Lynn Ashby

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

The stadiums are all built, but the good ol’ boys in charge keep hanging around for the free buffet

My proposal is not only brilliant but is good for Houston and especially for me. What we need is a Harris County-Houston Entertainment Authority. It would oversee all the various parties around town, tailgating, topless bars, wedding receptions, plays, movies. The HEA, as it shall soon be known by party animals all over town, will be empowered to crash every social event, with local taxpayers picking up all costs.

The idea is not original – I’ll explain in a minute. The point is, cafés, bars, theaters and restaurants are opening up all over town and are holding wonderful parties without any coordination. So it is clear that we need a city-county authority to keep a kindly, if bloodshot, eye on the situation. And I volunteer to be the chairman of the unpaid board. You are thinking right about now, “That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard. It’s wasteful. It’s yet another bloated bureaucracy; and once that agency is created, it will only grow; and we couldn’t kill it by driving a stake through its heart.”

True, and that’s the beauty of it. Once created, it will never, ever die but will only expand. We have a great example right before our eyes. Have you heard of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority? The authority was created, at the request of Houston, by the Texas Legislature to build – repeat, build – our three new pro sports facilities, Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium and the Toyota Center.

Those facilities were completed at a total cost of $1.038 billion; the Sports Authority’s task and reason for existence were done. Right? Wrong. This government agency is still with us. It has a nine-member staff, an executive director and an annual budget of $3 million. The reason for this temporary-to-permanent change is obvious. As members of the Sports Authority, a small and select group of insiders gets to attend all sporting events in the three new facilities, sitting in the largest suites while munching on shrimp and filet mignon washed down by a bottle of the best. And for free. I’ll bet they have good parking spots, too. (At least the members don’t get a police escort so they can run red lights on the way to the games like Texans’ owner Bob McNair did for a while.)

One more point: We must remember that their attendance is not limited to sporting contests including the rodeo. Any event in those facilities is fair game – ice shows, rock concerts or even the Gaither Homecoming. You name it, the authority members are there.

Yet when the Super Bowl was coming to town, did we turn to the Sports Authority? No, we created yet another committee. Baseball’s All-Star Game is coming to Houston, but the Sports Authority does not have a role. This brings us to yet another question: Is anyone of you not on a sports committee so you actually have to buy your own tickets? But wait. We also have, and pay for, something called the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. to supervise the development of Reliant Stadium. This latter agency has no website, and when anyone calls the Harris County switchboard seeking the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., the callers get a non-answering number. It is a stealth agency that received a $1.5 million loan from a vendor with which the corporation does business. Just why this happened, no one can explain.

After all our sports facilities were built, there was some movement to disband the temporary Sports Authority, but its members immediately came up with new reasons for the panel to stay on the job, including – I’m not kidding – overseeing construction of Little League fields. The Little League seems perfectly capable of managing its own operations, and there was no request for governmental oversight.

The situation gets worse. I quote from the Houston Chronicle: “The (economic) slump also has affected the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, which in October saw nearly half of its debt placed on credit watch by one of the three major rating agencies because of lower-than-expected hotel and car rental tax receipts.”

Guess who will step in if the debt hits the fans? So what we have are these really obscure agencies, apparently answering to no one while doing nothing for anyone but themselves, and having a merry old time all the while. If one such authority is good, two is better, which is why we should create the Party Authority (motto: Hook ’em Hats and Horns). With the Sports Authority as our example, it seems obvious that the taxpayers will put up with anything. Pass the shrimp!

Dinner Clubbing

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Blogs, Edit

If you’re looking for a way to build relationships, food can provide that common bond. So, what better way to celebrate a friendship than starting a dinner club? Gather up some friends who like to cook, and have dinner at a different house each month. You can draw up guidelines to create any type of club you desire – everything from old-fashioned potluck dinners to mandatory gourmet meals. Follow this countdown to prepare for your dinner:

Six weeks before
Select your dinner group and set a date. Establish the rules for the revolving party. Choose the first host house.

The host should survey dinner club members about allergies and strong dislikes at this time in preparation for menu planning.

Take stock of your resources. You may have a garden in the back yard that you can highlight or hunting friends that might donate some game.

Luckily, our host is a fisherman, so we enjoyed Gulf Coast redfish. In preparation for this event, he caught, cleaned and vacuum-sealed his main ingredient.

Our host chose a Mexican recipe for the fish because of its potential for a great party theme, his familiarity with Mexican side dishes and the food’s rich colors. Clearly, you can never go wrong with margaritas and sangria.

Four weeks before
Preparation for dinner clubs can be a lot of fun because you’ve got to practice your recipes before the big day.

Two weeks before
Decide what to serve with the entree. Putting your meal down on paper by drawing an actual picture can help you envision how the plates will look.

Our host opted for shrimp-stuffed jalapeños, Mexican rice and spicy guacamole salad, brought to life on a bed of pico de gallo. In order to have a colorful plate, he decided to serve the guacamole in a hollowed out yellow pepper and added a wedge of lemon and lime for more color.

One day before
Purchase ingredients to ensure freshness.

Morning before
Some items may be prepared and refrigerated before work or early in the day. This prevents an overwhelming amount of work as guests start arriving. Our host prepared shrimp-stuffed peppers wrapped in bacon and refrigerated them. He also began thawing the fish.

Four hours before
Side dishes can usually be assembled and set aside, ready for cooking or to be chilled. The pico de gallo needed to be chilled, so the host prepared it and set it aside to chill. He also ground ancho chili pods, measured out ingredients needed to make rice and hollowed out yellow bell peppers to fill with guacamole.

Two hours before
Guests usually arrive thirsty, so having your beverages ready is a great idea. Plus, a refreshment is a great companion with which to finish up the preparation of the meal. Our host commenced slicing fruit and making the sangria at this time. He also prepared margaritas and put both concoctions aside to chill. This is a great time to set the table, as well.

