Photo courtesy of Kim Son/CB Richard Ellis

Two prominent Vietnamese restaurants announced they will close by the end of the month. Both Kim Son’s Stafford location and Pho Binh by Night will soon serve their final meals.

Kim Son revealed in a social media post that its location in The Fountains shopping center will close this Sunday, September 24. Open since 1999, the restaurant is Kim Son’s third location, joining its original location in EaDo and a restaurant in Chinatown.

“This decision was not made lightly, and it comes with mixed emotions,” the statement reads in part. “We have cherished every moment of serving you, creating memorable dining experiences, and being part of your celebrations and gatherings.”

Kim Son COO Tao La told the Houston Chronicle that the company chose to close the Stafford location due to a proposed rent increase from the landlord. Known for its lively dim sum service, the restaurant has been a staple for diners through Stafford, Sugar Land, and Missouri City.

To partially compensate for the closure, Kim Son’s Chinatown location (10603 Bellaire Blvd) will begin serving dim sum for lunch on October 2.

Pho Binh by Night will close Sunday, October 1, one week after Kim Son, according to a social media post announcing the closure.

“This decision was extremely hard for us to make as we have fed off of this foundation for so long,” the post reads in part. “The challenges we’ve faced in recent times have made it increasingly difficult to continue our journey. It is heart-wrenching to bid farewell to a place that has been our passion and purpose for so long.”

Open since 2010, Pho Binh by Night continued the legacy of the original Pho Binh Trailer that recently closed after 40 years in business. The restaurant’s well-seasoned broth — which could be upgraded with an optional side of bone marrow — and late night hours made it popular with members of Houston’s restaurant community.

James Beard Award winner Justin Yu visited the restaurant for an episode of the Youtube series “Worth It” that’s garnered more than 11 million views since it debuted in 2018. He explained why he drove from his downtown restaurant Theodore Rex to the western edge of Chinatown to visit Pho Binh Night.

“It’s such a clean broth. They’ve obviously taken the time to blanch the bones or skim the bones,” he says. Later, he adds, “This broth is perfect.”

Although both Pho Binh’s original location recently closed and Pho Binh by Night is closing soon, Houstonians still have four other locations at which to dine. They’re all run by different members of the same extended family.

Photo by Stephanie Lam

Crafty Montrose ice cream shop makes sweet move to the Heights

heights ice cream switcheroo

One of Houston’s most creative ice cream shops is on the move. Craft Creamery is closing its Montrose location and heading to the Heights.

Effective immediately, Craft Creamery is now operating at Sweet Bribery, the retro-styled ice cream and sweet shop that opened in 2018. Now known as Sweet Bribery by Craft Creamery, the shop serves Craft Creamery’s signature flavors paired with Sweet Bribery’s baked goods, classic ice cream flavors, and its full selection of wine and beer.

"We have dreamed of being on a busy corner in the Heights since we started the business and knew that this was the perfect opportunity to make it come true," Craft Creamery chef and founder Steve Marques said in a statement. "We have always been a fan of Sweet Bribery and look forward to a great partnership."

The move means that Craft Creamery's original location in Montrose (1338 Westheimer Rd.) will close on Sunday, September 10.

Marques opened Craft Creamery in late 2020 after working at a number of Houston restaurants including The Burger Guys and Eunice. Using his classic French training, he’s developed a range of both traditional and more unusual flavors such as Smokey BBQ Brisket, Cacio e Pepe, Jalapeno Cornbread, and Tomato Tarragon. That creativity has also fueled a thriving wholesale business that supplies restaurants such as Potente, Local Foods, and Roost.

Craft Creamery Kim Kaase Steve MarquesChef Steve Marques with his wife and co-founder Kim Kaase.Photo by Addison Hall

At his new location, Marques will serve both Craft Creamery’s flavors as well as Sweet Bribery’s favorites such as Tahitian Vanilla, Salted Chocolate, Cookies N’ Cream, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch along with its cookies, brownies, and other sweet treats. In addition, he’ll add a selection of sorbets that can be paired with Sweet Bribery's champagne selections.

In an interview on CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast, Marques explained the texture he’s trying to achieve with Craft Creamery's flavors.

