It’s time once again for the Best of H Texas. Unlike other Houston “Best of” lists, we searched high and low for what makes the Bayou City unique, instead of going with the usual categories like Best Barbecue or Best Band.
The overwhelming majority of our “Best of” list are people, places and events that can only be found in Houston and are just a few things that make our city such a wonderful place to live. Houston is home, and just like our own homes, there are little, sometimes silly nuances that establish personality and character. That’s what our staff strived to find for our annual list.
With that being said, we proudly present our 2007 Best of H Texas.
Best television personality
While Houstonians have claimed this KPRC-TV anchor as their own since she exploded on the scene in 1993, Dominique Sachse was actually born in Florida. Her ability to uniquely tell a story while accurately relay facts coupled with her fashion sense and sheer beauty make her an easy choice for H Texas’ best TV personality.
Earning viewers’ trust is never easy, but Sacshe’s style and composure have entrenched her in Houston living rooms on weekdays at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. The anchor’s reputation has earned her honors from the Associated Press, the Houston Press Club as well as a prestigious Emmy Award.
The responsibility of a major market prime-time anchor is not lost on Sachse.
“People are turning to you for information about what’s going on in their world, and you have to be credible, reliable and relatable in how you present it,” she says. “That’s my responsibility to the viewer. It’s a defining moment to connect with them and establish a relationship. To me, that’s the key to being an effective news anchor, and it’s what will determine if they come to you time and time again.”
Among the most popular graduates of the University of Houston, Sacshe continues to support her alma mater and journalism students who choose to follow in her footsteps, and was named Outstanding Young Communications Alumnus by UH. Her Cougar pride still runs deeply, as she has been a fixture on different UH alumni boards and raises money through the annual Dominique Sachse Hoops and Hardball golf tournament for UH men’s and women’s sports. Her heart is as big as Texas, as she also is very active in causes for children and pets.
Sacshe said she is proud to serve the city and it is the Houstonians who keep her bound here.
“So far, Houston has been the right place for me, both personally and professionally. I’ve lived here since 1975, so I have a great deal of history in this city, which provides a strong platform for me as a news anchor,” she explains. “However, I’m ultimately here because of the viewers. They decide your longevity in a market, and for that, I owe them a great deal of gratitude!”
Best place we miss
From the thrilling Greezed Lightnin’ to the relaxing AstroWay sky rides, ASTROWORLD was the setting for summer fun and memories for countless Houstonians and visitors. The brainchild of Harris County Judge Roy Hofienz, AstroWorld opened in 1968 as an addition to the AstroDome complex. The original park included eight themed areas, but by 1976, the facility expanded and the world-famous Texas Cyclone was opened. Several attractions and rides were known as some of the biggest and tallest in the United States and the world. However, the park closed on Oct. 30, 2005 — just 15 days after Greezed Lightnin’ went for its 1 millionth ride. Today, the park has been cleared and the signature entrance bridge, crossing from the AstroDome complex to the park grounds over Loop 610, is all that remains of what was once the best place in Texas for fun.
Best Place to Get Stuck in Traffic
Hey, we know Houston traffic can rush by at the speed of stampeding turtles; but if there is a place to get stuck, it’s definitely Montrose. Perhaps Houston’s friendliest neighborhood for pedestrians, Montrose Blvd. and the surrounding streets, are lined with plenty of options to lose yourself while waiting for rush hour traffic to dissipate. For a peaceful after-work get away, check out the Menil Collection (www.menil.org; 1515 Sul Ross), a free museum housing some of the world’s premiere art pieces. Afterwards, get a bite to eat at the Black Labrador (www.blacklabradorpub.com; 4100 Montrose), a great, authentic English pub. With a menu featuring hamburgers and traditional fare from across the pond, who says English food has to be boring? If you have a passion for fashion, stop by the Leopard Lounge (1637 Westheimer) for a truly unique clothing experience. This resale shop has everything from concert T-shirts to one-of-a-kind skirts and tops. Do you have a great story from Def Leppard’s 1987 tour stop at the Summit? Chances are the Leopard Lounge has the shirt.
