Photo by Claudia Casbarian

A burger joint and a Texas comfort food restaurant are heading to Spring Branch. Underbelly Burger and Wild Oats will open their second locations at 1222 Witte Rd. next year.

Located in a former warehouse at the corner of Witte Road and Westview Road, real estate developer MLB Capital Partners is transforming the property into a dining and entertainment destination. The two restaurants, which are part of Underbelly Hospitality, will be joined by The Decoy, a patio bar with sand volleyball courts from the owners of Wakefield Crowbar. MLB Capital Partners principal Todd Mason is also the owner of Underbelly Hospitality.

“We saw potential early on to reinvigorate this site as a community lifestyle destination in the fast-growing Memorial area,” MLB partner Jeff Lindenberger said in a statement. “This location is well-suited to cater to community gatherings, workday lunches, family outings, and everything in between.”

Wild Oats opened its first location at the Houston Farmers Market in February. Described by partner Nick Fine as “a love letter to Texas,” the restaurant serves reinterpretations of classic Texas fare such as chili, chicken fried steak, and wood-grilled chicken with King Ranch casserole.

“My idea [for] the menu is for everybody to get it,” Fine told CultureMap in February. “I don’t want everyone to be like ‘whoa, he’s doing all this crazy stuff.’ I just want everything to be really good food but also technically really sound.”

The new Wild Oats will seat approximately 180 people across its main dining room, private dining room, and outdoor patio. Its design will be similar to the original, which nods to Texas’ different regions and eras in its history.

Although Fine recently left his full-time role as Underbelly Hospitality’s culinary director to spend more time with his family, he remains a partner in Wild Oats. The company plans to hire an executive chef to oversee the Spring Branch location, according to a release.

Underbelly Burger will be located next to Wild Oats, just like they are at the Houston Farmers Market. The retro-styled restaurant serves burgers made with Texas beef from 44 Farms and R-C Ranch alongside veggie burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, fries, and shakes. Similar in design to the first location, Underbelly Burger will offer seating for 12 inside with outdoor seating on its patio and adjacent greenspace.

The company started the burger concept to better utilize the beef it purchases for Georgia James, its luxurious steakhouse in the Regent Square mixed-use development. While a whole cow might only yield 20-26 ribeyes, it produces 250 pounds of meat that can become burger grind, according to a release. Selling burgers makes for a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly use of resources.

“Wild Oats and Underbelly Burger are our most family-friendly concepts, and it felt very natural to want to introduce those brands to the Spring Branch community,” Underbelly Hospitality director of operations Nina Quincy said in a statement. “The second locations for Wild Oats and Underbelly Burger will be elevated and expanded spaces from their predecessors, featuring the flavors and techniques that both are known for.”

The two new restaurants are the company’s first new projects since the departure of founding chef Chris Shepherd, who left this summer to focus on the Southern Smoke Foundation, a non-profit that offers emergency assistance to hospitality workers in crisis situations. Underbelly Hospitality will also open its new Italian concept Pastore next to Georgia James in 2023.

Photo by Claudia Casbarian

Wild Oats serves Texas fare like chili and chicken fried steak.

Courtesy of Loose Cannon

New rum-lovin', nautical-themed bar sails into Spring Branch with frozen daiquiris and Caribbean vibe

daiquiris ahoy!

Landlubbers rejoice. A new, nautical-themed bar has sailed into Spring Branch.

Lei Low owners Liz and Russell Thoede have partnered with Houston bar empresario Brad Moore (Grand Prize, Big Star Bar) and his partner Camella Clements to open Loose Cannon in the former Might As Well space at 8518 Long Point Rd. The new bar intends to blend the come-as-you-are atmosphere that’s made the location a neighborhood favorite for decades with a focus on well-executed, mostly rum-based cocktails.

Courtesy of Loose Cannon

A look inside Loose Cannon's nautically themed bar.

“It has similarities to the Heights when we opened Lei Low,” Russell Thoede tells CultureMap. “It’s an older, established neighborhood that needed some updated businesses.”

To be clear, Loose Cannon isn’t a tiki bar. It doesn’t have signature design elements like thatch walls or tikis, and the drinks will be a little simpler than what Lei Low offers.

“When a chef opens a second restaurant, it’s usually a burger joint or something easy,” Thoede says. “That’s what we were looking for — something a little less complicated.”

Inside, the renovations center around a nautical theme. Customers will find walls adorned with items such as ship’s wheels. Maritime-looking art chrome accented lights help illuminate the space.

