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Photo courtesy of University of Houston

Houston is called many things: Space City, Bayou City, Medical City. But college town?

The Bayou City boasts two world-class, top-ranked institutions in Rice University and the booming University of Houston. So where does that put the city as far as college town rank?

No. 64, according to the financial website WalletHub, which has just released its list of best college cities in the U.S. for 2023.

Meanwhile, Austin takes the No. 1 spot for best college big city. Another Texas town, College Station, comes in at No. 6 on the small city list.

The most represented state, perhaps not surprisingly, is Florida, with four cities in the overall top 10. The top 10 college cities for 2023, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Austin
2. Ann Arbor, Michigan
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Gainesville, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Rexburg, Idaho
7. Provo, Utah
8. Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Miami
10. Raleigh, North Carolina

Notably, Austin scored best, No. 12, in the “social environment” category, determined by metrics like students per capita; breweries, cafés, and food trucks per capita; and safety issues like vaccination and crime statistics. Its ranking at No. 21 in the “academic & economic opportunities" category puts it in the 95th percentile, even above Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, famous for their Ivy League prevalence.

Elsewhere in Texas, El Paso did well on the overall list at No. 36, followed byDallas (99), Fort Worth (153), and San Antonio (169). Cities that tend to fall lower in similar studies ranked relatively well among college towns.

Rendering by Mogas + Gonzalez Associated Architects

New marketplace development will transform historic New Braunfels site

Cool Co-Op Coming

Changes are ahead for historic downtown New Braunfels, with a new 2.5-acre mixed-use development set to transform and repurpose the former New Braunfels Producers Co-Op. Announced via press release November 16, and slated to open in 2024, the new Co-Op Marketplace will feature a biergarten, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retail, and park space with a stage for live music.

The site transformation is the brainchild of New Braunfels-area entrepreneurs and business owners, so local residents can take heart that the project was made by locals, for locals. The late, notable New Braunfels businessman Ron Snider was one of the entrepreneurs behind the Co-Op Marketplace idea, working in tandem with his business partners, attorney Mike Myers and real estate developer Fred Heimer.

Now, Snider's wife, Carol, and their son, Chris, owners of nearby Krauses Cafe + Biergarten, are leading the project in honor of Snider's original vision."This is a very exciting project to be involved with and it has evolved a lot along the way while still holding true to what my dad and his partners originally envisioned by bringing something unique to downtown New Braunfels that the community can enjoy," Chris Snider shared in the release.

New Braunfels Co-Op Marketplace The Co-Op Marketplace will transform and repurpose the former New Braunfels Producers Co-Op. Courtesy photo

With construction set to begin in 2023, the new co-op space will be roughly 2.5 acres and feature more than 25,000 square feet of indoor space for guests. The release shared plans to adapt the existing agricultural buildings for the development, transforming structures like the 65-foot-tall grain silo, which will become the market's west entrance.

Plans for the space include more than an acre of outdoor space for guests to enjoy good weather days, with a splash pad and 4,000 square feet of artificial turf, seating, and shade trees.

Co-Op Marketplace New Braunfels The new development will feature a biergarten, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retail, and park spaces.Rendering by Mogas + Gonzalez Associated Architects

San Antonio-based architectural practice Mogas + Gonzalez have been heavily involved in the plans for the space.

"Mogas + Gonzalez Associated Architects has worked closely with the owners’ vision to repurpose and recycle the existing and historically designated agrarian Co-Op structures to craft a campus of indoor and outdoor spaces that invite the city and its visitors to relax, dine, and celebrate right in the heart of Downtown New Braunfels," said architect Richard Mogas in the release.

The exciting new space will be located at 210 S. Castell Ave. Guests can grab authentic German fare down the street at Krause's and walk down to the Co-Op, which will also have a 13,000 square foot marketplace for restaurants, vendors, and more.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Wildly popular Nashville hot chicken chain cancels plans for first Houston location

No Hattie B's for now

Looks like Houstonians will have to wait a little longer than expected to try one of the most famous suppliers of Nashville hot chicken. Hattie B’s has canceled its plans to open a location in the Heights, a representative tells CultureMap.

The representative cited “construction costs for the ground-up build and other issues with this particular site” as reasons for the decision not to move forward. An eagle-eyed user on the Houston Architecture Info forum spotted a leasing notice for the property at 1808 N. Shepherd Dr. that had been scheduled for Hattie B’s.

In response to CultureMap’s request for comment about the property being for lease, Hattie B’s supplied a statement from co-founder Nick Bishop, Jr.

“While we have made the very difficult decision not to move forward with the project in the Heights, our commitment to finding a home in Houston remains strong. We love this city and have always imagined a Hattie B's here.”

First announced in 2021, Hattie B’s intended to open a 3,800-square-foot restaurant designed by Texas’s acclaimed Michael Hsu Office of Architecture that would have had seating for 175 people. Potentially, the design could be utilized for a new location.

Founded in Nashville in 2012, Hattie B’s serves tenders, sandwiches, and bone-in chicken at five different spice levels: Southern (no heat), mild, medium, hot, and the signature Shut the Cluck Up. The restaurant has four locations in Nashville along with locations in Atlanta, Birmingham, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Memphis. It has plans to open in Austin next year.

Texas-based Cinemark theater chain hosts Oscars-themed movie marathon

big-screen moves

The Cinemark movie chain is giving movie buffs an opportunity to brush up on the Oscars.

Plano-based Cinemark Holdings, Inc. will host its annual Oscar Movie Week festival, this year running from Monday, March 6 through Sunday, March 12, in anticipation of the 95th Oscars ceremony, which airs on March 12 on ABC.

