Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, courtesy of Houston Ballet

Since 2016, Houston Ballet has been performing artistic director Stanton Welch's version of holiday favorite The Nutcracker, and first soloist Tyler Donatelli has been a part of it since the beginning.

The dancer, who has risen quickly through Houston Ballet's ranks since joining the company in 2014 — having studied at Houston Ballet Academy and Houston Ballet II before that — this year dances the dual roles of Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

These two iconic roles define ballet for many young dancers, and Donatelli is acutely aware of the impact she can make on the more than 70,000 patrons who see The Nutcracker each year.

She recently sat down with CultureMap to discuss her history with the ballet, which runs November 24-December 27 at Wortham Theater Center.

CultureMap: What is your history with this version of The Nutcracker?

Tyler Donatelli: I've played Clara every year since it debuted in 2016, and I feel like I've played every other role too! Snow, a flower, a soldier, the sugar plum doll — everything but the children. When I first started I was 19 and in the corps de ballet, then progressed to solos...the years do go by.

CM: What's it like revisiting this ballet year after year?

TD: I use it as a gauge to see how in shape I am! It's a good check-in with my body, to see how my stamina and technique are compared to the year before.

CM: What's it like dancing the role of Clara?

TD: She's such a fun role. I literally get to act like a little girl on Christmas! I do try to find new nuances each year and refine my technique — being so familiar with the steps, I really get to play with it and put focus on character development. We all work really hard to make sure that story is the central role in this ballet.

You know there are little girls out there seeing ballet for the first time, and this version of The Nutcracker, with all its spectacle and beautiful costumes, really opens the audience's eyes to how palatable ballet can be.

CM: And how is it dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy?

TD: I love doing Clara, but technique-wise I really love doing the Sugar Plum Fairy.

She's such a contrast — she is literally queen of the Land of the Sweets! — and I really like discovering how fairy-like I can be in that role.

She is known for being quite a difficult role to dance. Her pas de deux and variation are known to be long and hard to do, and there's a lot of pressure that comes with the role. With all those little girls out there watching, I don't want to get it wrong!

CM: What can audiences expect with The Nutcracker?

TD: There is just so much to see and the storytelling stretches across the whole stage.

It's like opening one of those picture books where there are a thousand things happening on one page. You can be looking at a dancer on the left, but the dancers on the right and center are doing something just as interesting. The more times you see it, the more you'll notice.

CM: What is special about Houston Ballet and Stanton Welch's version of The Nutcracker?

TD: The Nutcracker is a lot of people's entrance into ballet, and sometimes it's the only ballet they ever go see. I think this one sets audiences up to understand the principles of ballet: pas de deux, big group numbers, solos, etc. The familiarity of the story is nice, because it lets people focus on the dance itself and become more comfortable with that.

But all our other ballets are magical in their own way. Let The Nutcracker be your first ballet, but please don't let it be your last.


Houston Ballet's The Nutcracker runs at the Wortham Theater Center from November 24-December 27. Tickets start at $30, and can be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or visiting the website.

Houston Ballet first soloist Tyler Donatelli as Clara and soloist Eric Best as Fritz with students of the Houston Ballet Academy in Stanton Welch’s The Nutcracker.

Houston Ballet The Nutcracker
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, courtesy of Houston Ballet
Houston Ballet first soloist Tyler Donatelli as Clara and soloist Eric Best as Fritz with students of the Houston Ballet Academy in Stanton Welch’s The Nutcracker.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, courtesy of Houston Ballet

A chat with Houston Ballet's charming Nutcracker Prince

The Ultimate Holiday Tradition

Each December, without fail, Houston audiences are treated to the visual spectacle that is Houston Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.

\u200bHouston Ballet principal Skylar Campbell in Rubies.

Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, courtesy of Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet principal Skylar Campbell in Rubies.

Set to Tchaikovsky's iconic score and using artistic director Stanton Welch's concept and choreography since 2016, The Nutcracker dazzles more than 70,000 patrons each year.

The opulent staging transports the audience from Clara's Victorian home to the magical Land of Sweets, as one Christmas night the little girl receives an enchanted nutcracker doll from her Uncle Drosselmeyer.

Nearly every member of Houston Ballet participates, with the cast rounded out by hundreds of young dancers from the community and Houston Ballet Academy.

