Pappas Meat Co./Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/PappasMeatCo/photos/pb.560834420712366.-2207520000.1440087144./669774403151700/?type=3&theater]

With over 200 participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks, diners have a wide variety of choices in terms of cuisine, location, ambiance etc. Despite all of those options, the number don't lie — Houstonians see HRW as an opportunity to get a good deal on steak.

Just look at last year's top 10 donations by restaurant to the Houston Food Bank. It's dominated by steakhouses like Del Frisco's and Mr. Peeples and steak-oriented restaurants like Churrascos.

Sadly, the only steak on offer at these places is typically filet mignon — prized by people who don't really like steak for its mild flavor and being really easy to cut. While my own mother typically orders filet (to my considerable embarrassment), most meat lovers find filet to be mushy and flavorless; that's why restaurants typically serve it with enhancements like bearnaise sauce or covered in peppercorns for steak au poivre.

Perhaps the most shameful example of this is at Vic & Anthony's, which offers a wimpy six-ounce filet as its only steak option on a $45, three-course menu. At least Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse delivers a more respectable eight ounces and gives people the option of spending an additional $18 to get a steak someone who likes meat would actually want to eat: a 16-ounce prime strip or ribeye. Vallone's deserves some scorn for not offering a steak entree without a $9 "supplement," but at least it serves four courses instead of three.

What follows are the most intriguing options for eating steak during HRW. Yes, that includes one filet option, but it's both compelling by itself and featured on a less expensive, $35 menu.

Pappas Meat Co.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, the Galleria area temple of luxurious, dry-aged Prime beef, does not participate in HRW, but this more casual sibling on the Eastside does. For only $35, diners can choose from a 17-ounce ribeye, a 13-ounce strip or an 18-ounce T-bone that are served with a side of a baked potato. Of course, the beef is graded Choice instead of Prime, but it's still eminently delicious.

Frank's Americana Revival
Sadly, the celebrated chicken fried steak at this River Oaks comfort spot is not on the HRW menu, but steak lovers can still find a worthy entree in the 10-ounce strip from highly regarded local purveyor 44 Farms. Alternatively, the fried chicken and seared grouper also make for an excellent dinner.

Texas de Brazil and Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse
Both of these churrascarias will bring an all you can eat parade of meat to your table for $35. The price even includes both a salad bar, because consuming a few vegetables prior to gorging oneself will help reduce guilt, and dessert. Just remember that the pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls) are a delicious trick to try to fill you up on bread. Don't fall for it. One other tip: never say no to one last bite of garlic beef.

Arnaldo Richards' Picos
For those who insist on eating filet, Picos is the way to go. The Mexican restaurant in Upper Kirby not only covers the meat in either black oaxacan or red poblano mole, but it also serves it with a cheese enchilada, rice and choice of beans. Factor in that the menu also includes two other courses for $35 and rejoice in the value.

Eddie V's
Admittedly, both the CityCentre and West Ave. locations of this chain are better known for their lively bar crowds and seafood options than steak, but the three-course, $45 HRW menu contains one worthwhile splurge. For $10 extra, diners can opt for a 22-ounce bone-in ribeye as an entree. The same cut lists for $49 on the restaurant's regular menu, which means that diners are essentially getting two other courses for $6.

Harwood Grill
The Upper Kirby newcomer has built its whole concept around serving akaushi beef, which is a Texas product that's related to Japanese wagyu. For HRW, choose from either a ribeye or braised short rib as part of its three-course, $45 menu. Not bad for beef that's even more marbled than traditional Prime.

Pappas Meat Co's HRW menu features an 18-ounce T-bone steak.

Pappas Meat Co t-bone
Pappas Meat Co./Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/PappasMeatCo/photos/pb.560834420712366.-2207520000.1440087144./669774403151700/?type=3&theater]
Pappas Meat Co's HRW menu features an 18-ounce T-bone steak.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Revisit these 6 classic Houston dining spots during Houston Restaurant Weeks

Classic Restaurant Options

Typically, CultureMap readers want to know about the newest, hottest places to dine. That's why we publish a list of 10 new restaurants to try every month.

However, that doesn't mean people don't also enjoy visiting classic spots that have been around a decade or more. After all, these restaurants set the stage for the city's current dining boom, and their continued prosperity demonstrates an ability to capture diners' attention even as the city has changed.

What better time to visit one of these establishments than during Houston Restaurant Weeks. After all, it's a time when restaurants typically put their best foot forward to attract new diners, and most of the establishments below are serving dinner at the more economical $35 level. Everyone likes helping raise money for the Houston Food Bank, but getting a good deal never hurt.

Arcodoro Ristorante Italiano
This restaurant at the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak has been serving rigorously authentic Sardinian cuisine for almost 20 years. For HRW, it's offering four different, four-course menus: meat, seafood, vegetarian and Sardinian ($45).