"Like a great piece of chocolate, you never have to chew it. The Swiss say all you should have to do is put it on your tongue, because the chocolate does the rest of the work," Marques said. "It allows it to fill your palate the appropriate way. For me, the texture has to be silky. Even in small amounts, it fills your palate, because it's not icy . . . our stuff because of the fat content just coats."

While her time making ice cream has come to an end, Sweet Bribery’s founding chef Sharon Leonard has started a cookie business. Follow her on Instagram at sharebearbakes for ordering information.

This summer has been a busy time for new ice cream shops in the Heights. Montrose favorite Milk & Sugar opened its second location there in July, and Austin favorite Amy's Ice Creams recently opened in the former Fat Cat Creamery space on 19th St. They join a number of existing options such as Cloud 10 Creamery, Honeychild's Sweet Creams, and Dolce Neve.

Pho Binh/Facebook

Iconic pho restaurant suddenly shutters original south Houston locale after 40-year run

no soup for you

One of Houston’s most acclaimed pho restaurants has served its last bowl of soup. Pho Binh Trailerannounced on social media it has permanently closed.

“We have made the difficult decision to not reopen,” the post reads in part. “We have appreciated everyone's business all these years. We are grateful for all your support. Thank you for having been a part of our 40 years of business.”

The announcement comes after a fire in July that damaged the restaurant. Speculation about the restaurant’s future circulated on social media after its property was listed for sale on commercial real estate website LoopNet.

Beginning in the late aughts, a certain type of food-obsessed Houstonian made the drive to the ramshackle property on Beamer Road in search of the city’s best pho. Despite the shabby interior and no-nonsense service, the restaurant earned praise for its flavorful beef and chickens broths, carefully cut meats, and properly al dente rice noodles.

Over the years, food writers have tried to capture what made Pho Binh’s soups stand out. In a recent review, Chelsea Thomas of The Infatuation summarized the restaurant’s appeal.

“The broth is a cosmic coming together: not too fatty, not too thin, not overly aromatic or beefy,” she writes. “There’s a depth of flavor that other places try to duplicate by injecting fat in broth, but here it’s straight Goldilocks: deeply complex and somehow delicate.”

First opened in 1983, the restaurant’s popularity fueled growth as different members of the extended Nguyen family opened Pho Binh locations across the city. Pho Binh by Night, owned by owned by chefs Kevin Pham and Di Nguyen, is widely considered to best capture the flavor of the original.

Photo by Michael Brosilow

Immersive company showcasing Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Disney in Houston files for bankruptcy

no gogh

An innovative digital production company, Lighthouse Immersive, whose "immersive" exhibits became a buzz during the height of the pandemic, has filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy.

According to Bloomberg News, the company, which put on multiple high-profile immersive art exhibitions across the U.S. including Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, was last profitable in 2021; but attendance dropped off after the pandemic.

Founded in Toronto in 2019, the company helped spearhead the immersive fad, first and most famously here in Houston with its 2021 Van Gogh exhibit, followed by multiple digital light shows across Houston and the U.S. including Frida Kahlo, Monet & The Impressionists, King Tut, Nutcracker, and its most recent, the immersive Disney Animation Experience.

However, in June, the company abruptly canceled the Disney show, both in Houston and Dallas — a move that appears to have been an omen of the company's financial woes. Oddly, that exhibition remains open in San Antonio through August 13.

Industry publication The Art Newspaper expressed surprise at the bankruptcy given the company's business model.

"Given the high cost of tickets ($35 a piece) and the low cost of using images that had entered the public domain, Lighthouse Immersive's operations were widely believed to be a profitable concept," says the publication.

However, these exhibits were not cheap to produce: Organizers quoted startup costs at a minimum of $1 million all the way up to $15 million to create an immersive pop-up, with expensive gear such as fiberoptic cables and Panasonic projectors.

The company has not revealed its plans nor what will happen to the venues they used in each city; they did not respond to a request for comment.

Photo by Fernando Gómez Carbajal

Historic Houston farmers market replaces Texas comfort food with Netflix star chef's hot new taqueria

Houston's next great taqueria

Houston restaurant group Underbelly Hospitality continues to evolve as it seeks to match the right restaurant with the right neighborhood. The company’s latest move is to relocate Wild Oats, its Texas comfort food restaurant, from the Houston Farmers Market to Spring Branch and replace it withComalito, a taqueria created by chef award-winning Mexican chef Luis Robledo Richards.