One hour before
Assemble dishes that depend on freshness. For our host, this was the guacamole salad and fish.

30 minutes before
Crunch time! Get your last-minute cooking done now. Our host now lit the fire under the rice and started the fish. He placed a lettuce leaf on each plate, filled hollowed yellow pepper with guacamole and set it on the lettuce leaf. He also started the shrimp-stuffed jalapeños and spread a layer of pico de gallo over the part of the plate where fish would be placed.

15 minutes before
Guests start arriving. Set out the appetizers and drinks. Our host had a great spread of guacamole, chips, salsa and drinks.

Last minute
Our host placed the fish on a bed of pico, garnished it with lime and avocado and topped the fish with the remaining mixture of shrimp and mushrooms. He then added rice to the plate and served us.

Focus on the Woodlands

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

Master-planned communities abound throughout the Houston area and the country, but few have achieved more success than The Woodlands, Texas. If you’re married with 2.5 kids, The Woodlands is your community nirvana. But what if you’re not part of the stereotypical nuclear family? Up until now, “South Dallas” was a social desert. That’s all about to change – starting now.

Breaking ground
Not resting on their international-award-winning laurels, The Woodlands Operating Company LP is gaining ground and gaining attention by fulfilling the dream that oilman and entrepeneur George P. Mitchell had 30 years ago. The Town Center is the next phase, and the evolution has already begun.

Spreading like a wildfire
“Things really kicked off in 1994 when The Woodlands Mall opened (in Town Center),” says Frank W. Robinson, CPP, president of The Woodlands Town Center Improvement District of Montgomery County, a local governmental entity that promotes, develops, encourages and maintains economic development for the public benefit of The Woodlands’ downtown area. “This is not just a residential area any more. There is actually a downtown coming to life,” he says. That’s right, a downtown is rising in the forest.

So, if you haven’t made the trip up north in a while, you just might not recognize the area. The Woodlands Waterway®, a linear park and transportation corridor that spans more than a mile, is reminiscent of San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Sparkling office buildings, bustling entertainment venues like the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and popular new dining spots are reflected in the new Town Center. A recently opened, indoor/outdoor expansion to The Woodlands Mall brings popular upscale shops like Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Ann Taylor Loft, Mikasa, Urban Outfitters and White House/Black Market to this shopping paradise. All this is coupled with a myriad of housing options, signature golf courses and the exclusive Carlton Woods Country Club. The Woodlands gives many, many reasons to come out and have a look.

Driving through The Woodlands can be daunting. It’s easy to get distracted by wildflowers, foliage and deer. With more than 5,000 acres of green space, The Woodlands’ philosophy of designing with nature has carved out room for forest preserve, recreation, pastures and parks. And, oh yeah, some homes, shopping and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Set up camp
Assume that you’re on your way to a performance at the pavilion. Thomas J. D’Alesandro IV, president and CEO of The Woodlands Operating Company LP, invites you to extend your visit. “Now, you’ll have dozens of restaurants in Town Center, and you’ll have the opportunity to experience something more upscale than San Antonio,” he says. “You can even go for a minicruise on a water taxi around Town Center and the waterway.” The Woodlands has taken the influx of visitors for pavilion events and multiplied the reasons for coming and staying. “This idea of a Town Center is not a new one,” says Tommy Miller, chief investment officer with Trademark Property Company, part of the joint venture developing the Market Street retail area in Town Center. “You find great street retail in Georgetown, D.C., Boston, Seattle and New York. We’re creating an incredible urban district in the suburbs. It’s going to turn people’s heads.” Market Street, a 493,509-square-foot shopping, dining and retail area, has a list of stores that is really exciting. Here, you?ll find names like Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café & Emporium, Z Gallerie, Smith & Hawken, The Sharper Image and Borders Books & Music.

Market Street is a retail location whose time has come. The location is perfect. There will be paths from Market Street to the pavilion, the mall and the Marriott. Now, both residents and visitors can make it a true evening with dining and shopping.

Urban Forest
As this downtown area takes shape, an urban lifestyle is developing. “Urban living in the middle of The Woodlands?” you ask. That’s right. The demand was there. As the urban market evolved in The Woodlands, many were drawn to the cool, inner-loop, trendy lofts but wanted to remain close to their suburban security. Currently, there are more than 50 people living in the new lofts and brownstones that line The Waterway, and that number is growing daily. “They are crazy about it – it’s like a dorm. Someone is always having a party, and neighbors go from loft to loft enjoying each other’s company,” D’Alesandro says.

Living in luxury
Sixteen percent of new homes sold in the Houston metropolitan area valued at more than $2 million are in the neighborhood of Carlton Woods in The Woodlands. “The Woodlands has evolved as one of the premier upscale addresses in Houston,” D’Alesandro says. “We’re now competing with tear downs and new construction in River Oaks and West University. In terms of outside the Beltway, nothing comes close to The Woodlands.”

As if lofts, brownstones and $2 million homes weren’t enough, the East Shore will be open this fall. “The East Shore is an in-town, upscale neighborhood, based on such streets as North and South Boulevard in the Museum District,” D’Alesandro says. The houses will be designed as revival classic American styles, mostly from the 1920s.

City on the move
Now that the cool housing has been taken care of, these people want to be entertained. “The Waterway will be tremendous, providing boat traffic and land traffic,” Robinson says. “There will also be a trolley system that will loop down The Waterway and through the retail shops.” And the future of The Woodlands holds nightclubs, jazz and dance clubs. “When TGI Fridays came to town, they were the first to have a bar stay open till 2:00 a.m. They’re packed,” he adds.

