People & Places

  • Best Benefit to Living Downtown

    Not Driving a Car

    Let's face it, in a day and age when paying five bucks or possibly more for a gallon of gas has become a reality, not driving is more than just nice. It's great. Think of it: No hour-plus commutes each way with ridiculous amounts of traffic. Downtown, you can do this strange activity many Houstonians previously thought to be long… More >>
  • Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill

    Hotel ZaZa

    Do you like to impress people? Do you have a shitload of money? If you answered yes to both, then you might want to consider a stay in one (or all) of Hotel ZaZa's "­Magnificent ­Seven" theme rooms. These include the Rock Star, with "your own frosted-glass, private elevator access," mirrored walls and a ­stainless-steel kitchen. (Apparently, you have to… More >>
  • Best Radio Talk Host

    Dr. Ulysses Watkins/Family Care Health Awareness Network

    This show is so obscure it's not listed on KCOH's Web site, and station representatives gave us the name of a different Dr. Watkins when we asked who hosted the show. In fact, they weren't really sure of the show's name, either, probably because it's a mouthful. But if you tune in Sundays from 6 to 7 p.m., you will… More >>
  • Best Flack

    Dana Mattice

    We know Dana Mattice is supported by the entire Museum of Fine Arts, Houston public relations staff, but we hear her cheerful voice the most. She's always on top of whatever request we can think of — answering dumb questions (which she assures us are never dumb), sending photos, interviews and press releases, or resending one of those because they… More >>
  • Best Place to Meet Single Men

    Downtown Starbucks on West Gray

    Here's what you do: Take your wallet out of your purse before walking into this Midtown corporate coffee haven. Once inside, order your drink and dig through your purse. "I think I forgot my wallet," you cry, a damsel in distress. Most likely one of the many good-looking, suited types who frequent the location morning and afternoon will come to… More >>
  • Best Place to Meet Single Women

    Vinyl Ranch at Leon's Lounge

    They're cute, dolled up and in cowboy boots — what else could you ask for in Texas? Leon's Lounge's monthly country music installment, Vinyl Ranch, gets all the ladies in a Southern mood. Not only do you get to hear the straight-from-the-phonograph hits of Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and more, but you also get to peruse… More >>
  • Best Act of Larceny

    The Guy Who Stole the  Ambulance­ and Smashed Into the Pink Monkey Raid

    It was like a scene out of Grand Theft Auto IV: While vice cops were sorting out the detritus of a predawn raid on downtown's Pink Monkey nightclub, still more hell broke loose. A stolen ambulance with an (allegedly) intoxicated driver behind the wheel came careening down Franklin Street and smashed through the police roadblock. Before it came to rest, its… More >>
  • Best Cemetery

    Hillendahl Cemetery

    No, it doesn't have the most verdant grounds or the prettiest headstones, but there is ­something utterly Houston about this 1,100-square-foot family graveyard in Spring Branch. Could it be that it is tucked in the corner of the parking lot of a tire store on the corner of two strip-mall-ridden Spring Branch thoroughfares? Why yes, it could. The Hillendahl Cemetery… More >>
  • Best Contribution to ­Downtown Development

    Discovery Green

    Let's say it was any year up until 2008, and you were a tourist in Houston, staying downtown, and it was Saturday afternoon, and you had got your kids with you. (Bear with us here, we're on a roll.) What was there for you to do? The tunnels are closed weekends, as were most of the restaurants, and there are… More >>
  • Best Lawsuit

    Walter's on Washington Takes on Its Tormentors - CLOSED

    Walter's owner Pam Robinson had been through this before — new neighbors buy in near her previously existing nightspot and start phoning in noise complaints to the police. In fact, she had even been run off a previous location on Durham. This time around, at her nightspot on Washington, she would take the gloves off and fight back. After some… More >>
  • Best Place to Read About Naked Greed


    The business of Houston has always been business, and while the world knows us as an oil town, real estate is where it's at. Ever since Houston's founding by the Allen Brothers, this city has been all about the art of the deal, Donald Trump style. What we've been lacking until recently is coverage of this industry with the sort… More >>
  • Best Place to People Watch