Netflix viewers will recognize Robledo Richards from his role as a judge on Sugar Rush: The Baking Point. He’s also been named the Best Pastry Chef in Latin America by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Instead of opening a Houston outpost of Tout Chocolat, his acclaimed chocolate shop in Mexico City, he wanted his first American project to focus on tacos.

“I don’t like fancy stuff,” the chef tells CultureMap. “I love simple things. I love tacos. If we can be successful with a taqueria, something else can come from that.”

Expected to open this fall, Comalita’s tacos will use corn tortillas that will be made onsite. The restaurant will import organic, heirloom corn from Mexico and treat it with a traditional nixtamalization process to make the masa that will become its tortillas. Approximately 1,000-square-feet of the current Wild Oats space will be allocated to tortilla production.

Taco fillings will start with two trompos (vertical spit roasters) — one with pork pastor and another with beef that’s marinated with recado negro, a spice paste from the Yucatan that gives the beef a dark, charred color. Other dishes will be prepared on a plancha, a nod to the comal that’s part of the restaurant’s name. Many of Comalito's ingredients, including spices, produce, and Texas wagyu beef, will be drawn from the market's existing vendors, including R-C Ranch.

Luis Robledo Richards

Photo by Fernando Gómez Carbajal

Chef Luis Robledo Richards will lead Comalito.

To develop the pastor recipe, Robledo Richards said he consulted with local taco experts to identify Mexico City’s 10 best variations. After tasting through the options, he and his chefs developed a pastor that captures their favorite flavors.

“We researched to try to find what Mexico City tacos geeks consider the best. There’s all kinds of guys who publish taco guides. I have friends who have written those,” he says. “We talked about the 10 best pastor tacos in Mexico City. We went to them. This guy the pastor is more spicy, another is sweeter or saltier. That’s how we came up with Comalito’s pastor recipe.”

On the weekends, Comalito will serve brunch that will include sweet and savory breads and pastries as well as Mexican coffee. Desserts will include the chef’s take on flan, chocolate pudding, and churros.

Comalito’s cocktail program will center around tequila and mezcal-based drinks. “It’s not going to be super complicated. Simple, straightforward, delicious agave drinks, pretty much mezcal and tequila,” Robledo Richards says.

The chef acknowledges that Houstonians have extensive choices when it comes to Mexican restaurants, including Picos, which is owned by his cousin Arnaldo Richards. Still, he sees an opportunity for Comalito to find an audience based on its tortillas, traditional fillings, and agave program.

“I haven’t seen a real, Mexico City taqueria like the one we’re going to make,” he says. “If you go to traditional ones in Mexico City, there’s always something different here. We’re going to do something more in the spirit of a real Mexico City taqueria.”

Once Comalito opens, the chef plans to spend approximately 70-percent of his time in Houston and 30-percent in Mexico City. He’s bringing a team with him to open this restaurant and develop additional concepts that will follow if Comalito is successful.

“I love the city. I love the people. It’s so diverse. There’s so many opportunities to do something besides a taqueria,” he says.

As for Wild Oats, the restaurant will remain open until September 3, which will allow it to participate in Houston Restaurant Weeks. Find its two-course lunch and three-course, $39 dinner menus here.

Developed by chef-partner Nick Fine, Wild Oats tells the story of Texas food by serving classic dishes such as chicken fried steak, chili, and campechana. While it earned praise from critics, it has struggled to find a durable audience at the Houston Farmers Market.

Underbelly Hospitality president Nina Quincy tells CultureMap the company thinks the restaurant will be a better fit for Spring Branch, where it will open a new location this fall that will be paired with a second location of Underbelly Burger. She acknowledges that Wild Oats first iteration offered up too many dishes that were personal to Fine — such as the cornbread-stuffed, bacon-wrapped quail he made on hunting trips with his father — without including more iconic Texas classics like San Antonio-style puffy tacos.

“We’re going to stay true to what we do and have creative dishes with great ingredients,” Quincy says. “We’re going to have dishes that are recognizable as Texas without having to tell people a story.”