While both the meat and seafood menus have their temptations in the form of osso bucco and grilled octopus, one does not simply walk into Arcodoro without ordering the Sardinia fare. Highlights include seared tuna topped with bottarga and seafood soup in a saffron broth that's reminiscent of bouillabaisse. Optional wine pairings are an eminently reasonable $28 and feature vintages grown by owner Efisio Farris' family.

Brennan's of Houston
At almost 50 years old, this upscale Creole restaurant has served as a training ground for generations of Houston chefs, but that doesn't mean it's resting on its laurels. Brennan's mixes classics like turtle soup and bananas Foster with updated fare like blueberry-glazed quail and seared salmon over maque choux on its $35, three-course dinner menu. Feeling really indulgent? Add shrimp, oysters or crab to any entree for an additional $10.

Damian's Cucina Italiana
Look for classic Italian-American comfort fare at this 30-year old Midtown staple that's serving a three-course, $35 dinner menu. Start with a classic Caesar salad or sweet potato ravioli. Entree choices include lasagna bolognese and a six-ounce, mushroom-topped filet mignon. Dessert options include bread pudding and gelato. Gluten free diners also have options with every course.

Lynn's Steakhouse
For almost 30 years, this westside favorite has earned raves from diners for its upscale atmosphere and attention to detail. Lynn's stands out among other HRW steakhouses by a dry-aged New York strip, rather than a filet, on its three-course, $35 menu. That sort of frugality allows diners a little extra cash to indulge in a selection from the restaurant's 11,000 bottle wine cellar.

Ouisie's Table
Southern food may be trendy now, but Ouisie's has been serving up Southern comforts for over 40 years. The restaurant's three-course, $35 sadly doesn't feature its signature chicken fried steak, but saltine and herb-crusted chicken and garlic and pepper-crusted prime rib are tempting alternatives. Just save room for peach cobbler.

The Heights may be 2015's hottest culinary destination, but chef Claire Smith was something of a pioneer when she opened Shade 12 years ago. The restaurant's three-course, $35 offers up the well-executed comfort food that's made it so successful. Options include steamed mussels, heirloom tomato salad, duck leg confit and a grilled flat iron steak served with blue cheese Yorkshire pudding. Don't worry — a no membership fee private club helps imbibers get around the neighborhood's dry status.

Ouisie's has been a staple in Houston for over 40 years.

Ouisie's Table, dining room
Photo by Shannon O'Hara/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Ouisie's has been a staple in Houston for over 40 years.
Courtesy photo

Houston Restaurant Weeks lineup: 11 newcomers definitely worth a try

Houston Restaurant Weeks Lineup

Houston is only two weeks away from the annual dining frenzy known as Houston Restaurants Weeks. This year's event runs for five weeks: from August 1 until Labor Day on September 7, but unofficially kicks off today (July 15) when organizer Cleverley Stone publishes the menus of the over 200 participating restaurants.

As always, the premise is simple. Restaurants put together special lunch, brunch and dinner menus at fixed priced points ($20 for lunch, $25 for brunch, $35 or $45 for dinner). When a diner visits a restaurant and chooses the menu, the restaurant agrees to make a donation to the Houston Food Bank ($3 to $7, depending on the menu).

Last year's effort raised a record $1.6 million, which could be shattered given the additional week of dining.

Most of last year's participants have returned, including popular destinations suchs as Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, Masraff's and the Cordua family restaurnts of Americas, Churrascos and Artista. While they're certainly worth patronizing, the list below takes a look at 11 of the over 20 new HRW participants. They range from established restaurants joining the event for the first time to new restaurants that diners may not have had the chance to try.

One thing to keep in mind is that the list of restaurants isn't complete. Organizers will be adding additional places right up until the event begins August 1. If a particular favorite is missing, keep checking back. Now to the list:

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar
​The Briargrove Italian restaurant inspired by the Amalfi coast offers a three-course, $45 dinner menu. Starter options include snapper crudo and beef carpaccio. Main courses consist of three seafood options that include snapper ravioli and pan seared tuna steak; those who prefer entrees that walked can choose from paccheri pasta in veal ragout or pork tenderloin medallions with black truffles and mushroom sauce. Three dessert options complete the meal.

B&B Butchers and Restaurant
The white-hot Washington Avenue steakhouse is serving both a three-course, $45 dinner and a three-course, $20 lunch. The dinner menu includes the restaurant's signature sizzling bacon appetizer as well as an 8-ounce filet. Step up to a 16-ounce slab of prime rib for a $20 supplement. At lunch, entree choices include a burger, steak sandwich and salmon. For dessert, don't miss the cheesecake.

The Midtown seafood restaurant offers both a $45, three-course dinner menu and a two-course, $20 lunch menu. At dinner, choose from some of the restaurant's signature items like its top-notch gumbo, Thai curry mussels, blackened grouper, chicory-dusted beef tenderloin and spectacular coconut cake. At lunch, the fried oyster salad looks like the most compelling entree choice.

