People & Places

  • Best Act of Kindness

    The Innocence Project of Texas/University of St. Thomas Journalism Students

    "Kindness" might be too frivolous a word to describe the heroic undoing of a terrible injustice. Anthony Graves spent 18 years on death row for the horrific slaughter of an entire family, his fate sealed in part by the word of another convicted killer who later recanted. In 2002, after he had already served eight years in prison, University of… More >>
  • Best Flack

    Kelly Cripe

    If Cripe's name looks familiar, it might be because you've read her statements when she was with Continental Airlines, or her passionate involvement with a mayoral task force formed to fix the city's tarnished animal control department. More recently, embattled City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones tapped Cripe to help explain her side in an oft-confusing, largely idiotic investigation that hinged in… More >>
  • Best New Approach to Mass Transit

    Metro CEO George Greanias

    Few local government agencies were as dysfunctional as Metro for the last ten years or so. Run by a secretive, defensive management that disdained transparency and any criticism, the agency ran up big costs, got little done and put Houston's projected light-rail system at great risk by trying to cut legal corners. Not long after Mayor Annise Parker took office,… More >>
  • Best 15 Minutes of Fame

    Nikki Araguz

    This might be a bit of a cheat, because Nikki Araguz — who first came into our consciousness when her firefighting husband died in the line of duty and it was subsequently revealed she was born with a penis (or a penis-like birth defect, depending on what version she's telling at the time) — has managed to have multiple 15-minute… More >>
  • Best Place for a First Date

    Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

    Ah, nature. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and Mother Earth is at her most fertile. And if you're on a first date at Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, so are you. Wander together hand-in-hand on meandering paths bright with flowers, and breathe deeply in the heady herb garden. Copses of tall trees offer secluded getaways, perfect for making small… More >>
  • Best Free Wi-Fi Spot

    Black Hole Cafe

    This little Montrose coffeehouse serves beer and wine, but what makes it a great place to do a little after-hours work or telecommuting is the spacious dining room — more so than its Heights cousin Antidote — and free wi-fi. You'll see plenty of students here pecking away on their laptops or updating their Facebook pages. Their laundry is probably… More >>
  • Best Junior Geniuses

    Daniel Yun and Amy W. Jiang, Bellaire High School

    There must be something in the water. When it was announced in March that Bellaire High School's Daniel Yun had scored a perfect 2400 on his SAT exam, there was jubilation and high fives all round. Then in May, Houston ISD announced that another Bellaire student, Amy W. Jiang, pulled a perfect ACT score of 36. Odds of either one… More >>
  • Best Place for a He to Be a She

    Baba Yega Restaurant

    Whether as a place to test the waters for the first time or as a favorite haunt for someone with a long history of cross-dressing/transgenderism, Baba Yega is the perfect place for a he to be a she (or vice versa). The cozy atmosphere, the diverse clientele and the caring staff all add up to a welcoming, supportive setting where… More >>
  • Best Visitor

    Gabrielle Giffords

    Though she blessed us with her presence under some of the most horrifying circumstances ever, we were happy to welcome Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with open arms as she recovered from a gunshot wound to the head. On January 21, approximately two weeks after the Tucson shooting spree that left six people dead, Giffords was transferred to the TIRR Memorial… More >>
  • Best Thinker: Using Animals for Therapy

    Red Dun Ranch

    The horses we see in Houston at the rodeo every March aren't the only ones in town. There's plenty of whinnying and neighing going on over at Red Dun Ranch, in the name of therapy. Laurie Baldwin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and her colleagues at Red Dun Ranch help these noble creatures whisper to us. While they also have an… More >>
  • Best Cemetery

    Harris County Cemetery II (Paupers' Cemetery)

    Though not the most aesthetically pleasing cemetery in the city, this final resting place for the indigent and unidentified is especially moving. It's especially sad to consider that, with roughly 13,000 people buried over the site's 18 acres, the cemetery is almost out of room. For many souls buried here, their stories will never be fully known. Others met all-too-tragic… More >>
  • Best Historic Preservation

    Hotel Galvez & Spa

    Now the only historic beachfront hotel left on the Gulf Coast, the Hotel Galvez & Spa has just completed an $11 million renovation in celebration of its 100th anniversary. Owners George Mitchell and his family have made several updates to the property, modernizing it while maintaining its turn-of-the-century charm. The hotel's grand multi-paned windows have been restored to their original… More >>
  • Best Lawyer

