Courtesy of Tatemó

Esquire magazine has named three Texas restaurants to its list of The Best New Restaurants in America 2022. They are:

  • Canje: Austin chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s acclaimed Caribbean restaurant (fourth)
  • Tatemó: chef Emmanuel Chavez’s corn-obsessed tortilleria and Mexican restaurant in Houston (19th)
  • Birdie’s: Austin’s natural wine bar and cafe from husband-and-wife duo Arjav Ezekiel and Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel (25th)

Four writers — Omar Mamoon, Joshua David Stein, former Esquire food and drink editor Jeff Gordinier, and culture and lifestyle director Kevin Sintumuang — created the list by traveling the country. They found themselves drawn to restaurants that told a chef’s personal story.

“We’re always hooked when there is soul and a story to go with delicious, inventive dishes,” Sintumuang writes. “It’s hard to deny the reflection of lived experience imbued in a menu, a wine list, a cocktail, atmosphere.”

In Houston, Stein hails Tatemó for the many ways Chavez incorporates heirloom corn into the restaurant’s eight-course tasting menu, praising dishes such as totopos, consommé, and a quesadilla. “Corn has always been a character actor. Here it’s the leading man,” he writes.

Located just outside the loop in northwest Houston, Tatemó has earned local attention for its tasting menu, which it serves on Friday and Saturday nights, and its more casual Sunday brunch. Hundreds of Houstonians lined up this summer when the restaurant hosted former Pujol head chef Alex Bremont for a two-night taco pop-up.

Turning to Austin, Sintumuang notes that Canje goes to extreme lengths to deliver traditional Caribbean flavors — flying in cassareep for its signature wild- boar pepper pot and fermenting the marinade for its jerk chicken, a process chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph shared with CultureMap at the Southern Smoke Festival. Canje’s lively atmosphere adds to Sintumuang’s experience.

“And as the night rolls by, it can all start to feel like a celebration. Welcome to the party,” he writes.

Not only does Esquire include Birdie’s on the list, but wine director Arjav Ezekiel earns the title of “Wine Guru of the Year.” Sintumuang praises Ezekiel for his list of “approachable yet thrilling low-intervention wines” that are both tasty and approachable.

Similarly, the magazine hails the restaurant’s counter service approach as a way to offer better wages to its staff and praises chef Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel’s eclectic menu. “The lines are worth it for the food, a casual refined mix of American, a little Italian, a little French, that all makes you want to linger a little longer into the warm Austin night and order another bottle,” he writes.

Esquire’s acclaim is only the most recent time both Birdie’s and Canje have made best new restaurant lists, following similar nods from Texas Monthly and Bon Appetit. The New York Times included Birdie’s on its 2021 list of the 50 American restaurants it’s “most excited about right now.”

Photo via Houston Methodist

Innovative Medical Center artist care program scores 2023 Texas Medal of Arts honor

Texas Medal of Awesome

After releasing initial details for next year’s Texas Medal of the Arts Awards (TMAA), the Texas Cultural Trust (TXCT) has revealed the full lineup of 2023 honorees — and Houstonians, especially artists or those in the Medical Center, will no doubt recognize one name.

Taking place in venues across Austin, the two-day biannual event recognizes the creative contributions of Texans across multiple disciplines, from music to architecture, film, design, and beyond. Next year's honorees also span multiple geographical regions, with recipients representing Houston, El Paso, and everywhere in between.

“We are beyond thrilled to resume the TMAA celebration, after having to postpone and cancel in 2021 due to the pandemic, with an extraordinary lineup of talented Texans who have each inspired and captivated their communities, our state, and beyond,” says Texas Cultural Trust CEO Heidi Marquez Smith. “Our organization strives to spotlight the vital role the arts play in our state and our everyday lives. Texas has such a rich cultural heritage that deserves to be recognized, invested in, and celebrated.”

Without further ado, the 2023 Texas Medal of Arts Honorees are:

  • Arts/Health: Center for Performing Arts Medicine, Houston (part of Houston Methodist Hospital)
  • Lifetime Achievement/Musical Theatre: Carole Cook, Abilene
  • Music: Christopher Cross, San Antonio
  • Music/Songwriter: Miranda Lambert, Lindale
  • Architecture: Miró Rivera Architects, Austin
  • Visual Arts: Deborah Roberts, Austin
  • Design: Lela Rose, Dallas
  • Literary Arts: Benjamin Alire Saenz, El Paso
  • Film/Producer: Taylor Sheridan, Weatherford
  • Dance: Septime Webre, Brownsville
  • Film/Actor: Luke Wilson, Dallas

The innovative Center for Performing Arts Medicine is the only operation of its kind in the U.S. Here, more than 100 physicians work collaboratively to address the specific demands placed on artists; Houston Methodist estimates that many of the more than 2,000 professional and amateur artists who live in and around Houston are treated there.

