People & Places

  • Best Cheap Date

    UTMB-TAMUG Classical Concerts

    Forget the unwieldy handle, and remember this about the UTMB-TAMUG 2005-2006 Classical Concerts series: It's absolutely free. You can spend an evening at fine arts venues in Houston and fork over a pile of Benjamins for some of the same concerts that book dates for free in Galveston. Sure, the scheduling is a bit haphazard, and some concerts are announced… More >>
  • Best Apartment Complex

    Bissonnet Village Apartments

    In a city where not having a car is a death sentence for your social life, we'll give the Bissonnet Village Apartments a nod for being strategically close to one of the hottest singles scenes in the city: Rice Village. Auto-challenged residents of "The BV" can stroll -- if need be -- to the nearby Village restaurants and bars, or… More >>
  • Best Place to People-Watch

    Taco Cabana

    If you want to get a real look at the people populating our hippest little multicultural area, just mosey on over to the Taco Cabana at the corner of Montrose and Westheimer, order a plate of nachos and a margarita, and pull up a chair. You'll see transvestites hailing down cars for dates, homeless youths who look like Blink-182 gone… More >>
  • Best Reason to Stay in Houston During the Summer

    The Houston Symphony Summer Series

    Many a balmy Houston night has been made cooler and more comfortable thanks to the efforts of the Houston Symphony. Beginning in June, when it first presented Summer Symphony Nights at Miller Outdoor Theatre, our skies have been filled with sweet sounds designed to make us forget that we've still got sweat dripping off our brows. The symphony's Lord of… More >>
  • Best Charity

    Shriners Hospitals for Children

    Picking the best charity is harder than it sounds. What are the criteria: the condition of the recipients? The overall effectiveness? How the money is spent? Well, if you consider all of those, then Houston's Shriners Hospital just might be the best charity to donate to this year. The hospital provides free -- yes, free -- medical care to children… More >>
  • Best Local Blog

    Off the Kuff

    We waited for someone to step up and dethrone Charles Kuffner as the best blogger in town. We scoured the H-town blogosphere, reading what the pamphleteers of the 21st century had to say about sports, politics, music, art and breakfast. We wasted countless hours, time we could've spent paying our bills or cleaning our homes, getting too much information from… More >>
  • Best Parade

    Pride Parade

    Beneath a giant chandelier hoisted above the corner of Montrose and Westheimer, float after float passes by every year in the nation's original nighttime pride parade. It's one heck of a party and a nonpareil people-watching opportunity. This year Gs, Ls, Bs and Ts lined the streets, hooting, hollering and hooking up long before the actual parade passed by. All… More >>
  • Best New Magazine


    While it's not the most polished pad of pulp in the printed-matter pile, Hater magazine has a youthful exuberance all but lost in so much of the mainstream media. A free, digest-size, full-color rag, Hater is available quarterly, in limited supply, throughout the city. The mag's credo states that "Hater defined is the critic of our generation," and boy, do… More >>
  • Best Tourist Attraction

    Former Enron Building

    No, there are no tours being offered at the moment. You can't just walk in and see the exact spot where Ken Lay and Co. made the decisions and signed the papers that all but destroyed their faithful minions. But you can stand outside and gawk at this architectural masterpiece. Like staring at the charred remains of a burned-out warehouse,… More >>
  • Best View

    Stingaree Restaurant

    The best view in the Houston area requires some gas money and a large appetite for Gulf Coast seafood. Head down I-45 to Galveston, catch the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula and follow the signs to Stingaree Restaurant. For optimal viewing, arrive about an hour and a half before sunset and insist on a table by the window. If one isn't… More >>
  • Best Buddhist Temple

    Jade Buddhist Temple

    Remove your shoes and shuffle to the front of the hall. The benevolent eyes of a three-ton white jade Buddha follow your steps -- as do those of a hundred lesser gold Buddhas sunk into the front of the aptly named Grand Buddha Hall. The psychic residue of the thousands of devotees who have cycled through this space since it… More >>
  • Best Cheap Thrill