    Nicole Casarez

    Texans are used to high-profile criminal cases where, let's face it, the defendant is stone-cold guilty but has the means to get a supremely skilled and supremely expensive lawyer to bitch-slap a prosecutor's weak case. But what happens when that defendant isn't loaded, and the prosecutor is especially rabid, to the point where, exculpatory evidence be damned, he's going to… More >>
  • Best New Professor

    Bun B, Rice University

    Rice University may be known as one of the leading private universities in the South, but it's not known for being trill. Or it wasn't. This past spring, one of the greatest Southern rappers of all time doubled as a professor of Religious Studies, lecturing on the parallels between hip-hop and different faiths. Bun B, a Baptist, partnered up with… More >>
  • Best Local TV Commercial

    Attorney Jim Adler's "Junkyard Dog" Spot

    Attorney Jim Adler has built a reputation on loud commercials touting his legal acumen, likening his approach and effectiveness to that of a particular blunt-faced toolbox staple. But lately, he's been tinkering with a new metaphor: the junkyard dog. In what appears to be a spot filmed on location in an actual junkyard, Adler is practically frothing at the mouth,… More >>
  • Best Appellate Judge

    Terry Jennings, 1st Court of Appeals

    Last year, the prosecution-lovin' judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals declared that the state's lower appellate courts could no longer reverse cases because of factual insufficiency — in essence, whenever the evidence was alarmingly weak but a jury had nevertheless convicted. Terry Jennings of the 1st Court of Appeals didn't take too kindly to the ruling. "This, respectfully, the… More >>
  • Best Use of a Smartphone

    RodeoHouston App

    If the traffic alone at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo gets you stressed, the event's new iPhone app, launched this year, might at least ease some of the pain of coordinating your visit to one of the biggest events in Houston. The app features driving directions, a way to map your parking spot in the concrete maze that is… More >>
  • Best South Asian Temple

    Sri Meenakshi Devasthanam

    Inspired by the grand Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, India, this Pearland vision is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Meenakshi. The ornate carvings and curves of the buildings in the temple complex will sweep you away to sweltering Southern India, as will the spicy vegetarian fare on sale there. If you go, expect to do more than gawk, as when we… More >>
  • Best Campaigner to Improve Bikeways

    Tom McCasland

    Because most of them are aligned with Houston's waterways, most of Houston's bike trails run east-west. Getting north and south can be a dangerous chore, but many people believe the solution is relatively easy: convert miles and miles of Houston's utility easements for dual-purpose as bike (and hiking) trails. The snag has always been liability — CenterPoint Energy does not… More >>
  • Best Local TV News Reporter

    KHOU's Mark

    Well, this certainly isn't a surprise: KHOU's Mark Greenblatt winning our Best TV News Reporter award. After all, he won it in 2008 and 2010. But if you're thinking we're stuck in a rut or something, in our defense the guy just keeps coming up with compelling investigative pieces that deservedly rack up high-profile awards. In the past it's been… More >>
  • Best Criminal Defense Attorney

    Katherine Scardino

    A lot of people worked long and hard to get Anthony Graves exonerated and off Death Row, but it was Houston's Katherine Scardino who got the job done. Working with her partner from Angleton, Jimmy Phillips, Scardino went into the heart of darkness that the rural Texas judicial system can sometimes be and won. She gambled that former superstar Harris… More >>
  • Best Sustainable Dwelling

    Rosalie HAUS

    This year, a group of enterprising young professionals turned a flooded, foreclosed home in Midtown into Houston's first green co-op. With a rainwater cistern that powers the toilets, a worm farm and a huge heap of compost, the whole house is a bastion of sustainability. There's even a greasel: a Mercedes-Benz fueled by leftover fryer oil from a downtown Chinese… More >>
  • Best Medical Breakthrough

    Defib Task Force: Second Chance AEDs Pads

    Future victims of cardiac arrest just got a few extra seconds added to their window of rescue time thanks to the Defib Task Force. A group of Rice University bioengineering students (Lisa Jiang, Joanna Nathan, Justin Lin, Carl Nelson and Brad Otto), along with some experts (Texas Heart Institute's Mehdi Razavi and Rice University lecturer Renata Ramos), developed new pads… More >>
  • Best New Downtown Park

    Market Square

    Not long ago, we were walking downtown and became aware of a foul odor. We looked around and were aghast to discover that the residents of the high-rise condos across the street had obviously been using the patch of grass by our feet as a toilet for their dogs. This never would have happened in Market Square, where the dog… More >>
  • Best Wheat-Paste Poster Artist