Making his Nutcracker debut this year is principal dancer Skylar Campbell, who joined Houston Ballet in 2022 but was sidelined by injury last holiday season.

He recently sat down with CultureMap to discuss his dual roles of Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker Prince in the ballet, which runs November 24-December 27 at Wortham Theater Center.

CultureMap: How does Stanton Welch’s version of The Nutcracker differ from other iterations?

Skylar Campbell: Stanton’s version pushes the boundaries of what you think of a typical Nutcracker. The sheer amount of costume changes that the majority of the company has to do is unparalleled to others [editor's note: Tim Goodchild designed costumes for 45 mortal characters and 237 fantasy characters]. It's definitely not easy for the dancers either, but it's rewarding in the sense that it creates a spectacle and magical experience for audiences.

CM: Tell us about the roles you're dancing.

SC: This is my first time playing Drosselmeyer and I've had a lot of fun learning it with the rehearsal directors, some of whom have done the role before themselves. I've been given a lot of great info.

Approaching Drosselmeyer, I envision myself as a enigmatic, globe-trotting magician. With a knack for inspiring awe and enchantment, he aims to bring a touch of beauty and wonder to the world with his magical talents and mystique. I'm definitely not trying to be a mean old man who’s bitter about Christmas, or like a Scrooge-type figure.

This is new for me to play a character who’s older in age! But I think he's here to bring mystery and light and really change the energy of the show. When he first enters, he's surrounded by a lot of jubilance and then he balances that with a different tone. That excites people and draws them in — it's up to the audience to decide whether he actually changes the world or if Clara is just dreaming. It's exciting to think about him that way.

CM: And the Nutcracker Prince?

SC: The Prince for me is more of this regal and imaginative character, a free-spirited figure in the story who's in search of love and happiness and joy and dance.

Drosselmeyer is a real person and has more of a journey, while the Prince is the imagination of the Nutcracker (who he turns into when he and Clara travel to the Land of Sweets).

It's not uncommon for Drosselmeyers to also dance the Prince in this production, and it's interesting to see that a lot of their steps are the same, just on different sides. Stanton has them both dancing together at the end of Act I and into Act II, so it's been fun learning both parts.

CM: What is your favorite part about being in The Nutcracker?

SC: This is my first time dancing a new production after doing The Nutcracker in Canada [Campbell was with the National Ballet of Canada from 2009-2021], and it's refreshing and exciting to take on a new-to-me interpretation of a holiday classic.

Since it comes around every year, it really gives us unique opportunities to play and explore — it never gets old.

CM: Why do you think the audience returns year after year?

SC: I'm always surprised with the amount of characters there are in this ballet! There are so many things to look at that you can come back two or three times and will always see something new.

I always like to remind myself that at The Nutcracker there is always going to be someone who’s seeing ballet for the first time. It's something that I remember seeing as a kid too, and those first memories really stick with you. So we try to remember that each performance is inspiring a new generation of audience members and dance-goers, and as company members and professional dancers, we respect that and still take it seriously.


Houston Ballet's The Nutcracker runs at the Wortham Theater Center from November 24-December 27. Tickets start at $30, and can be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or visiting the website.

Photo courtesy of Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty

Spring Branch: An ideal investment opportunity where community blooms

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in Houston that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


"I have been living in Spring Branch for over two years now, and I wanted to share with you why I chose this wonderful community as my home," says real estate agent Thomas Claffy. "Spring Branch has undergone significant development in recent years, and I have witnessed firsthand its positive transformation."

Having helped people buy and sell in Spring Branch for the past 20-plus years, Claffy has definitely been around to see how this community combines the best of both worlds. It has the convenience of being close to Houston's major attractions while still offering its residents a peaceful and serene environment.

The local amenities, parks, and recreational areas make it an ideal area for individuals and families alike, he notes, and the schools are a major selling point, along with the quick commute to major employment centers.

"Moreover, I view Spring Branch as an excellent investment opportunity," Claffy says. "The growth of businesses and infrastructure in the area has been remarkable, reinforcing its potential for long-term value appreciation. I believe that investing in this community is a wise decision, both personally and financially."

