Courtesy of Urban Land Institute Houston

If you've thought about hopping on your bike to get a little exercise in the cooler weather and save some energy, here's a good opportunity.

BBVA Compass Stadium and the Houston Dynamo are inviting fans to participate in a "Bike to the Game" event prior to the team's game with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, September 26.

Former Dynamo forward and current managing director for the Houston Dash, Brian Ching, will serve as the "Bike to the Game" ambassador and lead participants in a 3.7-mile pre-game ride through the East End of downtown. The event will start at 4:30 pm outside of Lucky's Pub at 801 St Emanuel Street. Following the ride, participants can relax in the Budweiser beer garden and enjoy pre-game festivities at Orange Avenue and Soccer Fest.

BBVA Compass Stadium, the Dynamo, AEG1Earth and Bike Barn have partnered for the annual event, which encourages fans to attend the game by utilizing an alternative method of transportation.

Even though bike parking will be provided at BBVA Compass Stadium, participants must bring their own locks. Additionally, bike helmets will be permitted inside the stadium.

A $30 "Bike to the Game" ticket package includes one ticket to the game, participation in the guided ride, access to the Budweiser beer garden and two complimentary drinks. Since space is limited for the organized ride, spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, buy your tickets in advance.

Photo by Eric Sandler

Surprising Houston restaurants get creative with locally grown food served with a Texas swagger

Eat Local

Have you noticed one of the biggest trends at Houston restaurants lately? More and more chefs are cooking with ingredients that are fresh and locally grown.

Of course, the first issue is one of definition. Certainly, restaurants that purchase ingredients from within Texas are keeping things "local," but, when El Paso is farther away than New Orleans, is that too broad? Urban Harvest limits vendors at its weekly farmers market to those whose farms are within 180 miles of Houston. That seems like a better fit.

The other perk of the Urban Harvest market is that diners can get a sign of which chefs "walk the walk" of local sourcing by seeing who shows up. Some of the city's biggest names like Monica Pope, Chris Shepherd and Justin Yu are all regulars. Other times sous chefs like Coltivare's Vincent Huynh represent their restaurants. Their restaurants — Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, Underbelly and Oxheart — are all well-known for their use of local ingredients.

Today's list focuses on those restaurants whose presence at the market might surprise some people.

While the restaurants below don't make up a comprehensive list, it does shine a spotlight on a few places that don't get enough attention for their commitment to sustainability and serves as a reminder that this ethos has become far more widespread than a few stand bearers. Check out LocalLocal for more information; the recently launched website documents which local producers supply specific stores and restaurants.

Benjy's/Local Foods
Chef/Partner Dylan Murray is a market regular who purchases produce from high-quality purveyors like Gundermann Farms, Atkinson Farm and Animal Farm for the company's four restaurants. The items get featured as specials at Benjy's or as side dishes and sandwiches at Local Foods.

"The operative word is community," Murray writes in an email. "Not only from a financial standpoint, but from a truly local neighborhood community standpoint, by buying the local product, it ensures that a) We get the freshest product that hasn’t traveled very far, but also b) We’re re-investing in the community. We buy our farmers’ product and often see those same farmers in our restaurants eating. It’s kind of a win-win-win; it’s great for the farmer, great for the community and great for us."

Diners value Claire Smith's duo of casual, Southern-influenced restaurants for their vegetable preparations that utilize a host of nearby farmers. Black Hill Ranch supplies pork to both restaurants, as well. Market shoppers line up at the restaurants' stand that features quiche and other breakfast treats to patrons.

Dish Society
Not everything at this two outpost mini chain comes from Texans (hello, citrus-glazed salmon), but owner Aaron Lyons and operations director Trent Patterson do utilize local produce from Atkinson Farms, locally roasted Greenway Coffee and locally baked breads from Slow Dough Bread Co. (among other suppliers). Despite the reputation that local means expensive, most dinner entrees at Dish Society only cost between $10 and $15.

Down House/CHOAM
Down House executive chef Mark Decker can be regularly found at the market. His restaurant uses produce places that include Gundermann Acres, Knopp Branch and Plant-It-Forward as well as proteins from Black Hill Meats and others. Fitting for a restaurant that won Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year at the 2014 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.