    Coolidge, Cutthroat, Eyesore and Dual all justifiably have their fervent partisans, but our absolute favorite is 2:12. That could be simply because we are junkies for color, and 2:12 uses lots of it, much more than wheat-pasters like Cutthroat and Dual or even a stencil painter like 'Lidge. 2:12 hybridizes their approaches — much of the drafting is done on… More >>
  • Best Bright Idea

    Super Wi-Fi

    A team of grad students at Rice University finally figured out a way to make use of those now-defunct broadcast television frequencies — use them to carry a downgraded wi-fi signal to Houston-area homes that previously could not access the free citywide wi-fi network. Student Ryan Guerra created equipment that can "translate" a traditional wi-fi signal to a lower frequency,… More >>
  • Best New Building

    Mai's Restaurant

    Mai's Restaurant was started in 1978 by the Nguyen family as a sandwich and coffee shop. It went on to become a Houston institution with a large menu of Vietnamese favorites. After the restaurant was destroyed by a fire in 2010, the family, led by Nguyen granddaughter Anna Pham, rebuilt rather than shuttered the place. What was a rather nondescript… More >>
  • Best New Ecosystem

    The African Forest, Houston Zoo

    Since opening last December, the Houston Zoo's African Forest habitat has drawn thousands of visitors to marvel at the latest addition, years in the making, spread out over six and a half acres. Populated with charismatic families of chimpanzees, giraffes and white rhinos, the African Forest also educates visitors about the plight of the real African Forest, and challenges them… More >>
  • Best Criminal Court Judge

    Maria Jackson

    Correction: Former State District Judge Caprice Cosper has never expressed the opinion that she has been impressed with her successor, Judge Maria Jackson. The Houston Press regrets the error. When she was elected to the 339th Criminal District Court in 2008 as part of the Obama-led Democratic sweep, Maria Jackson already had three strikes against her: She had defeated Caprice Cosper,… More >>
  • Best Place to Encounter Alligators

    Brazos Bend State Park

    With its antediluvian palmettos, teeming sloughs and oxbow lakes, and mighty live oaks, a trip to Brazos Bend can feel like time-travel to the Cretaceous Period. That goes double, or triple, when you encounter one of the park's dozens upon dozens of wild alligators. It's surreal enough when you see them on one of the more well-traveled trails, like Elm… More >>
  • Best Civil Court Judge

    Patricia Kerrigan

    Patricia Kerrigan was appointed to the 190th District bench by Governor Rick Perry in 2007 after a career mostly spent defending corporate clients, so the attorneys who sue those corporations might have been excused if they felt some doubts about how she'd do on the bench. But Kerrigan has proven to be a fair arbiter willing to listen to both… More >>
  • Best Benefit to Living Downtown


    Say what you want about downtown; with the addition of the light rail and increasingly landscaped and well-tended pedestrian areas, it's never been easier to get around by foot if you live in the CBD. Don't want to endure the mid-day heat in your suit? Take the tunnels and walk your ass all over town in air-conditioned comfort. Otherwise, you… More >>
  • Best Recovery Program

    Cornerstone Recovery Program

    Got a teen in trouble with drugs? Cornerstone Recovery Program is an outpatient service equipped to help you and your child. Firmly rooted in the tenets of the 12-Step program, Cornerstone provides comprehensive A-to-Z treatment by a qualified staff, many of whom have personal history with addiction in their families. Cornerstone is concerned with long-lasting results, so each teen patient… More >>
  • Best Charity

    Neighborhood Centers Inc.

    If there were a Fortune 500 of charitable organizations in the U.S., no doubt Neighborhood Centers would be on that list. With the dynamic Angela Blanchard at its helm since 1998, the nonprofit — begun in 1904 as an "affordable nursery" by Alice Graham Baker (yes, those Bakers) — has swallowed up Houston and the Gulf Coast. It has 60… More >>
  • Best Scientific Breakthrough

    Alan Levander and Team, Rice University

    The asthenosphere and lithosphere don't usually concern us, but thankfully a brainiac team over at Rice University led by Alan Levander has them on their radar. There's a huge section of land known as the Colorado Plateau; it has a "rising while it's sinking" quality that's had scientists scratching their heads for a while. Seems the bottom layers (that's the… More >>
  • Best Think Tank