Indeed, Spring Branch has been attracting top-notch retail and restaurants that add to the neighborhood's charm and appeal. Currently, there are redevelopment projects underway all along Long Point Road, bringing new and upcoming businesses to the area.The community also has a welcoming and neighborly feel that fosters a strong sense of belonging, Claffy says.

"I appreciate the sense of calm I feel here, unlike other close-in neighborhoods that can feel quite hectic," he says. "If you are considering a move or searching for a solid investment, I highly recommend exploring Spring Branch. Its central location, sense of community, and continuing development make it a great place to call home."

Claffy offered up a few of his personal favorites about life in Spring Branch. Here's his guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
"There are so many options, and the list is growing every day," says Claffy. New additions include The Library Wine Bar and James Beard Award winner Tatemó.

In addition, you can find great Korean barbecue at Bori, vegan Mexican food at Cascabel, and great American bistro fare at NoPo Cafe Market & Bar.

The shopping center located on Long Point Road and Hillendahl Road is home to a variety of businesses, Claffy points out, including The Blind Goat, Stuffed Belly, Feges BBQ, Barnaby's Cafe, Jinya Ramen Bar, Cosmic Ice Cream Co, and Slowpokes.

Where to play
Spring Branch has 32 designated parks spanning over 280 acres and the Spring Branch Trail, with the ultimate plan being an 11-mile hike and bike trail through the heart of Spring Branch that connects the Addicks Reservoir and White Oak Bayou Greenway.

Mekanix Gym is a great local gym. "I took handstand classes there, and it was a great way to challenge myself. You must check out this spot and ask them about 'fire and ice,'" Claffy hints.

Memorial City, City Center, and so much more is just outside your door when you are in Spring Branch.

Where to live
"Spring Branch has homes for every stage of life," Claffy says. The area is mainly made up of single-family homes, with patio homes and townhomes sprinkled in.

Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) is home to some of the most desirable schools in Houston and one reason the area is growing so quickly.

"Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, a young family, or an empty nester, Spring Branch has it all," says Claffy. "You'll find beautifully renovated ranch homes, new construction by Houston's top builders, and homes and lots in all sizes. It's truly a community that caters to all. If you're ready to find your perfect home, Spring Branch might be the place for you!"


Thomas Claffy works and plays in Spring Branch. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email homes@thomasclaffy.com, or call 832-875-3275.

Photo by Samantha Wiley Photography

Galveston's new boutique hotel opens soon with midcentury chic, rooftop bar, and fancy-ish dining

What's Eric Eating Episodes 324 and 325

Galveston’s newest boutique hotel is ready to open its doors. The Hotel Lucine will begin welcoming visitors on Friday, November 10.

First announced in 2021, the Hotel Lucine occupies the former Treasure Isle Motel property at the intersection of 10th Street and Seawall Boulevard. The project is led by Galveston native Keath Jacoby, her husband Dave, a finance and hospitality developer, and their business partner Robert Marcus, a real estate and hotel developer who’s married to Keath Jacoby’s childhood best friend.

To preview the property, Keath Jacoby and executive chef Leila Ortiz joined CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler on this week’s episode of the “What’s Eric Eating” podcast.

As Jacoby explains during the interview, she and her business partners see an opportunity to create something in Galveston that’s a little different than what exists on the island currently.

Hotel Lucine courtyeard

Photo by Samantha Wiley Photography

The Hotel Lucine opens November 10.

“The real inspiration was I love Galveston,” Jacoby says. “I think that it’s an incredible place for hospitality currently. I think that we can add a slightly different perspective and bring something that’s a marriage of all our pasts. We’ve lived multiple places, but coming back to Texas was the inspiration we needed for this project.”

The partners preserved the feel of the midcentury motor court by maintaining design details such as the original concrete floors and tiles. All of the 61 rooms have a view of the hotel’s pool, with upper level rooms offering balconies. Jacoby hopes the hotel’s guests embrace the intimate atmosphere as an opportunity to connect with fellow travelers.

“We want people to understand this is a place where you’re going to rub elbows and hug necks. It’s not a large, grand property where you’re going to have a ton of privacy, but that was always the goal,” she says.

“We want it to feel like an elevated house party that your weird aunt is throwing. That’s my hope, that people will interact.”

