Dr Pepper

Texas' favorite soda Dr Pepper, loved for its cherry-ish flavor, has a new berry variety: Strawberries & Cream, available in regular and Zero Sugar versions, now on shelves everywhere.

According to a release, Dr Pepper Strawberries & Cream Regular will be offered in 12-packs with 12-ounce cans and also in 20-ounce bottles. The Zero Sugar version will be offered in 12 packs only.

Both will be permanent additions.

The release says that the new flavor combines the original 23 flavors of Dr Pepper but with layers of strawberry flavor and a creamy finish. That sounds like a lot of activity for a little old soda.

"Our expert team of flavor scientists are constantly innovating to bring to life new varieties that will surprise and delight treat seekers and our existing dedicated fans," says Dr Pepper Marketing VP John Alvarado. "Dr Pepper Strawberries & Cream is an exciting evolution for our brand's flavor portfolio as it joins our permanent lineup alongside popular varieties such as Dr Pepper & Cream Soda and Dr Pepper Zero Sugar."

Dr Pepper is part of Keurig Dr Pepper but is also the oldest major soft drink in the United States, around since 1885.

The "23 flavors" theme, which is said to be responsible for its unique taste, is a secret recipe, ooooh, and is thought to include amaretto, almond, blackberry, black licorice, carrot, clove, cherry, caramel, cola, ginger, juniper, lemon, molasses, nutmeg, orange, prune, plum, pepper, root beer, rum, raspberry, tomato, and vanilla.

The current full Dr Pepper lineup includes Regular, Diet, Caffeine Free, Cherry, Zero Sugar, and Cream Soda.

A spokesperson says that Dr Pepper has introduced several LTO flavors over the past few years, including Dr Pepper Fansville Reserve Bourbon and FANtastic Chocolate in celebration of college football season, and Dark Berry, all available for a limited time only.

The spokesperson neglects to mention some other special edition flavors from the past that have included Dr Pepper Red Fusion, Dr Pepper Berries & Cream, Dr Pepper Cherry, Dr Pepper Vanilla Float, and Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr Pepper, which was delicious.

The two best were definitely Heritage Dr Pepper and Dr Pepper "Made With Real Sugar" — best because they used sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Alas, discontinued.

MFAH Courtesy Photo

New York Times showcases Bayou City's best in glowing '36 hours in Houston' travel guide


With events like the rodeo, the Final Four, and the College Football National Championship coming to Houston in the next 12 months, travelers will be flocking to Houston. Of course, they’ll need some advice about where to say, eat, shop, and sightsee.

The New York Times offers its suggestions in the latest version of it “36 hours in Houston” column, an update to articles it has published in 2010 and 2016. In this edition, author Shannon Sims, identified in the article as a writer who “grew up in Houston and lives there today,” offers a mix of Houston classics with some newer options for people who want to experience the city’s diversity — or, at least, a mostly Inner Loop version of it.

As for where visitors should stay, Sims suggests a trip to the Texas-shaped pool at Marriott Marquis Houston or La Maison in Midtown, a cozy bed and breakfast.

She also lauds La Colombe d’Or, noting that the 100-year-old Montrose manse “exudes luxury, from the glamorously moody hotel bar to the slick rooftop pool.”

Then, it's on to her first two recommendations. She suggests visitors take in artist Yayoi Kusama’s installation inside the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston that opened in 2020. After wandering through the galleries, travelers should head to the classic West Alabama Ice House for beer and tacos from the popular Tacos Tierra Caliente food truck that parks next door. For dinner, travelers should drive or rideshare to Chinatown for Viet-Cajun fare from Crawfish & Noodles.

Saturday morning kicks off with breakfast at Koffeteria, pastry chef Vanarin Kuch’s inventive EaDo bakery and cafe. Visitors can get a sense of the history of Black Houstonians with walking tours at downtown’s Sam Houston Park and through Freedmen’s Town.

