Charles in Charge
Online readers comment on "The Mayor of Montrose," by Mandy Oaklander," May 19:
Look, Houston Press: Don't be so presumptuous...You have to have an election, and your candidate must actually win before announcing someone as a mayor. And let me wish you the best of luck in trying to boot out the amazing Chris Hutto. C'mon, Press! Do a hint of homework before thinking, "Gee, this alliterative title sure is catchy." Pfft.
Point, please: I am trying to determine what the point of this article is. I find that I am having an increasingly hard time trying to determine a point in a lot of HP stories these days. Look, it would be great if Mother Teresa, Lady Di, Dolly Parton, the Dalai Lama or Oprah owned all of the gay bars in Houston so we knew our kweer dollars were going to a sweet and caring individual, but this is so not the point.
People choose a gay bar to go to based on either good drinks, customer service, comfort, atmosphere, or how cute the bartenders and other boys in the bar are. I do not know Charles Armstrong or Irwin Palchick personally. I have met Irwin once. Seems like an okay guy. The bottom line is, F Bar does come at the right time as a lot of people do feel as though Charles Armstrong does take his customers for granted (i.e., not reinvesting the money he makes into his establishments to make his bars more comfortable or appealing).
This story would have had a point if Charles Armstrong's F Bar "dilemma" was told as an economic cautionary tale about valuing customers and keeping your business current; however, instead, Mandy Oaklander decided to cheapen her piece to a trashy National Enquirer equivalent about people's "shady" pasts that should not concern anyone, nor do many people probably care about. What is your point, Mandy?
A supporter: I am fortunate to say that I have known Charles since our days in Dallas, although Charles moved to Houston before me. When my business (a gay and lesbian bookstore) began to struggle in the face of Internet competition, Charles was there to offer advice and moral support.
Like Charles, when I lived on Avondale in Montrose (before my business failed and I could no longer afford Montrose), I also took care of a small army of feral cats and have always greatly admired his efforts on behalf of these often scorned animals.
And I also must side with Charles in regard to competition — it is a capitalist world, but that does not mean one should necessarily love the enemy. In my case it was "customers" who would come in to browse the books and then proceed into my coffee shop and using the free Internet access to order their books from Amazon.
Charles and I once worked together on the Black Tie Dinner Committee, which raised thousands of dollars for GLBT organizations, and I know Charles continues to put back into the community wherever possible. While I have never been a bar person, I have been around long enough to predict that this F Bar will one day be referred to in the same tones as the Jewel Box and other bars in Houston's gay history.
Not helping: If Armstrong really wants to make a difference with these cats, he would sterilize each of them and find them a home. Stray cats carry diseases. I'm glad new bars are coming into town and getting rid of his nasty empire.
Bad business: I believe Mr Armstrong to be a good human. He has always helped out the community, whether he will admit it or not. He is private, yes, but still he has an objective to preserve the community and keep it neat and clean.
However, I am not so sure banning his ex-employees for life from his clubs in these economic times is such a good idea. Those ex-employees have lots of friends. Seems like it might hurt business, and from what I hear things aren't what they used to be.
What's the point? I co-founded a local charity. Charles Armstrong and his staff have been super-supportive and wonderful to work with, helping us provide services to the marginalized and underprivileged. Charles has done so much over the years to help us get to where we are today; for that, I will be forever in his debt. I've been to countless charity events in his clubs over the years and have seen thousands and thousands raised for charities. He has done a lot to give back to the community.
Irwin Palchick has shown nothing but kindness, generosity and the utmost in integrity, to me as a friend and to my charity. Long before F Bar was even an idea, he was working hard to raise awareness and support my charity. Since the opening of F Bar, I have seen firsthand how he continues to not only support my charity but many more — I don't think there has been one week since the opening that F Bar hasn't hosted at least one charity event.
Both men have their flaws and have made their mistakes, just as I have and you have. As for the article, I asked myself, what was the purpose, what was the redeeming quality that came from it and how did it help Houston be a better city?
A Guest Review
Online readers comment on "Bootsie's Kicks Butt," by Jason Bargas, May 19:
Loved the article: I'm a fan of Bootsie's. It's a destination restaurant, no doubt. With the quality and creativity of dishes coming out of the kitchen, it's more economical than flying to New York or San Fran for top-notch food.
Rabbit rundown: I'm sure a quick call to Chef Rucker about the rabbit would've provided you with everything you needed to know. Domesticated rabbit is not that much tougher than duck and does not need "hours and hours" in a pressure cooker! The back legs were most likely cooked slowly (I'm betting sous vide) and then breaded and fried. Brining does not make meat more tender — it changes the texture slightly and flavors the meat. If you just brine and then bread and fry rabbit legs, I guarantee you will get tough-as-boots meat.
Crap: The Rucker Rollers can cook, but this review is crap. "My advice is not to spoon too quickly through the soup, but rather let each spoonful spread across your palate and recede down your throat so that the subtle flavors have time to unfold"? This is ridiculous writing.
Not to mention that in the print version the writer uses the incorrect "palette." Also, one measly paragraph dedicated to the front of the house? Most diners want to know about the whole experience (ambience, service), not just the food.
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Food writers are supposed to know about food, right? Seems like there's a glut of food writers at the Press now. Remember when Robb Walsh could almost single-handedly handle the responsibility — and do it well? Quality, not quantity, Houston Press.
Excellent review! Your descriptions made my mouth water, and the laid-back atmosphere is what I like: no pretense, just down-home comfort. I plan to put Bootsie's on my list of "must-try restaurants" when I make my trip to Houston.