Jonathan's the Rub
The restaurant has been a well-loved neighborhood destination for residents of the Memorial Villages for many years, but Jonathan's is making its first-ever appearance in HRW. The three-course, $45 dinner menu includes starters like mushroom ravioli and mains like lobster salad and a 14-ounce Prime NY strip served with chimichurri sauce. Finish off with key lime cheese cake, apple cobbler or chocolate mousse.

​The restaurant at the rapidly growing craft brewery offers a three-course, $35 dinner menu. Start with the popular Korean fried chicken or a riff on the Canadian classic poutine. Entree options include shrimp and grits and an 8-ounce steak. Finish with a beer milkshake or chocolate chile stout cake.

Paul's Kitchen
The Upper Kirby restaurant known for its use of high-quality local ingredients keeps things classic on its three-course, $35 dinner menu. Start with watermelon gazpacho, salad or chicken fried quail and waffles. Entree choices consist of shrimp and grits, steak frites or chicken with charred okra. For dessert, choices include lemon poundcake and blackberry cobbler.

Peska Seafood Culture
The stylish seafood restaurant near the Galleria offers both a three-course, $45 dinner menu and a three-course, $20 lunch menu that consist of only savory options: good news for people who aren't into sweets. At lunch, start with ceviche or an oyster trio before moving on to a shrimp taco or yellow tail crostada. Main courses include a pork chop or the daily catch filet. At dinner, start with chef Omar Pereney's signature fruit and flower salad, then move on to lobster capuccino or a soft shell taco. Finish with striped bass trainera or a braised beef short rib.

Prohibition Supperclub & Bar
The downtown restaurant that's home to CultureMap's Tastemaker Awards Bartender of the Year winner Lainey Collum offers a three-course, $45 dinner menu. One could start with something other than six chargrilled oysters, but it would be a mistake to do so. Entree choices include prime rib, pork chop and salmon. Peach cobbler and chocolate torta are two of the three desserts.

Revival Market
Skip the crowds at Coltivare by going to its sister restaurant down the street. The three-course, $35 dinner menu offers most of the recently-introduced menu that's already winning fans. The 13 starter options include both the pickled shrimp and Gulf by-catch salads, as well as buttermilk biscuits or Revival's country ham. Roasted half chicken and a Berkshire pork collar are two of the four entree choices. Dessert choices include lemon panna cotta and buttermilk pie.

Radio Milano
The upscale Italian restaurant in CityCentre is serving three-course menus for lunch, brunch and dinner ($35). At dinner, start with lobster bisque or scallop crudo before moving on to risotto, beef filet or duck. Chef Jose Hernandez is well-known for his desserts, so choosing from the three options could be tough. Best to go with friends and share. On the brunch menu, black pepper spaghetti with rabbit ragu sounds particuarly intriguing.

Sud Italia
This Rice Village newcomer in the former Bistro des Amis space offers three savory courses on its $35 dinner menu. Start with arancini (fried risotto balls) or a fritto misto of fried lobster, shrimp, calamari and vegetables. Three pasta choices are next, including a compelling sounding orecchiette pasta with sausage in pomodoro sauce. Finally, choose from one of three entrees including a stew of mussels, calamari and red snapper.

Radio Milano is a newcomer to Houston Restaurant Weeks.

Radio Milano interior
Courtesy photo
Radio Milano is a newcomer to Houston Restaurant Weeks.
Photo by Julie Soefer

Where to Eat Right Now: Here's a bumper crop of 10 innovative, must-try restaurants for July

Where to Eat Right Now

Even in a month when only one of CultureMap's 17 most anticipated new restaurants of summer 2015 opened, the city's restaurateurs still produced a bumper crop of new options to try. That slowdown offers diners the opportunity to try some of these new bars and restaurants before the deluge of high profile spots becomes totally overwhelming. The rest of the summer is going to be super busy.

Of course, most people will spend August exploring deals for Houston Restaurant Weeks, which means everyone will get even further behind. Thus, the time to act is now. Otherwise, you'd have to cook. What's the fun in that?

After being a little bit inner Loop-centric in recent months, July's edition of Where to Eat Now contains options in both Sugar Land and The Woodlands. How's that for geographic diversity?

Without further ado, here's this month's list of new restaurants to try. As always, these are presented in roughly the order in which I think you should try them.

Chef Austin Simmons's tasting menu restaurant within Hubbell & Hudson may be a little behind schedule, but Cureight officially opened in June. Just as The Pass is hidden behind Provisions, Cureight can be found tucked away in the back ofthe Woodlands restaurant in a 24-seat, private dining room that looks into the kitchen.

The restaurant's eight-course tasting menu will vary seasonally. For now, Simmons opens with four strong seafood courses: an amuse bouche of hamachi with coconut milk, scallop in apple dashi, an interpretation of the French Laundry classic oysters and pearls and uni carbonara with caviar and king crab. Taking on Thomas Keller is a gutsy move, but the combination of creamy oysters and salty caviar works well. Dry-aged Texas akaushi beef finishes the savory offerings, which give way to intricately plated, well-balanced desserts from pastry chef Nguyet Nguyen for the final two courses.