    Greyhound Bus Station

    If you've ever been within a two-block radius of the downtown Greyhound Bus Station, you already know just how interesting this place can be. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it's where you can always get your people-watching fix. Cultural foreigners and foreigners in the literal sense of the word, bohemian types and people just passing through… More >>
  • Best Place to Forget the Guy/Gal Who Cheated on You

    The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club

    Nobody is ever sad at The Big Easy, at least not for long. So what if your ex got over you in like two seconds and is now engaged to a millionaire? You can't be worried about that, there's music to dance to and booze to drink. There's live music almost every night, and most often there's no cover charge… More >>
  • Best Place to Look Like You're ­Exercising When You're Really ­Cruising

    Memorial Park Jogging Trail

    Historic Camp Logan, the WWI military camp, makes up much of the area that is now Memorial Park. These days, so many couples meet and date on its jogging trails, some call it Camp Romance. Memorial Park is one of the largest parks in the country and in addition to the jogging trails, there's a pool, a golf course, tennis… More >>
  • Best White Elephant

    Tien Tao Temple - CLOSED

    Whether it is known as the Tien Tao temple or the Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace, this edifice certainly stands out in Kingsbridge Park, its typical southwest-side suburban neighborhood. This five-story pyramid-esque, vaguely Mayan-looking structure is topped by a 40-foot golden geodesic dome which is flanked by two smaller domes and two exterior staircases — the overall effect is… More >>
  • Best Radio Station

    KCOH, AM-1430

    Radio is still an art at this 56-year-old institution. The oldest black radio station in Texas has ignored the streamlining so rampant elsewhere in the industry, so the station is all-local, all-the-time. Weekday mornings, 26-year-vet Michael Harris helms current affairs show "Person to Person"; afternoons are given over to the real-life moral dilemma dramas of Wash Allen's "Confessions" and Don… More >>
  • Best Local TV Anchor

    Mike Barajas

    After almost 30 years in the news business, and more than 22 of those at Fox 26 News, anchorman Mike Barajas gives viewers a continuity that few others can. Barajas served as host of Hola Houston, a talk show that dealt with issues in the Hispanic community. He covered the first space shuttle disaster in 1986, and was there again… More >>
  • Best Local TV Talk Show

    Great Day Houston

    Along with reporter Cristina Terrill, Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan makes Houston mornings fun, lively and informative. While other talk shows skim through headlines and sensationalized teasers, Duncan explores her topics thoroughly. During a recent show on jazz, she had several performers play samples of the different styles of jazz, from bebop to fusion, and then talked with local… More >>
  • Best Spanish Language Reporter

    Pedro Rojas

    Pedro Rojas, weekend anchor for Univisión Channel 45, is more than just a pretty face. Yep, he's tall, dark and handsome (with a seriously bright white smile), but he's also a talented, experienced anchorman and reporter. Rojas has built a reputation as a caring and professional journalist, one who's willing to go the extra mile to get the story behind… More >>
  • Best Weathercaster

    Anthony Yanez

    You gotta love a guy who gets up in the middle of the night just so he can tell us Houston's weather is going to be hot. That's what KPRC-TV weatherman Anthony Yanez does: He wakes up at 2:30 a.m., is at work by 3 a.m. and is on the air by 5 a.m., giving up-to-the-minute forecasts (ah, it's going… More >>
  • Best Local TV News


    Classy, aggressive and informative without being sensationalistic. Just your average local news show, right? Sadly, not so much anymore. But KHOU is the Houston station that comes consistently close to that standard. "Defenders" Jeremy Rogalski and Mark Greenblatt are some of the best investigative reporters in town; it even looks like the station will somehow survive the departure of Mr. Hurricane,… More >>
  • Best Local TV Reporter

    Mark Greenblatt, KHOU

    Discerning viewers often cringe when a local news station's investigative team airs another hyped report, knowing they'll likely be ­subjected to a three-part, hidden-­camera ­series on some government bureaucrat ­using too many paper clips. KHOU's Defenders (ya gotta have a catchy name, of course) are ­different. Mark Greenblatt and Jeremy Rogalski entertain, inform and expose at the same time. Greenblatt… More >>
  • Best Abandoned Building

    "Fear Factory"