As major corporations choose The Woodlands for their headquarters, the level of social activities is rising. “There is a culture that is evolving here,” D’Alesandro says. “When the CEO is headquartered here, that begins to have ramifications for fund raising, for nonprofits, for social activities; and we’re beginning to see that happening with Anadarko and others being here.” Similar to inside the loop, you could attend a gala almost every night.

Working together
The emerging character of The Woodlands is still consistent with its history and, in fact, is far richer than it was 10 years ago. Adult centers are close to schools so that senior citizens can interact with children. Churches are close to schools to share parking. It’s natural, it’s sustainable, and it’s still ahead of its time. So, with all this upward movement and finally offering something for singles and a younger generation, it’s no wonder more and more people are moving out to The Woodlands.H

Home Improvement

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

Anything girls can do, guys can do better. Excuse me? Isn’t this the new millennium? Isn’t that backward? No, not when we’re talking about makeovers and men. If they did it to a mother and daughter in honor of Mother’s Day, they can do it to a father and son in honor of Father’s Day, right? Oh yes, Honey.

Not that boutique owner Todd Ramos and hair designer Mario Romero had ever made over a truck driver and a skateboarder/college student before. But with Pat Egan and his high-topped son Dustin, that’s exactly the challenge that they had to work with. And did they look like a trucker and a skateboarder?

“Oh yes,” confirms Romero, discreetly. “Very trucker.”

Ramos takes it just one step further (go figure). “Pat was very – caveman,” he concludes, after searching carefully for just the right word. “In fact, maybe just a little bit barbaric – but just a little bit.” Well, that’s good; at least he wasn’t a lot barbaric. Surprisingly, Pat and Dustin use neither the word “caveman” nor “barbaric” to describe themselves. Pat admits that as a self-employed trucker specializing in hauling oil equipment between Texas and Louisiana, he laughs out loud at the idea of having to be a pretty boy every day. “Not exactly,” he says, after the belly laugh subsides. However, he has been told, he says, that he doesn’t “look like a truck driver.” (Guess he didn’t ask Romero.) And son Dustin is a college student – what more do you expect? He does what college students do: He goes to class (he says), stays up late and eats pizza (for breakfast). He doesn’t remember his last haircut, although he defends himself by explaining that he “does his own hair.” Hmmmmm.

Ramos boils it all down to just a few words: “They were makeover virgins.” ‘Nuff said. The deflowering began, as usual, at Romero’s Avant Garde Spa Hair and Makeup Studio for the makeover groundwork. Although one might assume that a couple of self-described “guy’s guys” might resist, just slightly, having their cuticles trimmed or, say, eyebrows waxed, Pat and Dustin were absolute team players and completely game.

“They were just great sports,” says Ramos. Pat and Dustin lost their makeover “virginities” quickly. First, they were mani-ed and pedi-ed (“they lost lots of callous weight”) and then reported to Romero for new hairstyles.

Mario admits that he was more than a little alarmed when confronted with Pat’s hair. According to Mario, Pat’s ‘do was “dangerously close to a mullet – it was definitely in the mullet family.”

Luckily for Pat, however, Romero was able to regain his composure enough to re-create mullet-man into a closely-cropped, clean-shaven guy’s guy. “He’s kinda like a trucking Marlboro Man,” Ramos muses, admiringly.

Romero was similarly shaken initially with the Dustin Hair Project. “He just had so much hair everywhere!” Romero exclaims. “I mean, I plucked two-inch hairs off his neck!”

A disturbing experience, no question. However, Romero promptly recovered from the hair-on-the-neck incident and left Dustin with a smart Ashton Kutcher-like do, freshly-trimmed eyebrows and, of course, a pristinely groomed neck. From scruff to stuff – hot stuff, that is. Time for some duds.

It was off to the Foley’s downtown with Ramos for a clean, fresh summer look. Pat is, as usual, in his work uniform and Dustin in shorts and a T-shirt. But not for long. Soon, Pat is sporting a Perry Ellis shirt under a Hart Schaffner Marx blazer with Kenneth Cole slacks, his steel-toed boots replaced with Kenneth Cole Reaction sandals. He was decidedly “dapper,” describes Ramos.

And for Dustin, his T-shirt, shorts and high-tops that Ramos was convinced had done a tour of duty in the military were banished in favor of a brightly striped Perry Ellis short-sleeved shirt and Perry Ellis linen pants. The finishing touches for a hip, college guy are a Wilson’s athletic jacket and Puma shoes.

“He’s a perfectly hip college dude now,” boasts Ramos.

So, what do Dapper Dad and Hip College Dude Son think of their new looks? “I love it!” says Pat without a moment’s hesitation. “I will definitely keep this up.” He confesses he wouldn’t waste all this style on the inside of his rig, but “I’ll definitely wear this out.”

As for Dustin, although he initially thought he was doing this just as moral support for dad, he digs his new look. Although he wouldn’t say it, Ramos and Romero can and did, “College co-eds, watch out!” H

Must Do: South Beach

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit, Travel Blog

by Jessica Rossman

Put South Beach on your list, high on your list. The stylish, sophisticated vibe of Miami’s South Beach, with the characteristic Latin ability to transform just about any event into a fiesta, makes this groovy little enclave of international food, fashion and fun an absolute must for any festive Houstonian.

Must stay in the middle of it allAny hotel on Ocean, Collins or Washington avenues between First and 15th streets will put you in the action. Not surprisingly, the area is teeming with hotels, from major luxury chains to small, offbeat hotels. The best bang for the buck is the Whitelaw Hotel at Eighth and Collins Avenue. This art deco stay’s slogan is “Clean Sheets, Hot Water, Stiff Drinks” – how could anyone not camp there?