Adding to that party atmosphere will be the hotel’s four food and beverage spaces — The Fancy, a 56-seat “American fine-ish dining” restaurant that will open for dinner on November 14; The Den, a full service restaurant that’s open from breakfast until late; a rooftop bar led by beverage director Jesse Rubio; and The Lanai, which can be used for private events.

Ortiz brings extensive experience to her role as executive chef of The Fancy. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, she worked at New York’s Momofuku Noodle Bar before moving to Houston and working at Bludorn and UB Preserv. James Beard Award winner Justin Yu hired Ortiz for the role during his time as a consultant on the project. During the podcast episode, chef Ortiz explains that she’s excited to bring her culinary perspective to Galveston.

“I want to use the foundations of those ingredients that people love and are utilized on this island but maybe put my little quirk to it,” she says.

At The Fancy, diners can expect to find dishes such as chicken and dumplings that uses gyoza wrappers stuffed with chicken and mushroom duxelle or housemade potato chips topped with thinly sliced serrano ham and tuna. The Den will offer various breakfast options as well as staples like a burger and a mojo chicken sandwich that nods to the chef’s Puerto Rican heritage.

“It’s somewhere you can come for a drink in the afternoon,” Jacoby says about The Den. “It would be my favorite place to compile a group of tapas or snacks. However you want to use it, it’s a very dynamic space.”

Listen to the full episode to hear more from chef Ortiz about getting to know Galveston. Jacoby offers insights into her aspirations for the kind of development she hopes Hotel Lucine will inspire.

In this week’s other episode, Sandler and co-host Michael Fulmer discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: reactions to the Houston Chronicle’s new list of Houston’s top 100 restaurants; Himalaya owner Kaiser Lashkari opening a cooking school; and Street to Kitchen’s move to a new location.

In the restaurant of the week segment, Fulmer and Sandler discuss their meals at Coastline Artisan Pizzeria. Newly opened in the First Ward, the two friends rave about the restaurant’s wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pies.

Photo courtesy of Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty

Montrose: Vibrant, diverse, and walkable historic charm in the heart of Houston

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in Houston that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


Montrose has been described as "the heart of Houston" since 1910, says real estate agent William Finnorn, "and I firmly believe that its true beauty lies in the fact that it contains something for everyone. I see the neighborhood's vibe as an inveterate mix of creativity, eccentricity, and diversity."

Finnorn has lived in Montrose for the last five years, becoming a homeowner here three years ago.

"Montrose offers a unique lifestyle that combines historic appeal with contemporary living," Finnorn says. "Its charming streets, diverse housing options, and wide range of dining and shopping choices make it an exciting place to call home."

The area offers a little bit of everything, done well and finished with a certain artistic flair. One of the best things about Montrose is that it's a truly walkable neighborhood, Finnorn notes, giving its residents an easy way to explore all the area has to offer. Tree-lined streets offer a picturesque backdrop for the homes, with the mature oak and pecan trees not only providing shade but also enhancing the neighborhood's overall appeal.

Montrose also has a strong sense of community engagement, and is a place where people actively participate in volunteer work and contribute to various charitable causes, creating a close-knit and supportive community.

Finnorn himself has previously served on the board of directors for the Houston Area Parkinson's Society and is currently involved with the Montrose Center's young professionals group.

Finnorn was recently named to the Houston Association of Realtors' 20 under 40 Rising Stars in Real Estate, an award given to HAR members who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of sales, leadership, and community involvement.

"I love the neighborhood's vibrant and eclectic energy," he says. "It truly embodies my idea of the perfect place to live, work, and play. It's a neighborhood that keeps on giving, and I'm more than happy to help others find their own piece of this vibrant and eclectic enclave."

Finnorn offered up a few of his personal favorites about life in Montrose. Here's his guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
"The neighborhood offers endless options, representing a wide spectrum of cuisines," says Finnorn. "Whether you're in the mood for a burger, shareable plates, pizza, or a bowl of ramen, Montrose has it all."