It would be unreasonable to discuss Cureight without considering where it stands in relation to Houston's two other tasting menu restaurants. Briefly, Simmons's menu is more protein forward than Oxheart and less elaborate than The Pass. At $135 per person, it is also more expensive than either of those restaurants (wine pairings are additional). Still, those with an affinity for adventurous dining will find enough about Cureight compelling to justify the drive from points south. If Simmons keeps Cureight's menu interesting, he will have established The Woodlands' first true destination restaurant.

True to its name, this new restaurant from Tiger Den chef/owner Mike Tran serves a variety of noodle-related dishes. As noted back in May, Mein's decor is a Chinese-style companion to Tiger Den's art deco motif. It's an expansive, inviting space that a perfect spot for a large group to gather and attack the menu.

Dishes are divided into sections consisting of shareable starters (sized small and medium), noodle dishes, rice dishes and noodle soups. Of the starters, don't miss the roasted charsiu pork in a sweet glazed that's balanced with spicy mustard. Both the curry duck noodle soup and house wonton soup delivered strong flavors that made the broth good from first sip to last spoonful. Korean-style black bean noodles (jjajangmyun) and squid ink fried rice are also standouts. Skip the batterless fried chicken. BYOB for now, but check with the restaurant to confirm whether it's received its liquor license.

The Ginger Mule Tonics & Meals
For their fourth Sugar Land restaurant, Robert White and Victor Litwinenko have created an intimate space with an equal focus on craft cocktails and comfort food. The menu has been divided into sections where groups of dishes are available for one price. Highlights include the sweet and smoky barbecue pork shanks and the retro-fun potato sticks. All of the house cocktails are priced at $10 or less, which is a welcome respite from the recent trend towards $12 to $15 drinks.

The Rice Box
The food truck that brought General Tso's chicken to the streets has added a permanent home in the Greenway Plaza food court. The design mimics the truck's bright red paint and includes a few counter seats for those patrons who don't have to rush back to the office. The menu features some important new additions in the form of The Rice Box's first ever beef dish (pepper steak), curry chicken and egg noodles instead of rice. The familiar favorites are there, too, of course, but some of the recipes have been tweaked. Orange chicken that actually takes like oranges (instead of cornstarch and self-loathing at other restaurants) is a particularly satisfying revision. Be prepared for a bit of a wait; office workers are flocking to the newcomer.

Beckrew Wine House
Admittedly, this wine bar that took over the Tasting Room space in Upper Kirby isn't new, but people are still discovering the cozy space created by childhood friends Chris David and Paul Choi who wanted an entrepreneurial companion to their day jobs in the energy industry. David, Choi and general manager William Fuller let their passion for wine dictate selections, which run the gamut from $35 to over $1,000 per bottle but are concentrated in the $50 to $100 sweet spot. With its mix of table, bar and lounge seating, Beckrew's atmosphere has a bit of a clubhouse, neighborhood vibe.

Food selections are limited but focused on delivering quality ingredients at affordable prices. In addition to a signature selection of flavored honeys, the personal-sized pizzas are a highlight. Try the meat-loaded tres carnes.

Velvet Taco
The Dallas import that blends Torchy's non-traditional tacos with Fusion Taco's global perspective has landed on Washington Ave. Friendly service, late night hours and lots of seating should make Velvet Taco a destination, but taco purists will probably object to the sheer quantity of ingredients stuffed into each tortilla. I'll be back for another crispy chicken tikka and am eager to try both the rotisserie chicken and one of the breakfast options. Fully loaded tots (two kinds of cheese and a fried egg) are practically a meal on their own.

Lincoln Bar & Kitchen
Similar to Beckrew, this new patio bar on Washington Avenue offers a bit of a clubhouse vibe and serves as a refuge for people in their 30's looking for a place to hang out away from places pitched to a younger demographic. Lots of TV hang from the ceilings and long tables encourage groups to gather. The menu consists of classic bar food like fried pork spare ribs, burgers and wings. I particularly enjoyed the deep fried pork tamales, but salads are available for those seeking healthier fare. Weekly food specials like a steak night on Wednesday add to the appeal.

Del Frisco's Grille
The casual, neighborhood-oriented offshoot of the popular steakhouse has opened its second Houston-area location at the new Hughes Landing development in The Woodlands. While the menu will be familiar to anyone who's visited the Upper Kirby location — the Shake Shack style two-patty burger and signature cheesesteak eggrolls are both present and accounted for — the new location offers a couple of significant upgrades. First, the location sits on Lake Woodlands and features an expansive patio with a view of the water. Second, the space itself is larger and better structure with more separation between the expanded bar area and the dining room.

