Photo courtesy of Lawn Love.

With the winter season behind us, it’s time to start looking forward to spring and all the joy it brings, especially camping under the wide open Texas sky. Before you plan your next trip, it might be useful to learn that the Lone Star State was recently ranked third place in Lawn Love’s 2023 report for Best States for Camping.

Lawn Love compared every U.S. state based on 25 unique metrics, including campsite access, acreage, safety, affordability, and more.

Texas’ third place ranking was determined based on its high scores in several major categories. The Lone Star State has the second highest number of campgrounds, campsites with water, and camping supply stores.

In two other top five category rankings for the total acreage of campgrounds and average income-adjusted RV rental cost, Texas ranked No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. The state ranked just outside the top five at No. 6 for total acreage of state and national parks.

Beating Texas for the best and second best states for camping were California and Washington, for having the most attractions and highest acreage of national and state parks. This is California’s second year in a row as the top state in Lawn Love’s report. Rounding out the top five after Texas is Florida (No. 4) and New York (No. 5).

Guy deBrun, a camping enthusiast and lecturer at James Madison University, shared his top three tips for staying safe while camping overnight in the wild:

  • Allow yourself enough time for traveling: “Create a time control plan that considers the distance you need to travel, and add one mile for every thousand feet of elevation you need to gain. Divide that by your average rate of travel (usually two miles per hour on a trail with a pack).”
  • Dress in appropriate clothing: “Cotton clothing should be avoided in all but very hot and dry climates. It robs the body of heat because it does not wick moisture and dries slowly.”
  • Use good judgment: “Know your limits, plan your route, and communicate your plans with someone at home.”

deBrun also recommends every camper have a way to purify their drinking water, such as a chemical treatment or filter, when they embark on their trip.

More information about Lawn Love’s report and its methodology can be found at lawnlove.com.

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Where to celebrate Pride Month in Houston: Party loud n' proud with bar bashes, pride rides, takeovers, and more

where to celebrate pride

Houston has always been a bastion of pride, and this month, venues around the city are waving their flags in unity and celebration. A local hot spot pays tribute to a legendary instiution, while some local gay institutions party all month long.

Also look for food and drink specials, cultural celebrations, pride rides, and more. Here are your best bets for loud and proud parties this Pride month.

Tuesday, June 6

Trash Panda Drinking Club will pay homage to three iconic gay bars throughout the month of June, starting with New York's legendary Stonewall Inn for one night only. Chef Adriana Maldonado will curate a special, New York-themed menu featuring chopped cheese, New York-style pizza by the slice, and more, starting at 7 pm. Look for appearances by Stonewall bartenders Mel Albaladejo and Mike Salanari, DJ Chauncey D, and an appearance by Ms. Stonewall 2023. The parties continue on June 13 with an homage to New York's Cubbyhole and on June 24 with a revival of the much missed La Strada brunch.

Thursday, June 8

Pride Chorus Houston will return to the Moody Center for the Arts for an acapella performance of uplifting pop favorites. DJ Krazzy Kris will get the party started. 5 pm.

Friday, June 9

Hamburger Mary’swill have a Pride Month celebration/fundraiser, which will include a costume contest and door prizes. It’s free and open to healthcare professionals. 6 pm.

Saturday, June 10

Snoozewill host “Yappy Pride,” a fur-filled day of fun, love, and support for the LGBTQ+ community and their furry companions. There will be a prize wheel and merch for sale. 10 am.

Sunday, June 11

Congregation Beth Yeshurunwill host a Pride Playdate, complete with a bubble truck and a splash pad. You can also enjoy rainbow snacks and will have lots of time to play. 10 am.

Unbound Productionwill present the Drag Queen Reverse Brunch Show. This knock-your-socks-off show is the perfect mix of classy entertainment and raunchy comedy. 1 pm.

Thursday, June 16

Therapy Lounge will have a Pride celebration with live poetry, R&B music, and a drag show. There will also be food, hookah, drinks, vendors, and you can BYOB. 8:30 pm.