A few of his recommendations include:

  • Bludorn, where chef Aaron Bludorn elevates classics with dishes like lobster pot pie and dry-aged burgers.
  • Hugo's, Hugo Ortega's eponymous spot in Montrose for upscale Mexican classics.
  • La Guadalupana, a go-to spot for Mexican breakfast classics and café de olla (Mexican cinnamon coffee).
  • Uchi, a renowned Austin-based restaurant that has become an integral part of Montrose's food scene.
  • Ramen Tatsu-ya, the go-to ramen joint in Montrose.
  • Clark's Oyster Bar, another Austin export that just opened at the corner of Montrose and West Alabama, for top-notch seafood and martinis.
  • March, a posh tasting menu restaurant from Goodnight Hospitality for a full sensory experience.
  • Rosie Cannonball, also from Goodnight Hospitality, for wood-fired pizzas and homemade pasta.
  • Montrose Cheese & Wine, for the rotating selection of cheeses and wines.
  • Nobie's, a classic Montrose bungalow turned eatery for its shareable plates and famous olive oil cake.

Where to play
Cherryhurst Park features a tennis court that's open to the public, and Finnorn comments that "it's a nice spot to enjoy a casual game with friends or practice your tennis skills."

Buffalo Bayou Park offers a natural escape in the heart of the city. Visitors can enjoy walking and biking trails, public art installations, and scenic views of the bayou. "While some choose to bike or kayak along the Bayou, I prefer to explore its pathways on foot," says Finnorn.

Bell Park is a small but charming park in the neighborhood offering green spaces, walking paths, and a peaceful environment for relaxation.

What to see
Finnorn recommends stopping into "art museums and galleries like the Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel, and my personal favorite, the Cy Twombly Gallery."

La Colombe d'Or's striking architecture and art-filled interior make it a unique landmark to visit. And don't miss out on the variety of cultural events and festivals that take place here throughout the year, including The Original Greek Festival.

Where to live
"The homes in Montrose are as diverse and eclectic as the neighborhood itself," Finnorn says. "Montrose is known for its charming historic bungalows, a mix of architectural styles, and a wide range of housing options that cater to various tastes and preferences."

In addition to bungalows, look out for Craftsman-style homes, Spanish Revival designs, Tudor Revival, and contemporary construction.

"This diversity gives the neighborhood a distinct aesthetic," Finnorn notes. "It also contributes to the neighborhood's popularity and its continued growth. Montrose attracts a diverse community of movers and shakers, artists, young professionals, and those who've called it home for many years, all of whom have contributed to its rich history."

Cherryhurst, an enclave within Montrose, is especially known for its strong sense of community. Residents take pride in their homes, and you can see the results in well-kept properties and beautifully landscaped yards.

Here, you'll find cozy cottages, larger single-family homes, and even multi-story townhouses, catering to a broad range of residents.

Many homeowners have taken on restoration and renovation projects to preserve the historical integrity of their homes while adding modern amenities and finishes.

Living in Cherryhurst means you're within walking distance to Montrose's art galleries, restaurants, boutique shops, and cultural attractions.

A recent listing of Finnorn's, 1635 Hawthorne St., embodies the essence of Montrose living by combining classic charm with modern amenities, emphasizing meticulous attention to detail, and preserving its historic architectural character.

"It's a prime example of how homes in Montrose offer a unique blend of timeless elegance and contemporary living," says Finnorn.


William Finnorn works and plays in Montrose. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here,email william.finnorn@sir.com, or call 713-306-0194.

Photo courtesy of Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty

Round Top: A tiny haven in the Texas countryside

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in Houston that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.

Not everything is bigger in Texas — and that’s just how Round Top likes it. Clocking in at a grand total population of 90 (no, that’s not a typo!), this place fully embraces the charms of being “big time small.”

Located in northern Fayette County, about 90 minutes west of Houston, the town is saturated with charm, friendliness, and relaxed country living.

You may have heard of Round Top because of the Junk Gypsy empire. “Their store is a must; they are the cutest, nicest sisters,” says real estate professional Linda Plant, about the design duo who shot to fame on HGTV.

Plant has lived on a beautiful Round Top farm since 2003, so she brings invaluable, firsthand experience to her clients.

“We had friends with a farm here and realized it was a lot closer than the Hill Country and just as pretty with green, rolling hills and beautiful live oak trees,” she says. “You can be as social as you want or enjoy the quiet and solitude of your country place.”

There’s plenty to do in Round Top, too, with fine dining, fantastic art, unique shops, and great places to explore.