Must shop, shop, shopThe importance of shopping can simply not be overemphasized due in large part to the SoBe Attire Rule: Any article of clothing that you currently own stands a 95-percent chance of being not skimpy enough for South Beach. The good news is that you have plenty of shopping time; many of the clothing stores in the area are open until 3 a.m. Check out the Fly Boutique, 650 Lincoln Road, for some funky vintage fare, meticulously reconditioned couture at non-couture prices.

Must eat sushi A swanky sushi must-do is Sushi Samba Dromo, 600 Lincoln Road, the epitome of stylish multi-ethnic cuisine. A creative Asian cuisine spiked with Latin flair – the menu lists nigiri on one side and Latino cocktails on the other.

For a more underground sushi experience (literally), slip down into the basement of the Townhouse Hotel at 150 20th Street for Bond Street’s melt-in-your-mouth sushi. The ambience makes you feel like you’re in on something good, and then when you taste the sushi, you know that you’ve arrived.

Must pose in a hip barHot poser-spots change as quickly as skirt lengths. You can depend on some quality posing and poser watching at the Todd Oldham-designed The Hotel at Eighth and Collins. Open since 1998, The Hotel has been racking up prestige and notoriety ever since, culminating in this year’s ranking among Travel & Leisure magazine’s list of the 500 Best Hotels in the World. The Delano Hotel’s baseline level of hipness has not wavered since its opening in 1995. You should at least go by to pay your respects to this shrine to SoBe chic.

Must dance all night longThis one is the easy one. Opium Gardens at Second and Collins is stunning – a super-chic sushi bar that morphs late-night into a visually mesmerizing scene. Dance until sunrise on a massive octagonal outdoor dance floor amid 40-foot gauzy drapes and overseen by multiple Buddha statues. If you’re feeling less Eastern but just as hip, go for Pearl’s George Jetson-themed restaurant-cum-nightclub, a cavernous dome with bubbling-water walls and a champagne and strawberry bar.

Must grab late-night eatsLate-night eats are the reward you earn for staying up all night dancing and mingling. Nosh on hearty all-American comfort food at Big Pink, located at Second and Collins and open until 4 a.m. on weekends.

For late-night Latino fare, El Tropico at 17th and Collins serves Cuban cuisine 24 hours a day. It’s the best place for pre-dawn plantains with black beans and rice.

Hot Spot

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

the video

DIFFA Dine Around

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

the video

Each year DIFFA – the design industry’s foundation fighting AIDS – hosts a dine around Houston. For one day, a long list of restaurants will donate a portion of sales to DIFFA. So, go out for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. It’s for a good cause. This year’s event took place on June 10th. Get ready for next year now.

Rich Little Remembers Reagan

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

the video

Laurette Veres met up with Rich Little when he was in town for a fundraiser. Although he is known for impersonating many presidents, Ronald Reagan was his favorite. He would fall down laughing at his jokes when Rich visited the White House.

Fashion with an Attitude

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

the video

In the land of resale shops on lower Westheimer is a true gem: Wish. The trendy duds you find here, you won’t find anywhere else – and you won’t see all over town. Only five of each outfit make it to town. Say summer with a shorter hemline, and lace details. Pink and green are blooming on everything from handbags to bracelets. This once-preppy pair emerges a the new warm-weather palette. Models: Sara Temple and Teresa Merchant, Page.713. Styling: Carlos Stafford, Make up: Gigi Vega.

2004 H Best

June 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

the video

Wining and Dining
Best 24-hour restaurant
La Tapatia, Montrose 1749 Richmond, (713) 521-3144

Mai’s, midtown 3403 Milam, (713) 520-7684 Spanish Flowers, Heights 4701 N. Main St., (713) 869-1706

Best BBQ
Drexler’s World Famous BBQ & Grill, downtown 2300 Pierce, (713) 652-0008

Hickory Hollow, Heights 101 Heights Blvd., (713) 869-6300

Goode Company Barbeque, Greenway/Kirby 5109 Kirby, (713) 522-2530

Otto’s Barbeque & Hamburgers, Memorial 5502 Memorial Drive, (713) 864-2573

Best Bellini
Berryhill Baja Grill, Montrose 3407 Montrose, (713) 523-8226

La Strada, Galleria 5161 San Felipe, (713) 850-9999

Best Breakfast
La Mexicana, Montrose 1018 Fairview, (713) 521-0963

Le Peep, West U 6128 Village Pkwy., (713) 523-7337

Buffalo Grille, Greenway/Kirby 3116 Bissonnet, (713) 661-3663

Best Burger
Christian’s Totem, Heights 7340 Washington Ave., (713) 864-9744

Firehouse Saloon, Galleria 5930 U.S. 59 South, (713) 522-9555

Lankford Grocery & Market, midtown 88 Dennis St., (713) 522-9555

Best burrito
Freebirds World Burrito, Kirby/Greenway 3745 Greenbriar, (713) 524-0384

Chipotle, Medical Center 6600 Fannin, (713) 792-9390

Best candlelight dining
Cava Bistro, downtown 301 Main St., (713) 223-4046

The Brownstone, Kirby/Greenway 2736 Virginia, (713) 520-5666

Best cheesecake
Dessert Gallery Bakery & Cafe, Kirby/Greenway 3200 Kirby, Ste. 106, (713) 522-9999