    Sliding down the handrail at Edwards Greenway Palace 24

    Speed, man. There's nothing more exhilarating. But speed can get expensive: Mustangs, motorcycles, meth -- that stuff adds up! So instead of saddling yourself with more debt (or, God forbid, another nasty addiction), head to Edwards cinema on Weslayan. You don't even have to buy a ticket to ride the theater's outrageous length of fat metal rails into oblivion. Divided… More >>
  • Best Court Ruling

    Reversal of Andrea Yates's conviction

    Andrea Yates is obviously a disturbed woman, and no one can know what demons drew her to (at this point, allegedly) drown her five kids in a bathtub. But in their zeal to make a case, Harris County prosecutors threw away caution. They brought in a California psychiatrist expert named Park Dietz who said he was a consultant for the… More >>
  • Best Criminal Court Judge

    Brock Thomas

    When the judge is the son of the county sheriff, it's safe to say that criminal defense lawyers aren't going to have the most optimistic feelings heading into court. But 338th District Judge Brock Thomas, son of Tommy, has dispelled any doubts about whether he can be a fair arbiter behind the bench, quickly establishing a reputation for evenhandedness. At… More >>
  • Best Democrat

    Rick Noriega

    It's a cliche that politicians who are so eager to send other folks off to war sit safely behind their desks. Not Rick Noriega. He was sworn in for another term as state rep this January -- not in Austin, but in a wooden barracks building outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. Lieutenant Colonel Noriega was on active duty training the Afghan… More >>
  • Best 15 Minutes of Fame

    Houston, circa 2001, via the TV movie 14 Hours

    Those of us who weren't living in Houston when Tropical Storm Allison paid a visit seem to have missed out on the kind of bonding experience only tragedy can create. But thanks to TNT ("We Know Drama"), everyone got a chance to see how the courageous doctors at Memorial Hermann Hospital saved hundreds of lives in the titular timeframe. Or… More >>
  • Best Local TV Anchor

    Bill Balleza

    The talent level among Houston television's anchor desks has dropped precipitously in recent years, thanks to vapid newcomers and fading veterans. One longtimer has maintained his A-game, though: Channel 2's Bill Balleza. Thoroughly familiar with our town (you won't catch him mispronouncing "Kuykendahl"), Balleza also tries, as much as possible, to tone down the hype machine that is KPRC. He… More >>
  • Best Local TV News

    KTRK/Channel 13

    While they definitely aren't the sexiest staff of journalists, and they don't have the eye-popping graphics and whiz-bang of the other stations, the veteran tried-and-true hands of KTRK consistently produce the best local newscasts overall. Staffed with a combination of virtual Houston landmarks that have been at the station longer than some of their competitors have been alive (Ed Brandon,… More >>
  • Best Local TV Personality

    Scotty Kilmer

    When your own station's Web site singles out your "off-beat delivery," you know they're not talking about the recipient of a bachelor's of broadcasting degree. That's exactly what we like about the quirky Scotty Kilmer, the car-care expert who hosts the twice-weekly taped segments. But it's during his Saturday-morning live appearance answering viewer calls that the Guru of Gaskets really… More >>
  • Best Light-Rail Station


    We know, we know...This one took these same honors last year. But let's face it: It's gotten even better since then, and most of our rail stops suck. With the exception of a couple downtown, they're purely functional affairs -- if they're not slap-bang in the middle of a parking prairie like Smith Lands and Bell Street, they're facing the… More >>
  • Best Organic Cemetery

    Ethician Family Cemetery

    George Russell is a colorful blend of genius and crazy. He founded his own religious group, the Universal Ethician Church, as a sanctuary for those fed up with the hypocrisy or greed they've experienced in mainstream organized religions. And he also created the state's only "green" cemetery, where folks are buried sans embalming and, preferably, sans coffin. The only coffins… More >>
  • Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners

    Hillcroft/New Chinatown

    Tired of telling your out-of-town friends and family that Houston is an international city? Then show them on this driving tour. Drive west on Richmond from Loop 610 to Hillcroft. Hang a left and show them all the halal Chinese restaurants, Persian kebab shops, Latino hip-hop clubs, Indo-Pakistani curry houses, Arabic hookah bars, Indian sari boutiques and travel agencies prominently… More >>
  • Best Republican

    Paul Bettencourt

    Local Republicans are a pretty predictable lot -- they're against everything, and they're against it loudly and insistently. Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt is right with them when it comes to being anti, whether it's light rail or the latest property-tax scheme. But instead of frothing at the mouth and trying to outshout everyone, Bettencourt takes another route: He… More >>
  • Best Sanctuary from the Fast Track

    The Rothko Chapel

    The Rothko Chapel is nondenominational, and the various religious texts on the table by its door attest to that, but we can't help feeling that in there everything is Zen. (Damn, did we just paraphrase a lyric from one of the worst bands ever? Sorry, we'll try not to let it happen again.) Mark Rothko's large, dark paintings present the… More >>
  • Best Sign

    Brooks-Mays Pianomax

    So you're driving along U.S. 59 when, through the clutter of billboards, you see it: a grand piano, perched precariously on a pole 108 feet above the ground. Chances are, your first thought is "Does that thing really play?" And your second thought is probably "Either way, that's pretty damn cool." Erected in 1973, when the music store was called… More >>
  • Best Local TV News Reporter

    Cynthia Hunt

    We're not saying that it only takes a pretty face to be a good TV reporter. We're not saying that notorious "Railcar Killer" Angel Maturino Resendiz had anything other than Cynthia Hunt's austere professionalism on his mind when he sent her exclusive jailhouse letters that were ultimately subpoenaed for his trial. We're not saying it was one of the most… More >>
  • Best Use of a Trash Can

    TAZmaniac Sound System

    This rolling, blaring work of art pops up at just about every social-justice event in town. Crafted out of a wheeled trash can, powered by a car battery and equipped with some big-ass speakers, the TAZmaniac Sound System has become one of the activist community's most efficient means of raising a ruckus. (Hell, the thing pumps out enough bass to… More >>
  • Best Vintage Cemetery

    Glenwood Cemetery

    In this tucked-away glade of oaks, magnolias and granite markers, pockets of heavily manicured grass slump before the memorials of a thousand varieties. A grief-stricken angel is collapsed across a "Hill." Above an eight-foot Celtic cross a mockingbird dances in the Spanish moss, singing lightly of those things the dead no longer can. Here on the edge of downtown lies… More >>
  • Best Vintage Houston Street

    Montrose Boulevard

    When J.W. Link, attorney and former mayor of Orange, developed the Montrose neighborhood in 1910 (or 1911, depending on whom you ask), he probably had no idea it would become a sanctuary for artists, hipsters, teenage runaways and gay nightclub owners. Named after a Scottish port town, the area's eponymous boulevard is home to some of the city's finest restaurants,… More >>
  • Best Vintage Local TV Commercial

    Thunderbolt Transmission

    Yes, it's almost 30 years old, but you can still catch it every so often, and longtime Houston residents are sure to crack a smile when they hear the immortal line, "We put the YEEEE-HAWWW back in your motor and transmission!" It's like a mini-movie: There's romance, action, suspense and a theme song you can't get out of your head.… More >>
  • Best Weathercaster

    David Paul

    It's a Houston tradition from June to November: You go to sleep knowing there's a tropical storm or hurricane heading our way, and the first thing you want to know when you wake up is, Is it still barreling down on us, or has it sheared away? Some stations pile on the danger hype, insisting that every storm could still… More >>
  • Best Zoo Animal


    What is it? A sleek, striped donkey? A purplish-red zebra with round ears, horns and a long tongue? A furry dinosaur of some kind? Nope, none of the above. It's the okapi, and its only living relative is the giraffe. Western science didn't even know these five-foot-tall, leaf-chewing critters existed until the 1890s; the okapi was the last of the… More >>
  • Best Local Boy Gone Bad