The twice-yearly Original Round Top Antiques Fair is also a huge draw, bringing in people from across the country. Plus, La Grange is a mere 15 minutes away, with major retailers and a hospital. And Brenham is only a 25-minute drive.

When she’s not working, Plant is fully immersed in the Round Top community and serves on the board of Friends of Winedale, is co-chair of the Round Top Festival's fundraising gala, and is also involved in the Round Top Family Library and Fayetteville Community Theater.

Plant offered up a few more of her personal favorites about life in Round Top. Here's her guide:

Where to eat & drink
“I love Round Top’s small-town feel, but with a level of sophistication that comes with wonderful restaurants,” says Plant.

She loves Lulu's for rustic Italian fare, The Garden Co. for its amazing farm-to-table menu, and Duo Modern, which is the restaurant at Market Hill, a 119,000-square-foot emporium of the world’s best antiques, furniture, and art.

For Tex-Mex classics, it’s Mandito’s and for gourmet and sassy comfort food, Royers is the place to be. Word to the wise: Get the pie. They’ve got a full menu page devoted to their OMPs (oh my pies).

Some of Plant’s preferred places for a cocktail are Prost and the Ellis Motel (the Coconut Cowgirl is a vacation in a glass), and for craft beer, head to Round Top Brewing.

The adorable Round Top Coffee Shop is also a morning go-to for a cup of joe.

Where to play
Plant suggests walking around the grounds and gardens of the Round Top Festival Institute, which is a center for learning and performances.

For shopping, browse all the goodness at Henkel Square Market — or play bocce ball there. Take the kids to the Round Top Family Library, housed in a former church that was moved to the current site and restored.

Fayetteville Lake is only 20 minutes away and has great fishing.

What to see
“First off, I love to drive the back country roads because there are so many gorgeous areas surrounding Round Top,” says Plant.

The Winedale historical complex is also nearby, with an outstanding collection of Texas hand-crafted decorative arts, 19th-century furnishings, and more. It’s part of the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Not to be missed, the 1,100-seat concert hall at the Round Top Festival Institute is a beautiful hidden gem.

“It’s hard to believe this world-class place exists in a town the size of 90!” adds Plant. “Every summer, they bring students and conductors from around the world for a six-week program in addition to other performances throughout the year. It is simply amazing.”

Where to live
In Round Top, the farmhouse takes top billing, whether it’s a traditional German style, a modern design with clean lines and board-and-batten siding, or a stone Hill Country-style home.

“Typically, you can expect wide porches to catch the breeze, lots of windows, and simple and clean lines that reflect the rural landscape,” Plant says.

A good example is 3242 Hartfield Road, where Plant represented the seller of this incredible 16-acre property that features a spectacular main house with sweeping views of the pond and fields, as well as two charming guesthouses from converted corn silos.

A current listing of Plant's is 1227 Kneip Road, a custom, four-bedroom, Craftsman-style home on 18 acres of groomed, rolling terrain with two ponds and Rocky Creek as one of its boundaries.

Two primary suites, a gourmet kitchen, a detached garage with an artist's studio, and a pool crowned by a cascading waterfall complete the dreamy dwelling.


Linda Plant works and plays in Round Top. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email linda.plant@sothebys.realty, or call 713-240-5813.

Realtor Linda Plant

Photo courtesy of Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty

Agent Linda Plant.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Retro Montrose pizzeria scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants in America list

Esquire best new restaurants

Two Texas restaurants are basking in the national spotlight. Both are recognized on Esquire magazine’s new list of The Best New Restaurants in America, 2023.

They are Este, a Mexican seafood restaurant in Austin, and Nonno’s Family Pizza Tavern, a pizzeria in Houston that’s not on the main list but earns a shoutout for being the Pizza Joint of the Year. The 50 restaurant list is led by Ilis, a New Nordic-inspired restaurant in Brooklyn whose name is adapted from the Danish words for “fire” and “ice” (ild and is, according to the magazine).

Este, the only Texas restaurant on the main list (down from three in 2022), earns recognition for its ceviche, oysters with salsa negra and chiltepin mignonette, fried fish tacos, and more. The Austin restaurant is no stranger to these kind of lists, having earned similar shoutouts from the New York Times, Bon Appetit, and Texas Monthly.

