Photo by Becca Wright

On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Dessert Gallery owner Sara Brook joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss her business. The Upper Kirby dessert shop recently celebrated its 28th anniversary.

Brooks tells Sandler about her decision to open Dessert Gallery as both a dine-in and to-go cafe at a time before coffee shops — or dedicated dessert shops — offered that kind of environment. He also asks her about the nostalgic nature of most of Dessert Gallery’s offerings.

“There have been times in my 40-year career when there have been different trends that come and go with things flying out of our dessert or all sorts of weird accessories. They’re fun to look at or order once, but it’s not something you’d want again,” Brook says. “You want the thing that reminds you of what your grandma made for your birthday. Those are the things that inspire memories and good feelings.”

Listen to the full episode to hear Brook discuss her relationship with Houston’s Jewish community and the status of her new location in The Woodlands that’s scheduled to open in time for Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies.

On this week’s other episode, Sandler and co-host Monica Danna discuss the news of the week and their meal at a new restaurant. Their topics include: Tatemó chef Emmanuel Chavez being named a Food & Wine Best New Chef; Levi Goode going solo by opening fine dining restaurants Credence and Sidebar; and Seattle’s Dough Zone opening its first Houston-area location in Midtown.

Dessert Gallery Sara Brook headshot

Photo by Becca Wright

Sara Brooks is this week's guest.

In the restaurant of the week segment, they visit Nonno’s Family Pizza Tavern, the new, retro-styled pizzeria from Nobie’s owners Sara and Martin Stayer. Listen to hear their thoughts on the restaurant’s tavern-style pizza and other dishes.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Sunday at noon on ESPN 97.5.

Photo by Kimberly Park

Meet the dynamic duo behind seaside smash Pier 6, plus our trips to 2 Heights hot spots

What's Eric Eating Episodes 312 and 313

On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House owner Raz Halili and chef Joe Cervantez join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss their restaurant. It's been about three years since Halili and Cervantez opened the waterside establishment in San Leon.

The conversation touches on a number of topics, including ways the restaurant has changed in three years, its semifinalist nomination for Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Awards, and the challenges Cervantez and chef de cuisine Lexy Garcia face by having to maintain standards for such a large restaurant.

"On expectations, the volume we operate at the restaurants. During the summer, we'll do 1,500 to 1,600 covers a day," Halili explains. "It gets pretty insane on the weekends during those peak times, and being able to execute at that high level is a lot. It's something day-in, day-out the attention has gotta be there."

"When you're doing numbers that high, you really have to make sure we're not slinging food out of the kitchen," Cervantez adds. "Things still have to have their garnishes and look pretty. It's not just throwing food on the plate and sending it out."

Listen to the full interview to hear Halili's take on the new breed of appelation oysters such as Murder Points and Barrier Beauties that are making a splash in the market. Cervantez also shares his impressions of Navy Blue, Aaron Bludorn's seafood restaurant in Rice Village.

In this week's first episode, Sandler and co-host Linda Salinas discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Reserve 101 offering vintage spirits; Dak & Bop returning to its original location in the Museum District; and the opening of Betelgeuse Betelgeuse's second location in Montrose.

In the restaurants of the week segment, Salinas and Sandler share their thoughts on two establishments in the Heights. First, they discuss their meal at Moon Rabbit, the modern Vietnamese restaurant on 19th St. Then, they turn their attention to Best Regards, the stylish lounge and cocktail bar that recently opened in the former Chivos space.

Pier 6 Seafood Joe Cervantez Raz Halili

Photo by Kimberly Park

Chef Joe Cervantez and Raz Halili are this week's guests.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Sunday at noon on ESPN 97.5.

Photo by Michael Ma

The Ultimate Houston Burger Draft: We select city's must-try burgers, fries, and shakes

What's Eric Eating Episodes 310 and 311

On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler invites a panel of chefs and local food experts to participate in the Ultimate Houston Burger Draft.