Saturday, June 17

Chapman & Kirbywill have a Pride Month Queen Brunch. Enjoy a delicious buffet while being entertained by some of the most talented drag performers in the city. Noon.

Houston Eaglewill host Houston’s Annual Pride Ride. There will be vendors, a drag show and raffles, followed by a bike ride through the old Pride Parade route through Montrose. Noon.

BUDDY’Swill have its 6th annual Pride Bar Crawl, with stops at Kiki, Pop Soap, and other spots. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to local Pride organizations and The Trevor Project. 4 pm.

The Montrose Centerwill celebrate Pride Month (and its 45th anniversary) with the Community Pride Celebration. There will be live entertainment, special surprises, and more. 4 pm.

Thursday, June 22

Numbers Nightclubwill welcome many drag performers for its Space City Pride 2023 party. Marcia Marcia Marcia, Salina EsTitties, Jasmine Kennedie, Landon Cider, and Jax will be in attendance. 8 pm.

Ripcordwill have a four-day, Unapologetic Pride Party, where people can celebrate and still remain aware of current events affecting the LGBTQ+ Community. There will be a full lineup of acts, along with vendors, kink demos, and speakers. 9 pm.

Saturday, June 24

The Pride Run, the inclusive, synchronized 5k/10k walk and run, will go down in downtown Houston. It’s dedicated to bringing people together to have fun, be active and support the LGBTQ+ community. 7 am.

The 45th Annual Official Houston Pride Celebration, featuring the Houston Pride Parade, will take place in downtown Houston on Smith and Milam. It’s free and everyone can register. 7 pm.

Houston Pride Parade 2016 flag waving
Photo by F. Carter Smith

Wave that flag proudly this month.

Talented Houstonian wins James Beard Award for Best Chef: Texas

Houston's newest Beard winner

A Houston chef has won one of the food world’s most prestigious awards. On Monday, June 5, the James Beard Foundation awarded Best Chef: Texas to Street to Kitchen chef Benchawan Jabthong Painter.

Considered the Oscars of the food world, the awards recognize chefs and other culinary professionals in a wide range of categories ranging from Outstanding Chef to Best New Restaurant. Winners are selected by the foundation’s Awards Committee that is made up of media members, former winners, and others. See the full list of winners here.

Painter — known as “Chef G” to friends and admirers — is the first Houston chef to win Best Chef: Texas, which was created after the 2019 James Beard Awards. She joins Robert Del Grande, Chris Shepherd, Justin Yu, and Hugo Ortega as the only Houston chefs to win a regional award in the foundation’s annual Restaurant and Chef Awards. Last night’s win means back-to-back victories for Houstonians in the awards, following Southern-inspired cocktail bar Julep’s win last year for Outstanding Bar Program.

“I always dreamed it would happen,” Painter told CultureMap shortly after her win. “It proves to me I can do it. I’m new to this country and new to this business, but if you have a belief, you can do it.”

The story of Street to Kitchen’s rise in the food world almost reads like a Hollywood movie. After growing up in Thailand where she learned to cook Thai food from her family, chef Painter and her husband Graham moved to America eight years ago. She worked for James Beard Award winner Justin Yu at Theodore Rex before starting Street to Kitchen to serve the “unapologetically Thai” flavors she couldn’t find at restaurants in Houston.

The Painters launched Street to Kitchen with a series of pop-ups and a weekly stand at the Urban Harvest farmers market. They leased a former fried chicken restaurant next to an East End gas station — far away from a prime location in a neighborhood like Montrose or the Heights — to bring Street to Kitchen to life.

Despite opening at the height of the pandemic in the summer 2020, people immediately began to discover Street to Kitchen. It won both Restaurant of the Year and Rising Star Chef of the Year in the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, paving the way for this year’s James Beard Award nomination.

“After I won, I feel like this is crazy,” she added. “No matter how hard I was working toward this day, it was worth it. I’m so proud to bring it to Houston. I’m really proud.”