Of course, she’s thrilled to be working with Robledo Richards on a taqueria that she’s confident will be a better fit for the Houston Farmers Market.

“If you don’t love tacos, you’re not allowed to live in Texas. I think that’s in the Constitution. You can quote me on that,” she says.

Between closing GJ Tavern, opening Italian seafood restaurant Pastore, and relocating Wild Oats, Underbelly Hospitality will complete a series of moves designed to ensure its financial success going forward. Recently, the company has made a number of key hires, including CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Bartender of the Year winner Sarah Troxell, culinary director Scott Muns, and Pastore chef (and Tastemaker Awards nominee) Jeff Potts. Working with a chef of Robledo Richards’ caliber only strengthens that.

“I can’t wait to eat his food. I’m really excited,” she says.


Bobby Heugel swoops in to rescue suddenly shuttered Montrose dive bar

back in the catbird seat

A casual neighborhood bar on lower Westheimer, Catbirds, closed July 31 after almost 30 years in operation, but the Montrose staple will reopen this fall under new ownership.

Shelly and Emily Wilburn, the mother-daughter duo who owned and operated the bar since 2018, tell CultureMap that the decision to close may have seemed sudden to regulars but had been under consideration for some time. They explain that Catbirds remained closed for almost 11 months during the Covid pandemic, because it didn’t have a kitchen that would allow it to operate as a restaurant.

That closure led to the accumulation of debt that's been difficult to pay off. In addition, Wilburn’s husband Matt died last year, putting more pressure on Shelly to work a full-time job during the day and manage the bar at night.

“A lot of people think we decided to sell and move on, but it’s not a sudden decision,” Emily says. “It’s taken a lot of time. It hurts. It’s hard for my mom. It’s hard for my family.”

Enter Bobby Heugel. He and Justin Yu, his business partner in the Thorough Fare hospitality group (Anvil, Squable, Better Luck Tomorrow, etc.), purchased the shopping center that includes Catbirds in 2019. When Wilburn informed Heugel of her intention to close, he purchased the bar’s equipment and the rights to the Catbirds name.

Although Heugel might seem like an unlikely patron for such a casual spot, he considers himself something of a regular — even working a guest shift with Anvil general manager Tommy Ho to raise money for the bar’s staff during the pandemic.

“I really liked the staff here. They were always extremely kind to me,” Heugel says. Later, he adds, “Catbirds is one of the five bars I’ve visited the most in Houston.”

While Heugel has the legal right to reopen the bar as Catbirds, he hasn’t made a final decision about whether to do so. As he notes in a written statement provided to CultureMap, he wants to get a feel for how the bar’s regulars feel about him operating the business.

“I know that bar has a lot of history we aren’t part of, and neighborhood bars, more than any others, need to be supported by locals and regulars,” he writes. “I completely understand why some view me — the guy that opened Anvil — as contrary to their sentiments of an older Montrose. I don’t think that’s entirely fair, but I get it. I hope the neighborhood and all of those who have loved that bar will give us a chance to carry on its legacy, but we are going to reflect on everyone’s input before firmly committing to what’s next.”

For her part, Emily Wilburn hopes the space keeps the Catbirds name. “If they have to change the name, I understand, because at the end of the day it’s whatever’s best for your business. I would love to see the legacy of Catbirds live on, and I would love to see the name when I’m driving down Westheimer,” she says.

Whether or not Heugel decides to operate the bar as Catbirds, the bar will maintain the same spirit it always has. The TVs will remain for watching sports, and the drinks will remain affordable. He hopes its regulars, including those he describes as “people who have worked long hot shifts in kitchens and behind bars,” will remain patrons.

“We do not want this place to be a cocktail bar,” he says. “That is not what we’re trying to do with it. We want it to continue to be Catbirds if people are receptive to it. If not, it will be a neighborhood bar that’s very similar to what Catbirds was.”

The sudden closure caught both the bar’s regulars and its employees by surprise. Shelly Wilburn acknowledges that the staff found out they bar had closed via a Facebook post, although she intended them to find out when a manager issued everyone their final paychecks. “It was unfortunate the way that happened, but it was not our intention in the slightest,” she says.

