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Courtesy of Mitchell Historic Properties

Galveston Island is just a short drive from Houston and you'll be surprised by the variety of great restaurants that food lovers will enjoy.

The first order of the day for planning this trip is to book your room at Hotel Galvez & Spa, A Wyndham Grand Hotel. Hotel Galvez, located on the beachfront, it is a top choice for Houstonians since 1911. You’ll love the historic charm and the grand ambiance of this gorgeous hotel.

On the day of your trip, arrive early enough to enjoy a bar bite and cocktail at Galvez Bar & Grill. Try the campechana and filet mignon sliders or one of the flatbreads. You should also check out the signature cocktail menu. To add to the ambiance, enjoy jazz duo Reg and Cary who begin playing at 5 p.m. in the Galvez Bar & Grill.

If it's a weekend, you'll definitely want to make a reservation in advance for dinner. Galveston's weekends are bustling with visitors when the weather is good.

If it's a weekend, you'll definitely want to make a reservation in advance for dinner. Galveston's weekends are bustling with visitors when the weather is good. One of Galveston's most popular restaurants is Rudy & Paco's, which made OpenTable's 2014 Top 100 Best Restaurants in America. Additionally, at Pier 21 you’ll find several nice options with a view including locally owned Olympia Grill at Pier 21 and Nonno Tony's World Kitchen. Olympia has a belly dancer on weekends at 7 p.m.

For breakfast on Saturday, you have several options to consider. ShyKatz Deli & Bakery is nearby and a local favorite. Or venture to the East End Historic District and dine at either Mosquito Café or Sunflower Bakery on 14th Street. Both are hugely popular for both locals and visitors.

After breakfast, take a dip in the pool or better yet schedule an appointment at The Spa at Hotel Galvez. The Galvez Spa is the only spa in Galveston to offer bamboo massage. Couples should book the Spring Fling Couples Massage. No matter what your pleasure, a must do is the vichy shower; it's a truly relaxing experience.

Guests at Hotel Galvez & Spa can also take advantage of the hotel's complimentary bicycles to explore the island. Get a recommendation from the concierge and bike to one of the dining spots you've missed.

Then before dinner, take the courtesy shuttle to The Rooftop Bar at The Tremont House. The Rooftop Bar is Galveston's only rooftop venue and is now open daily. Enjoy an adult beverage along with a bird's eye view of Galveston's historic downtown.

Additional dining options located downtown and within walking distance of The Tremont House include Riondo's Ristorante, M&M Restaurant & Bar, Black Pearl, Saltwater Grill, Gumbo Diner and Sky Bar.

End your weekend with a foodie's fantasy during Sunday Brunch at Hotel Galvez. Galvez Bar & Grill at Hotel Galvez recently was named to the 2015 Top 100 Brunch Restaurants in the US by OpenTable diners. This isn't just a meal; it's an experience. And make sure that you save room for dessert and champagne.

For more information on Hotel Galvez & Spa, visit the hotel's website or call 409-765-7721.

Hotel Galvez Sunday Brunch made the 2015 Top 100 Brunch Restaurants in America by OpenTable.

Courtesy of Mitchell Historic Properties
Hotel Galvez Sunday Brunch made the 2015 Top 100 Brunch Restaurants in America by OpenTable.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Galvez & Spa

Eight reasons to visit Galveston right now: And why Hotel Galvez & Spa is your perfect coastal luxury base

The Causeway Calm

Crossing the causeway to Galveston Island, an instinctive sigh of relief can be heard as you coast down, glance over the water and approach land and Mile 0. Locals call this the Island Sigh — or The Causeway Calm.

Whatever you call it, there is a definite reduction of stress and an instant sense of relaxation. Why not? You are on a tropical island, no highways, no real traffic and water at almost every turn.

There are plenty of reasons to take a trip to Galveston; visitors have traveled to Galveston to enjoy the “healing powers of the saltwater” for more than 100 years. Need something more specific?

Here are the Top Eight Reasons to take a trip to Galveston this April:

1. Weather: The weather is warmer and drier than March, plus the sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous. Imagine sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs outside the Hotel Galvez & Spa to watch the sunrise with your morning coffee or enjoying the sunset before dinner The Rooftop Bar at The Tremont House.

2. Festivals: There is a fest for everyone in Galveston. Are you a foodie and wine enthusiast? Book early for the Galveston Island Food & Wine Festival at Pier 21 on April 17 to 19. (Check out the Hotel Galvez package for this online) Runners and triathletes will be interested in the Divas Half Marathon on April 18 to 19 and the Lone Star Ironman 70.3 on April 26.

Coming up this May is the 41st Annual Historic Homes Tour on May 1 to 3 and May 9 to 10; Yaga’s Wild Game & BBQ Cookoff on May 8 to 9; Galveston Island Beach Revue on May 15 to 16 and Hotel Galvez Wedding Vow Renewal on June 13

3. Food: Galveston is home to a variety of locally owned restaurants including the onsite favorite, Galvez Bar and Grill at Hotel Galvez & Spa, which offers a variety of seafood and Texas inspired entrees. If you want to get out for an adventure, try the variety of choices found on Pier 21.