    We have no idea when, or why, the big "Fear Factory" sign came to rest on the side of the abandoned house at Travis and Rosalie near the big HCC high-rise in Midtown, but it's hard to imagine a more appropriate sign or a spookier-looking building. A Google search for "Fear Factory Houston" offered no clues on why the sign… More >>
  • Best Architect

    Brett Zamore of Brett Zamore Design

    Houston architect Brett Zamore was featured in Best of Houston® 2002, after he rehabbed a house as an architecture student at Rice University. The house won "Best Shotgun Shack." Zamore now runs his own company, and his designs are creating a buzz. Perhaps most notable are Zamore's "kit houses." The kits aren't preassembled, but all the materials are shipped to… More >>
  • Best Demolition

    Crowne Plaza Hotel

    A nice little urban legend was born during a few days in November. The Crowne Plaza Hotel, a 1970s relic near the Medical Center, was rigged with explosives and brought down. The trouble started when a video of the demolition showed a shadowy figure that resembled a person running through the hotel's eighth floor moments before the explosion. Creepier still,… More >>
  • Best Interstate Church

    Lakewood Church

    Lakewood Church and its guru Joel Osteen are easy targets. Osteen has a cheesy grin, his wife fights with flight attendants and even Harris County prosecutors take issue with the Lakewood "screwballs and nuts." What seems to irk people the most is the gazillion dollars Osteen makes by talking and writing about the Good Book and JC. But he's a… More >>
  • Best Truck Stop Bathroom

    Texas Truck Stop

    In John McPhee's story about truckers, driver Don Ainsworth talks about truck-stop bathrooms: "You can take a prom date to a Petro." You probably shouldn't take a prom date to the bathroom at the Texas Truck Stop, but for a lot lizzard, it's just about right. The bathroom is tucked in the rear of the store, past the video slots… More >>
  • Best Start By a New Boss

    Renu Khator, ­University of Houston

    Being the president of UH, and chancellor of the UH System, ain't easy. There are lots and lots of different constituencies demanding time, attention and money. But ever since she took on the task in January, Renu Khator has been getting effusive praise from students, faculty and other Cougars for her openness, frank talk and energy. She's visited parts of… More >>
  • Best Bureaucrat

    Susanne Theis, ­Discovery Green

    Susanne Theis is the programming director for Discovery Green, the 12-acre, $122 million park opened in downtown Houston this year. As such, she'll be responsible for getting people to the park. If her track record is any indication, she'll succeed. Theis was with the Orange Show for 25 years, helping to make it — and the Art Car Parade —… More >>
  • Best Civil Attorney

    Lloyd Kelley

    Is Lloyd Kelley the best civil attorney in Houston, home of some of the legendary giants of the courtroom? Probably not. But he is the best civil attorney this year, for no other reason than he gave us the vastly entertaining soap opera and career implosion of District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. Clumsily romantic e-mails, dumb ethnic jokes, remarkably inept explanations… More >>
  • Best Criminal Court Judge

    Mike McSpadden

    In years past, Judge Mike McSpadden was regularly in the media, creating or joining an ongoing controversy. Nowadays the veteran isn't in the limelight as much, but he still provides the fairest trial you'll get at the hang-'em-high Harris County courthouse. He knows all the tricks, he knows when a defense attorney — or even a prosecutor! — isn't as… More >>
  • Best Criminal Defense Attorney

    Danalynn Recer, Gulf Region Advocacy Center

    Your client is an illegal immigrant who got drunk and killed a cop. He's on trial in Harris County, which sends more convicts to Death Row than most hemispheres. And you somehow convince a jury to forsake the death penalty and give a sentence of life without parole? That is some lawyering. Danalynn Recer, founder of the anti-death penalty group… More >>
  • Best Local Blog

    Off the Kuff

    Charles Kuffner is one prolific blogger. He posts volumes daily at, which, by the way, is the oldest progressive-politics site in the state. He started in 2002 and has legions of fans and followers. The boy can crunch his numbers, often in mind-­boggling detail, on political races from country clerk to U.S. senator. And while he leans left, he… More >>
  • Best Local Bathroom Reading