Best tour in Houston
The Downtown Tunnel System
Far beneath (20 feet below street level to be exact) Houston’s majestic skyline lies a series of corridors lined with shops and eateries, all connecting some of downtown’s most important business centers. The downtown Houston tunnel system is a seven-mile long network of passageways that have become a culture all its own. Houston’s weather can change from 100 degrees to a 100 percent chance of rain in a heartbeat; luckily for downtown workers and visitors, dentists, florists, salons and a shopping mall call the cavernous network home. The Tunnel System supports downtown with most every service imaginable without ever leaving the heart of the city. Discover Houston (www.discoverhoustontours.com) offers public tours of the Tunnel and other downtown locales four days a week.
Best place to be seen
It’s where Houston’s beautiful people go to see and be seen and is a frequent playground for celebrities visiting the Bayou City. Mix in top-notch bottle service and some of the best beats around and the result is Crome. Located at 2815 South Shepherd, Crome offers H-Town’s best scenery, be it the men, the women or the cars parked outside. Weekly events such as Sundae Fundae patio parties have proven to be a huge hit with the city’s elite and party-goers. All-out theme parties such as their Oct. 27 Halloween bash have become the talk of the town. Dress to impress and if you show up on the right night, you can party with the likes of Hilary Duff, Jamie Foxx, Nickleback, Vida Guerra, Lindsey Lohan or Robert Horry. With corporate party packages available, everybody can be a somebody at Crome.
Best place to go on a first date
The Burke Baker Planetarium
When there’s only one chance to make a first impression, make sure it’s a good one. The Burke Baker Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is a great way to show your date that it’s cool to be cultured. During normal business hours, the domed theater presents shows such as Passport to the Universe, a star-studded tour of the Milky Way and beyond narrated by Tom Hanks. On Saturdays at 6 p.m. the Planetarium rocks to the sounds of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon during a revolutionary spectacular light show.
Best place to walk the dog
Millie Bush Bark Park
While dog parks are popping up across the Houston area, the Millie Bush Bark Park remains the city’s best place for man’s best friend. The first dog park in the Harris County parks system is named after former First Dog Millie. Spanning 13 acres of land within George Bush Park, the Bark Park provides all the outdoor amenities for our four-legged friends. A walking trail winds through the park and benches dot the landscape. Featuring small and large dog areas (complete with corresponding fire hydrants); trees; doggie showers, ponds and fountains, Millie Bush Bark Park is definitely a place where every dog has its day.
Best dessert to splurge on
Molten Chocolate Cake
Do your knees get weak at the thought of ooey, gooey chocolate running down a mountain of decadent chocolate cake? Does your dentist take their family on a Mediterranean cruise after every one of your visits? Chances are you indulge in the Molten Chocolate Cake from the Grand Lux Café. This sinful treat has delighted Houstonians since the Grand Lux Café opened at 5000 Westheimer. The idea is simple — a chocolate cake with a warm chocolate center served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream; the result completes any chocoholic’s dream. Make sure you order this dessert when you order your entrée because they make it fresh to order and it takes about 30 minuets to prepare.
Houston’s Best Place to Accidentally Learn Something
St. Arnold’s Brewing Company
Nestled in a small warehouse district in the northwest part of Houston lies a learning experience unlike any other. The St. Arnold’s Brewing Company is Texas’ oldest craft brewery. Co-founded by Rice graduate Brock Wagner in 1993, the brewery has become a location for sudsy camaraderie and has gained a cult-like following among beer lovers and non-drinkers alike.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Wagner says. “The fact that people come out here and enjoy themselves is great. They bring their friends, family and out of town guests and now it’s a place that Houstonians are proud of. We really just wanted to make Houston a better place to live and we think we have accomplished that.”
Every Saturday at 1 p.m., hundreds of visitors armed with steins, glasses, lawn chairs and tied-dyed T-shirts gather in the parking lot of the brewery (2522 Fairway Park Dr.) for the $5 tour and beer tasting. Wagner actually conducts the majority of the tours himself.
“Every single one of our beers is made here at this brewery,” Wagner says. “I think what surprises most people is that our beers are made from only four ingredients.”