Conducted as a fantasy football-style snake draft, the six participants select burgers, fries, and milkshakes in six categories:

  • Houston-based Burger Restaurant: A restaurant such as Burger-Chan or Lankford Grocery that primarily serves burgers
  • Smash Burger: The trendy style made with smashed patties and simple toppings such as pickles, onions, and a tangy sauce.
  • Fancy Burger: The only burger on the menu at a full service restaurant.
  • Fries or Tots: No burger meal would be complete without fries.
  • Milkshakes
  • Wildcard: Any other burger from a Houston restaurant or any non-burger dish served at a Houston-based Burger Restaurant such a hot dog or onion rings.

The rules are simple. First, each drafter may only select one item per restaurant. Therefore, all six teams will have items from six different restaurants. Second, once a menu item has been drafted, no other team may select it. That means there are 36 unique choices.

The first round picks proceed as follows:

  • Restaurateur Mary Clarkson selects the happy hour burger at Doris Metropolitan as her Fancy Burger.
  • Houston BBQ Festival co-founder Michael Fulmer selects the smash burger at Burger Bodega as his Smash Burger.
  • Former commercial real estate developer Monica Danna selects the Blue Cheese Waffle Fries at Barnaby’s.
  • Riel chef-owner Ryan Lachaineselects the Bacon Cheeseburger at Champs as his Houston-based Burger Restaurant burger.
  • Sandler chooses the Chopped Cheese at Burger Bodega as his Wildcard.
  • Chef Bobby Matos, culinary director for Rocket Farm Restaurants (State of Grace, La Lucha, and Superica) drafts the Fire Burger from The Burger Joint as his Houston-based Burger Restaurant burger.

Listen to the whole episode to hear all of the results.

On this week’s second episode, Burger Bodega owner Abbas Dhanani joins Sandler to break down the draft and offer an opinion on who “won.” They also discuss some other burgers that could have been drafted, adding 12 more suggestions for listeners to try.

Dhanani also provides an update on the latest happenings at Burger Bodega, including revealing that his next collaboration will feature guest chef (and CultureMap wine columnist) Chris Shepherd, who will appear at the restaurant on Wednesday, September 13. Here's a sneak peek of the Southern Smoke Juicy Lucy.

Burger Bodega Southern Smoke Juicy LucyThis burger will sell out fast.Photo by Michael Ma


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Sunday at noon on ESPN 97.5.

Burger Bodega cheeseburger and chopped cheese
Photo by Michael Ma

Both Burger Bodega's smash burger and chopped cheese are chosen.

Courtesy of Through Fare Hospitality.

Bobby Heugel dishes on his big Montrose bar rescue, why Houston needs to shake up cocktail pricing, and more

What's Eric Eating Episodes 308 and 309

On this week’s interview episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Thorough Fare Hospitality co-founder Bobby Heugel joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss his latest projects. It’s been five years since the veteran restaurant and bar owner made his last appearance on the show, so the duo have much to discuss.

The conversation begins a discussion about Catbirds. Earlier this month, Heugel announced he had acquired the assets and name of the iconic Montrose dive from former owner Shelly Wilburn. At the time, he hadn’t made a decision about whether to reopen the space with a new name, but he confirms to Sandler the bar will reopen as Catbirds — hopefully in mid-November. He also shares that his friend and collaborator Peter Jahnke will be a co-owner of the bar.

“The two of us have been in there personally cleaning up Catbirds . . . We’ve been getting rid of some clutter. Other than that, we don’t plan to change very much,” Heugel says about his plans for the casual, neighborhood spot.

“I think when people come back to the bar. They will go, this is Catbirds, and they’ll be able to point out a few things we changed. I think for the most part it will be the bar they’ve known for a very long time,” he says.

The conversation covers a range of other topics, including the decision to open Refuge last year as a companion to Anvil, the evolution of Better Luck Tomorrow as Heugel and Yu make plans for a second location, and the ways Montrose has changed over the years. They also discuss the current state of cocktail prices in Houston. All of Heugel’s bars offer generous happy hours. It’s a topic he feels strongly about.

“A double digit happy hour is ridiculous to me,” Heugel says. “I’m sorry if any of my friends are running bars with double digit happy hours. $10 is not a happy hour price, and I see it all the time. There’s nothing happy about that. It’s a sad hour. $10? That’s ridiculous. It’s not a happy hour.”