Sims acknowledges that “identifying the best Texas barbecue in Houston is a fool’s errand.” Recognizing, however, that many visitors will feel slighted without eating some smoked meat, she sends them to Truth Barbecue on the corner of Heights Boulevard and Washington Avenue for the “mandatory” brisket, “peppery” pork ribs, and brisket boudin sausage. Note to travelers: Truth frequently serves Carolina-style whole hog on Saturdays, too.

A busy Saturday afternoon itinerary includes shopping the vintage stores and boutiques on lower Westheimer followed by a walk through along Buffalo Bayou to Eleanor Tinsley Park. In keeping with the classic foods of Houston aspect of the itinerary, Sims suggests The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation along with some other Tex-Mex options for a proper feast of queso, fajitas, and margaritas. Wrap up the evening with a bar crawl on Main Street in downtown.

Visitors should complete their experience with a Sunday morning visit to Hermann Park followed by brunch (and fantastic people watching) at Lucille’s. Last stop: a casual walk among the oak trees and elegant homes on North and South Boulevards.

Overall, Sims provides readers with a comprehensive list of suggestions for Montrose, the Museum District, and downtown. Still, a few alternatives would make the itinerary a little more contemporary.

Although she notes that EaDo is the “part of Houston has changed the most over the past five years,” her only recommendation in the neighborhood is Koffeteria. Travelers could swap Saturday night’s Main Street bar crawl for EaDo options like Miss Carousel, the Sunset Rooftop Lounge, and breweries such as 8th Wonder and True Anomaly.

Similarly, those who want to dive more deeply into Black Houston could swap out Truth Barbecue and the Montrose shopping jaunt for lunch at Rays Real Pit BBQ Shack, a visit to the University Museum at Texas Southern University, and a stop at Kindred Stories, a nearby bookstore. Hermann Park makes sense for its proximity to Lucille’s, but Memorial Park’s new, 100-acre Land Bridge and Prairie project would be a little more current.

Finally, making a definitive statement about Houston’s best taco truck is just as much of a “fool’s errand” as naming a best barbecue joint. Sims plants her flag for Tacos Tierra Caliente, but those looking for other options should consider Texas Monthly taco editor José Ralat’s “Houston Taco Trail.”

Kusama: At the End of the Universe
MFAH Courtesy Photo

Visit the Kusama installation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

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Sizzling hot Austin Korean BBQ restaurant serves up opening date for permanent Heights return

Chi'Lantro returns

A popular Austin restaurant will soon make its permanent return to Houston. Chi’Lantro BBQ will open in the Heights on Monday, April 3 at the The Heights Forum development (1324 N. Shepherd Dr.).

Chi'Lantro BBQ bowls spread

Courtesy of Chi'Lantro BBQ

The restaurant serves bowls with different protein and topping options.

Originally founded as a food truck, Chi’Lantro has grown to 11 Austin-area locations and a thriving catering business. The food truck also operated in Houston but left in 2015 to focus on growing its brick and mortar business in Austin.

Named for a combination of cilantro and kimchi, Chi'Lantro serves a creative mashup of Mexican and Korean-inspired dishes. True to its food truck roots, the restaurant's signature item is The Original Kimchi Fries — french fries topped with kimchi, Korean BBQ, onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and sauce. In a year, the restaurant will serve more than 200,000 orders of kimchi fries, according to a release.

In addition to fries, the menu includes Korean fried chicken wings, ssäms (wrap-style sandwiches), and bowls that can be customized with a range of proteins and toppings. Meat choices include Korean BBQ steak, spicy pork, spicy chicken, and soy-glazed chicken.

Chi'Lantro has also had some success on reality TV. In 2016, Barbara Corcoran invested $600,000 in the restaurant on a season eight episode of Shark Tank.

“In 2015 we scaled back to focus on the brick & mortar expansion in Austin, and I am thrilled that after almost a decade we are returning to the city where my journey in Texas began,” Chi'Lantro founder Jae Kim said in a statement. “Houston holds a special place in my heart, and I am excited at the opportunity to rekindle my connection with this diverse and culinary-focused community.”