Since Heugel purchased the bar’s assets and name but not the business itself, it will be at least a couple months before Catbirds reopens. The new bar needs a full set of permits and a liquor license before its can operate.

“Because we don’t want to change very much about it, there’s not going to be any major construction,” he says. “We think it can be quick.”

For Catbirds fans who’ve suddenly lost their favorite bar, the sooner the better. While they might not be want to hear it, Emily encourages a little patience.

“Bobby’s going to keep it a Montrose staple that will be back soon,” she says. “Catbirds will be back. It will just be a new owner.”

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Mega-celebrity photographer of Beyoncé's all-time favorite portrait holds court in Houston to honor Queen Bey

royal portraits

Only a select few humans — ever — have been photographed as often as pop culture’s undisputed queen, Beyoncé, over her illustrious, 26-year career. Even at her young age, Houston’s queen possesses a singular trait that elevates her above even the most apex celebrities: immortality.

Just how do the ultra-famous unlock the loftiest achievement of immortality? For many, it’s often through a single, transcendent photograph, which can transform a performer into an icon — and rocket a mere mortal into immortal status. And few photographers on the planet can bestow immortality on the globally famous like A-list artisan Markus Klinko.

To celebrate Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour homecoming — and his now legendary photos of her over the years — Klinko will meet fans from 1 pm to 3 pm Saturday, September 23 at Tootsies for a showcase of some of his most famed works — including the ultra-rare Beyoncé “Diamond Dust” series, on view at Nicole Longnecker Gallery.

A statuesque, towering presence (he’s six-foot-four) with chiseled features and a flair for fashion, the Swiss-born Klinko looks every part a celeb himself. That star quality has no doubt helped him break the ice when photographing superstars like our Beyoncé, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Naomi Campbell, and Iman — to name a few. Not a bad resume for a former professional classical harp soloist who — sort of amazingly — only fell into photography after a hand injury (more on that later).

Before she became a one-word brand, Beyoncé Knowles was just 22 when she experienced Klinko’s wizardry firsthand in 2003. Already drawing It Girl attention as a member of Destiny’s Child, the young Houstonian had met Klinko during a Destiny’s Child photo shoot for Vibe magazine in 2000. With his trademark, sixth-sense for superstardom, Klinko pointed to Beyoncé while she was lounging with the group and told her mother, Tina Knowles, “Her, she’s going to be huge.” Tina’s response: “We know.”

Three years later, Sony reunited Beyoncé and Klinko to shoot the cover of Dangerously in Love, Beyoncé’s now legendary 2003 debut solo album. The match, now, seems predestined: both Beyoncé and Knowles were in the early stages of their careers. Beyoncé and Klinko vibed immediately, and in a simple snap of his Fuji camera, Klinko shot the stunning and shimmering photo that Queen Bey recently told French newspaper Le Figaro is her most favorite of any portrait taken of her.

Staying true to his organic, in-the-moment approach, Klinko flawlessly captured Beyoncé’s effortless pose in her now-famed diamond top and created one of music’s most iconic celebrity photos and yes, helped cement Beyoncé’s immortal status. And it only cost him his pants. (More on that later, too.)

CultureMap caught up with Klinko ahead of his Houston appearance and fresh off the opening of his latest installation: His celebrity images are on display at the legendary Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino in, naturally, the vaunted Elvis Presley Suite. Perfect timing, then, for Klinko to star as a cover model in the familiar Tootsies window displays.

CultureMap: Congratulations on landing the Tootsies window display. It looks gorgeous.

Markus Klinko: Oh yeah, it’s spectacular, isn’t it?

CM: Quite! So, what’s it like seeing yourself as one of the main features of an exhibit — as opposed to being behind the camera?

MK: You know, I’ve never been in the window of a major fashion department store, so this is pretty fun.

CM: Never in the window, but you’ve certainly been the focal point of attention as an acclaimed harpist.

MK: Yes, I started my life on the ‘other’ side, and as you say, as a classical concert harpist. I was signed to EMI Classics and represented by Colombia Artists and traveling around the world making recordings. I was on television very often and on magazine covers and all that throughout my 20s and early 30s — everything from Italian Vogue and Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar and GQ and all those fashion magazines for which I later worked as a photographer. So it’s not completely. new. But this is sort of a different twist.