Nationally, the company has vowed to improve the concept's disappointing earnings, but Woodlands residents seem to have embraced the newcomer. Credit the something for everyone menu and polished service for the initial success. The biggest downside is parking; those who don't want to partake of the free valet will have to walk a bit from a nearby garage.

Lawless Spirits & Kitchen
This month's third bar with food is the replacement for the shuttered State Bar & Lounge in the Rice Lofts. Almost a year in the making, the space has been transformed into a bright, stylish room with lots of lounge-style seating. The remodel gives lawless an upscale feel that should make a desirable destination for after work happy hours and pre night on the town revelry. I didn't detect any of the problems with cold food that bloggers Coco Dijon reported on their visit; indeed, both the brisket pot stickers and Korean tacos served as a flavorful, if slightly messy, happy hour snack.

The biggest problem is that all that stylish decor comes at a price; a pint of Lone Pint Yellow Rose is an eye-popping $9, and the cocktails are all $10 to $13. I'll be seeking less expensive options elsewhere, but the well-dressed crowd that populated the space during my visit didn't seem to mind.

Pho Binh Noodle and Grill
Typically, this column serves as an invitation to try new restaurants, but I'm going to break with tradition to discuss the new Pho Binh that opened in the space formerly occupied by Sale Sucre in the Heights. For fans across the city, the name Pho Binh stands for the city's best pho, but all locations are not created equal. Different family members own different locations, and the recipes they use vary considerably. Thus it is that Daniel Nguyen, brother to the owner of the original Pho Binh trailer and uncle to the brothers who own Pho Binh by Night, serves a menu that's different than the other restaurants.

The actual pho retains much of the Pho Binh signature spice mix and is something I'd happily go back for — even if the typical side of bone marrow had been marked out on the menu. Unfortunately, we found the non-pho offerings to be pretty disappointing. Spring rolls lacked the typical mint or cilantro and shaking beef had such an odd texture that my friend refused to eat it. I walked in hoping that even an inferior Pho Binh might still be the best Vietnamese food in the area, but it seems like the restaurant needs to refine its recipes.

Honorable Mention: Melange Creperie
Melange isn't new, but the popular crepe shop has a new location. "Buffalo" Sean Carroll's deal to bring his crepe stand to the site of the Eatsie Boys Cafe may have fallen through, but, as of this week, diners can find Carroll at H-E-B's Montrose Market Monday through Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday brunch will begin soon, as will lunch once Carroll hires and trains an additional crepe maker. Look for Melange's familiar stand by the frozen foods. The menu features the two familiar staples, ham and egg and banana nutella, along with two rotating specials. Do the crepes taste better when the wait for one doesn't require sweating? Signs point to yes.

Austin Simmons may have established a true destination restaurant with Cureight.

Austin Simmons Cureight
Photo by Julie Soefer
Austin Simmons may have established a true destination restaurant with Cureight.
Houston's 10 best sushi restaurants: One stands above the rest, but lots of fine choices abound
Courtesy photo

Houston's 10 best sushi restaurants: One stands above the rest, but lots of fine choices abound

Houston's Best Sushi

Houston doesn't lack for sushi restaurants. Of course, that's true for most cuisines in this bustling city, but determining what's best presents a bit of a problem.

First, Kata Robata is so clearly above its peers in terms of quality, consistency and overall experience that every other restaurant is competing for second place. Still, the range of price points and locations means that, while Houston lacks a super-expensive sushi destination like Masa in New York or Urasawa in Beverley Hills where diners might pay $400 or more per person for dinner, restaurants around the city offer plenty of options for most diners.

It's also worth noting that sushi in Houston is in a transitional moment.

It's also worth noting that sushi in Houston is in a transitional moment. Currently, Chris Kinjo is building a new outpost of MF Sushi in the Museum District, which will be a contender for Houston's best spot as soon as it opens. In addition, the Galleria will soon be home to two new spots, Sozo Sushi in BLVD Place (just above True Food Kitchen) and Oka Sushi in the former Osteria Mazzantini space next to Caracol. Depending on their quality and price point, they could be solid destinations, too.

One final caveat: this list is designed to be comprehensive rather than definitive. It offers some geographic diversity and caters to different price points. While I suspect these declarations won't spare this list being shredded by the experts at the Sushi Club of Houston, hopefully other readers find it useful.

Kata Robata
​By any metric, whether it be quality, value for the money, service or overall experience, Kata Robata serves the best sushi in Houston. Kata's quality starts at the top with master chef Manabu Horiuchi (Hori-san), whose expert skills and high standards ensure well-cut fish that's served at just the right temperature. On any given evening, Kata's specials will include fish that's been flown in that day from Japan, but the restaurant also keeps up with more locally-sourced fare like soft shell crab. Sitting at the sushi counter for an omakase tasting with chef Hori remains one of the best dining experiences in the city; pro tip: go on a Tuesday, when the most rare and unusual fish have been delivered from Japan. Beyond sushi, Kata offers consistently intriguing raw and cooked non-sushi options and an extensive selection of sake that combine to make it one of Houston's best restaurants in any category.