Ahead of its grand opening, Chi'Lantro will hold soft opening preview events on March 31 (5-8 pm) and April 1 (12-3 pm). Attendees must register on Eventbrite to attend the previews, which will feature free food until it runs out. The restaurant will encourage diners to donate to the MD Anderson Pediatric Cancer Fund for NF2 patients.

"I'm motivated to give back to a cause that means so much to me, I'm doing it for my sister who passed away due to NF2,” Kim said. “We are looking forward to celebrating our opening while supporting a good cause.”

Booming Houston 'burb named best place to buy a home and raise a family in America


Texas homebuyers and families searching for their next place to call home should be looking at this Houston suburb, which was just named one of the best cities to live in America in a new report from Niche.

Niche is an online platform that connects families to schools or colleges; their 2023 report’s data was collected through resident reviews in combination with information from the Census and the FBI. This latest release is their ninth annual report, with rankings determined after a study of 228 American cities and nearly 18,000 towns and neighborhoods.

The Woodlands made it at the top of the list in several categories. It was named the No. 1 best city to buy a house in America, outranking Overland Park, Kansas (No. 2) and Naperville, Illinois (No. 3). It earned an A+ rating for its job market, and an A- rank for its diversity, housing availability, and outdoor activities.

The north Houston suburb came in at No. 2 in the ranking of best cities to raise a family, with Naperville sliding into first place, and Arlington, Virginia, taking third. The Woodlands has an A+ ranking for its family-friendliness and public school selection.

In the overall best American city to live in category, The Woodlands ranked No. 3. Cambridge, Massachusetts (No. 1) and Arlington, Virginia (No. 2) took the top two spots in the ranking.

Niche founder and CEO Luke Skurman said in a press release that the company is proud to be “a trusted resource for families, homebuyers” and many other professionals.

“For almost ten years now, our Best Places to Live rankings have helped people find a new neighborhood to call home based on what matters most to them, whether that’s affordable housing, easy access to amenities or excellent local schools,” said Skurman. “Families wondering about an area’s school district can also use our comprehensive school profiles and rankings to get a feel for their child’s potential school.”

Two Dallas suburbs also earned a few spots in Niche's report. Plano ranked No. 10 for the best cities to raise a family and No. 8 on the list of best American cities to buy a house. Plano also ranked just outside the top 10 at No. 11 in the category of best overall city to live in. Richardson, which is just south of Plano, ranked No. 12 for best overall American city to live in and No. 13 for best cities to raise a family.

The full report and its methodology can be found on Niche's website.

Houston icon Bun B toasts the big 50 in trill and star-studded surprise birthday bash

the OG's big 5-0

Be it wicked rhymes, his smash Trill Burgers, headlining RodeoHouston, emceeing the Tastemaker Awards, leading peaceful downtown marches, or quiet charity, rap icon Bun B has always given to his hometown.

On Sunday, March 19, it was time for his hometown to give back.

Anyone keeping score could easily call the last 12 months "The Year of Bun B," as he headlined another RodeoHouston Takeover, won Best Burger in America on Good Morning America, and is set to open his first Trill Burgers restaurant in Montrose. So it's fitting that Sunday, March 19 not only saw Bun B turn 50 (!) but a weekend marking 20 years with his beloved and cherished wife, Queenie (née Angela Walls).

Bun B and Queenie renewed their vows in a private and intimate ceremony Sunday night at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston with Pastor Keion Robinson officiating — and Robinson's wife Shaunie assisting — with a small orchestral accompaniment. Bun was draped up in a three-piece tuxedo, looking every bit the Trill Gatsby. Queenie, always a stunner, was adorned in a sparkling, shimmering gown — one absolutely worthy of her royal moniker.

Only a handful of family and friends attended the vow renewal and a special ring exchange, something the couple agreed upon. But it was the moment after that caught the usually steely and over-prepared Bun B off-guard. As they walked into a private CAMH ballroom, the couple was greeted with a huge "surprise!" from a crowd of longtime friends and family. DJ Mister Rogers spun must-dance jams, images from Bun's storied past blazed on a large video screen, and friends (like Houston society queen Lynn Wyatt) and family hugged the Trill OG, who was nearly overcome with emotion by the party appropriately dubbed The Trill Legacy Surprise.