    Former judge and TV star Eric Andell

    Eric Andell had as shiny a reputation as any local Democrat, and he wasn't afraid to flaunt it. As a juvenile court judge and later an appellate judge, Andell was savvy with the media and smooth at political gatherings and parties. He had a syndicated television show, Juvenile Justice, and was wooed by Republicans to switch parties. But, as he… More >>
  • Best Local Boy Made Good

    Sam Farha

    Sam Farha didn't win the World Series of Poker this year or last year, but that doesn't mean he hasn't made it big at the table. The Lebanon native, who's called Houston home for 20 years, has made a very, very good living playing cards. A second-place finish at the 2003 WSOP netted him $1.3 million, and he just keeps… More >>
  • Best Local Girl Gone Bad

    Fort Bend County Treasurer Jeanne Parr

    When Jeanne Parr ran for county treasurer in 2002, she told voters all about her experience as a lay minister and Sunday school teacher, her work with 4-H Club kids and the time she was named Outstanding Leader of Fort Bend County. What she didn't mention was her gambling problem. It turns out Parr had quite the jones, taking weekly… More >>
  • Best Local Girl Made Good

    Brooke Valentine

    So far, the whole Houston "Third Coast" rap thing has been a largely male phenomenon. For every Beyonce, there are two or three Mike Joneses or Lil' Flips. Brooke Valentine is trying to change that, and she's gotten off to a hot start. She's teamed with Big Boi from OutKast for the hit "Girlfight" and with the late, lamented ODB… More >>
  • Best Place for a First Date

    Houston Zoo

    When you have a first date with someone, it's best to gather as much information about the person as quickly as possible. A date to the Houston Zoo should teach you plenty in just one visit. You'll get answers to some major questions without having to invest in conversation. For example, you can observe if your date likes kids, animals… More >>
  • Best Place for a Last Date

    Hotel Icon/Bank Jean-Georges

    It's terrible to break someone's heart, but sometimes a relationship just isn't meant to be. If you've got dumping to do, make it happen somewhere luxurious. After downing a little liquor at the Whiskey Bar, order your date a delicious lamb chop at Bank -- it will make the bad news easier to swallow. And we're all familiar with how… More >>
  • Best Political Victory

    Hubert Vo

    In the worst of ways, Talmadge Heflin looked unbeatable: Endorsed by the Houston Chronicle, he'd logged seemingly as many years in the Texas House of Representatives as Palpatine had commanded the Galactic Empire, and the flab in his double chin was exceeded only by the corporate flab in his war chest. Democratic challenger Hubert Vo commanded a fraction of the… More >>
  • Best Lawyer

    Barry Scheck

    Okay, this is technically cheating, since Barry Scheck is based out of NYC, but screw it: Scheck's Innocence Project helped get two wrongly convicted Texans out of prison last year. One of them was George Rodriguez, a Houston man who served 17 years for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl. (Since other prisoners consider child-rapists the lowest of the low, we… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Screwed, Blued and Tattooed

    Surf Shack

    Taste is all in the mouth here in the land of "Beers, Babes and Waves." Nearly naked women on carpeted pedestals along with massive drink specials are the main attractions for the backward-ball-cap crowd, but the thing that really makes the Surf Shack unique is the presence on the premises of Nice Guy Tattoos, poised with needles at the ready… More >>
  • Best Vintage Houston Personality

    Marvin Zindler

    There's not a Houstonian alive who doesn't know this human oddity's name and freakish visage. To a Houston transplant, the first Zindler sighting is one of those occasions where you question reality, the existence of a fair and merciful God, and your eyesight. Could that dude really look like that? Was he in The Dark Crystal? What's going on behind… More >>
  • Best Bureaucrat

    Abelardo Saavedra

    For too many years, Houston school superintendents have depended on spin to save them from problems. Abelardo Saavedra, finishing his first year in the position at HISD, has shown a welcome ability to deal with controversy rather than just duck it. He addressed persistent stories about widespread cheating on standardized tests at some schools and created an office of inspector… More >>
  • Best Civil Attorney