Best chips and salsa
La Tapatia, Montrose 1749 Richmond, (713) 521-3144

Los Cucos, The Woodlands 4775 W. Panther Creek Drive, (281) 296-2303

Spanish Flowers, Heights 4701 N. Main St., (713) 869-1706

Chacho’s, Galleria 6006 Westheimer, (713) 975-9699

Teala’s, River Oaks 3210 W. Dallas, (713) 520-9292

Café Red Onion, Kirby/Greenway 3910 Kirby, (713) 807-1122

Best comfort food
The Breakfast Klub, midtown 3711 Travis St., (713) 528-8561

Best Brunch
Farrago, midtown 318 W. Gray, (713) 523-6404,
Neighborhood regulars, fashionistas, metrosexuals and the trendy party crowd – they all comingle in festive frivolity for Saturday and Sunday brunch at Farrago. Stuffed French toast, gourmet muffins and tenderloin migas are only the start, while mimosas, bellinis and the spiciest Bloody Marys flow endlessly. Become a part of the mix on Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Best health-conscious menu
King Biscuit Restaurant, Heights 1606 White Oak Drive, (713) 561-2328,

Galleria, Galleria 5000 Westheimer, (713) 877-1222

Authentic restaurant
Tampico Seafood & Cocina Mexicana, Heights 2115 Airline Drive, (713) 862-8425

Alexander the Great Greek, Galleria 3055 Sage Road, (713) 622-2778,
Alexander the Great Greek’s combination of delectable food, warm atmosphere and delightful entertainment delivers a dining experience unrivaled in Houston. Whether you are seeking a light business lunch, a romantic evening for two or a rousing evening with friends, you will not be disappointed in what this unique little restaurant has to offer.

Kanomwan, South Houston 1011 Telephone Road, (713) 923-4230

Fogo de Chao, West Houston 8250 Westheimer, (713) 978-6500

Best margarita
Teala’s, River Oaks 3210 W. Dallas, (713) 520-9292

Noche, Montrose 2409 Montrose, (713) 529-8559

Cabo, downtown 419 Travis St., (713) 225-2060,

Spanish Flowers, Heights 4701 N. Main, (713) 869-1706

Best martini
Davenport, Kirby/Greenway 2115 Richmond, (713) 520-1140

Char Bar, downtown 305 Travis St., (713) 225-2060

Zimms, Montrose 4321 Montrose, (713) 521-2002

Best Bloody Mary
Mama’s Café, Galleria 6019 Westheimer, (713) 266-8514

Baker St. Pub & Grill, Village 5510 Morningside, (713) 942-9900

Most creative menu
The Hobbit, Kirby/Greenway 2243 Richmond, (713) 526-5460

Rouge, Montrose 812 Westheimer, (713) 520-7955,
French Chef Edelberto Goncalves has worked wonders with this fine-dining establishment. The décor is lush and inviting, and the food is outstanding. Rouge takes American food and prepares it in the rich French fashion.

King Biscuit Restaurant, Heights 1606 White Oak Drive, (713) 561-2328,

Best Mojito
Saba, downtown 416 Main St., (713) 228-7224

Most lively restaurant bar
Spencer’s, downtown 1600 Lamar, (713) 577-8325

Berryhill Baja Grill, Montrose 3407 Montrose, (713) 523-8226

Outback Steakhouse, Conroe 808 I-45 North, (936) 760-4329
Sullivan’s, Galleria 4608 Westheimer, (713) 961-0333

Carraba’s Itallian Grill, Kirby/Greenway 3115 Kirby, (713) 522-3131

TwoRow’s Restaurant & Brewery, Village 2400 University Blvd., (713) 529-2739

Best party dining atmosphere
La Strada, Montrose 322 Westheimer, (713) 850-9999

Best carrot cake
O’Rourkes, Montrose 4611 Montrose, (713) 523-4611,
It’s true that the steaks here are mouth-watering, the ambiance is comfortably classic, the service impeccable, but the carrot cake at O’Rourke’s is hands-down the best you will ever taste. This creamy, moist slice of heaven is something to marvel, something to dream about, something to go down in the record books.

Best pastries
Andre’s Pastry Shop and Café, River Oaks 2515 River Oaks Blvd., (713) 524-3863

Best patio dining
Grappito di Nino, Montrose 2817 W. Dallas, (713) 522-5120

Taco Milagro, River Oaks 2555 Kirby, (713) 522-1999

Landry’s, The Woodlands 1212 Lake Robbbins Drive, (281) 362-9696

Best pizza
Kenneally’s, River Oaks 2111 S. Shepherd, (713) 630-0486

Flying Pig, West U 5311 Weslayan, (713) 666-3008

Best salad
Hungry’s, Village 2356 Rice Blvd., (713) 523-8652

Barnaby’s, Montrose 414 W. Gray, (713) 522-8898

Best power lunch
tony’s, Kirby/Greenway 1801 Post Oak Blvd., (713) 622-6778

Irma’s Southwest Grill, downtown 1314 Texas, (713) 247-9651

Original Ninfa’s, South Houston 2704 Navigation Blvd., (713) 228-1175

Amerigo’s Grille, The Woodlands 25250 Grogans Park Drive, (281) 362-0808
One of the original upscale eateries in The Woodlands, Amerigo’s is a favorite of many – some creating a tradition of celebrating birthdays, holidays and special events here every year. Patrons swear by the impeccable Italian fare here, especially for their unforgettable chicken picatta and to-die-for desserts. To add a bit of swank to your evening, there’s a lounge upstairs for people in the know.

Bonnie’s Beef & Seafood Company, South Houston 6867 I-45 South, (713) 641-2397

Most romantic dining atmosphere
17, downtown 1117 Prairie, (832) 200-8888

Flying Dutchman, Clear Lake 9 Kemah Waterfront St., (281) 334-7575

Capital Grille, Galleria 5365 Westheimer (713) 623-4600
Rouge, Montrose 812 Westheimer, (713) 520-7955,

Best steak
Morton’s Steakhouse, Galleria 5000 Westheimer, (713) 629-1946 Morton’s offers a truly memorable dining experience. Their signature menu features USDA prime aged beef, fresh seafood, hand-picked vegetables, crisp salads and elegant desserts. For private dining, Morton’s offers the Boardroom, suitable for business or social gatherings for groups up to 90.