    James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy

    The Baker Institute is the place to turn for the latest trends in national and international affairs, and how to change them. A nonpartisan think tank, it brings together experts across all disciplines — academia, media, business and nonprofits. Journalists, policymakers, even U.S. presidents have lectured and hosted seminars at the Baker Institute. Fellows teach classes and seminars at Rice,… More >>
  • Best Law Office

    Tim Hootman

    In selecting sites for their offices, most lawyers go for weighty solemnity or tried-and-true antique charm — think vintage Heights Boulevard arts-and-crafts bungalow. Not appellate court lawyer Tim Hootman. His riotously colored assemblage of old rail cars — a caboose, a boxcar and an old Pullman sleeper — on the corner of Pease and Dowling is just plain fun. You… More >>
  • Best Thinker: Getting Electricity into Homes

    Wind Power in Texas

    Hard as it may be to believe, Texas is actually on the green cutting-edge when it comes to providing electricity, thanks to its enthusiastic adoption of wind power. The blustery, abandoned Panhandle is tailor-made for windmills, but other areas of the state are just as perfect. The world's largest windmill farm is a billion-dollar operation with more than 600 huge… More >>
  • Best Cultural Corner

    Bissonnet and Rampart

    The run-down plaza near the intersection of Bissonnet and Rampart may not look like much, but this is no ordinary strip mall. It's the cheapest trip around the world you'll ever take. At Maru Grocery, Houston's one-stop shop for all things Ethiopian, you can buy fresh spices, just-made injera and a slew of Ethiopian cookbooks. For a bit of magick,… More >>
  • Best Local Democrat

    State Representative Scott Hochberg

    It was a brutal legislative session for public education in Texas this year, as the Tea Party Caucus demanded budget cuts that had districts slashing programs and laying off teachers. Democrats like Scott Hoch­berg were hopelessly outnumbered, but did the best they could fighting rear-guard actions to protect as much as possible. Hoch­berg has long made himself one of the… More >>
  • Best Local Republican

    State Representative Dan Huberty

    Let's face it: It was not a good year for Republicans in the legislature, unless by "good" you mean "getting everything they wanted passed." Which is probably how they define it, sure. But the session turned into an orgy of slashing budgets for health and education and passing a bunch of social-issue bills that seemed generated from your cranky uncle's… More >>
  • Best Place to See Wildlife in the City

    Memorial Park Mountain Bike Trails

    The north side of Memorial Park may be where all the eye candy is, but the south side is the less-beaten path, featuring a winding network of multi-use and all-terrain dirt trails for hiking and biking. It's also perfect for wildlife spotting. During the day it's a haven to butterflies, squirrels and birds, like woodpeckers and jays. Toward dusk you… More >>
  • Best Thinker: Flood Control Innovator

    City Councilman Stephen Costello

    No one who lives here needs to be told that Houston can flood every now and then. Doing something about it, though, can be intimidating — drainage and flood projects can be hugely expensive, take years and years to plan, approve and build, and only affect limited areas. Stephen Costello and others decided to take a big-picture approach and rolled… More >>
  • Best Place to Change a Child's Life

    Texas Children's Hospital

    You only have to hear Robin Dysart's story to understand the life-changing work being done by the staff of dedicated doctors, nurses and researchers at Texas Children's Hospital. Dysart's nine-year-old son had suffered from epileptic seizures his whole life, often as many as two or three an hour. As the seizures became more and more severe, Dysart and her husband… More >>
  • Best Architect

    Peter Stone and Kelly Barlow

    The Initiatives for Houston grant program already acknowledged this year's winners for Best Architects with a $2,500 check for their Emergency Core project. The Rice University School of Architecture students are designing a sustainable, livable and, most importantly, affordable alternative to disaster relief shelters. Stone and Barlow set out to address many of the problems displaced persons saw in recent… More >>
  • Best Place to Reinvent Yourself

    Houston Public Library

    If information is power, the Houston Public Library can make you King Kong. Forget about those shushing librarians guarding stacks of books. Today's HPL system is more like a vast multimedia network filled with experts and information. It's all there, at your fingertips, everything you ever wanted to know about everything you ever wanted to know. Start off a regular… More >>
  • Best Act of Larceny

    Andy Surface, Condé Nast Swindler

    It wasn't the perfect crime, but it certainly took the largest amount of cojones. Andy Surface of Alvin set up a fake business venture that sounded kinda like the company that does the printing for Condé Nast magazines, including The New Yorker and Vogue. He then sent out e-mail invoices for upwards of $8 million. The crazy part? The publisher… More >>