Uptown Sushi
Uptown Sushi The point of a first date is to ascertain whether to have a second one. You're too nervous to relax. Your chances of scoring are slim. And don't even think about bringing your A material -- for all you know, your date has a Catholic-priest uncle and wouldn't appreciate your jokes about altar boys (oops). Forget about having fun: You need to think of this evening as a series of litmus tests. And that's where Uptown Sushi comes in. This sleek Galleria-area eatery may not be Houston's answer to Nobu -- as the trendy-nistas claim -- but it does offer plenty of chances to explore the important questions. Is your date sophisticated enough to dine with beautiful people? Self-controlled enough to not get drunk on sake? Adept at handling chopsticks? It won't help with everything you need to know, but it's a good start.

Mark's American Cuisine - CLOSED
Mark's American Cuisine You're getting the brush-off, but you're getting it in style. Mark's has the proper solemnity for the most bittersweet of partings: It used to be a church, for God's sake. Mark's has tables perched high in the choir loft, vaulted ceilings and a communion rail-turned-bar. Confessions come easy in a place like this, and you can feel comfortable letting a tear drip down your cheek and into your raspberry tart. You can also slip to the bathroom, emit a few desperate sobs, and return to the table with your dignity intact.

Wyatt Chapel Community Cemetery Motorists along U.S. 290 might never realize the rich heritage hidden in the woods-shrouded lowlands about 30 miles northwest of Houston. University Drive, near the edge of the Prairie View A&M campus, has displayed a historical marker for the Wyatt Chapel graveyard for the past decade, but few outsiders know that the real thing -- the remnants of a slave cemetery -- is just to the east, down a rough, winding, quarter-mile trek through the trees. Only a handful of simple, post-slavery grave markers still stand on this former plantation ground. But the haphazard depressions in the soil loom as stark reminders of an enslaved people, most of them unable to offer more than simple trinkets or beads to mark the burial sites. But here in this silent, lush undergrowth, the atmosphere is more vivid and haunting than in the grandest of granite-adorned graveyards. The past, it seems, doesn't rest well at the Wyatt -- nor should it.

Tom Koch Every anchor, from the networks on down, has to unleash the occasional amusing asides and anecdotes -- those supposedly spontaneous but carefully scripted lines to show how human and personable these made-up personalities are. But something's different about Tom Koch; the guy from Oshkosh U (no kidding) can't help but radiate a genuine, energetic enthusiasm and love of the business. That's not easy at 5 a.m., much less so when he does it again on the same day for the afternoon broadcast. His smooth delivery and grasp of the news (he's been with the station since 1982, including several years as a reporter) can rival any street reporter or anchor. But Tom Terrific's best trait is one that beams through the TV: He knows best how to take his work seriously without taking himself too seriously. It's a lesson the rest of the anchor crews should learn.

Best Place to Meet Single Women

Valhalla
Valhalla Aren't you tired of chasing the mindless girls of the Downtown Carrie Bradshaw Impersonation Society only to discover that, when you finally catch one, she doesn't have anything to say? Well, take off your running shoes and rest those weary feet at the steps of studious Valhalla. Located in the basement of Keck Hall on the Rice University campus, the place is part beer hall and part Ivy League frat house, and it's great for meeting smart, single women. Sure, you might have to work a bit harder -- some of them may even be a touch out of your league, but then, who doesn't enjoy a challenge? And the 12-ounce cups of Shiner for under a buck mean you won't be out too much money at the end of the night. That's more than you can say for the Paris clones sipping froufrou drinks at your usual haunts.

Houston Shriners Hospital Picking the best charity is harder than it sounds. What are the criteria? The condition of the recipients? The overall effectiveness? How is the money spent? Well, if you consider all of those aspects, then Houston Shriners Hospital is the best charity to donate to this year. The hospital provides free medical care to children suffering from major bone, joint and muscle problems. These include scoliosis, brittle bone disease, limb deficiencies and spina bifida, among many others. The staff includes orthopedic surgeons, orthopedic subspecialists and pediatricians, according to the hospital spokesperson. Many of the city's finest private practitioners also volunteer their services to the 40-bed facility. But offering excellent medical care for free isn't cheap: Last year's tab was $18 million. Why not pony up your share?

The Texas Hammer (in Spanish) He may very well be the whitest guy in the world, so to hear his thick Texas tongue try to punch out, "I'm Jim Adler, the Texas Hammer," in Spanish induces unequaled laughs. Imagine an older, more uptight Ray Childress hawking lawyer services rather than automobiles. One just hopes that soon he and fellow ambulance-chaser Christian Hill will join money-grubbing forces to form the Law Offices of Adler & Hill and craft a commercial catering to Houston's growing Chinese population.

Midtown If, five or so years ago, you decided to ride your bike through Midtown, you might've felt like you were on the set of Judgment Night. But chic restaurants, hip bars, tall condos and Randalls supermarkets have replaced the area's haunted empty lots and dilapidated shacks. And what was once almost certainly a crack house is now a CVS Pharmacy. Today you might see a family casually strolling through this once-intimidating neighborhood. It's not Beaver Cleaverville just yet, but with more money pouring in and an increased police presence, it will be soon.

Dominique Sachse We don't mean to undercut her journalistic talents by saying it, but a fact's a fact: Dominique Sachse is freaking hot. There's something in that flashbulb smile that brightens a living room for the 10 p.m. newscast. Something in that pouty haircut that just says, "Give me naughty. And give me weather and sports after the break." Something in those hypnotic eyes and that tight figure. Dominique, we would never say you were one of those television anchors who just reads the news. You read the news and have us all crazy in love.

Moody Gardens
Moody Gardens Ask six different people why they've come to Moody Gardens and you'll get six different answers. It has lush gardens you can tour for free, an aquarium with amazing fish and penguins, an indoor rain forest with ocelots, tree frogs and bats, an indoor ice rink, IMAX movies and Palm Beach, where you can sunbathe on white Florida-style sand without that ungodly seaweed smell. And the hodgepodge of attractions on this 242-acre site manages to come together nicely. Moody Gardens is a little bit Epcot, a little bit Space Center Houston (except kids don't get bored as quickly) and a little bit Kew Gardens. But unlike those other places, it just doesn't seem as, um, touristy.

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