Pro tip: go to Kata Robata on a Tuesday, when the most rare and unusual fish have been delivered from Japan.

This restaurant in the Gateway Memorial City complex has only been open for just over a year, but it's already established itself as a top destination for sushi. Credit executive chef Adison Lee, who brings his training from celebrated sushi restaurant Nobu as well as well-regarded stints at Raku and Sage 400. At Kuu, Lee uses fresh fish flown in. Try to resist the impulse to dunk each piece of nigiri in soy sauce; Lee adorns each slice with a little fresh herb or dot of roe that makes any additional enhancements unnecessary. Cooked dishes, like 30-hour braised pork belly and smoked duck, add to Kuu's appeal by demonstrating the same level of attention to detail that makes the sushi so compelling.

​Like Kata, Uchi serves high-quality, well-prepared fish that always includes a mix of staples and seasonal items, but the restaurant has never seemed like a sushi destination. Perhaps that's because the prepared items are so much more interesting that it's hard to imagine any one choosing to go there just for sushi instead of some of the other restaurants on this list. Still, if one can fight the crowds that still flock to this Austin-import, the super-knowledgeable staff will help even the most sushi skeptical diners curate a memorable meal. Just save room for a piece of foie gras nigiri; it's not traditional, but it is delicious.

Teppay Japanese Restaurant
​This restaurant might be the most authentically Japanese in Houston. Just ask the Japanese clientelle who seem to fill the intimate dining room most nights or note that the restaurant's Facebook posts are in English and Japanese. The menu features the usual range of fish along with specials like horse mackerel and bonito that will appeal to those with funkier palates. Service can be indifferent at times, but the quality of the food speaks for itself. Just stick to nigiri or sashimi here. Leave the rolls for other, more Americanized options.

Teppay might be the most authentically Japanese restaurant in Houston.

If Kata Robata is the crown of the Azuma Group's Houston sushi mini-empire, then Soma is the scepter. Like Kata, Soma features high-quality, globally-sourced fish that offers a range of standard species and more esoteric, enthusiast-oriented offerings. Of course, it lacks the magical Hori-san, but that also means it's easier to get in for dinner without a reservation; try doing that at Kata. On the hot side, chef Gabriel Medina is a two-tine Tastemakers Rising Star chef nominee whose ability to blend flavors from across the Pacific with Soma's Japanese perspective means there's always an intriguing new special to try.

Izakaya Wa
​This intimate restaurant that's tucked away off Memorial Drive may not have earned much acclaim outside of its immediate area, but it packs serious sushi cred thanks to owner Akira Asano, was was the long-time general manager of Kubo's in Rice Village and celebrated sushi chef Hajime Kubokawa, the man for whom Kubo's is named. With Kubo-san behind the counter, Izakaya Wa's sushi is fresh and precisely prepared. On the rest of the menu, the grilled and fried skewers offer the mostly Japanese clientele a taste of home.

Kubo's Sushi Bar & Grill
​While Kubo-san hasn't been associated with his namesake restaurant in many years, this Rice Village staple continues to deliver authentic Japanese fare. That starts at the sushi counter, where the highly-trained chefs build on the legacy of predecessors like Kubo-san and Hori-san by being willing to engage diners in conversations about the day's fresh selections. The rest of the sushi selections are fairly convention but well-executed, and the slightly obscure location on the second story of a parking garage adds a little bit of an in-the-know vibe to the proceedings.

Kubo's slightly obscure location on the second story of a parking garage adds a little bit of an in-the-know vibe to the proceedings.

Sushi Miyagi
This small restaurant that's hidden away in the same Bellaire Blvd shopping center that's home to Golden Dim Sum may be the Houston restaurant that comes closest to the small, family-owned and operated sushi restaurants that are a staple in Japan. Dining here feels like being in on a secret, but that comes at a price. First, the owner also serves as the only sushi chef, which means orders can take an hour to arrive if the restaurant is crowded. Second, some reports suggest the hours have recently changed and the restaurant now closes as early as 7 p.m. Consider it a lunch or early-dinner destination. However, diners who can deal with the hassles will be rewarded with a a memorable, satisfying experience.

If Uchi is where the rest of Houston comes to Montrose for sushi, then Osaka is where Montrose residents go for sushi when they don't want to deal with the crowds, valet parking or expense of eating at Uchi. Every meal at Osaka includes a complimentary appetizer and dessert, which enhances the sense of values and reinforces the spirit of hospitality that emanates from the cheerful service. The fish may not be at Uchi's super-premium level, but I've never had a bad meal there. The nigiri options are reliable, and the rolls offer enough variety that anyone can find one to suit his or her taste.