Unlike beers that are mass produced at gigantic breweries across the country, Wagner is proud to say his ingredients are actually pronounceable and easily recognized.
Each tasting event features four of St. Arnold’s seasonal and year-round beers. For the non-drinkers and designated drivers in the crowd, St. Arnold’s brews their own root beer, which can only be described as the nectar of the gods.
Best reason to go outside
Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens
Houston has two seasons — hot and not as hot. Sure there are those two weeks out of the year that it freezes, followed by our monsoon season. But throughout the year, the Mercer Arboretum is one of the most beautiful places in Houston. Every month of the year, there is some kind of color explosion. Covering 254 acres along Cypress Creek, the land started as a 14-acre track owned by the late Charles and Thelma Mercer in 1949. They planted exotic and native trees, shrubbery and flowers creating a botanic paradise. Harris County purchased the land in 1974 on the promise that it would be retained as an educational garden for the public to enjoy. Over the years, the county purchased additional land surrounding the Mercer area, adding to the living museum. Tours can be reserved throughout the year and self-guided tours can be taken during business hours.
Best place to watch the game with buds
The Wet Spot
There’s something about game day that brings friends and strangers together. With so many professional and college teams calling Houston home, GP’s Original Wet Spot (160 W. Gray) is the one place where all those fans can come together. With not one, but two steak nights (Monday and Thursday) and beer specials throughout the week, the Wet Spot is famous around town for some great eats (it was H Texas’ best bar food in 2005). Be sure to check out the weekend specials for college and pro football. It’s a tailgate party complete with more than 30 TVs and a full kitchen just for you and your best friends and fellow fans. If you aren’t having a good time, you aren’t at the Wet Spot.
Best drive to feel like a million bucks
Houston is filled with millionaires and many of them live along Kirby Drive. Take a drive through Houston’s elite neighborhood — River Oaks and gasp at its grandeur. Kirby Drive spotlights the eccentricities and excesses of the Bayou City’s upper crust and allows one to envision their lifestyle. Mansions, lush greenery, classic cars and history are on full display in this privileged area. The drive allows us to stare in awe while praying that we don’t rear-end the person in front of us. One may never live in River Oaks, but at least we can feel like a million bucks as we drive through the neighborhood.
Best hotel pool
Hilton Americas Hotel
Hidden on the 24th floor of the Hilton Americas Hotel is a modern-themed paradise. A 75-foot indoor pool invites guests into its hidden abyss, offering an escape from the humidity and concrete surrounding downtown. The design-centric pool is unlike any other because of its floor to ceiling windows that surrounds the entire pool area. While looking at Houston’s skyscrapers, one can not help but feel somewhat of a voyeur. That is why this pool is the best; it is decadent, exclusive and guests are able to swim in the city’s majestic skyline.
Best place to sweat
Renting a bike on the Seawall
Sweating is a way of life for Houstonians, so it was hard to narrow it down to the best. Just walk outside any time between March and October and the sweating begins. With the endless possibilities, H Texas decided that fun should be incorporated while keeping the topic G-rated, so we went with renting a bike in Galveston. With more than 32 miles of beaches, there are many different places to sweat on this island. But, when looking at the tourists and guests of the Seawall, some things were a constant: the laughter and joyous looks of people who were peddling. There are various forms of transportation for rent on the island, just make sure to wear appropriate attire so a wardrobe malfunction won’t occur. If you really want to be adventurous, rent a chopper bike or a “Rent Me” car that looks like a bubble-shaped golf cart. You may live to regret the decision, but the fun will be worth the embarrassment.
Beach Bike Rental, 409-765-8579; EZ Rentals, 409-763-0705; Goody Bike Rentals, 409-621-1062
Best place to eat with 10 people
Murder by Chocolate
Step out of your boundaries and try something new with your friends. Participate in a real-life whodunit and pretend you are a sleuth! Solve a zany mystery caper while enjoying a delicious meal with 10 of your best friends at Murder by Chocolate. A murder will take place and everyone in the audience instantly becomes a suspect in this real-life Clue game. After dessert is served, (chocolate of course) the mystery will be solved and a guest will be apprehended. The audience participates in an action-packed, gritty realism while savoring a three-course meal. It is an experience unlike any other and one that is sure to have you weary of the person sitting next to you, especially of the one in the dining room, with the rope.
