People & Places

  • Best Hero

    Karen Jennings

    "I love you!" That's how Karen Jennings, homeless liaison for all of Fort Bend ISD for a dozen years, always greets her overworked underlings. It's her way of acknowledging up-front all the good deeds they perform each day, keeping teens in school and out of trouble. This year Jennings took her efforts to help at-risk kids to the broader community,… More >>
  • Best Place to People Watch

    The Houston International Festival

    Where can you see Houstonians from every race, age and walk of life: Zulu warriors in full tribal regalia, Australian aborigines, Chinese kung fu experts, Indian fakirs, Kazakh belly dancers, Tuareg musicians, Japanese drummers, Greek dancers, Rastafarian CD salesmen, Irish bagpipers and Caribbean brass bands with a full complement of dancing hotties in sequins and spangles? The Houston International Festival,… More >>
  • Best Hidden Neighborhood

    Westbury

    This Southwest Houston neighborhood has had a bit of a bad rap, some of it connected to relocated Katrina victims. But, despite the catfight at Westbury High last year, a lot of that involved the victims as victims, not as perpetrators. Other émigrés in this neighborhood, chock-full of 50-year-old, easily rehabilitated ranch homes, have for the past few years been… More >>
  • Best 15 Minutes of Fame

    Lisa Nowak

    For a short while, this un­hinged woman was a savior to our bummed-out, cynical nation. Iraq, the U.S. Attorneys scandal, dead Anna Nicole — it was too much bleakness for us to handle. But then God, who obviously wants to produce movies for the Lifetime Network, sent us Lisa Nowak. By driving from Houston to Orlando to beat up the… More >>
  • Best Ruins

    Westbury Square

    This 48-year-old outdoor mall looked old when it opened and was full of life. Designed by architect William J. Wortham, Jr., a man with a fixation on all things Italian Renaissance, Westbury Square was supposed to evoke a village in Tuscany, and for a decade or so it thrived as a hotbed of the counterculture outside the Loop, far from… More >>
  • Best Haunted House

    ScreamWorld

    In a haunted house, you’re worried about a lot of things jumping out at you, but a car is not usually one of them. This is how ScreamWorld caught our attention. (Read: made us pee our pants.) The haunters teamed with Scion to set up actual vehicles that come to a screeching halt right in front of whoever dares brave… More >>
  • Best Building Makeover

    Hotel ZaZa

    Okay, so they were six months behind schedule, but it was worth it. No mere eye patch here. Developer Charlie Givens and partners have taken the city's premier Warwick Hotel and turned it into a mega-star. The grand opening on June 1 was so over-the-top, they had a live mermaid atop the entrance to wave in the bold names. (How… More >>
  • Best Demolition

    HISD's Taj Mahal

    Houston is a city hell-bent on tearing down every building that is the slightest bit old. Sometimes that can be a good thing: A year ago we were finally able to see the death throes of the Houston school district's Stalinesque headquarters. As the booms crashed into the walls, you could almost see the wisps of bureaucratic ghosts flying away… More >>
  • Best Architect

    Scott Ballard

    Scott Ballard has worked on design projects as far away as Kuala Lumpur, but some of his coolest work is right here in Houston, where the architect lives inside the Loop in one of his own hip designs. Sleek and oh-so-modern, the homes he creates are fine enough to impress the most discriminating tastes and funky enough to amuse and… More >>
  • Best Charity

    The Children's Assessment Center Foundation

    The foundation supports the Children's Assessment Center, which provides medical, psychological, forensic and therapeutic services to aid in the healing of sexually abused children and the prosecution of their attackers. Charity Navigator has bestowed its highest (four-star) rating on CACF, stating that 89.2 percent of the funds go toward program expenses, with 10.7 percent for administrative and fund-raising costs combined.… More >>
  • Best Renovation

    Harrisburg Plaza

    Harrisburg Plaza, the newly renovated 1929 blond-brick building with a terra-cotta roof and reflective steel canopy, would look right at home on any ivy-covered college campus. Instead, it houses an auto parts store and payday loan center on Houston's rough-and-tumble east side. Designed by German-born architect Joseph Finger, the building blends nicely with the adjacent church and always-busy Eastwood Park.… More >>
  • Best Tourist Attraction