Aka Sushi House
This Upper Kirby staple is one of the few exceptions to the rule that good sushi isn't cheap and cheap sushi isn't good. Aka's generous happy hour — it runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and reverse after 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and all-day Saturday and Sunday — offers lots of value on sushi, cooked items and drinks. Fish choices encompass all the usual favorites, and a few imaginative rolls keep things interesting for those who don't just want nigiri. Ramen fans take not: Aka's tonkotsu is made at Tiger Den, because they have the same owner.

Sitting at Kata Robata's sushi counter for an omakase tasting with Manabu Horiuchi is one of Houston's best dining experiences.

Hori Manabu Horiuchi Kata Robata
Courtesy photo
Sitting at Kata Robata's sushi counter for an omakase tasting with Manabu Horiuchi is one of Houston's best dining experiences.
Where to Eat Right Now: 10 distinctive new restaurants that are definitely worth a try in June
Photo by Eric Sandler

Where to Eat Right Now: 10 distinctive new restaurants that are definitely worth a try in June

Where to Eat Right Now

After a quiet April, the month of May saw a number of new restaurants open across the Houston area. Having survived last month's flooding, the time has come to stop hunkering down and get out and eat — at least until the heat becomes so oppressive no one wants to leave home.

This month's crop features a new steakhouse with lots of retro touches, the best restaurant to open at a Houston brewery (so far), Montrose's latest dining sensation and mobile crepes by way of Spain and Poland.

This month's crop features a new steakhouse with lots of retro touches, the best restaurant to open at a Houston brewery (so far), Montrose's latest dining sensation and mobile crepes by way of Spain and Poland. This month's list has a strong focus on inner-Loop options, but Spring Branch residents have a new burger joint to check out.

Let's get to it. As always, these are listed in roughly the order I think you should try them, but use your intelligence guided by your experience to determine which are best for you.

B&B Butchers and Restaurant
Locally-owned steakhouses are rare in Houston. For whatever reason, they're typically chains that feature similar menus. However, B&B Butchers, which just opened on Washington Avenue, is a one-off, and the restaurant isn't afraid to be different. That starts with its in-house dry aging program and retail butcher shop where would-be grillmasters can purchase high-quality steaks to make at home. It continues on the menu; all the standard cuts of USDA Prime beef are available, but so is Texas waygu from Gearhart Ranch and old-school steak entrees like prime rib, chateaubriand and Beef Wellington. Even the decor — with its exposed wooden plank ceiling and a large window that looks into the kitchen — breaks the mold from the all leather all the time steakhouse vibe.

At the restaurant's invitation, three friends and I ordered a number of items from across the menu. We liked the carpetbagger appetizers of a fried oyster served over slices of bacon and filet topped with bleu cheese and hot sauce and a steak tartare that could've used another pinch of salt. On the other hand, tuna tartare had an unpleasantly sweet, almost pineapple flavor. At $98, the long bone ribeye for two is a fatty, flavorful steak that's a worthwhile splurge. The sides were a bit of a mixed bag, but the thick cut onion rings are must-try. Overall, B&B may not be ready to join the city's "Big Three" steakhouses of Pappas Bros., Vic & Anthony's and Killen's, but it's the most exciting newcomer since Vallone's opened in 2013.

Karbach Brewing Co.
Houston's fastest growing brewery recently opened the restaurant that's part of its $15 million expansion. It's a stylish, spacious room with a generous patio that's the most complete dining experience at any Houston brewery. Led by former Benjy's chef Joseph Stayshich, the Karbach restaurant serves dishes that are made with some of the ingredients used to brew beer, like malt in the sauce for gnocchi and spent grain in the pizza crusts. The dishes are also designed to pair well with Karbach beers, which are conveniently available on tap at the restaurant — including some one-offs that aren't available anywhere else. At lunch, the menu features salads and sandwiches in the $10-15 range, while dinners offers a few more entrees like a half chicken and butcher's cut steak in the $20-25 range.

I tasted part of the lunch menu with a couple of friends. We agreed that Stayshich's Korean fried chicken, which delivers the right mix of sweet and spicy and crispy,and juicy rock shrimp are dishes we'd happily eat again. Other highlights included an asparagus and arugula salad topped with romanesco cheese and a properly runny egg and the pineapple express pizza with pork belly and bonito. The flavors in the grilled shrimp banh mi came together well, but the bread could stand to be more of a classic baguette and less of a soft roll.

La Grange
Judging by the number of Facebook check-ins and Instagram pictures I've seen, people have already discovered this new Mexican coastal cantina from the folks behind Liberty Station and Cottonwood that has replaced iconic gay bar E.J.'s just off Westheimer. For those who have yet to visit, the interior features lamps found by owners Sara and Rob Cromie during their trips to Mexico and lots of custom ironwork, but it's the large, interior courtyard that's already making La Grange a summertime destination. It's a two-story affair that encourages lingering over a craft beer or an agave-based cocktail. On the cocktail side, don't miss the watermelon fresca and a frozen margarita with plenty of bite. The smoked tomato campechana was too briny for my taste, but both the grilled shrimp and queso (add guacamole) are perfect for sharing.

