2012 Summer Guide

A new minor league baseball team, a new amusement park, the urban wilderness of Buffalo Bayou, food, concerts and plays — Houston, prepare to get your summer on.

Cypress Creek is a different experience from Buffalo Bayou, according to paddlers. While Buffalo Bayou is deep and urban, Cypress Creek is shallower and more off the beaten path. Part of what has delayed the creek's designation as an official paddling trail was last year's drought — TPW employees have to paddle it themselves before the designation can take place. To protect against future droughts, improvements made by BPA to the creek include sluices, which help direct water flow away from natural dams and debris build-up.

"The best time to paddle Cypress Creek is three or four days after a rain," Woehrmann says. "Thirty years ago when I was a kid, back when it used to rain, we'd drag surfboards or whatever we had out to the water. That's not quite acceptable today, but it's becoming more acceptable."

Woehrmann says opinions of Houston's bayous are changing, gradually. Thanks to improvements by the Bayou Preservation Association and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, fewer Houstonians view them as polluted and dangerous. Over the past few years, a loose group of kids who used to gather to skimboard at the confluence of Cypress Creek and Little Cypress Creek has now become the Skim Jam, the largest flatland skimboarding competition in Texas. April's Skim Jam was the fifth annual competition and featured top skimmers from across the country, with entry fees going toward The Rose, Houston's nonprofit breast cancer organization.

Cypress Creek is ideal for skimboarding, which requires a flat, shallow water surface.

"You do with what you have," Woehrmann says. "The sugar sand (in Cypress Creek) is nicer than what you find on the beach.

"On Buffalo Bayou at dusk, you can see the buildings downtown twinkling. You've got this wilderness right in the middle of town, and you're below the city of Houston, looking up."
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Dog Days
Anything goes on everyone's favorite summer snack.

By Katharine Shilcutt

Although nothing's stopping you from eating them all year round, there's something about the appeal of a hot dog in the summer that's simple and pure. Yet as hot dogs experience a renaissance — appearing on high-end menus, in hot dog-themed food trucks and in hot dog-centric restaurants — the dogs themselves have become anything but simple. In fact, the best thing about topping a hot dog is that anything goes.

At Happy Fatz in the Heights, that "anything" includes breakfast. The little bungalow specializes in both baked goods and hot dogs, and frequently tops its dogs with everything from white pimento cheese and red cabbage to hash browns and fried eggs. Those last two toppings are featured on The Clucker — Happy Fatz's answer to a breakfast sandwich — along with hot sauce and an all-beef Hebrew National frank.

Surprisingly, breakfast condiments partner pretty well with hot dogs. Just ask the Good Dog Hot Dogs truck, whose cream cheese-topped Sunshine Dog is one of its best sellers. Along with the cream cheese, the hot dog is brightened up with ample amounts of pickled red onions and freshly made dill relish. For something more Tex-Mex, though, check out its avocado-and-jalapeño-topped Guac-a-Dog with cumin and lime.

Tex-Mex dogs are also popular right now at James Coney Island. The 89-year-old chain has recently introduced a line of specialty dogs made with Hebrew National franks and buns from local bakery Slow Dough. Check out the Baja, which comes with guacamole and chipotle mayo, or go all Texan with the Lonestar, topped with barbecue sauce and onion rings.

In keeping with Houston's ever-growing Asian population, you can even find Korean and Japanese-inspired hot dogs hitting the streets at Happy Endings. The food truck has a range of all-beef hot dogs topped with ingredients such as kimchi, katsu sauce, bonito flakes and seaweed. On one of its most popular dogs, the Hiroshima, you'll get the sweet tang of katsu sauce along with the crunch of deep-fried tempura bits.

Over at The Burger Guys, you can get your entire hot dog with crunch: The restaurant frequently offers specials like twice-fried hot dogs, although the un-fried franks are enough to contend with on their own. Each hot dog here is a foot long (that's why they call them "double fisted dogs," after all), and comes with house-made condiments like rémoulade, chow-chow and mustard made with local favorite Saint Arnold Lawnmower beer.

Revival Market also specializes in house-made condiments for its hot dogs and — like many of the hot doggeries listed here — supports local bakeries and producers in the process, including itself. That's because the market/butcher shop makes its own franks on site. A natural casing provides a pleasant snap, and the softly fatty Mangalitsa pork inside is a terrific departure from all-beef or blended franks. And on top, Revival adds a few crispy chicharrones from the same pig that likely made up the hot dog underneath.

For something even wilder than Mangalitsa dogs, head to Sammy's Wild Game Grill. There, you'll find a rotating menu of game hot dogs that have included buffalo, venison and lamb, each on a soft pretzel bun. You can top it with your choice of items like bacon bits or fried onions, but it's the addictive ghost pepper sauce that Sammy's makes in-house that really stands out — if you can take the heat, that is.

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