Vic & Anthony’s, downtown 1510 Texas, (713) 228-1111

Perry’s Grille & Steakhouse, The Woodlands 6700 Woodlands Pkwy., (281) 362-0569

Chabuca’s Steaks and Rotisserie, Clear Lake 316 Nasa Road 1, (281) 554-8000

Tommy’s Seafood & Steakhouse, West Houston 11660 Westheimer, (281) 679-1112,

Best sushi
Blue Fish House, Kirby/Greenway 2241 Richmond, (713) 529-3100

The Fish, midtown 309 Gray, (713) 526-5294

Osaka Japanese Restaurant, Montrose 515 Westheimer, (713) 533-9098

Wasabi Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, downtown 908 Congress, (713) 226-7210
At Wasabi, where the sushi and sashimi slices of fish are twice as large as other restaurants, the owner’s personal goal is to educate diners about the wonderful flavors of their ocean-fresh catch. They’d also like you to consider not using soy sauce or wasabi because they feel it masks the truly wonderful, exquisitely buttery flavor of the fish.

Best french fries
Baba Yega, Montrose 2607 Grant, (713) 522-0042

Best undiscovered place for lunch
Quattro, downtown 1300 Lamar, (713) 276-4700

Café Chino, Village 6140 Village Pkwy., (713) 524-4433

Best Italian
Damian’s Cucina Italiana, downtown 3011 Smith, (713) 522-0439

Palazzo’s, River Oaks 3215 Wetheimer, (713) 522-6777

Amerigo’s, The Woodlands 25250 Grogans Park Drive, (281) 362-0808

La Mora, Montrose 912 Lovett Blvd., (713) 522-7412

Best tacos
Cabo, downtown 419 Travis, (713) 225-2060,
It’s got a great feel, a great crowd and great Mexican food. Perfect for a quick lunch or an extended dinner with friends, this Houston mainstay serves up fresh food and ice-cold margaritas that will please any taste bud. Carve out a spot at the bar, snuggle in a booth with your date or dance the night away upstairs with a hopping crowd – any way you look at it, Cabo’s got it going on.

Berryhill Baja Grill, Montrose 3407 Montrose, (713) 523-8226

Best wine list
Vic & Anthony’s, downtown 1510 Texas, (713) 228-1111

King Biscuit Restaurant, Heights 1606 White Oak Drive, (713) 861-2328,

ibiza, midtown 2450 Louisiana, (713) 524-0004

Rouge, Montrose 812 Westheimer, (713) 520-7955

Best wine tasting events
The Wine Bucket Boutique & Bar, Kirby/Greenway 2311 W. Alabama, (713) 942-9463
The Wine Bucket Boutique & Bar tempts Houston’s wine lovers with an abundance of wine-related gifts and more than 50 wines by the glass or bottle. Twice monthly, the Wine Bucket hosts themed tastings with sommelier Eric Weidner. Private tastings may also be scheduled for a more exclusive Wine Bucket experience.

Best wine room
Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops, downtown 1600 Lamar, (713) 577-8325

The Remington, Galleria 1919 Briar Oaks Lane, (713) 403-2631

Best Cellars, Galleria 5000 Westheimer, (713) 840-9463

Vinoteca Wines of the World, Heights 2626 White Oak Drive, (713) 862-9463

Best meat market
Pete’s Fine Meats 5509 Richmond, (713) 782-3470

Best produce
Farmer’s Market, Airline and 610

Best liquor store
Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Fine Foods, downtown 2410 Smith St., (713) 526-8787

Most unique wine store
Best Cellars 5000 Westheimer, (713) 840-9463

Best cigar shop
Don Carlos Cigars 2124 F.M. 1960 East, (281) 209-9296

Best locally brewed beer
St. Arnold’s 2522 Fairway Park Drive, (713) 686-9494

Best waiter/waitress Mike Alvarez, La Mora 912 Lovett Blvd., (713) 522-7412

Dede, Rouge 812 Westheimer, (713) 520, 7955,

Best downtown survival story
St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin 300 Main, (713) 227-1511
St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin is known for serving up fresh seafood in a fun atmosphere. Since the downtown Main Street restoration phase, this hot spot has established itself as a mainstay. Despite broken pipes, torn up streets and the seemingly eternal wait for the light rail, St. Pete’s has remained a gathering place for locals and visitors alike who just can’t pass up the friendly service and tasty treats.

Most historically authentic hotel
Sam Houston Hotel 1117 Praire St., (832) 200-8800

Best boutique hotel
Magnolia, downtown 1100 Texas, (713) 221-0011
The Magnolia was recently distinguished as “one of the top 100 new hotels in the world” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine. The Magnolia is located in downtown Houston’s entertainment district, four blocks from Minute Maid Park. With 314 guest rooms and suites, guests enjoy complimentary breakfast, high speed internet and evening cocktails – all set within a lavishly preserved historical landmark. Magnolia Hotels are located in Denver, Dallas and Houston.

Hotel Derek, Galleria 2525 West Loop South, (713) 961-3000

Best restoration
Hotel Icon 220 Main St., (713) 224-4266

Best family affair
Piatto Ristorante 4925 W. Alabama, (713) 871-9722 Not only does owner John Marion Carrabba come from a genetically gifted food family, but now his restaurant staff and patrons have become an extended family. With his mother on hand to help with greeting guests and making sure they are completely satisfied, the service at Piatto Ristorante is outstanding – and we haven’t even told you about the food yet! (Hint: You absolutely must try the fried asparagus appetizer.)