4. Spa Pampering: With Spring in the air, a trip to the Spa is just what you need to kickoff the season. The Spa at Hotel Galvez is frequently voted as the best spa in Galveston by locals and visitors alike. Guests will appreciate all the extras that the spa provides like heated neck wraps, fruit infused champagne and exceptional service and care by the staff.

5. Free Fun: Beginning in March and continuing through October, Galveston is host to Movie Nite and Music Nite on The Strand. April’s calendar offers Singin’ in the Rain on April 4, contemporary classic band Alter Ego on April 11 and rock band Card-Castle Deluxe on April 25. Hotel Galvez guests can take advantage of the hotel’s courtesy shuttle to The Tremont House which is located in the heart of The Strand Historic District and one block from these free events.

6. Pool Therapy: While there are miles of beaches available, the pool at Hotel Galvez & Spa is a tropical retreat sunken behind the road that feels like a private getaway from the sometimes hectic beachfront. The pool grill is open daily offering a variety snacks, entrees and desserts.

The pool at Hotel Galvez is a tropical retreat sunken behind the road that feels like a private getaway from the sometimes hectic beachfront.

In addition the pool offers a swim-up bar, hot tub and cabana rentals as well as ample seating for those who want to cuddle up with their tablet for reading or a quiet cocktail.

7. Outdoor Recreation: The obvious appeal about spring in Galveston is enjoying the outdoor recreation opportunities. The beach is located directly across the street from Hotel Galvez & Spa. The hotel offers complimentary bicycles for guests complete with helmets, lock and a basket or storage bag. Guests can take advantage of kayak, standup paddle boarding or surfboard rentals nearby.

We encourage you to bring fishing gear and fish right off the rock groins for redfish, sheep head and other varieties. The fishing is plentiful this time of year.

8. Room Discounts: During the month of April, Hotel Galvez is offering two Spring Specials:
• Stay 2 nights and get 20% off your stay at Hotel Galvez & Spa (valid Sunday through Thursday)/Offer Code: BPRS20
• Stay 3 nights and get 30% off your stay at Hotel Galvez & Spa (valid Sunday through Thursday)/Offer Code: BPRS30
Check for these type offers throughout the year. Guests can also pre-pay when booking and save 10%.

Book your room early and take advantage of weekday discounts. For more information on Hotel Galvez & Spa, visit www.hotelgalvez.com or call (409) 765-7721.

Galveston’s Hotel Galvez & Spa has been a top choice for visitors for more than 100 years.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Galvez & Spa
Galveston’s Hotel Galvez & Spa has been a top choice for visitors for more than 100 years.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Towering downtown skyscraper and former headquarters for oil giant set for new high-rise apartment conversion

fins and all

An empty downtown skyscraper harking to Houston's energy capital brand may soon reignite the high-rise living trend in downtown.

The tower formerly known as the Humble Oil headquarters and now the Exxon building (800 Bell St.) has been sold to an out-of-state developer with plans to convert the structure to residential units. Ralph Bivins, a former CultureMap scribe, was first to break the news on Realty News Report.

Bivins reports that the 1.2 million-square-foot building was sold to a New York investment group affiliated with CMI Developers. Notably, the group boasts experience in historic redevelopment and apartment conversions. Bivins adds that the age of the Exxon building (it was completed in 1962) and its high local profile might yield available historic preservation tax credits for the developers.

As downtowners may recall, the former Exxon HQ at 800 Bell for around eight years when the company relocated to its modern new campus.

Culturally, the building has been significant as a towering symbol of Houston's energy powerhouse status. At the time of its opening, Bivins notes, the building was considered the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Its famed Petroleum Club atop the building was the site of myriad power deals, and later, special events.

Looking forward, the building presents numerous opportunities for adaptive reuse. The first floors of the building, once open to neighbors who utilized the Exxon cafeteria, can be an ideal mixed-use locale for restaurants and even retail. One hopes the building's signature "fins," crafted to block the hot Houston sun, remain a design feature.

Exxon building 800 Bell fins A close-up shot of the building's fins.Photo via CALpix; copyright 2023

The large scale of the Exxon tower raises the opportunity for placing a significant amount of retail or restaurants in the lower levels of the building, located between Milam and Travis. The old Exxon parking garage, located nearby, comes with the deal, Bivins point out — always a boon for parking-scarce downtown areas.

Given the green-light status of the hotly contested I-45 expansion project and plans to redevelop Midtown and areas near the Pierce Elevated, the high-rise residential could be an epicenter of new downtown growth.

Globally famous diner dishing out "world's rudest service" headed to Texas...like, whenever

Displeased to serve you

Imagine you’re at a restaurant and the server rolls her eyes because you don’t like ice in your water. What a pansy you are. First, you order a chocolate milkshake, but on second thought, you’d like vanilla. You apologetically ask her to change it on the ticket and she threatens to spit in it. On your way out, you tip her 20 percent and leave a review: “5 stars. Rudest service I’ve ever had.”