On this week’s first episode, Sandler and co-host Michael Fulmer discuss the news of the week. Their topics include Texas Monthly’s list of the state’s 25 best new barbecue joints; Pho Binh Trailer closing after 40 years; and Granger’s, an elevated neighborhood restaurant coming to the Museum District next year.

In the restaurants of the week segment, they discuss two restaurants where they recently ate brunch. First, they praise Dante’s River Oaks, a new Italian restaurant, for its porchetta sandwich, octopus salad, and polish service. Then, they rave about the huevos rancheros, barbacoa taco, and breakfast margarita at Goode Co. Kitchen & Cantina’s location in the Heights.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Saturdays at 2 pm on ESPN 97.5.

Photo courtesy of iHeart Media

Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land presents This Is Important Live!

Adam Devine, Anders Holm, Blake Anderson, and Kyle Newacheck (co-creators and stars of Workaholics) will present a live version of their podcast, This is Important, diving deep into serious discussions about some of the most important topics facing the society today such as grown men fighting children, diarrhea, boners, naked grandmas, and more.

Courtesy of Bluestone Lane

Meet the mastermind behind Houston's Australian-inspired coffee shops, plus our trips to 2 Chinese hot spots

what's eric eating episodes 306 and 307

On this week’s interview episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Bluestone Lane founder and CEO Nicholas Stone joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss his career. The conversation begins with Stone explaining how he left investment banking to open his first location in 2013.

Since then Bluestone Lane has grown to locations through the East and West Coasts. It entered the Houston market in 2022 with a location in the Heights. Since then, it has expanded to four location restaurants, including its newest outpost in The Woodlands.

Given the speedy growth, Sandler asks Stone how many locations he thinks Houston can support.

“There’s capacity for at least eight to 10. If I look at the success of Snooze and I look at the success of First Watch, I think we have some elements that are common there,” Stone says. “We have a much stronger focus on coffee. We’re a world class coffee roaster. For us, that’s our DNA.”

“I think First Watch probably has 20 locations in the Greater Houston area. Snooze must have about 10. I think we could comfortably double from where we’re at over the next couple years.”

In addition to Bluestone Lane’s future in Houston, Stone and Sandler touch on a number of other topics, including how Melbourne’s coffee culture shaped Bluestone Lane and how the business shifted its approach as a result of the pandemic. On a lighter note, Stone shares his favorite dishes on the menu and discusses his recent appearance on Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars.

On this week’s other episode, Sandler and co-host Mary Clarkson discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Batanga changing into The Big Casino Kitchen + Bar; ChòpnBlọk owner Ope Amosu’s Chopd & Stewd Festival; and the opening of Fiora’s Bottle Shop at the Montrose Collective mixed-use development.

In the restaurants of the week segment, they share thoughts about two very different Chinese restaurant. First, they discuss a recent meal at Benny Chows, the luxurious new restaurant from B&B Butchers owner Berg Hospitality. Then, they rave about the dim sum at Tim Ho Wan in Katy.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Saturdays at 2 pm on ESPN 97.5.

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Score free Shake Shack for one day only at juicy collab with charming Rice Village jeweler


Popular ear piercing barStuds made a name for itself by offering a customized piercing experience for those who aged out of places like Claire's but wanted an alternative to a tattoo parlor for piercings. With 19 locations nationwide, Studs offers a wide assortment of earrings that range from classic shapes, to huggies, flatbacks, and dangling charms.

Studs has once again added to their earring selection with their latest collaboration with Shake Shack. They created an adorably beefy earring to add to any burger lover's Earscape.

Studs and Shake Shack created a limited-edition Burger huggie earring and Earscape set. Photo by Studs

Retailing for $32, the limited edition Shake Shack burger huggie comes as a 14K gold-plated hoop with a loaded hamburger charm. Shoppers can opt for the $64 pair, but Studs is also currently offering a discount on the Shake Shack x Studs set. For $78, earring enthusiasts can get the two Shake Shack burger huggies, the 14K-gold Smiley Stud and the 14K-gold Micro CZ Stud.

