic hip hop tracks. Shortly after midnight, the party goes into full effect, and the mix skews toward hip hop club tracks, with a few breaks of dance tracks and popular hits, such as "Blurred Lines".  Also a plus? The music was going strong, but never so loud that you couldn't talk to the person next to you. Some places have trouble finding the right balance.
I dare not.
The crowd was well dressed, both men and women were looking sharp, the music was great and the staff was incredibly friendly. Early on in the evening, they kept me good company as I awaited the crowd, which tends to start filing in around eleven. By midnight, the lounge is packed, and people are making their way upstairs. As far as pricing, a beer went for five dollars, a Jack and Coke for eight, and a glass of wine for fifteen. I'm not a huge fan of the wine price, but then again, I'm a Jack and Coke man. These prices are competitive with all the upscale locations in Houston, and are equal to, or better than, some spots that maintain a much more relaxed dress code or rougher crowd. The pours are strong, too, so that's a plus.
I want to fall asleep in that chair.
So what's the final verdict? Overall, I had a blast. I haven't had this much fun in a long time. It was never so crowded I felt suffocated, I didn't feel out of place in a suit, though a simple button up shirt would have been sufficient as well, the decor and ambiance are trendy, and the staff is incredibly helpful and inviting. Despite reservations about the size of the place, I had one of the best times I've had at any location in Houston. Best of all, it was easy to conversate with people around you, striking up conversations with others at the bar or watching the dance floor. The Living Room is definitely a top spot to visit and I will make it a regular location to return to.

The Final Call:
Facilities: 5/5
Staff: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Drinks: 5/5
Food: N/A

Overall: 5/5