    SculpturWorx Studio

    Okay, so we're not vouching for the artistic merit of David Adickes's gigantic sculptures, but for some reason this was the artist's year. Not only did Adickes finally finish his 36-foot-tall rendering of the Beatles, but it seems every out-of-town visitor asked us for directions on how to get to "that weird warehouse space with those huge presidential heads." (No… More >>
  • Best Weathercaster

    Frank Billingsley

    Hurricane season is the time of year when all the local weathermen and -women (and, ahem, dogs) tell you, time and time again, that you are about to die!!! All of them, that is, except for Channel 2's Frank Billingsley, who prides himself on not giving in to the hype. He was the first guy, after all, to make the… More >>
  • Best Local TV Anchor

    José Griñan

    Houston has been happily waking up with José Griñan for over a decade now. Part of the FOX 26 Morning News since its inception, José Griñan is on-air every morning from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then again for the FOX 26 News at Noon. Unlike his "wring the emotion out of every story" counterparts, Griñan is evenhanded and… More >>
  • Best Local TV News

    KRIV, Channel 26

    When you need to know, you need Channel 26 News. Forget about the hype and scare tactics that other stations use to draw you in — Channel 26 News delivers the most comprehensive, well-researched and balanced newscast in the city. Whether it's the tragedy of Katrina or the victory of Craig Biggio's 3,000th hit, Channel 26 is there. The Fox… More >>
  • Best Local TV News Reporter

    Chau Nguyen

    It's early Saturday morning, you're hung over and you can't sleep. You flip on the TV for something to soothe your aching brain. Local news is the last thing you want — no cheesy, chatty, cookie-cutter face blathering on about red-light cameras, thank you. But there's anchorwoman Chau Nguyen, making sense. She's not talking down to you. And before you… More >>
  • Best Local TV Personality

    Whitney Casey

    KHOU Channel 11's Great Day Houston host and senior producer Whitney Casey has plenty of brains under her perfectly coiffed blond hair. Before coming to Houston, the Emmy Award-winning Casey was one of CNN's youngest correspondents ever, and her television news duties included coverage of the September 11 attacks in New York, the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy and the 2000… More >>
  • Best Place to Meet Single Men

    The Harp

    A single, female friend of ours describes this place as "the yuppie Rudyard's," and we have to agree. Here, just as at any bar, you'll find tons of dudes drinking away and looking for love. But the crop at this Irish-tinged pub is a little creamier, if you know what we mean. Nothing attracts future yupsters like a clean bar… More >>
  • Best Place to Meet Single Women

    Whole Foods, several locations

    Here's the trick: Just walk in, grab a cart, stroll over to the book aisle and pick a diet, any diet. Let's say you go with the Master Cleanse. Fill up your cart with all the ingredients except one, like, say, maple syrup. Walk up to the first hottie you see — and there should be plenty to choose from… More >>
  • Best Spanish Radio Station

    Estereo Latino KLTN 102.9 FM

    Estereo Latino KLTN 102.9 FM has tons of the latest hot Latin music. But then again, so do a dozen other Spanish-language radio stations. So, what makes the station stand out in the crowded Latino radio market? The DJs, of course. Host and show producer Raul Brindis is the morning funny man on weekdays and Saturdays, along with sidekicks Pepito,… More >>
  • Best Parade

    Art Car Parade

    When His Royal Highness of Funk, George Clinton, is your parade's grand marshall, it's a safe bet that you have the coolest parade in town. And such was the case with the Orange Show's 20th annual Art Car Parade. The 282 entries this year included a few Lord of the Rings-inspired rides, and a sort of serial-killer-with-the-munchies-themed Classic Toaster Van… More >>
  • Best Local Radio Talk Show

    Michael Berry

    "If you're against apologizing for slavery, then you gotta be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war. And let's just call it what it is: They lost a war." These erudite words were spoken by radio host Michael Berry — a former Houston City Councilman —… More >>
  • Best Radio Duo