Best place where everybody knows your name
Novelli’s Deli &Sports Bar
Love, loyalty, passion: no other words can describe Novelli’s. Nothing beats walking into your favorite hole-in-the-wall and having the bartender greet you by your first name while pouring your beloved past-time beverage. Maybe it is because Bruce, the bartender, will drink one with you and occasionally say “it’s on the house,” or maybe it’s because the beer is cheap. For whatever reason, Novelli’s isn’t just a bar, it is a ritual. Week after week, regulars hang out, drink beer and trade one-liners. It is comforting to know that everybody knows your name as you walk through its doors. 281-534-6352
The O’Quinn Medical Tower at St. Luke’s
It is tall, powerful, and prominent. It stands out from the rest and makes one stare in astonishment. No, not Yao Ming. It is the gleaming tower that stands proud among the other skyscrapers in this city: The O’Quinn Medical Tower at St. Luke’s. Complete with a nine-story, 1,350 space parking garage, this 316 ft. high-rise building has 25 floors and stands in the largest Medical Center in the world. The two spires on top of the building that protrude into the sky are made of aluminum and are for decorative purposes only.
Best place for a bargain
A trove of accessories awaits bargain lovers at Charming Charlie. From sterling silver jewelry, purses, watches to name-brand sunglasses, this chain of accessory stores caters to any women’s taste. The discount store also offers beading classes for individuals looking to make one-of-a-kind pieces that will cause any trendsetter to become jealous. The bargains don’t just end there; visit their website daily to see if online bargains are available. Their Harwin location is a 9,000 square-foot facility that offers everything imaginable to complete an outfit. If that isn’t enough, new locations continue to pop up in different areas of the city so everyone can find a bargain.
Best fries at an over-priced bar
Max’s Wine Dive
Not many places in Houston can create a buzz and keep people talking long after the red ribbon is cut. However, Max’s Wine Dive continues to do so. No, this isn’t praise about how wonderful the place is. This establishment is voted as one of the best because of their fries. Bonus: it is one of the cheapest items listed on the menu. We Southerners love our fries and are hesitant when a chef tries to do something culinary different with this burger staple. However, the salty taste of Max &Jack’s frites combined with their crunchy exterior immediately makes the mouth water as the sweet taste of ketchup touches the tongue. Mmmmm…fries. Who would have thought that merlot would pair well with fries? Don’t knock it ’til you try it. The frites are fresh-cut, homemade and tossed with fry dust that scream “gimme more with another glass of merlot, please.”
Best movie featuring Houston
Not many directors come to Houston to film movies. Also, not many become movie stars after their directorial debut. But, Ben Stiller headlines those two short lists. The 1994 movie Reality Bites showed many positive notes about our beloved city. From the opening shot on top of a downtown skyscraper to the Tranquility Park to driving down Allen Parkway, this movie, aside from the melodramatic and feel-good moments, captures the greatness of Houston. It reminds viewers of their youth when college graduation was looming and future responsibilities weren’t quite understood. Reality Bites encapsulates Houston’s most notable landmarks and shows the world what makes it a great city.
Best eye brow shaper place
The shape of one’s eyebrows can either enhance or diminish the beauty of a face. Eyebrow shaping is the most technical of the beautifying process, so the help of a professional is necessary to tame those wayward brows. There are many aestheticians in Houston, but not many make the process relaxing and stress-free. Finding an excellent eyebrow waxer is like finding the perfect man: it rarely exists. The tranquil atmosphere makes eyebrow waxing an enjoyable experience. Any time hot wax is placed on the face, the experience better be enjoyable! From the moment you step into their beautiful décor to the time you leave, customer service is at its best. Plus, every client who leaves the day spa comes out better looking than when they entered. Who could ask for more?