“That dark wood kind of reminded me of the inside of a boat, an old pub,” Thoede says. Later, he adds that his goal design-wise is to “Give you the feel of a bar that would be in the Caribbean. A lot of resorts have a fisherman’s pub or rum shacks that have a fisherman’s vibe.”

Cocktails start with rum-based classics such as a frozen daiquiri — inspired by the one served at Havana’s famous La Floridita bar — a frozen hurricane, and a classic Painkiller. The signature Loose Cannon is a French 75 variation made with Jamaican rum, cognac, lemon juice, simple syrup, and cava. Inspired by a drink he encountered in Martinique, Thoede’s rum punch blends rhum agricole with guava juice, lime juice, orange juice and a splash of angostura bitters.

Of course, the bar is stocked with other spirits necessary for standard classics, and it will continue to serve beer to cater to regulars who’ve been going there since it was Robbie’s. That’s a tradition Thoede wants to respect.

“That location has been a bar since the '60s. It’s a part of the community,” he says. “We’re not coming there to change or gentrify their bar. We just want to prolong the tradition of a good, neighborhood bar.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

One Houston boy's courageous heart journey with Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital

Ryder's Story

Ryder is a happy four-year-old who lights up a room with his big radiant smile. As the youngest of four children, he loves playing games with his older brother and two sisters. He has mastered the art of tumbling around on the floor so much so that his parents enrolled him in gymnastics.

“Ryder is always smiling, and that’s the first thing people notice about him,” says Falon Lindner, Ryder’s mom. “Now that he is four, his personality is beginning to shine through. He is very independent and wants to do things on his own, and he is also starting to get a little opinionated, too. When my husband, Josh, and I see him today, we can’t help but think of the many obstacles our little boy faced and overcame courageously in his young life. It’s hard to tell that Ryder is a heart baby.”

When Falon was 23 weeks pregnant, she was very excited about her next ultrasound and couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of Ryder on the screen to see how much he had grown since his last anatomy scan. At first, things were going well. Then the atmosphere in the room abruptly changed.

“When my OB/GYN, Dr. Pamela Berens, walked in, I could see a concerned look on her face,” says Falon. Dr. Berens is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “She told us our baby had a heart problem. She thought Ryder might have aortic stenosis, but she said a fetal echocardiogram would confirm that for sure. As you can imagine, my husband and I were overwhelmed. It took a while for us to process everything. This was supposed to be an exciting moment for our family. Since Ryder needed a fetal echo, we were immediately referred to The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center.”

The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital is a national referral center and an international leader in fetal diagnosis, fetal intervention, and comprehensive fetal care for infants with congenital and genetic abnormalities.

In collaboration with pediatric sub-specialists at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, the affiliated team partners with the Children’s Heart Institute at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital — a collaboration between the hospital and UTHealth Houston — offer patients with congenital heart defects a complete range of prenatal testing for both mother and baby before, during, and after birth.

“We receive numerous patient referrals to The Fetal Center because of our team’s specialized expertise in complex fetal cardiac conditions,” says Dr. Vidhya Annavajjhala, assistant professor of pediatric cardiology at McGovern Medical School, and an affiliated pediatric cardiologist and fetal echocardiologist with the Fetal Heart Program at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting about one in every 100 babies born in the U.S. We use the most advanced imaging and monitoring tools to detect fetal heart anomalies as early as the second trimester to ensure we identify the appropriate treatment plan for mother and baby.”

On July 6, 2018, Ryder’s fetal echocardiogram confirmed that he had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a severe congenital heart condition in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped and cannot pump oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Dr. Annavajjhala and Dr. Jorge Salazar met with the Lindners to explain Ryder’s heart condition and map out what their surgical care plan would be after Ryder was born. Dr. Salazar is professor and chief of pediatric and congenital heart surgery at McGovern Medical School and an affiliated pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Dr. Salazar serves as executive co-director of the Children’s Heart Institute.

“An important part of the process for our patients with complex cardiac needs is to have the parents meet with our multidisciplinary team that consists of maternal fetal medicine specialists, genetics, neonatologists, and a dedicated cardiac nurse coordinator to create a coordinated delivery and postnatal plan for the patient,” adds Dr. Annavajjhala. “This really gives our patients comfort and their families peace of mind as they walk through what can be an overwhelming process.”