Elite artists and performers from the Houston Symphony, Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, and other performing visiting artists receive personalized care and treatments, specific to their discipline and case. Hallmarks of the center, per Houston Methodist, are:

  • Specialized health care and wellness education of performing artists.
  • Effective and meaningful integration of the performing and visual arts into the hospital environment.
  • Therapy that utilizes the arts in clinical patient care.
  • Research that seeks to harness the broadest potential of the arts in therapy, rehabilitation and human performance.

As for the awards: The TXCT's signature two-day event will begin on February 21, 2023, with the Arts Alive! Reception at Commodore Perry Estate, culminating with an Awards Show and Gala Dinner at the Long Center for Performing Arts on February 22, 2023. This year's events are co-chaired by Linda LaMantia, civic leader and artist dedicated to supporting and promoting the arts and education; Judy Robison, philanthropic advocate for prioritizing equity in access to the arts for all children; and world-renowned fashion designer and 2019 TMAA Honoree Brandon Maxwell.

Besides Maxwell, previous honorees have included Matthew McConaughey, Jamie Foxx, ZZ Top, Willie Nelson, Dan Rather, Neiman Marcus, H-E-B, Robert Rodriguez, Walter Cronkite, Lawrence Wright, Sandra Cisneros, Lyle Lovett, Texas Monthly, and many more. In total, the TMAA have celebrated 118 Texas leaders and luminaries since its inception in 2001.

Photo by Julie Soefer

Houston fine dining destination marches onto Bon Appetit's prestigious best new restaurants list

a march to remember

Texas restaurants are well-represented on Bon Appetit’s list of America’s 50 Best New Restaurants for 2022. Seven Lone Star State establishments earn the magazine's approval.

They are:

  • Birdie’s, a counter service restaurant in Austin known for its seasonal menu and well-chosen list of natural wines
  • Canje, the Caribbean restaurant in Austin from star chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph
  • El Rincon del Maiz, a taqueria in Garland that serves vegan tacos on seven different types of corn tortillas
  • La Onda, chef Victor Villarreal’s Latin-inspired seafood restaurant in Fort Worth that includes dry-aged fish among its offerings
  • March, the Houston fine dining restaurant dedicated to tasting menus inspired by different regions of the Mediterranean
  • The Nicolett, a Lubbock restaurant that serves “High Plains Cuisine” in the form of dishes such as elk tartare and house-made pappardelle stuffed with avocado
  • Reese Bros. Barbecue, a San Antonio food truck that pairs classic Texas barbecue with Mexican-inspired sides

The strong showing represents an improvement over 2019, when only four Texas restaurants made the list. Instead of awarding Best New Restaurants in 2021, Bon Appetit recognized restaurants that showed leadership during the pandemic with its Head of the Table awards, including Houston's Lucille's and its companion non-profit, Lucille's 1913.

Once again traveling the country to select this year's honorees, the magazine's editors express optimism about the state of dining in America. They note that a broader range of immigrant culinary traditions has spread across the country, writing that it means “more Guyanese and South Indian and Palestinian and Indigenous Mexican food for all of us.” They also praise restaurants that are “putting their staff first” by offering improved working environments.

“I hope this list, divided by region and filled with our thoughts on what to order and what to know, acts as an invitation to shake off any skepticism as to whether going out is ‘worth it’ these days,” restaurant editor Elazar Sontag adds.

Each restaurant on the list receives a brief profile along with a list of recommended dishes. For March, the magazine praises the luxurious dining room and chef Felipe Riccio’s six and nine-course tasting menus.

“The food and drink are every bit as riveting as the space itself, with tasting menus that change twice a year to reflect chef Felipe Riccio’s exploration of a different subregion of the Mediterranean,” the article states. “To dine here is to submit to the warm, luxurious embrace of a team that is doing the absolute most.”

Earning Bon Appetit’s approval is only the latest recognition for the Montrose restaurant. Last month, it landed on the cover of Food & Wine. It has also earned spots on best new restaurants lists by Robb Report and Esquire.

From this long list of 50 restaurants, Bon Appetit will reveal its ranked top 10 list on September 14.