Karen’s Diner provides the worst service for the best experience, at least according to cheeky clientele who appreciate the campy comedy of a long-suffering server who just can’t smile through it anymore. The Australian restaurant concept exploded in popularity in the last few months, largely from viral videos of funny quips and embarrassed customers (who are usually in on the gag).

Part subversion of the sweet neighborhood waitress trope and part revenge fantasy for off-duty service industry people who find relief in watching other servers speak their minds, this is an exercise in improv comedy wrapped up in a classic diner meal. There are now 14 locations in the United States according to the restaurant’s locations page, including one that has quietly popped up online in Austin.

There is very little information about this location in particular, but there is an active listing on Hidden, which allows users to sign up for a waitlist and eventually gives access to the restaurant’s secret location. As of January 24, Hidden told CultureMap via email that it does not know the opening date.

Although the diner could rest on the laurels of its terrible attitude, reviewers seem to agree, the food is also good. The menu lists 14 burgers, including some traditional cheeseburgers, luxe twists, chicken burgers, and a few meatless options, in addition to other diner snacks like wings, floats, and fries. Prices may give visitors something to complain about (the burgers range from $16-28), but the price keeps the most creative instigators on staff.

Kids under 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for lunch, while dinner’s raunchiness raises the accompanied age to 16. In general, the chain encourages minors to attend earlier in the day. Any actual Karens may show their ID for a free drink.

More information about Karen’s Diner can be found at bemorekaren.com. Check Hidden for changes, or sign up for the ticket release waitlist.

Ken Hoffman trashes Houston's No. 1 spot in 'dirty, rotten' new ranking of filthiest U.S. cities

here's the dirt

Great. Now we’re the Dirtiest City in America, too? It’s not enough that Houston is the serial winner of Fattest City in America?

Lawnstarter, a nationwide lawn care, landscaping and pest control company, ranked cities coast-to-coast by “32 dimensions of compatibility.” (No wait, that’s eHarmony.) Lawnstarter compared U.S. cities on the basis of: pollution, living conditions, infrastructure, and consumer satisfaction.

Houston came in dead last … or in this case, No. 1 for Dirtiest City in America. Of course, that’s a dirty rotten lie.

For this "study," Lawnstarter calculated publicly available data, like air quality index, gas emissions, percentage of smokers, population density, homes without kitchen facilities, homes with cockroaches, and number of landfills and junk yards.

Here’s a better way of determining if a city is dirty: open your eyes.

Important to note: Lawnstarter folks did not actually visit Houston to take a look around.

Garbage advice from non-visitors

The folks at Lawnstarter suggest that Houstonians stock up on air fresheners, mouse traps, and cans of Raid. Sure, we have some rough parts of town, where people use unlit back roads as an elephant burial ground for worn-out mattresses and rusty old appliances. But overall, Houston is a progressive, forward-thinking town that keeps up appearances.

I don’t have to hold my nose when I walk outside or wear a Hazmat suit when I drive downtown for a ballgame.

I’m not going to dispute Lawnstarter’s finding that Houston is No. 1 in cockroaches and No. 3 in greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the by-product of geography and industry. We’re working on it. But Lawnstarter says we’re No. 1 in overall filth and I ain’t buying it.

The five dirtiest cities in America, according to Lawnstarter, are:

  1. Houston
  2. Newark
  3. San Bernadino
  4. Detroit
  5. Jersey City

The cleanest city, or more to the point, the least dirty city is Virginia Beach, Virginia. Other spotless towns include Des Moines, Iowa and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

I don’t like to criticize other cities, but I once stepped in New Orleans and had to wipe my shoes. Chicago wasn’t exactly Tidy Town, either.

How Houston can clean up its act

I’m not saying that Houston is squeaky clean, either. There are some habits and things we need to clean up. They’re little things, but little things mean a lot. Here’s my top-5 list:

  1. Who are these deranged psychopaths who pick up their dog’s poop, then leave the plastic bag on the sidewalk or neighbors’ lawns? It’s not just unsanitary, it’s disgusting. And unlawful.
  2. How about people who put their garbage on the curb too early and then leave the empty trash bins out there for days after it’s collected? And thanks for putting your garbage out on holidays when you know it won’t be picked up. Merry Christmas. Makes the street look like a garbage dump for out-of-town relatives.
  3. I’m tempted to speed up and yell at drivers who throw cigarette butts out their window on I-10. But I don’t. I’m chicken.
  4. Is it too difficult or a physical hardship to return shopping carts to the parking lot corral?
  5. We build bike lanes to encourage a healthful habit like riding a bicycle, and then we allow them to become trash heaps. Here’s a million dollar idea: open “Fix-a-Flat” stations every 100 feet next to the bike lanes on Westpark.

Bonus: This one is close to home: raw onions on the ground in fast food parking lots.

I’m told that the No. 1 thing fast food workers have to sweep up at night is raw onions. People take off the onions and throw them out the window before driving away. I completely understand. I hate raw onions, too.

And yet, I love breaded and fried onion rings. I guess that’s what makes me such an interesting person. (Editors' note: Way to peel back the onion on that one, Ken.)











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