"It's overwhelming to have this amount of love and admiration being outpoured to me right now," he told CultureMap as we caught up backstage. "I'm doing the best I can to contain myself, but it's hard when the people that you love go out of their way to show you how much you mean to them and how much they love you. You know, it's, it's hard to contain that stuff."

Hard indeed, when friends and colleagues from his earliest days popped up — some all the way from the Great White North.

"I have friends here from Canada who flew in a private jet just to make sure they could be here," Bun added. "Gumball 3000 friends of mine from all over the country. Guys I've known for 10, 15, 20 years. My wife, my mother, my godmother, my grandchildren, nieces, nephews — so many friends and family."

The Trill OG raised glasses of Crown Royal and Tequila Don Julio cocktails with the likes of the aforementioned Wyatt, music mogul J Prince, former Rockets legend/Junkyard Dog Mario Elie, Destiny's Child founding member LeToya Luckett, rapper Lil' Keke, famed attorney Rusty Hardin, power publicist Mark Sullivan, and more. No trill bash would be complete without Trill Burgers; the team including PR pro Nick Scurfield and chefsMike Pham, and Fernando Valladares ensured hungry partiers noshed on the hottest burger in Houston.

A question quickly arose from crowd: would Bun perform — or chill? But spotting his purposeful stride from party to stage, it was evident that king was about to hold court. He smoothly dropped into classic UGK tracks like "Big Pimpin'" and "Murder" and his own "Draped Up" — barely catching a sweat while fluidly dropping rhymes with his unmistakable bass timbre and alpha male presence.

Then came same heartfelt toasts from friends and longtime collaborators like Statiik Selektah, J Prince, and even a friend from his native Port Arthur. "He used to come to my house — I'd say, 'Hey, do my homework,'" his longtime friend David Marcel told the crowd during a toast — eliciting a big laugh from the OG himself. "Bun was always the smart kid in class." (Not surprising, given Bun's syncopated rhyme schemes, Rice University guest lecturer status, and prowess as a budding burger magnate.)

Pastor John Gray, unable to attend, brought church to the party in a poignant, powerful prayer and declaration as the crowd bowed their heads and raised hands in agreement.

Always one to anoint his queen, Bun ensured (a very reticent) Queenie got her flowers onstage and graciously thanked the crowd. Backstage, he reflected on the night and his wife of two decades who put it all together. The father and grandfather, who is globally famous for his creativity and lyrical prowess, found himself speechless.

"It's a bit overwhelming," he said, "I didn't really see this coming and I'm so happy that my wife thought enough of me in this moment to put this together. It's just so much, man. It's hard to really put into words — and I get paid to put things into words, you know what I'm saying? I could never have imagined that at 50 years, I'd be where I'm at right now and have so many people help me get here. And so many people that love me and care for me and look after me, man, it's, it's really amazing."

The fact that such an outpouring is amazing to him says much about the always-humble Bernard Freeman. While the alpha, godfather Bun B is a prominent persona, he's just one facet of the man who pondered the loved ones who gathered to celebrate him.

"Look, everybody that's here tonight are people that I've never had to change a single part of me for," he said, quickly getting real. "These are people that love me and have always loved me for who I am. I've never had to put on a costume, I've never had to put on a mask. I've never had to put on airs. I've never had to, you know, show favor, anything. These are people that love me in spite of myself, right? Everybody. It's very easy to love me when good things are happening, but when bad things have happened in my life, these are the people that never turned their back on me. These are the people that lifted me up, kept me going, kept me motivated, and I wouldn't be here without them today."

And then, it was back to business. The Year of the Bun promises big things — for Houston and beyond. "I just wanna put this burger in the hand of every person in Texas at least once," the burger king vowed. "But I would love to put this burger in the hands of people all over the world, but one city at a time. We'll start in Houston and we'll scale our property."

Now that's a birthday wish.

Bun B 50th birthday Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Photo by Marco Torres/Marco from Houston

Houston's king Bun B and his Queenie hold court.