In addition, Treadsack, the restaurant group that owns Down House, operates the CHOAM distribution company that supplies Gulf seafood to Revival Market, Coltivare, Rainbow Lodge and Harold's in the Heights. It grew out of the Gulf by-catch distribution business begun by Foreign Correspondents chef PJ Stoops.

​Part of what makes chef Anita Jaisinghani's restaurants two of Houston's most reliable destinations for creative Indian cooking is their use of local produce. Both restaurants offer vegetarian options that go far beyond the grilled vegetables plates of days gone by. Jaisinghani is a market regular, but she usually arrives close to the 8 am opening before the crowds descend.

​The popular sushi restaurant in the Gateway Memorial City complex still gets most of its fish from Japan, but sous chef Martin Weaver visits the market weekly to source ingredients that become specials at both the sushi counter and in the kitchen. These unexpected ingredients enhance KUU's Japanese perspective with a little Texas swagger.

Local Foods turns market vegetables into side dishes and sandwich fillings.

Local Foods Houston March 2014 produce and pasta
Photo by Eric Sandler
Local Foods turns market vegetables into side dishes and sandwich fillings.
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Disney's Little Mermaid remake goes swimmingly despite new so-so songs

Movie review

The biggest problem with the majority of the live-action updates to classic Disney animated films is that they haven’t been updates at all, choosing to merely regurgitate the moments audiences know and love from the original in a slightly repackaged form. That’s great for nostalgia, but if that’s all viewers wanted, they’d just go back and watch the original.

The Little Mermaid falls into much the same trap, although the filmmakers get at least a little credit for trying to offer something new. The story, of course, remains the same, as Ariel (Halle Bailey) has a fascination with everything above the surface of the ocean. Her rebellious nature, at odds with strict King Triton (Javier Bardem), leads her to spy on a ship with Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and his crew, putting her in position to save Eric when the ship crashes into rocks.

Now totally enamored of Eric, Ariel is convinced by the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to give up her voice for a chance to live on land and make Eric fall in love with her. Trouble is, despite the help of Sebastian the crab (Daveed Diggs), Flounder the fish (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle the seabird (Awkwafina), Ursula has no plans to let Ariel succeed fair and square.

Directed by Rob Marshall and written by David Magee, the film clocks in at nearly one hour longer than the original, going from 83 minutes to 135. They accomplish this feat with the addition of several songs, including ones “sung” by Ariel while she is without voice, a relatively clever way to get into her thoughts during that long stretch. There are also additional scenes that give Prince Eric more of a backstory, making him more than just a pretty face on which to hang all of Ariel’s hopes and dreams.

The new songs are hit-and-miss; Ariel’s “For the First Time” is a fanciful number that fits in nicely, but “Wild Uncharted Waters,” a solo song for Prince Eric, feels unnecessary, and the less said about “The Scuttlebutt,” a rap performed by Scuttle and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the better. What most people want to see are how the original songs are done, and they come off well for the most part. The actors’ voices are uniformly good and the staging is engaging.

Other changes seem half-hearted, at best. A vague environmental theme broached at the beginning is quickly dropped. The cast is very multicultural, but haphazardly so. The film is obviously set on and around a Caribbean island, making it natural for The Queen (Noma Dumezweni), Eric’s adopted mother, and other islanders to be Black. But giving Ariel “sisters from the seven seas,” allowing for mermaids of several different races and ethnicities, feels odd and forced, and a little creepy given that King Triton is supposed to be the father of all of them.

The fact that Bailey herself is Black, while great for representation, is neither here nor there in the context of the film. Bailey has a voice that is equal to everything she is asked to sing, and her silent acting is excellent in the middle portion of the film. McCarthy makes for a great Ursula, bringing both humor and pathos to the role. Hauer-King, who bears a similarity to Ryan Gosling, plays Eric in a more well-rounded manner.

The live-action version of The Little Mermaid, like almost all of the Disney remakes, never truly establishes itself as its own unique thing. Still, it’s a thoroughly pleasant watch with some nice performances, which clears the bar for success for this era of Disney history.


The Little Mermaid opens in theaters on May 26.

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

Photo courtesy of Disney

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid.

New Jersey-based Viet-Cajun seafood restaurant steams up first Houston location with crawfish, po-boys, and more

be nice to the crabs

A New Jersey seafood restaurant has debuted in West Houston. Nauti Crab is now open in the former Hank’s Cajun Grill space at 11660 Westheimer Rd.