The theater chain will air all of this year’s Best Picture and Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees, at more than 120 participating Cinemark theaters nationwide.

According to a release, passes are now on sale now at Cinemark.com/movieweek.

A full Digital Festival Pass is $40 and includes showings for all Best Picture and Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees. There's a perk! If you purchase a festival pass, you get 50 percent off any size popcorn during Oscar Movie Week.

Individual showtime tickets will be available starting January 27 at standard pricing, with showtimes beginning March 6.

All Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees are bundled into one viewing for just $10 from March 10-12.

For other brushing up, take a look back at what CultureMap’s film critic, Alex Bentley, had to say about each of the nominees (listed in alphabetical order) when they were originally released.

Cinemark has been hosting other similar marathon events such its collaboration with ESPN to bring college football games to the big screen.

The event takes place at these theaters across the U.S., including the following locations in Texas:

  • Houston: Cinemark Memorial City
  • The Woodlands: Cinemark 17
  • Austin: Cinemark Southpark Meadows
  • Denton: Cinemark 14
  • Fort Worth: Ridgmar Mall
  • Grapevine: Cinemark Tinseltown
  • Plano: Cinemark Legacy
  • Plano: Cinemark West Plano
  • San Antonio: Cinemark San Antonio 16

3 innovative Houston food and drink pioneers score crucial grants from the Texas Food & Wine Alliance

CULINARY INNOVATION

Texas’ skyrocketing culinary scene is about to get a huge boost. The Texas Food & Wine Alliance’s grant program has awarded $107,500 to 19 culinary innovators around the state. This marks the Alliance’s 11th year providing funding to support culinary projects contributing to local communities.

The award winners were recently announced in a ceremony at Austin's Holdsworth Center. A private panel of distinguished culinary experts chose the winners out of 40 grant applications this year.

Three winners from Houston received a total of $12,750. Meanwhile, nine winners hail from Austin, three from Dallas-Fort Worth, and four from San Antonio. The awards range from $1,500 to $10,000, with a special $25,000 grant investment from Austin favorite Tito’s Handmade Vodka in honor of the company’s 25th anniversary. Grant funding will support chefs, farms, and culinary education groups, among others.

Here are Houston's winners:

Royal Caliber Ranch – $6,250

A winner of the Tito's Handmade Vodka Entrepreneur Grant, Royal Caliber Ranch is woman-led ranch raising diverse breeds of goats for nearly 20 years in Waller. Grant funds will help the business secure the dairy parlor's infrastructure, including labor and materials for a pole barn, concrete, and utilities needed per U.S.D.A. requirements, according to press materials.

J.I.V.E Juice Company – $4,000

The juice company specializing in cold-pressed fruit juices and smoothies using organic, non-pasteurized ingredients is the winner of the Houston Food & Wine Alliance Grant. Funds will facilitate product testing and a shelf-life study and assist in product branding and marketing.

F.D.’s Express Burgers and Wings – $2,500

This popular spot partnering with the Booker T. Washington Empowerment Center to launch a culinary training institute specializing in Soul Food received $1,500 from Truffle Masters Grant for Community Heroes and is also a Houston Food & Wine Alliance Grant recipient. Grant funds will supplement the cost of training those who require financial assistance.

Elsewhere in Texas

Austin-area winners received the most funding from the grant program, totaling $53,750, while San Antonio winners received $21,250. Dallas/Fort Worth winners were awarded $19,750. All of the 2022 winners reflect just how diverse the state's trailblazing culinary scene continues to expand.

“All of this year’s funded projects will further enrich the state through innovation and giveback,” said Erika White, executive director of the Alliance. “We’re extremely grateful to each of the Texas communities, our sponsors and their support in allowing us to reward these mold-breaking projects.”

In Austin, organic farm Trosi Farms was awarded the most funding, totaling $10,000 from Tito’s and the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. The wild crop-breeding operation will be able to use the funds to construct a germination shed for more stable plant start production. Locavore pioneer Boggy Creek Farm won $7,500 in grants to provide ADA-compliant accessibility to their new climate-controlled Tomato House. Texas’ first organic feed mill, Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill & Farm, received $6,250 to help purchase a building to be used as a store for the local community.

The six other Austin area grant recipients, each winning $5,000, include Vista Farms at Vista Brewing, Jamaican family business Tierra Todun ATX, coffee roasters Rising Tide Roast Collaborative, culinary educator Chef Pascal Simon from Bake Austin, East Austin food truck Community Vegan, and Latinx pastry project Comadre Panaderia (who also just earned a James Beard nomination). All winners will be able to use their grants to improve efficiency and expand their businesses, or in Chef Pascal's case, further research and development for her upcoming cookbook for Gen-Z young adults.

Out of the four San Antonio area winners, Talking Tree Farm received the most from the grant program, $6,250 to purchase shipping containers for storage and to buy a solar-powered cold room for their harvests. John Marshall High School’s culinary arts program will use their $5,000 grant to establish a morning café. Agricultural project Habitable Spaces and pasture-raised chicken farm Cielito Lindo Farm also won $5,000 each to purchase equipment or build infrastructure to further their endeavors in the culinary space.

The winners in the Dallas-Fort Worth include:

For this year's Honorable Mention, the Alliance chose San Antonio eatery Tacos Cucuy, who will soon open a brick-and-mortar space with an expanded menu. Tacos Cucuy are currently looking for support to develop a Tex-Mex charcuterie program called La Cura Carnes Especiales.

More information about the 2022 grants and its recipients can be found on texasfoodandwinealliance.org.