    Jim Sales

    Our award for best civil attorney usually goes to some swashbuckling plaintiffs' lawyer who's racked up a big win. But let us now praise one who toils in a megafirm, defending public-minded corporate giants against all-but-frivolous suits (as defense lawyers would put it). Jim Sales has done a lot of that in his 45-year legal career, but he's done a… More >>
  • Best Civil Court Judge

    Levi Benton

    Say what you will about George W. Bush's term as governor, one thing that can't be argued is that he broke apart the good-ol'-boy network that previous Republican govs habitually used to fill judicial vacancies. One of the minority attorneys he named was Levi Benton, a previously little-known lawyer who was nominated in 1999. Benton has stayed out of the… More >>
  • Best Community Newspaper

    The Brazosport Facts

    With a name that's somehow both unassuming and boastful at the same time, The Brazosport Facts sets itself a high bar. And the feisty paper usually lives up to its moniker, providing colorful, comprehensive coverage of Brazoria County. It's not afraid of taking on polluters or the state agencies who don't police them, which can be a rare philosophy in… More >>
  • Best Criminal Defense Attorney

    Rusty Hardin

    Tabbing Rusty Hardin as Houston's best criminal defense lawyer is like naming Lance Armstrong as Best Bicyclist from Texas -- it's not exactly a groundbreaking pick. But Hardin proved again this year why he remains the name that should be on the speed-dial of every athlete or deep-pocketed Houstonian who might ever conceivably get into trouble. After a ton of… More >>
  • Best Landmark

    The Law Office of Tim Hootman

    As an amorphous blob of dishonestly named subdivisions, Houston offers drivers few signposts, greetings or markers of real meaning. One exception is the Law Office of Tim Hootman, which is as geographically appropriate as it is bizarre. Drivers exiting Interstate 45 at Pease for downtown will see, in front of his lot, a metal sculpture of a fat, busty lady,… More >>
  • Best Nonprofit

    Houston Food Bank

    For more than 20 years, the Houston Food Bank has been distributing millions of pounds of food annually to those in need. Efficiency counts for more than glitz, and the bank doesn't stop with just handling food donations; chefs and nutritionists give their time to help kids and indigent families learn about healthy meals and snacks. Covering an 18-county territory… More >>
  • Best Public Information Officer

    Raquel Espinoza-Williams

    Our pick for best flack is also the Houston Press Club's "Communicator of the Year" for 2005. Espinoza-Williams produces a great monthly newsletter for the Houston Shriners Hospital, which offers free treatment to children suffering from a variety of serious conditions. Her stories not only reflect the innovative treatments the hospital offers but also dig deeper to get the emotions… More >>
  • Best Drag Queen

    Kofi (Terry Nabors)

    She's big, bold and beautiful, with more style than Vera Wang, Donna Karan and the entire Queer as Folk cast combined. Kofi hosts late-night events at JR.'s, including the male stripping and dance contests. On a recent Monday night, Kofi warmed up the crowd by lip-synching "I'm Every Woman" and "You Can't Hurry Love" while patron after patron paid their… More >>
  • So many toasts, so little time. The only problem: The more glass-clinking we do, the more forgetful we become, and so we neglected to highlight a few Houston classics. Luckily, our readers stepped in to remind us of the Categories We Forgot.

    Best Buffet Todai Japanese Seafood Buffet 7620 Katy Fwy., ste. 300, 713-682-0009 Best Cafeteria Cleburne Cafeteria 3606 Bissonnet, 713-667-2386 Best Huevos Rancheros La Mexicana 1018 Fairview, 713-521-0963 Best Scrapbook Store Photos Forever 4061 Bellaire Blvd., 713-662-0200 Best Ship Battleship Texas Best Spa Bergamos Spa Retreat 2535 Kirby, 713-529-2444 Best Tortilla Soup El Rey Taqueria 910 Shepherd, 713-802-9145 Best Veterinarian West Alabama Animal Clinic 2030 W. Alabama, 713-528-0818 Best Wi-Fi Spot Byzantio 403 W. Gray, 713-520-6896 Best Adult Tap Dance Lessons Tap Happy Multiple locations Best Detox… More >>