What's even better than cute earrings? Free Shake Shack! On Thursday, September 28th customers can enjoy free bites from Shake Shack while they shop the new Shake Shack Charm Huggie collection at Stud's Rice Village location.

For $78, earring enthusiasts can get the two Shake Shack burger huggies, the 14K-gold Smiley Stud and the 14K-gold Micro CZ Stud.Photo by Studs

Shake Shack is known for their always made-to-order fare including ShackBurger, crinkle-cut fries, hand-spun shakes and their new Veggie Burger and non-dairy offerings.

Interested shoppers can RSVP here.

Studs Rice Village, 2567 Amherst St.; (832) 981-2869. RSVP here.

Pink-powered Barbie merch truck cruises into Houston on 'Dreamhouse Living Tour'

This Barbie Sells Merch

Hot on the heels — or wheels — of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck comes another timely pink rolling shop for two Saturdays in October.

The Barbie Truck will stop in Friendswood and The Woodlands on its 2023 "Dreamhouse Living Tour," which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Barbie's ever more popular property, and will give visitors a chance to spice up their own homes.

Although this is all about the house, there are only a few homewares: things like coasters, glass tumblers, a glass mug, a throw blanket, and an "accessories cup." Visiting Barbies have more opportunities to take home wearable and on-the-go items like graphic tees, hoodies, and denim; a baseball cap; embroidered patches; and keychains.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living TourIt's a Barbie world in Houston.Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Most people who have been awake and on social media in the past year have learned that Barbie's Dreamhouse has a more empowering history than many girls realized while orchestrating drama between the dolls.

A release announcing the arrival of the truck reminds fans (and detractors) that when the Dreamhouse came out, only a tenth of a percent of young women were independent homeowners, and states that someone buys a Dreamhouse every minute.

This year's Barbie truck tour should be in very high demand following the success of the 2023 movie.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Dreamhouse aside, this is a dream ride.

The Barbie Truck will be in Friendswood on Saturday, October 21st, from 10 am to 7 pm at Baybrook Mall at the lawn near Gloria's. Arrive early in case of long lines.

The truck will then cruise to The Woodlands on Saturday, October 28th at The Woodlands Mall near Shake Shack from 10 am to 7 pm.

These Barbies will hit five other Texas cities on the tour:

  • September 30 – San Antonio
  • October 7 — Austin
  • October 14 — Laredo
  • November 4 — Plano (Dallas)
  • November 11 — Fort Worth

Follow along to see more stops on Instagram or Facebook.

Medical Center builds bridges for global impact with new Netherlands partnership

going dutch

The Texas Medical Center may be based in Houston, but the organization has again grown its global impact.

Since 2016, TMC’s BioBridgeshave worked with 88 startup companies. Those include strategic alliances with four other countries. Australia, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland are all among TMC’s BioBridges partners. As of today, add the Netherlands to that list.

On September 27, TMC president and CEO, William F. McKeon, and Carmen van Vilsteren, chair of Health~Holland, Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (LSH), signed an agreement in Rotterdam. The TMC Netherlands BioBridge Memorandum of Understanding codifies the innovative goals of the partnership. Essentially, the BioBridge program provides a means for entrepreneurs, researchers, clinicians and industry partners from other countries to access the US market, as well as TMC experts.

“The TMC Netherlands BioBridge represents an unparalleled opportunity for collaboration and growth,” Ashley McPhail, chief external affairs & administration officer at Texas Medical Center said in a press release. “The Netherlands has solidified its position as a global leader in the field of life sciences and health, with a thriving ecosystem of research institutions, innovative companies, and highly skilled professionals. This strategic partnership will bring positive benefits to patients, clinicians and industry partners on a global scale.”

This lifeline for international healthcare companies makes expansion into the United States far smoother. The Global Innovators Launch Pad allows for startup founders to take part in a 10-week residency at the TMC Innovation Factory that will teach them about foundational infrastructure, clinical evidence and funding in the US.


Continue reading this story on our sister site InnovationMap.