What: First Thursdays on Calder
When: Every first Thursday of the month. Next one: November 7, 2013.
Where: Up and down lower Calder Ave., 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. (Or til the party ends.)

It's been going on for a few years now, picking up speed, slowly and steadily. It's a community get-together, a party of sorts. We call it First Thursdays on Calder. It's the perfect opportunity to experience the historic Old Town section of Calder Avenue. Stores and restaurants up and down lower Calder stay open a little later, add some festive elements such as music, food and drink, and invite the community to mix and mingle and check out their offerings.

Starting from Rao's Bakery at Calder and 10th and extending down to the new Balimports, there is much to see and do, and my favorite of all, to taste. If you bring your bicycle and utilize the Calder bike lanes, you can easily make multiple stops, taste a variety of food and burn off some calories at the same time! (Since this is casually organized with the participation of each individual business, you never know exactly what you'll get, and that's part of the fun!) In October, Rao's hosted a meet and taste with Southeast Texas native Rebecca Schlegel, who won a National Illy Coffee contest for her "Milk and Honey" espresso drink. It paired perfectly with a slice of their homemade focaccia bread pizza. I'm partial to the spinach and mushroom myself. Who knows what they'll have this month - more pizza, some wine maybe? A tasting of the rare civet coffee?

Next door at the Tattered Suitcase, you can be sure to find some mimosas and snacks, as well as lots of antiques, and unique vintage clothing and accessories at the Stellar Treasure boutique upstairs. Then there's Ana's Mexican Bakery, with their usual offerings of homemade Mexican ice creams and delightful Mexican pastries, which can be enjoyed with some coffee on their lovely patio. Urban Habitat often sets up a tent outside with some beer and snacks, as well as live music. Enjoy these while you browse their selection of eclectic re-purposed home furnishings and accessories. Stop in Burns Antik Haus to find some breath-taking European antique treasures and maybe have a glass of wine.

For a true Mexican fiesta, head to Tacos la Bamba. You'll find a DJ playing energetic dance beats in the parking lot and, if you're lucky, a showing of souped-up cars on the street. The real draw, though, are the delicious dollar street-style tacos inside. My favorite is the melt-in-your-mouth barbacoa. Order it with a creamy horchata rice drink and a side of trolelote (corn in a cup).

At the Mildred Building, find arts and crafts vendors on the sidewalk with live music as well. Check out the Book Bazaar, Finders Fayre Antiques and Ella & Scott boutique, and definitely don't miss dinner at Katharine & Co. This charming gourmet café pulls out all the stops for First Thursdays. On a recent visit, their featured items included a beautiful crabcake over mixed greens, prosciutto-wrapped salmon served on a bed of spinach and lentils, or a veal chop with artichoke pesto fettuccine Alfredo. Their regular menu is available as well, and you can't go wrong with anything you order. It's sure to be fresh and flavorful.

The perfect way to end your night of eating, drinking and being merry is with more eating and drinking at Luke's. Open til 2 am every night, their patio is the perfect place to hang with friends (and maybe a 4-legged companion) with some craft beer and one of their famous burgers or my fave - the nachos, with black beans on top.

The downside of First Thursdays is that there is so much good food and fun to be had, that it's hard to squeeze it all into one night a month. But be sure to make it out for November's festivities and do some Christmas shopping, for yourself or someone you love. And eat, eat, eat.