Best view
Hilton Americas-Houston 1600 Lamar, (713) 739-8000

Best bookstore
Half Price Books, Montrose 1011 Westheimer, (713) 520-1084

Best place for a first date
Beso, Kirby/Greenbriar 2300 Westheimer, (713) 523-2376

La Carafe, downtown 813 Congress, (713) 229-9399

Best balcony
La Carafe, downtown 813 Congress, (713) 229-9399

Prive, Montrose 910 Westheimer, (713) 522-2542

Best live music venue
Continental Club, midtown 3700 Main St., (713) 529-9899

Rhythm Room, Heights 1815 Washington Ave., (713) 863-0943

Crighton Theatre, Conroe 234 N. Main St., (936) 441-7469

Best place to unwind on a Friday night
Chuy’s, River Oaks 2706 Westheimer, (713) 524-1700

La Carafe, downtown 813 Congress, (713) 229-9399

Best neighborhood bar
Griff’s Shenanigans Café & Bar, Montrose 3416 Roseland, (713) 528-9912

Onion Creek, Heights 3106 White Oak Dr., (713) 880-0706

Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub, Clear Lake 2416 Bay Area Blvd., (281) 461-4702

Best dive bar
Lola’s, Montrose 2327 Grant St., (713) 528-8342

Roll-N Saloon, Galleria 4200 San Felipe, (713) 622-7487

Tall Texan Drive Inn, Heights 4904 N. Main, (713) 862-0141

Kay’s Lounge, Village 2324 Bissonnet, (713) 528-9858

Best icehouse
West Alabama Ice House 1919 W. Alabama, (713) 528-6874

Best place to go dancing
Blanco’s, Kirby/Greenway 3406 W. Alabama, (713) 439-0072

Gallant Knight, West U 2337 W. Holcombe, (713) 665-9762

Licor Lounge, midtown 2204 Louisiana, (713) 654-0869

M Bar on Main, downtown 402 Main St., (713) 222-1022

South Beach, Montrose 810 Pacific St., (713) 529-7623

Best museum
Art Car Museum, Heights 140 Heights Blvd., (713) 861-5526

Holocaust Museum of Houston, museum district 5401 Caroline, (713) 942-8000,

Best place to test-drive a yacht
Marine Max, Clear Lake 2332 NASA Pkwy., (281) 333-3389

Most creative manicure and pedicure
Roula’s Nail Spa 3017 Kirby, (713) 528-8500,

Best local band
El Orbits

Best local musician
John Evans

Best open mic
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck 2525 Norfolk, (713) 528-5999

Best movie theater
Angelika Film Center 510 Texas, (713) 225-5232

Most creative event coordination
Mimi Dihn, Mikel Marketing (281) 412-9643,
Handling every aspect of charity functions, product launches, grand openings and just about any other special event you can think of, Mimi Dihn and her team at Mikel Marketing put a unique twist on all events that they handle – from the very beginning, the event takes flight. Most people in the know can recognize a party of Dihn’s with the first step in the door because of the fresh breath and creative aspect that she brings to all of her events.

Best music store
Cactus Records 2930 S. Shepherd, (713) 526-9272

Best monument
Mecom Fountains Montrose and Main

Best place to watch fireworks
Annabelle’s 905 Taft, (713) 523-9958

Active life
Best adult education classes
InPrint Writers Workshop 1524 Sul Ross, (713) 521-2026,

Best place to work out
Fit 1532 W. Gray, (713) 782-9348

Best yoga class
YWCA, Heights 3621 Willia St., (713) 868-9922

Best bike ride
BP MS 150

Best workout
Houston Racing Triathlon Club

Best pool
U of H Recreation and Wellness Center

Best Frisbee golf
Tom Bass Park

Best place to walk the dog
Dog park at Buffalo Bayou Montrose and Allen Pkwy.

Best park
Hermann Park Main St. and Hermann Drive,

Best drive in Houston
Through Memorial Park East on Memorial Drive from 610 toward downtown

Most luxurious living
Tremont Tower, museum district 3311 Yupon, (713) 807-8080

Best loft living
Washington Lofts, downtown 1708 Washington Ave., (713) 229-8448

Post Midtown Square, midtown 302 Gray Ave., (713) 739-POST

Best high-rise view
The Monaco, Galleria 55 Briar Hollow Lane, (713) 840-8400

Best wireless phone service

Best high-speed internet service
Road Runner

Best alternative electric provider

Direct Energy

Shopping and style
Best accessories
Paula Fridkin, River Oaks 2022 W. Gray, (713) 490-1070

Best estate jewelry
A.A. Benjamin 2200 Post Oak Blvd., #101, (713) 695-0555
One-of-a-kind treasures and jaw-dropping pieces abound at A.A. Benjamin. Whether you are looking for an antique brooch, a flashy necklace or just the right sparkling token of love, jewelry from this boutique is truly a find.

Best hand-crafted jewelry
Fly High Little Bunny 3120 S. Shepherd, (713) 520-9995

Best new gift
Charmpix (281) 681-3860,

Best western wear
Crazy Ranch Designs 1141 Uptown Park Blvd., (713) 974-1161

Best boutique
Principessa, River Oaks (713) 807-0707, Principessa is Houston’s only Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store and lifestyle boutique dedicated to “Palm Beach Chic.” Shop for all ages, from children to adults, for unique clothing, swimwear, accessories and shoes from Fresh Produce, Lacoste, Trina Turk, Manuel Canovas, Bernardo, K. Jacques St.Tropez, Vilebrequin and more!