“Ryder’s doctors were a huge support to me and my wife, especially during a time when we needed it the most,” says Josh. “We knew that HLHS was a life-threatening condition, but Dr. Annavajjhala and Dr. Salazar helped put our minds at ease as far as what to expect. If we had questions — and we had a lot of them — they always answered them. After our initial consult with them we knew Ryder would be in good hands, and that meant the world to us.”

Falon saw Dr. Annavajjhala every six weeks at The Fetal Center to check on Ryder’s heart, along with ultrasound visits with her OB/GYN to make sure her baby was growing and developing at a normal pace.

Then, on October 14, 2018 — three weeks before his actual due date — Falon and Josh welcomed Ryder, weighing 6 pounds and 1 ounce, at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Falon spent a brief moment with her son before he was transferred to the hospital’s Level IV NICU. The Lindners knew that Ryder’s birth would mark the start of a long journey ahead.

On October 19, five-day-old Ryder underwent his first open-heart procedure. Dr. Salazar performed the Norwood procedure, the first of three surgeries to correct his condition.

“We rerouted his heart so the right ventricle can take over both jobs of pumping blood to the lungs and to the body,” says Dr. Salazar. “Babies born with HLHS need the Norwood procedure because their left ventricle and aorta are too small to pump blood to the rest of the body. This procedure is considered the most complicated of the three single-ventricle treatment surgeries to palliate HLHS.”

“Although Ryder’s surgery went well, it was tough to see him hooked up to so many chest tubes and IVs, and hearing the constant beeping noises from the equipment,” says Josh. “As Ryder got stronger week by week, his nurses gradually weaned him off some of his medications. Every medicine and every tube that he came off of was like a small graduation. After spending six weeks in the hospital, we took Ryder home just in time for Thanksgiving. We spent a few more months with him at home before Ryder was ready for his second open-heart surgery.”

On February 27, 2019, when Ryder was four months old, Dr. Salazar performed the Glenn procedure to reroute blood flow from the upper body to his lungs. As a result, some of the blood goes directly to the lungs without circulating through the heart. After his second surgery, Ryder spent a week in the hospital before he was ready to head back home.

Ryder was closely monitored at home to identify any “red flags” such as abnormal parameters or changes in condition and address them timely.

“Our son has come a long way,” says Falon. “We are thankful to the care team from the doctors and nurses in The Fetal Center to our cardiology and surgery teams for taking great care of Ryder. Dr. Salazar and Dr. Annavajjhala were a huge blessing to our family. Dr. Salazar always made sure he was available. To this day, Ryder gets excited when he sees Dr. Annavajjhala for his follow-up appointments. She’s been with Ryder for the last three years. They are all part of our family.”

Ryder underwent his third open-heart surgery — the last surgery (Fontan procedure) to correct HLHS — on December 9, 2022 at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. He is now home, happy and healthy, and wants to be a fireman when he grows up.

“We have faith in our team at Children’s Memorial Hermann,” adds the Lindners. “We know that in Dr. Salazar’s and Dr. Annavajjhala’s hands, our son will be fine. You have to trust your team because they know what they are doing. It’s scary when you rely on the internet versus the staff that’s been through it or seen it. Working with Ryder’s physicians gave us hope and confidence that everything would be okay. This has been a tough journey, but our family has gotten stronger because of it. As emotional as it was for us, it was emotional for our friends and family as well. They’ve been part of this journey and they love Ryder. We love our son, too.”

To learn more about Ryder and the Fetal Heart Program, click here.


The Children’s Heart Institute is a collaboration between the affiliated physicians at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Typically, patients are seen on an outpatient basis at a UT Physicians clinic with all inpatient procedures performed at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Ken Hoffman chisels Beyoncé into Houston's musical Mt. Rushmore after her historic Grammy wins — and predicts who's next

our musical mt. rushmore

By winning her 29th, 30th, 31st, and 32nd Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 5, Beyoncé became the all-time Grammy champion and cemented her position as Houston’s greatest homegrown treasure.

Beyoncé stands alone for her entertainment and cultural impact. She isn’t just on our Mount Rushmore, she’s an entire mountain range by herself.

Ah, but who’s second on Houston’s musical landscape? (Though it’s a far distant second now — and Beyoncé is far from finished creating new art and performing for millions of fans.)

There are many performers who started here and spread their talents beyond Houston to Texas, the U.S., and the world. The nominees are … and who gets your vote for Vice-Superstar?

Bun B

The rap icon, guest lecturer at Rice University, and Unofficial Mayor of Houston has released five albums, with his debut Trill reaching Top 5 in the U.S. He made history as the first Black male Houstonian to headline the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. His tastiest production? Trill Burgers, coming soon to the old James Coney Island location on South Shepherd and Richmond.