“You might think you’re on the Mexican coast, but alas, you’re in good ol’ landlocked central Texas. East Austin, to be exact,” Omar Mamoon writes. “While the fish has a bit of a journey, many of the vegetables and floral garnishes are plucked from the garden behind the restaurant.”

Mamoon heaps similar praise on Nonno’s, citing its retro design, comprehensive wine and cocktail lists, and Chicago-style cracker-thin pizzas. “Nonno’s in Houston evokes the retro pizza parlors of my youth, Pac-Man and all, but the pizza is much, much better,” he writes.

Published Tuesday, November 28, Esquire writers Jeff Gordinier, Joshua David Stein, Omar Mamoon, and Kevin Sintumuang compiled the 50 restaurant list by visiting more than 200 establishments across the country, according to the magazine. In addition to Ilis, New York City claims eight more spots on the list, including Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi’s Caribbean restaurant Tatiana and Torrisi, an homage to New York City’s food culture from the restaurant group behind acclaimed Italian restaurant Carbone.

“Honest innovation doesn’t always work in the kitchen, but when it does, it’s like rocket fuel for the soul,” Sintumuang writes in the article’s introduction. “You leave not just full, not just filled with delight, but with a spark. It’s a rare thing, but it’s worth chasing. Consider this your map.”

Iconic rapper Busta Rhymes brings all the lyrics to Houston's ears on new tour

rhymes in ya ear

Effortlessly clever and a born performer, iconic rapper-actor-performer Busta Rhymes is a living link to the early days of NYC/East Coast hip-hop's origins and modern entertainment. Next year, Houston fans can catch all his lyrics inside their ears when he hits town.

Busta Rhymes will bring his energetic brand of showmanship and raspy-voiced rhymes to 713 Music Hall on March 28, 2024 as part of his just-announced Blockbusta North American tour. Supporting his acclaimed new album of the same name, the Blockbusta tour will also head to Dallas' South Side Ballroom on March 24 and Austin's Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater on March 26.

Tickets are available via Citi presale now, with more presale promotions running the week ahead of the general on-sale, beginning at 10 am Friday, December 1at LiveNation.com. Fans can look forward to VIP packages and experiences, including general admission tickets, individual Meet & Greet, photo op, and Q&A with Busta Rhymes, autographed item, early entry with priority access to the floor & more. Those interested should check out more at vipnation.com.

Fresh off supporting 50 Cent on the historic, global Final Lap Tour, Busta will drop a feast of new Blockbusta material from the Busta co-produced with A-listers Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, and Swizz Beatz. Check out new tracks — including the latest single “OK” featuring Young Thug — here.

The NYC native boasts 12 Grammy Award nominations, more than 10 million albums worldwide, seven Top-10 debuts on the Billboard 200, and a "greatest performer of all time" title glossed by none other than one JAY-Z. He has also starred in notable roles in films such as Higher Learning and Finding Forrester and has even rubbed elbows with Former President Barack Obama.

But he still keeps it real from his East Flatbush Brooklyn early days, with cred such as BET Jams crowning his "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" as the "Greatest Hip-Hop Video of All-Time." Busta also recently scored the 2023 BET Icon/Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Here is the full list of Blockbusta 2024 tour dates.

3/13 San Francisco, CA The Masonic

3/15 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Palladium

3/16 Anaheim, CA House of Blues

3/17 San Diego, CA SOMA

3/19 Las Vegas, NV House of Blues

3/20 Phoenix, AZ The Van Buren

3/22 Denver, CO Fillmore Auditorium

3/24 Dallas, TX South Side Ballroom

3/26 Austin, TX Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater

3/28 Houston, 713 Music Hall

3/30 Atlanta, GA Coca Cola Roxy

4/1 Orlando, FL House of Blues

4/2 Miami Beach, FL Fillmore Miami Beach At Jackie Gleason Theatre

4/4 Raleigh, NC The Ritz

4/5 Charlotte, NC The Fillmore Charlotte

4/7 Philadelphia, PA The Fillmore Philadelphia

4/8 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore Silver Spring

4/9 Boston, MA House of Blues

4/11 Detroit, MI The Fillmore Detroit

4/12 Toronto, ON HISTORY

4/14 Chicago, IL Radius Chicago

4/17 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works

4/18 Cincinnati, OH Andrew J. Brady Music Center

4/21 Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Paramount

Inside the new La Griglia: Murals are out, tableside touches are in, and more

First look at La Griglia

The name may be the same, but the new La Griglia is a very different place from the restaurant it replaced. Moving about a mile east to a new location at 2817 West Dallas St. has brought a fresh perspective to both the look and menu of the River Oaks staple.