CM: You clearly had an understanding of being in the spotlight, and the butterflies-in-the-stomach pressure to put on a great performance and give of yourself to an audience. Did that experience help you relate to your celebrity performer subjects in a way that just maybe a Mark Seliger or an Annie Leibovitz — not disparaging either — could not? Do you have a window into these performers’ worlds where they relate to you, and you to them?

MK: You know, that’s an amazing question and I’m glad you’re asking me this.

I switched from my classical music career, which was very successful at that time, to becoming a photographer at 33 under dramatic circumstances. It was tragic; basically a hand injury forced me to abandon my career at the height of my success in the summer of 1994.

I was forced to cancel recording sessions, touring engagements and all of that. I had no clue where my income would be coming from, so it was not like the happiest moment in my life. It was actually sort of a panic-stricken time.

CM: And then came the moment.

MK: Yes, I had this epiphany that I will become a fashion photographer, actually had no intention at all to ever become a celebrity photographer. In the beginning of my photo career, I was 100-percent interested only in shooting models — mainly female models to be honest. I would have liked to be a Playboy magazine photographer or something.

So in other words, I just wanted to have fun. It was the last thought on my mind to help other musicians succeed.

CM: You almost seem like you were dragged into fashion and celebrity photography.

MK: A few years into my photo career, around 1999, I was still completely focused on shooting models, models, models. I wasconfronted with proposals from record labels and magazines to shoot covers for them. And I distinctly remember telling my agent at the time that I was not interested and that why would I shoot musicians, when I could just shoot models who are more beautiful in general. And that was that.

CM: And how did that go over?

MK: At some point my agent picked up the phone and screamed at me and said, ‘Markus, you’re an idiot! We have record companies wanting to pay you $100,000 a day and you would rather shoot some girl.’ And I said, ‘Okay, fine, I’ll try it.’ My first record cover shoot was Vitamin C; at that moment she had the biggest hit of the year.

I asked my friends from Interview magazine to style it and she was lovely and I had no problem with it. But about a month later, I got up in the morning and I went to the gym. As I walked through the streets of New York, there were thousands and thousands of posters of Vitamin. I saw my image of Vitamin C a million times on the way to the gym. And I was like, ‘Hmm, that’s not so bad.’

A couple of months later, GQ called me from the UK and wanted me to shoot these different celebrities. And I told GQ — it was very funny — I said under one condition, I’ll shoot the celebrity you want me to shoot, but I want you to let me shoot some nude girl for the centerfold of GQ. And they just said, ‘Okay, whatever you want.’ So I invented the GQ Pin Up 2000 and for a whole year as a reward of shooting some British pop star girl for them — who I couldn’t care less but whatever, I did it. But then I shot Little Kim and Molly Sims and a bunch of really big models and supermodels.

CM: And then you shoot the world’s biggest supermodel, Iman, for her book, which leads to shooting a rock god David Bowie — her husband — for his now-famous album cover [Heathens, 2002] in 2001. Talk about a word-of-mouth reference.

MK: By that time, I was already inundated with. requests from labels. I shot nonstop for different labels and then Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez. That all came as a reaction basically to that first celebrity shoot with Vitamin C, and I guess just my style. The way I shot models was very different from what was in fashion at the time. I just sort of did my own thing. And that really appealed to major advertising record covers, iconic photo shoots, big comeback shoots for artists like Mariah. Mariah really needed a big comeback shoot in 2005 when she launched The Emancipation of Mimi.

CM: Let’s go back to that magical moment in 2003 when you shot perhaps the most legendary photo of Beyoncé ever.

MK: Sony music called me and they said, 'Beyonce from Destiny’s Child is going solo and she requested you shoot her album cover. Apparently, you had worked with her before for Destiny’s Child and she wanted to only work with you for this.'

So then, Sony Music organized a phone call between me, Beyoncé, the Sony team, and her mom Tina [Knowles] who was styling it. Beyoncé on the phone mentioned specifically my photograph of Leticia Costa, the French supermodel and actor in the "Spider Web" shot. And she said she really loved that photo — She called it the Diamond Spider or something. And she said she would love something like that, but smaller on her. And to be honest, I had no idea what that meant, but I was just like, 'Okay.'

