Hang on, guys. I'm about to impart some super serious solid advice for dinner and a show downtown, which can be accomplished with minimal fuss and price if you know what you're doing. And when you know what you're doing, you look super awesome and impressive and like the kind of person who files their taxes on time and has a Roth IRA and would maybe make a really good life partner or at least the kind of person who's definitely in charge of office happy hours from now on.
Now I'm not going to give away my own super-secret parking location that it took me years to figure out because (a) I've earned it and (b) then I wouldn't be able to impress anyone anymore. And since I don't file my taxes on time, this sort of stuff is really all I have. But I will show you the easiest and cheapest way to park downtown without struggling through parallel parking or trying to deal with the City's finicky parking meters. So here we go...
Step One: Parking
Head to the parking garage located across Smith St. from Bayou Place, tucked underneath the Theater District and Jones Plaza (remember Party on the Plaza? That place). The entrances are on two sides of Jones Plaza, on Texas Ave. and Capitol St.—I even made a handy map for you above. You'll need $10 cash to park, but hang on to that receipt. You'll need it later. Grab a spot closest to the elevators/stairs up to Bayou Place (just follow the easy-to-spot signs in the parking garage). This is definitely preferable on days when it's raining and/or oppressively hot, because when you pop upstairs from the parking garage, you'll be within a few yards of both The Blue Fish and Sundance Cinemas, both of which have covered entrances so you don't even have to brave the hot, hot rain.
Step Two: Dinner and Drinks
I like eating at The Blue Fish any old time, really, especially on the patio overlooking downtown on a pretty day. But the daily happy hour between 4 to 7 p.m. is an ideal time to go and stuff your face full of fatty tuna without having to slip off to the bathroom, sneak out your phone and move some money over from savings into checking. The standard happy hour pricing on drinks is okay too, but I recommend going on Sunday or Monday when it's half-off all bottles of wine or on Wednesdays when all draft beer is $2.
As far as food, there's a huge array of options for $5 each, including a sushi sampler with yellowtail, salmon and tuna; a sashimi sampler with the same; tempura, potstickers and a variety of hand rolls; and a miniature version of The Blue Fish's famous ahi tuna tower that's excessively fun to smash into a pulp if you've had a bad day. Happy hour is only honored in the bar, however, so you'll have to save the patio dining for another day.
Step Three: Movie (and Possibly More Drinks)
After dinner, head over to Sundance Cinemas, which plays both first-run big-name movies and indie flicks. If you're super smart, you already purchased your tickets online, which allows you to reserve your seats in the theater. Regardless of whether you printed out your pre-bought tickets or not, though, you'll need to visit the cashier to get your parking validated. This is the greatest feeling in the world, being handed over a fresh $10 bill like magic. You can either keep it and revel in the beauty of free covered parking or spend it on a cocktail or two at the Sundance bar.
The bar here has an excellent selection of local beer on draft and in bottles, but don't discount the cocktails—they're surprisingly good, and there's usually a themed selection to match whatever the big movie is that week. When I visited last night, it was an Avengers-themed line-up featuring a Mark 42 (for Iron Man) with Makers Mark, sweet vermouth, Lillet, Campari and lemon and a War Hammer (for Thor) with bourbon, mint, lime and ginger, among other cocktails. As with Alamo Drafthouse, Sundance allows you to take your food and drink into the cinema with you, provided you don't get sloppy drunk and pretend your martini glass is Captain America's shield as you sling it across the dark theater.
Step Four: Profit
This is always step four. Enjoy your short walk back to your car, your free parking, your cheap meal and your newfound status as "that dude who totally knows downtown." (Except now you're going to have to work on mastering Market Square Park, the 300 Block of Main and Discovery Green, but I have faith in you my brother.)