Mala Sichuan Bistro
Whether one considers it the best restaurant in Asiatown or merely a very good one, no one can argue that Mala Sichuan's arrival in Montrose has been greeted with anything other than rabid enthusiasm. Hour-long waits for a table are not uncommon on Friday and Saturday nights, and the valet for the lot it shares with El Real has been totally overwhelmed (park on the street and walk to avoid the mess). Despite these hassles, I've been three times in two weeks and am confident in saying it's every bit as good as the original on Bellaire Blvd. In addition to Mala favorites like ma po tofu, water boiled fish and spicy and aromatic chicken, the new location features dishes made with an incredibly aromatic green peppercorn sauce that can't be missed. At $10 per bottle of wine and $2 per beer, the cost of BYOB adds up quickly; just make sure whatever you bring is worth the added expense.

Revival Market
After a particularly disappointing dinner at another restaurant where a group of us picked at some shared entrees before ultimately giving up and cutting our losses, we sought redemption at Revival Market's newly-introduced dinner service. Even though it was only its second day, the market-turned-restaurant delivered. Those familiar with Coltivare will not be surprised to find out that Ryan Pera's salads, including a smoked bycatch with cantaloupe and another of pickled shrimp with peaches, are a particular highlight. Yes, one can get spendy with a 20-ounce striploin, but the best entree is a straightforward take on classic beef Stroganoff with housemade pasta. It's a comforting throwback that hits all the right notes. Revival is BYOB for now, but look for it to receive a club license and introduce cocktails and wine soon.

Fluff Bake Bar
Located in Midtown just a couple of doors down from Kata Robata's eagerly anticipated Izakaya, Fluff Bake Bar gives fans of pastry chef Rebecca Masson a dedicated retail outlet to get their Fluffernutter fix. In addition to Masson's popular creations like unicorn cookies and Veruca Salt Cup|Cakes, Fluff ups the ante with coffee, charcuterie plates and plated desserts. Those with a dedicated sweet tooth will want to schedule a dessert tasting, which offers three plates for $21. Late night hours (open until midnight Thursday through Saturday) and access to the spacious courtyard should mean that Fluff functions as a can't-miss date spot between dinner and a nightcap.

Bonjour Creperie
This new food truck features an unlikely story of culinary inspiration and long-distance love. Czarek Brylski was born in Poland but learned to make crepes in Spain. After opening five creperies in Barcelona, he moved to Texas to be with his American wife, Pamela, who he met when she was a student studying abroad. Now Brylski can be found serving sweet and savory crepes from a van at spots like the West Alabama Ice House. Obviously, diners can't go wrong with a classic like banana nutella, but savory options like prosciutto with arugula and melon,which use a gluten-free batter, make for a light, satisfying meal.

​This recently opened restaurant in Spring Branch applies the farm-to-table ethos to a fast casual burger joint. That means the patties are made with locally-sourced beef from 44 Farms and various toppings come from local farms and suppliers like the Houston Dairymaids. BuffBurger further broadens its appeal with vegetarian, tuna and chicken patties, as well as a selection of salads. After reading an enthusiastic review by the usually reliable Hank on Food, I was excited to give it a shot. While I recognize the quality of the ingredients, my patty arrived well done instead of the requested medium, which mean all the delicious fatty juices were cooked right out of it. Crispy fries and a very chocolate-y milkshake saved part of the experience. I think BuffBurger can pull it together and deliver, but diners who patronize the restaurant are advised to be vigilant about doneness.

Gumbo Jeaux's
This fast casual seafood restaurant that's a Yelp favorite near Bush Intercontinental Airport recently opened a second location at the southern end of the Heights. The menu is a straightforward affair of fried options as well as composed seafood dishes like broiled catfish in a variety of sauces. The fried shrimp, catfish and chicken we sampled all arrived hot and crispy while still being juicy. A bowl of the namesake gumbo had plenty of meat, and a selection of hot sauces perked up the spice level. Given its reasonable prices and fast service, it should work well as both a lunch and dinner stop for anyone in the area.

Rustic Oak
For now, chef Wendell Price's restaurant that's located in a renovated Montrose bungalow near Brooklyn Athletic Club is only open for brunch on the weekends, but the buffet offers enough choices that it merits a shot in anyone's brunch rotation. For $30, diners can choose from all the usual items like scrambled eggs, bacon, breads and fresh fruit. Price also offers made-to-order items like red velvet pancakes and crab cakes that elevate the experience. Lunch and dinner should follow soon, at which point we'll get more of an idea of the cuisine that once earned celebrity fans like Kevin Costner and Denzel Washington.

Need more restaurants to try? Consider these picks from May, April, March and February.

The carpet bagger oysters at B&B Butchers are worth the caloric splurge.

B&B Butchers Carpet Bagger Oyster
Photo by Eric Sandler
The carpet bagger oysters at B&B Butchers are worth the caloric splurge.
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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.