    The Roula & Ryan Show

    Okay, so the best duo in local radio is really a trio: Roula, Ryan and their sidekick engineer, Eric. Roula's vivacious and impassioned; Ryan's hunky and impassioned; and Eric sounds all nerdy (yet impassioned). They're not the usual radio schlubs: They're telegenic enough for a career in TV, but they'd have to lose a lotta IQ points. The Texas trio… More >>
  • Best Radio News

    KUHF, 88.7 FM

    Houston used to be a thriving town for radio news, but those days are long past. Clear Channel has taken a big ax to the newsrooms of KTRH and KPRC, and while the reporters who remain do stellar work, in many ways the product is a shell of what it once was. Which makes the choice for local radio news… More >>
  • Best Pirate Relic

    Spyglass in the Moore Memorial Library

    Sometime before the Texas Revolution, James Campbell settled on a point near Galveston Bay in what is now Texas City and took to farming — with a little sideline in smuggling. His past was murky — some called him a privateer, while others said he was a pirate. It all depended on what you thought of his boss — Jean… More >>
  • Best Civil Attorney

    Dayle Pugh

    Houston is a town full of swaggering lawyers making big headlines. And many of them deserve the accolades they get. But let's not forget there are also a bunch of lawyers here who stay out of the spotlight and just do good work for their clients. Dayle Pugh, of the firm of Bateman & Pugh, is one of those. A… More >>
  • Best Court Ruling

    The Strip-Club Law

    For ten years, the City of Houston has been in federal and state courts defending its ordinances against so-called "gentlemen's clubs," places where gentlemen ogle women who are (depending on who you talk to) either a) single-mom grad students working towards their MBAs, or b) cokeheads. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas upheld large parts of the ordinance,… More >>
  • Best Democrat

    Mario Gallegos

    You're a Democratic state senator. The Republicans have proposed a bill that you think strikes right at the heart of the democratic process. It'll pass without your vote against it. The trouble is, you've just had a liver transplant and are pretty damn sick. What do you do? If you're Austin veteran Mario Gallegos, you bring a hospital bed into… More >>
  • Best Republican

    Kyle Janek

    Like his Democratic Best of Houston® counterpart, we've had our disagreements with State Senator Kyle Janek's record. But the anesthesiologist from West U has shown some impressive thinking on health issues. This year he helped spearhead the drive to make Texas high schools test for steroids. Anyone who's seen the giant kids being produced by some of the state's football… More >>
  • Best New Development (If the Artist's Renderings Are True)

    West Ave

    The corner of Kirby and Westheimer has always seemed undeveloped, but that's about to change big-time. Gone are the Shell station and, more sadly, Jalapeño's Restaurant. So should we expect yet another dull strip mall, maybe livened up with a few allegedly classy architectural touches? Not this time. If the artist's renderings that line the protective fences around the site… More >>
  • Best Local Magazine

    OutSmart Magazine

    Hey, Houston magazines, here's an idea: Why not have actual editorial content, as opposed to being all advertorial, all the time? Sure, reading about the "top" dentists, plastic surgeons or tree-trimmers in the city (i.e., dudes who bought the biggest ads) is fun, but OutSmart is one of the few local pubs that has a good balance of entertainment and… More >>
  • Best Free Wi-Fi Spot

    Agora

    This Greek-themed coffee shop and wine bar is like a posh library during the day. Students quietly type away on laptops while sipping on assorted coffee drinks. The large two-story building houses all sorts of Greek relics among the scattered tables and couches. And if you feel like a quiet evening alone surfing the singles on MySpace, well, you can… More >>
  • Best Community Newspaper

    West University Examiner

    Still adapting to the Internet age, newspapers everywhere are emphasizing more localized coverage. Few do local news as well as the West University Examiner, which excels in identifying crime patterns, explaining development deals and crafting human-interest profiles. And, in the age of Craigslist, it's one of the-few rags out there still worth perusing for its classifieds section. Garage sales, ­anyone?… More >>
  • Best Cemetery