Fast forward to a week later when the photo shoot actually happened and they arrived in the morning. I noticed that there was this diamond top and I grabbed it and I went up to Beyoncé. I said, 'This is exactly what you were talking about. We could do this.' And then she said, 'Oh yeah, I was thinking about it, but my mom has these skirts and I don’t wanna wear those because it reminds me of a prom and I don’t wanna look like a prom on my album cover.'

And I said, 'Yeah, of course not. Let’s do it with denim.' And then Beyonce said, 'No, we don’t have any, we didn’t bring any denim.'

CM: And then...?

MK: And so I said, 'Oh, don’t worry, maybe you’ll fit into mine.' And she said, 'Oh, really? Can I try them?' And so that’s the story.

CM: I’m guessing you had another pair handy?

MK: Oh, sure, I just grabbed another pair from upstairs I had. You know, back then and until now, my favorite pair of jeans are always DNG — Dolce & Gabbana.

CM: I love the story of how she returned them to you.

MK: She brought them back a couple months later. She had dry cleaned them and she packed them into some sort silk paper thing and a ribbon. She brought him back and said, 'Please don’t sell them on eBay, ever.' And she laughed.

I thought that was really sweet and I just took them and I put them somewhere. This is crazy, but I’m actually talking to Botswana Diamond Dealers to fill up a bathtub at the Vegas suite and to put those Beyoncé jeans into the bling bathtub as a joke. You know, almost as a shrine.

CM: Markus, it certainly seems to me that right when you looked through the viewer and fired off that exposure, she went from Beyoncé Knowles from Houston, Texas to the immoral global brand all in one second.

MK: You are right, yes. Absolutely she did. I had a jolt in my, in my whole body when that moment happened. And I told her that right then as soon as I clicked that shot. I said, 'We got the cover, you’ll see.' There's alternate shots of that, which are all beautiful, and some of them will be in Houston.

CM: It seems you predicted her future while announcing her to the world. Is that fair to say?

MK: Well, the way I see it is with that image, I sort of anticipated who Beyoncé was going to become. I think that my job that day was to take a young girl from Houston, Texas, a member of an R&B group, and present to the world who she will be. And she would have become that regardless of whatever I did photographically, because she’s such an enormous, enormously talented musician and performer and icon. She’s a great actress. But, my opportunity was to showcase to the world quickly and immediately who she will be. And so that’s what I’m proud of.

CM: You have shot countless celebrity portraits — many the most memorable of said celebrity, like Britney Spears. How does it feel to hear that your 2003 shot is Queen Bey’s favorite of all time?

MK: The fact that Beyoncé is probably the biggest celebrity in the world today, and having photographed the most famous photo — of the most famous celebrity — is an honor that I take with great humility. I’m not saying that to show off — I’m saying that to thank God for the opportunity. I am glad that Beyoncé loves the photo so much. I’m glad that the world recognizes it as her most famous photo: It's been said many, many times that it is the most recognizable Beyoncé photo. So I'm very honored that people feel that way about it.

CM: What do you remember of the Beyoncé then, and the Beyoncé you've worked with since for other projects?

MK: I remember Beyoncé and being around her, seeing her as an extremely kind, very humble, very normal person. I’ve never felt any sort of diva behavior from her. Beyoncé was just really, really nice and normal. And she’s extremely hardworking, obviously extremely talented, not just with music and singing and acting, but also in the process of collaboration of a visual product such as these photographs I’ve done with her. She’s a very, very good collaborator.

There are people who are very famous, especially actors who sometimes, in front of the still camera, feel awkward. Sometimes comedians and actors need the movement, the momentum, the storytelling, the words in order to showcase their brilliance and their talent.

Not everyone is able in a 2/50th of a second to express all of that, but Beyoncé certainly has that incredible ability and I think that’s innate and subconscious and subliminal. She just knows where the light is coming from and she knows how to position it all in the most phenomenal way. And I guess I subliminally know how to catch it. So it’s really one of those very, very easy collaborations.

CM: Speaking of collaborations, you are able to crystallize a pop icon’s entire era in a single exposure unlike perhaps anyone I’ve ever seen. Did you know that Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion, and Lizzo are all from Houston — they all grew up just a mere 30 minutes from each other.