    The Police News

    Published in Galveston and distributed throughout the region, The Police News ("Gulf Coast-Piney Woods Edition") is a fascinating combination of tabloid, blotter and public service. One front-page headline in its June issue screamed "Toddler: 'I Don't Want to Die'...Then Mom Stabbed Her" — 23 times before cutting the four-year-old's throat, in fact—while next to it was a captivating first-person account… More >>
  • Best Hidden Neighborhood

    Stella Link near ­Pershing Middle School

    For years, the area surrounding Stella Link between Bellaire Boulevard and North Braeswood was a fairly unremarkable part of town. The homes were the standard ranches from the '60s or so, and there wasn't much to set it apart. But recently Pershing Middle School opened a shining new building to replace its crumbling facility. And that new school fits into… More >>
  • Best Local Magazine


    OutSmart has been a consistent Best Of winner, and until they start putting out a crappy product, they'll likely remain so. Instead of crap, however, they consistently provide insightful coverage of the city through a GLBT lens — politics, entertainment and history. The writing is as sharp as the design, and the magazine often scores Q&As with big-name stars. Houston… More >>
  • Best Move by an Appellate Lawyer

    Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer, Getting the Gag Order Lifted in the Teen Killer Case

    The murder trial of Ashley Paige Benton fascinated Houston — a teen girl involved in a gang fight in Montrose, where she stabbed another teen to death. Her first trial ended in a hung jury; as the retrial process began, the trial judge entered a gag order. That kept Benton's media-savvy and sound-bite-smart lawyers, Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer, from… More >>
  • Best Piece of Aviation History

    The 1940 Air Terminal Museum

    There was a time when air travel was not a giant pain in the ass. When you went to sleek terminals that reeked of the romantic adventure of flying, where you walked out to your plane and up one of those stairway ramps past the propellers, where there wasn't a sneaker search or a Starbucks in sight. You can still… More >>
  • Best Renovation

    Downtown Library

    It took two years and $17 million, but Houston finally has its downtown library back. Was it worth the wait? Not for some purists, maybe, who have carped that the place no longer seems as book-centric as a library should be. But the rest of us can revel in the wider, airier aisles, the coffee bar, the Wii room, everything… More >>
  • Best 15 Minutes of Fame

    Roland Carnaby

    This one is just waiting to be turned into a movie: In May, a Houston police officer pulled over Roland Carnaby for speeding. Carnaby presented some sort of ID with "Central ­Intelligence Agency" stamped on it, plus a concealed handgun permit. The officer also reported that Carnaby was acting nervously. After some talk about who at the CIA could vouch… More >>
  • Best Crime

    The Grave-Robbing Stoners

    Probably everyone knows the apple trick, and we had a high school friend who once ­MacGyvered a crude bong out of a half-deflated basketball, but this one takes the cake: In May, Houston police arrested three teenagers for digging up the skeleton of an 11-year-old boy buried in 1921 and using his skull for a bong. They were charged with… More >>
  • Best TV Commercial

    Just Oxtails

    We generally don't see a lot of soul-food ­restaurant commercials. You've got the ­freakin' Mandola's every two seconds, but soul-food joints generally earn their rep through word-of-mouth, not blitzkrieg broadcasting. But owner Kenneth Washington's commercial is pretty much what you'd expect a soul-food commercial to be: a dude talking about how good his restaurant's food is while showing video of… More >>
  • Best TV Personality

    Ernie Manouse

    Charlie Rose isn't the only PBS-head who can conduct intelligent, one-on-one, no-frills interviews with a variety of interesting personalities. Houston's Ernie Manouse, host of InnerVIEWS, has been doing just that for years. His diverse guests have included Molly Ivins, Calvin Trillin, k.d. lang, Isaac Hayes, Jamie Foxx and Anne Rice. Manouse asks smart, thoughtful questions and never tries to hog… More >>
  • Best New Ordinance

    West University Cell Phone Ban (Around West U. Elementary)

    No one likes The Man telling them when they can and can't have groundbreaking intellectual discussions about genocide in Darfur or the subprime mortgage meltdown, which, face it, are the kinds of things most people talk about on their cells while driving. But here's one instance where The Man is looking out for The Children, and he's saying: "Hey, dumbass,… More >>