    Woodlawn Funeral Home and Cemetery

    We are lucky enough to know of Wood­lawn's superiority over most local cemeteries not because we were clients, but because of a high school assignment to collect a "romantic" gravestone rubbing. The assignment wasn't easy. We went to the oldest cemetery, where stones — if they said anything at all — said stuff like, "Died valiantly, fighting women's right to… More >>
  • Best Place to Dumpster Dive

    Tanglewood Neighborhood

    First of all, it's important to note that Dumpster diving does not actually entail climbing inside and rummaging around one of those giant metal bins. It's more like yard-sale shopping, except nobody has taken the time to set up poster-board signs and sit outside collecting quarters for old flannels and ashtrays. Some call it alley-shopping, since essentially what you're doing… More >>
  • Best Public Library Branch

    McGovern-Stella Link

    So many libraries are stale, stiff, silent. They’re more like mortuaries than hubs of active study and learning. Not so McGovern-Stella Link, located in a modern glass and brick building with sleek furniture, efficient computers, a buzzing snack area and loads of natural light. With a line that forms outside on most mornings, it passes the most important test for… More >>
  • Best Route into the City

    Bissonnet

    If you reside on the northeast side, Bissonnet Street won't do you much good. But if you're anywhere on the southwest side, Bissonnet represents not only the best but also the most sane route to downtown. Offering a much-needed respite from Houston's choked, monotonous highways, Bissonnet will glide you through economically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods such as Sharpstown, Gulfton, Bellaire… More >>
  • Best New Law/City Ordinance

    Smoking Ban

    No new local laws have stirred up such attention and made the dividing line so clear between those who support and those who oppose the law. Drinking smokers despise the ban, which has forced their nicotine-loving habit outdoors. Nonsmokers and bar employees rejoice in its passage, because they will now smell only of cheap booze once they leave the bar,… More >>
  • Best Landmark

    Mecom Fountain

    Sure, it isn't as grand as Trevi or as recognizable as Buckingham, but Mecom Fountain hands-down wins the title of Houston's best landmark. The elegant 1960s fountain serves as a gateway to the museum district, the Medical Center, Hermann Park and Rice University. Its Roman-style colonnades and 12-foot-tall water jets provide European flair to our decidedly un-European city.… More >>
  • Best Local Blog

    Call Of Da Wild

    Outrageous and provocative, the local blog Call of Da Wild offers original reporting and commentary on scandal-plagued Texas Southern University in a voice that is both insanely pissed-off and fall-down hilarious. Be warned: it's filled with race- and sex-baiting, often reducing the school's woes to a steamy, very non-PC daytime soap opera whose major and minor players engage in booze-fueled… More >>
  • Best Regular Public Speaker at City Council Meetings

    Senator Robert Horton

    Unless he's throwing eggs at them, Senator Robert Horton is generally ignored by City Council members, who are so used to his cryptic mutterings that there's no novelty left to them. To wit, an entry from one council meeting reads: "Senator Robert Horton...appeared and stated that he was God and continued expressing his personal opinions until his time expired." The… More >>
  • Best Flack

    Jimmy Castillo of Lawndale Art Center

    Sure, most people think this award should go to some city official or corporate PR person, but you'd be surprised how hard it is to find a good publicist in the art world. Our entertainment desk is thankful there are folks like Jimmy Castillo of Lawndale Art Center, who is always quick to return a phone call and send over… More >>
  • Best Interstate Church

    La Luz Del Mundo

    It took what seemed like years to build, and then, voilà, there it was. But what is it? There amid many a gun shop, porn emporium and used-tire barn, rising out of the pine-tree-lined concrete gash that is the Eastex Freeway, now stands this vast apparition, looking like nothing so much as a giant, golden-domed slab of Greek Revival wedding… More >>
  • Best School

    YES College Preparatory School

    One day, if we're lucky, YES College Preparatory School will have dozens of campuses across Houston. So far there are four. Well, five, actually, if you count the one about to go inside Houston Independent School District's long-struggling Lee High School. YES, which stands for Youths Engaged in Service, is the only charter school system in the state to earn… More >>
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