MK: Wow, I did not know that.

CM: Yes, we’re home to three of the biggest female pop stars in the world. So I wonder: Megan Thee Stallion is truly in the midst of her moment. Is she someone you’d like to shoot next?

MK: Well, let me answer it this way...I hope that Megan reads your interview, because I absolutely love Megan and I would love to work with her — and they should call me. I love her.

CM: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask: What is your favorite Beyoncé song?

MK: Oh, I would say “Crazy In Love” is one of my favorites. There are obviously many, but I'm probably biased to that album. That's one of my proudest collaborations, so, of course, I’m biased. Can you blame me? [Laughs]

Courtesy of Markus Klinko


Courtesy of Markus Klinko


Courtesy of Markus Klinko


Beyonc\u00e9 Dangerously in Love

Courtesy of Markus Klinko

Markus Klinko captured Beyoncé's favorite portrait in 2003 for her Dangerously in Love debut solo album.

Courtesy of Markus Klinko


Countdown to Beyoncé: Trill Burgers shortens hours to serve massive NRG Stadium crowd

respect the beyhive

Since it opened in June, Trill Burgers has been unstoppable. Bun B’s burger joint has seen lines out the door, fed celebrities ranging from Drake to Mike Tyson, and caused literal traffic jams with its drive-thru.

But even a juggernaut like Trill Burgers knows better than to mess with the Beyhive. For this weekend only (September 23 and 24), the Montrose-area restaurant will only be open from 11 am to 2 pm. Operating with such limited hours will allow Trill Burgers to feed the sold out crowds flocking to NRG Stadium for Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour.

“We want to make sure that we have our stations fully stocked so that people don't miss this amazing show that she's bringing,” Bun said in a video posted to social media. “We know the Beyhive don't play and Trill Burgers don't play either.”

In order to ensure people get their burgers as quickly as possible, Trill Burgers is slimming down its menu to only serve beef burgers — sorry, vegans. In addition, it will impose a limit of two burgers per person.

Due to the stage setup, Trill Burgers will only operate two of its usual four stands. They are Sections 135 and 548.

Of course, CultureMap has you covered for everything related to this weekend’s concerts. Don’t miss our guides for what to wear, events celebrating Beyoncé, and the latest traffic and parking info.

Countdown to Beyoncé: Parking, closures, rideshares, and more for NRG Stadium

bey prepared

The countdown is on for Beyoncé's highly anticipated shows in Houston this weekend, and ABC13 has everything you need to know for an easy ride over to NRG Stadium to see Queen Bey.

This weekend's gridlock alert isn't like any other, as more traffic is anticipated than usual in the South Loop area towards the venue on both Saturday and Sunday.

Here's what you need to know:


Drivers, if you decide to park directly at NRG Stadium, know all lots will have $40 cashless parking.

Parking is available in the orange, red, maroon, blue, yellow, green and purple lots. ADA parking is available in all of the lots.

If you're getting a ride, you can get dropped off and picked up at the Yellow Lot. The entrance will be through Gate 16B off Main Street.

METRORail riders can take the Red Line from the Fannin South Lot, which has $20 parking, and get off at the Stadium Park/Astrodome Station exit.EMBED <>MORE VIDEOS

Ready to Renaissance? Here's what you should know before Queen Bey's Houston concerts.

SEE ALSO: Beyoncé's favorite things: 9 places star has stopped before in Houston


But what about getting there on time?

If you're driving in from Fort Bend County or the southwest side, the Southwest Freeway will be closed at the West Loop, so you might want to avoid that.

All mainlanes will be closed starting Friday at 8 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m. You can use US-90 as your alternate route.

For those coming from the east side, including San Jacinto and all points beyond that along the East Freeway, avoid the East Loop altogether.

You'll see northbound and southbound closures between Market and Clinton Street from 9 p.m. on Friday to 5 a.m. on Sunday.

So, for Saturday night's concert, you can drive toward downtown and south on Highway 288 to catch the West Loop over to NRG Stadium.

If you plan to use METRO to head to NRG, they plan to put more of their trains in service about three hours before the start of Beyoncé's concerts each day.


Continue reading this story on our news partner ABC13.