Mico's Hot Chicken/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/micoshotchicken/photos/1562564624075499]

Yelp gifts $10,000 to Houston hot chicken restaurant as part of $100k in grants to Texas businesses

Yelp Help

It seems like every calendar year is named “challenging” for local businesses, and never without reason. Businesses need constant maintenance to stay ahead of the community’s needs, and Yelp, the consumer ratings company, wants to help beyond its usual search streamlining.

With help from celebrity designer and born-and-raised Texan Bobby Berk, Yelp is making sure Texans have a bit of a windfall. That may be families in need of home repairs or businesses working hard to keep up; either are eligible for a grant on the second annual Make It Happen Day on August 26.

The fund attributes 2022’s challenge to severe weather, which is what launched the inaugural campaign in 2021 after Winter Storm Uri caused widespread physical damage on top of the inertia of the pandemic. While each ridiculously hot day this summer brought the threat of a power grid collapse, Texas was able to stay on its feet, and was left instead with severe drought.

Houston wasn’t so lucky in September, 2021, with Category 1 hurricane Tropical Storm Nicholas.

The fund will be split between 50 Texans receiving $1,000 for home improvements using professionals on Yelp, and five local businesses receiving $10,000 each, making a $100,000 grant in total. Individuals can enter by using Yelp’s Request a Quote feature, which matches them with professionals in the area, and submitting that quote on August 26.

The businesses are already chosen, including Mico’s Hot Chicken in Houston, The Grill at Leon Springs in San Antonio, Simply Good Pies in Dallas, Texas French Bread in Austin, and Ambur Fire in Round Rock.

The inaugural round of funding went to five businesses, including beloved The Big Easy blues club in Rice Village.

In 2021, Yelp partnered with Grace and Frankie actress and part-time Austinite Brooklyn Decker, who calls herself a “home decor fanatic” and helped spread the news. Bobby Berk, the home renovator of Queer Eye (and the subject of lots of memes about carrying your team), is taking over the spokesperson role in 2022.

To enter to win a $1,000 “Make It Happen Day” grant, search on yelp.com for a home services business you may be interested in hiring. Under each listing, there may be a button that says “Request a Quote.” Submit the quote on the giveaway site on August 26, 2022.

Houston's Mico's Hot Chicken suffered some damage caused by a break-in.

Mico's Hot Chicken/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/micoshotchicken/photos/1562564624075499]
Houston's Mico's Hot Chicken suffered some damage caused by a break-in.
Photo by Miguel Angel

Lynn Wyatt-approved designer chairs Texas Medal of Arts Awards return in 2023

Championing the Arts

One of the Lone Star State's premier patrons of the arts, the Texas Cultural Trust (TXCT), announced the return of the biannual Texas Medal of the Arts (TMAA) awards, coming in 2023. The nonprofit's signature event will take place at venues across Austin on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 21 and 22, 2023.

Celebrating the creative contributions of Texans across multiple disciplines, the 2023 event will reflect and look ahead to the role the arts play in our lives and communities. Texas Culture Trust 2019 TMAA honoree Brandon Maxwell will chair the event, along with TXCT immediate past board of directors chair Linda LaMantia, and TXCT board of directors executive committee member Judy Robison.

Maxwell is the awards’ youngest recipient and the first to receive recognition for fashion design. His eponymous, ready-to-wear collection and custom creations have graced the likes of Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle, Oprah, Lady Gaga, and 2017 TMAA honoree Lynn Wyatt of Houston. LaMantia joined the Texas Cultural Trust board in 2009, a longtime supporter of the arts and education. El Paso-resident Robison is likewise a lifetime supporter, as well as a former chair and board member of the trust since 2008.

Together with leadership, the chairs convened a statewide group of experts to select the 2023 TMAA honorees across a wide variety of creative disciplines.

“The state of Texas is fortunate to have been the birthplace of a vast number of incredibly creative and talented artists in every medium,” says Robison. “It is my great pleasure to co-chair this amazing event to showcase the many accomplishments of Texas artists. After a three year delay, we are ready to present the best Texas Medal of the Arts show ever!”

Since 2001, the TMAA has celebrated 118 Texas leaders and luminaries for their creative talents, excellence, and generosity. The star-studded celebration spotlights the power of the arts to not only improve children’s education, stimulate the economy, and improve health and well-being, but also to keep us connected, engaged, and inspired. The two-day event also aims to preserve the unique and proud culture of Texas.