La Femme Boutique & Day Spa, Montrose 1915 S. Shepherd, (713) 522-7771

Mix Modern Clothes, Kirby/Greenway 2818 Kirby, (713) 522-0606

Images, Galleria 4717 Westheimer, (713) 622-6566

Uncle Funky’s Daughter, Village 2428 Times Blvd., (713) 528-0888

Abejas, River Oaks 2815 Westheimer, (713) 522-3025

Kiss Kiss; Sugar Land 2537 Town Center Blvd. North, (281) 265-5477

Best men’s boutique
M2M, Montrose 3400 Montrose, (713) 521-0804

Best lingerie
Top Drawer 1101 Uptown Park Blvd., (713) 784-8707

Fashion bargains
Loehmann’s 7455 U.S. 59 South, (713) 777-0164

Best home accessories
Kuhl & Linscomb, Kirby/Greenway 2424 Alabama, (713) 526-6000

Cities, Kirby/Greenway 2411 W. Alabama, (713) 528-2662

Indulge, Kirby/Greenway 2700 W. Alabama, (713) 888-0181

Area, Kirby/Greenway 3200 S. Shepherd, (713) 528-0220

Best furniture
Roche Bobois, Galleria 4810 San Felipe, (713) 706-3665

Ligne Roset, Village 5600 Kirby, (713) 629-7722

Best Western furniture/accessories
Courtney & Co., Galleria 4950 Terminal St., Ste. 125, (713) 665-5600
The spirit of the Southwest seems to seep into every aspect of our lives here in Houston, and Courtney & Co. delivers an unrivaled collection of more than 400 lines of American West and African furniture and accessories to make any home a true refection of you. The casual elegance and personal touches that this 600-square-foot showroom has to offer will astound you. Boswells Rustic Round-up, Old Town Spring 126 Midway, (281) 651-0088

Best place that has it all
Katy Mills Mall 5000 Katy Mills Circle, (281) 644-5050

Best department store
Nordstrom Galleria IV, (832) 201-2700

Best restaurant supply
Ace Mart 3500 I-10 West, (713) 861-4582

Best kitchen accessories
Sur la Table 1996 W. Gray, (713) 533-0400

Best camping supplies
REI 7538 Westheimer, (713) 688-3500

Best sports equipment
Barcelona 2520 Winrock Blvd., (713) 781-7313

Best children’s gifts
Desideri, Montrose 1722 W. Alabama, (713) 807-1255

Best toys
Fundamentally Toys, River Oaks 1963 W. Gray, (713) 524-4400

Best children’s clothing
Oilily, Galleria 5085 Westheimer, (713) 355-8303

Best baby clothes
Chocolate Soup, Town & Country 12850 Memorial Drive, (713) 467-5957

Janie & Jack, Galleria 5135 W. Alabama, (713) 599-1686

Little Patooties, River Oaks 2608 Westheimer, (713) 520-8686

Best baby furniture
Bellini 1720 Post Oak Blvd., (713) 623-2884

Best children’s outing
Children’s Museum of Houston 1500 Binz, (713) 522-1135

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Roula’s Nail Spa is an upscale retreat for your hands and feet. This plush getaway offers a selection of tantalizing Signature Hand and Foot Treatments. Whether you indulge in a Pina Colada, Strawberries & Cream or Warm Milk & Honey manicure or pedicure, the exotic scents of the treatments will leave you intoxicated with pleasure. Don’t forget about the pampering facials – they’re an indulgence that can’t be passed up. Looking for peace of mind? At Roula’s, they have implemented unparalleled medical-grade standards of sterilization, disinfection and sanitation. Each nail treatment comes with a full set of implements sterilized in a dental Sterilization Center. With each visit, Roula will send you off with a Home Care Package comprised of a disposable nail file, buffer and a mini-bottle of Roula nail lacquer to touch up those dreaded chips! Pick from any one of their 50 sexy colors.

Roula’s Nail Spa 3017 Kirby @ W. Alabama (713) 528-8500,

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In addition to dishing up superbly fresh sushi, The Fish serves phenomenal steaks, pork chops and grilled fish as well. Chef Vu and the helpful staff here are eager to make your dining experience pleasurable, many times expanding beyond traditional Japanese dishes, unique sushi, creative hand rolls and mouth-watering steaks to whip up just about anything for which patrons have asked. Perfect for a date or a starter location before hitting the town, The Fish is open until midnight on the weekends. The Fish 309 Gray (713) 526-5294

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Locals have found their niche at Tommy’s Seafood & Steakhouse. This white-tablecloth eatery hosts an outstanding business lunch while presenting creative fare for special dinners. With the freshest seafood in town, steaks that you’ll start dreaming about, classic Cajun spice and an environment that invites regulars to stop by and visit, it’s no wonder that Tommy’s has become a favorite around town. Whether you are interested in celebrating your anniversary, stopping by with friends for a happy hour or meeting with business associates, Tommy’s is just the right place to enjoy fabulous steaks and seafood.

Tommy’s Seafood & Steakhouse Clear Lake 2555 Bay Area Blvd. (281) 480-2221 West Houston 11660 Westheimer (281) 679-1112

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Located in the historic Woodland Heights, King Biscuit Restaurant features innovative cuisine prepared from the finest organic meats and vegetables available. Enjoy a selection of Houston’s most eclectic and well-priced wine lists on the patio. Dine on organic, grass-fed longhorn steaks, fresh Gulf Coast fish and shrimp or wild salmon. Stop in for a quick lunch of a great sandwich or an entrée salad. Belly up to the bar and enjoy a cocktail with your neighbors. The King Biscuit Restaurant – great food, wines and drinks in a casual atmosphere and only a stone’s throw from downtown!

King Biscuit Restaurant, Heights 1606 White Oak Drive, (713) 561-2328,

By using personalized photos of family and friends, Charmpix creates a one-of-a-kind gift for your loved ones to cherish for a lifetime. Charmpix specializes in creating custom and collectible “Fine Quality Picture Charms,” using authentic Italian charm bracelets to feature pictures of loved ones, art and designer charms. This unique gift concept provides recipients with personalized jewelry as a constant reminder of loved ones.

Charmpix (281) 681-3860, 1 (866) 924-7674,