La Griglia exterior

Courtesy of La Griglia

La Griglia is now open on West Dallas.

La Griglia senior executive Brandon Busch, who has been involved with the restaurant throughout its history, tells CultureMap that he worked directly with CEO Tilman Fertitta to take La Griglia in a more upscale direction. That includes a design inspired by the Italian Riviera and hiring a high profile chef consultant to rethink the menu.

“When Tilman started talking to me about this, we talked about the fact that over the past 15, 20 years that everybody has tried to make everything a little more casual. Nobody wants to get dressed up anymore,” Busch says. “We thought it was time to reverse that. We took this restaurant a little more upscale. We’re white tablecloth throughout, and that includes the outside courtyard.”

White tablecloths aren’t the only change to La Griglia’s interior. The original location’s colorful murals are gone. Instead, the interior features framed black and white photographs, Art Deco-inspired lighting fixtures, and marble floors. Banquettes make the expanded bar area an option for dining as well as drinking.

“People can’t believe how gorgeous it is. People say it reminds them of New York or LA,” Busch says. “I’ve seen the looks on faces of customers I’ve known for 30 years. They’re blown away.”

Three private dining rooms are located upstairs that can host separate events or be combined into one large room. La Griglia’s covered patio is climate controlled and features a retractable roof. Overall costs for the patio, including its posh landscaping, exceeded $1 million, according to a release.

Even the staff uniforms have gone upscale. Managers wear suits. Captains are in white tuxedo jackets, and support staff are in black tuxedo vests. They’ve adopted old school touches like serving from the left and bringing a cold fork for salads.

To transform the menu, Landry’s recruited chef Mark Ladner. Best known for winning a James Beard Award at New York City’s acclaimed Del Posto restaurant, Ladner introduced a number of new dishes, including Burrata di Puglia with heirloom tomato and Castelvetrano and Taggiasca olives; beef carpaccio with arugula, parmesan, mascarpone cream, and sweet peppers; pasta bolognese; veal piccatine; and frutti di mare that’s made with clams, mussels, and shrimp topped with red clam sauce.

Most of the entrees are served a la carte and can be paired with vegetable sides such as broccolini, sweet corn polenta, and a latke-style seared potato cake. Day to day execution is overseen by chef de cuisine Pat Sommers, who had a well-regarded stint as a sous chef at Houston fine dining restaurant Triniti.

“[Ladner] was a pleasure to work with. He’s very pragmatic,” Busch says. “He’s a great Italian chef. He’s more about the ingredients than to make sure you’ve got flowers all over your food. It’s simple and wholesome.”

Thankfully, some La Griglia classics remain, including the shrimp and crab cheesecake, Snapper La Griglia, and autumn salad. Regulars will be pleased to learn that the signature pizza bread remains, although it has a new crust based on a dough recipe Ladner created.

Along with the new dishes, Busch has brought some theater to the dining room with a few items that are finished tableside. Pasta alla ruota gets tossed in a cheese wheel before getting a generous shaving of black or white truffles. “Hanging Hen” is a whole chicken that’s carved tableside and served with roasted potatoes and chicken jus. Even dessert has a tableside ice cream option.

“[On] our opening night, I must have carved six chickens and served six pasta wheels. I haven’t worked on the floor like that in awhile,” Busch says. “It was fun to watch when I was doing that wheel in the middle of the dining room. Everyone turned their heads to see what I was doing.”

Currently, the restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner nightly. If a full house on a recent weeknight is any indication, the regulars are stopping by to check out the new location.

“La Griglia patrons will discover an elevated dining experience with great attention to detail,” Fertitta added in a statement. “No expense was spared for the restaurant’s design and the creation of the new menus. La Griglia is special to Houston, and it required and deserved a great deal of consideration.”