Megan Thee Stallion

The TSU grad has exploded on the scene and burned up the Billboard Hot 100 singles and Hot 200 albums charts in the past two years. Time Magazine included her on its list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. Recorded "Savage" with Beyoncé and "WAP" with Cardi B.

Last year hosted and was musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Won the Grammy for Best New Artist and four American Music Awards.

Lyle Lovett

Recorded 13 albums and 25 singles. “Cowboy Man” reached No. 10 on the country singles chart. Once married to Pretty Woman Julia Roberts. Similar hairstyle to Cosmo Kramer.

ZZ Top

The “Little Ol’ Band from Texas” recorded 15 albums and sold 50 million copies worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Their videos for “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” were instrumental to MTV’s success in the 1980s. This is amazing, in 1991 the Texas House of Representatives named ZZ Top as “Official Heroes for the State of Texas.”

Kenny Rogers

The Gambler boasts credits like Country music Hall of Fame, 120 singles on various hit charts around the world, more than 100 million records sold, starred in a series of TV movies based on his The Gambler character, co-founded Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurants that got the entire cast of Seinfeld hooked on chicken. “It’s the wood that makes it good.” In 1986 a national poll ranked Rogers as the “Greatest Singer of All-Time.”

Johnny Nash

The Houston native wrote, produced and performed “I Can See Clearly Now” in 1972, the first reggae song to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s singles chart.

Michael Nesmith

Original member of The Monkees, one of the biggest acts of the 1960s, wrote “A Different Drum” for the Stone Poneys with lead singer Linda Ronstadt in 1967. Oh, and NBD but, his mother invented Liquid Paper. For real.

Billy Preston

He had solo hit records like “That’s the Way God Planned It,” “Nothing From Nothing,” and “Will It Go Round In Circles.” He co-wrote “You Are So Beautiful” for Joe Cocker. Perhaps best known for being the only person to get credit on a Beatles recording at the Fab Four’s request. The label reads “Get Back by The Beatles with Billy Preston.”

Archie Bell and the Drells

They had a Top 10 single with Tighten Up in 1968. The song opens with, “Hi everybody, I’m Archie Bell of the Drells, from Houston, Texas and we don’t only sing, but we dance just as good as we walk. In Houston we just started a new dance called the Tighten Up.” That’s called representing.

Also receiving consideration:

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Houston's Queen Bey is clearly No. 1 after making Grammy history.

You can make a case for Slim Thug, La Mafia, Machine Gun Kelly, The Geto Boys, Barbara Mandrell, Paul Wall, Destiny’s Child, Travis Scott, and B.J. Thomas.

Idyllic Houston neighbor cashes in as No.2 richest city in Texas for 2023

better in bellaire

Here's the latest reminder that Houston is indeed a boomtown: Two booming 'burbs have been named to a list of the richest cities in America.

Bellaire comes in at No. 2 overall in a new study by HomeSnacks.com. Pearland lands further down the list at No. 20.

HomeSnacks has been ranking cities, neighborhoods, counties, and states across America for more than five years, using data from the Census Bureau, OpenStreetMaps, the FBI, and other sources. For this year's study, the website compared 355 cities with populations of at least 5,000 people to determine where "the richest of the rich" live.

Moving up two spots from last year's rankings, Bellaire ranks second overall with a median income of $211,202 and other signifiers of affluence. The cost of living in Bellaire is 1.7 times the national average; the average home there costs around $829,400, while the area scores a perfect 10 ranking for education and housing.

Notably, the area falls 19.77 percent below the national average for crime.

Pearland residents post a median income of $107,941, per the report, with a the average home estimated at around $260,300. The suburb scores a perfect 10 for diversity and a whopping 34.97 percent lower rank for crime than the national average.

As for the richest city in Texas, that owner goes to the Dallas-area city of Southlake, which also came in at No. 1 overall on HomeSnacks list in 2022. Southlake residents enjoy a median income of $239,833, and a unemployment rate of just 2.2 percent. HomeSnacks shows the median home price for Southlake at $697,000.

Texas' top 10 richest cities for 2023 are:

1. Southlake
2. Bellaire
3. Alamo Heights
4. Lucas
5. Lakeway
6. Coppell
7. Heath
8. Highland Village
9. Bee Cave
10. Keller

Those interested can visit HomeSnacks' website to see the top 100 richest cities in Texas, download the full list and rankings, or search to see where their city came in on the list.