Open since 2016 in Metuchen, New Jersey, Nauti Crab owner Ryan Mai has chosen Houston as the next outpost for his Viet-Cajun fare. The restaurant specializes in boiled seafood such as crawfish, shrimp, mussels, crab, and lobster paired with different sauces and spices.

“Continuing our incredible journey started in New Jersey; we are excited to bring our unique flavors and unforgettable dining experience to seafood enthusiasts in Houston,” Mai said in a statement. “We chose Houston as a second location because Houston is one of the most diverse food cities in the United States. Houstonians are passionate about Cajun cuisine, just like we are! Houston is a perfect match to continue the Nauti Crab brand.”

Meals at Nauti Crab are built around boiled seafood. Diners may select different shellfish such as lobster, king crab legs, Dungeness crab clusters, blue crab, shrimp, and crawfish. From there, choose one of five flavors, including the signature Nauti Cajun that blends garlic butter, lemon pepper, and Cajun spices. Finally, select a spice level (ranging from mild to extra hot) and optional add-ons such as corn, potatoes, garlic noodles, or andouille sausage.

The menu also includes appetizers such as wings, fried calamari, and shrimp tacos. Nauti Crab offers sandwiches like the shrimp po’ boy and crab rolls as well as rice and noodle dishes including Dungeness crab over garlic noodles and shrimp fried rice.

Pair them with drinks from the full bar, including wine, beer, cocktails, and sodas. Sit at the bar to follow sports on the restaurant’s flatscreen TVs.

Nauti Crab comes to Houston after having been well received in New Jersey. The restaurant maintains a solid 4.7 stars on OpenTable and 4.5 stars on Yelp.

Nauti Crab food spread

Photo by Rebekah Flores

Nauti Crab offers different varieties of boiled seafood.

To celebrate its grand opening, Nauti Crab will be offering a 10-percent discount on Saturday, June 3. In addition, a DJ will play music and giveaways will take place throughout the day. After that, the restaurant will be open Monday-Friday from 3-10 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 am - 10 pm.

Houston scores surprise spot in new ranking of top summer travel destinations for 2023


We now know that Houston has seen one of the biggest gains in new residents in the U.S. But how high does the rest of the nation rank our fair city as a place to visit?

Perhaps not as high as we may think, per a new list of the best places to visit in the summer. Houston comes in at a surprising No. 38 out of 100 of the largest metro areas in America, according to the 2023 edition of WalletHub’s report.

The report compared the cities across 41 metrics, including number of attractions.

Taking the top spot in Texas San Antonio at No. 11, with Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown at No. 14. Behind Austin and San Antonio in the 2023 rankings is El Paso (No. 18), Houston (No. 38), Dallas-Fort Worth (No. 45), Corpus Christi (No. 62), and McAllen (No. 86).

Dr. Susan Weidmann, assistant professor in the department of recreational management and physical education at Appalachian State University, said in the report that summer 2023 is going to be a “good season for travel” despite recent economic downturns that have many worried about a recession.

“Coming out of Covid, I think many people have taken these last few years to really evaluate what they want out of life, and for those that love travel, I think they have probably put it at the top of their list of things to do,” she said. “As far as economics are concerned, many may have saved their traveling money from the last multiple years, so will have money to spend. That being said, after the airline chaos of last year, many people may be thinking about domestic travel over the long-haul, just to alleviate many of the concerns that airlines, especially in Europe, are still grappling with, such as reduced staffing leading to flight cancellations.”

Dr. Weidmann predicts the time period between July and early August will be the most popular season for National Parks, like Texas’ Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains.

Despite none of them being in Texas, the top 10 destinations in WalletHub’s report are all popular cities worth a glance in sun-friendly states like Hawaii, New York, and Florida.

The top 10 best summer destinations are:

  • No. 1 – Atlanta
  • No. 2 – Honolulu, Hawaii
  • No. 3 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 4 – Wichita, Kansas
  • No. 5 – New York City
  • No. 6 – Chicago
  • No. 7 – Tampa, Florida
  • No. 8 – Orlando, Florida
  • No. 9 – Richmond, Virginia
  • No. 10 – Springfield, Missouri

The full report can be found on WalletHub’s website.