While the night belonged to Chef G, it ended in disappointment for Houston’s two other finalists. Neither Nancy’s Hustle nor Tatemó took home the awards for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program and Best New Restaurant, respectively. Overall, Texas bars and restaurants earned 13 finalist nominations, but only Street to Kitchen won its category.

While the atmosphere throughout Monday night’s ceremony was jubilant, controversy had erupted over the past few weeks over the James Beard Foundation’s decision to disqualify Best Chef: South finalist Timothy Hontzas after it investigated anonymous complaints about his behavior towards staff and customers. Judges, including New Orleans-based food writer Todd Price and chef Vishwesh Bhatt, publicly resigned from the Restaurant and Chef Awards committee to protest the decision. In a lengthy article, the New York Timesreported that the foundation also investigated Best Chef: Southeast finalist Sam Fore, but ultimately allowed her to remain a nominee.

Popular Indian restaurant adds second location offering exclusively vegetarian fine-dining experience

Delicious Dedication

Foodies in the know have been visiting Nirmanz Food Boutique in Sugar Land for the past six years, drawn by its wide variety of Indian cuisines that include Punjabi, North and South Indian, Indo-Chinese, Indian street food, and even Indian fast food.

Now, hungry Houstonians and visitors seeking bright flavors and high-end hospitality can flock to the second location in Richmond, which opened at 11143 Harlem Rd. in fall of last year. It will feature an exclusively vegetarian menu.

It's the first of many planned expansions, says chef Nirman Shah, who runs the brand with his wife, Niyati, and three daughters: Manushi, Aayushi, and Sreyanshi. “These girls of mine are my truest of assets,” he often expresses.

Shah and his family have always followed the path of vegetarianism, and it has long been a dream to have a restaurant that showcases only vegetarian cuisine.

"In the Indian culture, there’s a large population that follows vegetarianism and there is a lack of fine-dining vegetarian, Indian restaurants here in America," says Shah. "Our goal is to place a spotlight on this particular genre and spread awareness of this cuisine that's growing in popularity."

Shah revealed that all Nirmanz locations will be converting to exclusively vegetarian soon, and there will be an additional menu that features gluten-free, vegan, jain, and swaminarayan options for those with dietary restrictions. In the near future, there will also be additions to the menu featuring cultural root dishes, which are often not found outside of India

"Ultimately we want to create a dining space that is inclusive, where there is something for everyone," Shah says. "As professionals in the hospitality industry, nothing makes us happier than having loved ones dine in our restaurants, celebrating a joyous time, while leaving satisfied."

A graduate of Indian Hotel Management in Ahmedabad, Shah has more than 25 years of U.S. restaurant experience.

Before arriving in the U.S., Shah earned accolades working as a head chef at the renowned Rambagh Palace Hotel in Jaipur, now a luxury Taj Palace Hotel, and also studied food technology.

The new location in Richmond is a celebration of Shah's culinary journey throughout his time in America. Beautifully adorned with antique furniture and pieces that were brought over from the city of Rajasthan, the restaurant's ambiance helps tell the story of the chef and his family.

The authentic menu tells its own delicious tale with comforting favorites like palak, tikka masala, and koftas, plus some unexpected fusion creations.

Thanks to both its food and its family spirit, the beloved restaurant brand is a popular choice for weddings and has catered at some of the city's most stunning venues.

Shah also believes in giving back — community is extremely important to him. He has gone out of his way to deliver free meals to medical offices and clinics during the pandemic, and helped feed locals during Hurricane Harvey and the devastating ice storm.

Bringing cuisine and culture together has always been Shah's goal, and now there are twice as many opportunities for his fans to experience that.


Nirmanz Food Boutique's original location is at 16338 Kensington Dr., suite 160, in Sugar Land (832-532-0699). Its new location is at 11143 Harlem Rd. in Richmond (832-281-9990).

Nirmanz Food Boutique

Photo courtesy of Nirmanz Food Boutique

The second location in Richmond is now open.