Best pedicure for a man
Cuts n’ Curls
This quaint shop nestled on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico provides a place to unwind and get pampered at a reduced price for men. Cuts n’ Curls offers an intimate experience for men seeking a pedicure but not wanting to broadcast to the world that they like to be groomed. Once entering the day spa, customers are led to a room hidden from prying eyes and ears. With a relaxing massage chair and soothing music, men continually praise how this place allows them to escape the demanding world to give their feet the much-needed attention they deserve. Repeat business from oil tycoons to truck drivers proves that this boutique offers them something no other place can in the Greater Houston area. 281-559-2428
Best cooking class
Are you tired of eating fast food or hearing your significant other saying “tacos again?” Then undertake a new challenge and learn how to cook. There is only one place that allows people to have fun while learning how to hone their culinary skills, and that place is Central Market’s cooking school. Expert chefs offer easy to challenging fares every month featuring cuisines from around the world. The classes give individuals an opportunity to embark on a culinary journey with hands-on training, demonstrations, step-by-step instructions and explanations of the different ingredients used to create certain flavors. Central Market is the best when it comes to fresh ingredients, wine selections and food experts offering advice and tips on how to make your next meal even better.
Best customer service when shoe shopping
The selection, atmosphere, and the piano music softly whispering in your ear sure know how to get women’s feet moving and the credit cards swiping. Nordstrom is a prime example of the best customer service and customer satisfaction in the retail industry. Each shopping experience in this premiere department store is unlike any other. From the friendliness of the employees to the store’s vast selection of shoes, Nordstrom is the sole…er, soul of shoe heaven. A woman who loves shoes is a continuous shopper and will make it her mission to find the one spot that caters to her vice. Nordstrom does not disappoint in this area. Miles upon miles of shoes in every shape and budget are on full display in this luxurious store. If you can walk past their shoe department without glancing, or stopping in mid-stride, then you do not have a weakness for shoes. A true shoe connoisseur will not miss the opportunity to view Nordstrom’s shoes nor the best customer service in the city.
Best story of 2007
Didn’t it seem like yesterday that some bright-eyed kid from New York came to Houston and stole the hearts of Astros fans? Twenty years and more than 3,050 hits later, the remarkable career of Craig Biggio has come to a close.
“I’ve been so blessed to have played for one team my entire career. That means a lot, especially in this day and age where there’s no loyalty from players or management anymore … There’s been loyalty from three sides. It’s from our side, from management’s side and the fans’ side,” he says in a letter to fans posted on www.astros.com. “If the fans didn’t come out and support us, and watch us play, would it have lasted as long as it did? Probably not. That makes you feel appreciated because they are part of it. They’re part of the decision making.”
Time certainly flies. Early in his career, we couldn’t even figure out how to say his name — Craig Beesh-eeyoh; Big-ee-oh; Bidge-ee-o — but we knew there was something special about that catcher.
Throughout his illustrious career, Biggio was the embodiment of the best Houston has to offer: energy, compassion and heart.
From day one, Biggio’s hustle and youthful exuberance made him an instant fan favorite on a team laden with aging stars. Whether it was beating out a close grounder at first base or trying to stretch a single into a double, fans could always be assured that the future hall-of-famer would give 100 percent of his energy.
Just as quickly as Houston fell in love with Biggio, he fell in love with the city. He also saw the need for support of children battling cancer. For more than 15 years, he and his family have unselfishly devoted their time, compassion and resources to the Sunshine Kids. During spring training exhibition games and regular season batting practice, the Sunshine Kids’ sun logo pin was a trademark on his baseball cap. More than $2.5 million has been raised for the organization through his annual celebrity golf tournaments.
Although the phrase ‘Heart of a Champion’ was popularized by another Houston sports franchise, no one in the city personifies the statement more than Biggio.
The seven-time all star (at two positions) took the field as the face of Houston’s baseball franchise. He was there when the Astros finished with a franchise-worst 97 losses. He was there 14 years later when the team reached the top of baseball’s pinnacle and played in their first-ever World Series.
When Biggio decided to announce his retirement on July 24, it was clear that Houston was on the verge of losing an icon. Twenty years sure did fly by, but thanks to Craig Biggio, it was sure worth the ride.