"The arts add vibrancy to our lives and give us the space to engage and connect with others,” says TXCT CEO Heidi Marquez Smith in a release. “This spectacular event provides an opportunity to highlight the creative genius that has been cultivated in Texas and reminds us why we need to continue to invest in the arts. The Texas Medal of Arts Awards is not only meaningful, but entertaining and inspiring!"

Each ceremony recognizes nominees from the following categories: architecture, arts education, arts patron (individual and corporate), dance, design, film, lifetime achievement, fashion design, literary arts, media/multimedia, music (performance and songwriter), television, theater arts, and visual arts. Past honorees include actors Jamie Foxx, Matthew McConaughey, Tommy Lee Jones, and Eva Longoria; musicians ZZ Top, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Ray Benson; Texas-born businesses Neiman Marcus, H-E-B, Exxon Mobil, and Texas Monthly; director Robert Rodriguez; media personalities Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite; writer Lawrence Wright; and many more.

The 2023 event will take place in iconic Austin venues, including the Commodore Perry and The Long Center for the Performing Arts.

Photo courtesy of Texas Children's Hospital

2 Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Houston doctors land on prestigious list of most creative in business

distinguished dynamic duo

Acclaimed national publication Fast Company has announced its 14th annual list of Most Creative People in Business — and two notable Houstonians made the cut.

Dr. Peter Hotez and his fellow dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, were named among the list for “open sourcing a COVID-19 Vaccine for the rest of the world.” The list, which recognizes individuals making a cultural impact via bold achievements in their field, is made up of influential leaders in business.

Hotez and Bottazzi are also co-directors for the Texas Children's Hospital's Center for Vaccine Development — one of the most cutting-edge vaccine development centers in the world. For the past two decades it has acquired an international reputation as a non-profit Product Development Partnership (PDP), advancing vaccines for poverty-related neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and emerging infectious diseases of pandemic importance.

One of their most notable achievements is the development of a vaccine technology leading to CORBEVAX, a traditional, recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.

As CultureMap previously reported, earlier this year, the doctors were nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for their research and vaccine development of the vaccine. Its low cost, ease of production and distribution, safety, and acceptance make it well-suited for addressing global vaccine inequity.

"It's an honor to be recognized not only for our team's scientific efforts to develop and test low cost-effective vaccines for global health, but also for innovation in sustainable financing that goes beyond the traditional pharma business model," says Hotez in a statement.

The technology was created and engineered by Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development specifically to combat the worldwide problem of vaccine access and availability. Biological E Limited (BE) developed, produced and tested CORBEVAX in India where over 60 million children have been vaccinated so far.

"We appreciate the recognition of our efforts to begin the long road to 'decolonize' the vaccine development ecosystem and make it more equitable. We hope that CORBEVAX becomes one of a pipeline of new vaccines developed against many neglected and emerging infections that adversely affect global public health," says Bottazzi in the news release from Texas Children's.

Fast Company editors and writers research candidates for the list throughout the year, scouting every business sector, including technology, medicine, engineering, marketing, entertainment, design, and social good. Find the complete list here.


This article originally ran on our sister site, InnovationMap.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' BBQ joint's Katy outpost closure leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' barbecue joint's Katy location quietly closes. Sadly, the local outpost couldn't replicate the magic of the original in Llano.

2. Ken Hoffman urges Houston travelers to keep calm and enjoy the trip at the new-look Bush IAH. Our columnist explains why travelers might be in "for a big, pleasant surprise at Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental Airport."

3. Houston's most spectacular winter light shows and events dazzle for the holidays. We rounded up where to see dazzling lights with family, friends, and visitors.

4. Disgraced Theranos CEO and former Houstonian Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years for fraud. Additionally, Holmes faces a fine of $400 million.

5. Houston's NASA leaders 'giddy' after historic Artemis 1 moon flyby. The spacecraft cruised just 81 miles above the lunar surface.

Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.


Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World

Affluent Houston suburb leads region for highest holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Sugar Land as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Sugar Land is $2,793 per person, the 15th highest in the nation. As CultureMap previously reported, Sugar Land residents here make an average of $123,261; the average home price is $337,600.

Fittingly, Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was recently named the second-richest county in Texas.

As for Greater Houston, Santa's bag could be a mixed bag, with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling far behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Elsewhere in Texas, 10 North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531 (The only Texas city in the top 10)
  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630
  • Fort Worth, No. 366, $890
  • Dallas, No. 401, $845

Spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, CT with a budget of only $211.