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Chef Greg Martin is living his dream. After years of working in the food and restaurant industry, he is now at the helm of a business of his own design, Bistro Menil.
"I never wanted to do any restaurant until I really felt that we had something interesting enough and compelling enough that people would want to go," Martin says. He approached the creation of Bistro Menil knowing exactly what he wanted it to be. "We asked ourselves, what is it that compels people to come to your restaurant?"
Inspired from trips around the world with his partner, Paul, he wanted to create an open, bright space with clean lines that would accentuate the views of Menil Park and provide an easy, high quality menu.
"Everything we serve here, I can print the recipe and hand it to the guest. I wanted that kind of approachability. Non-fussy food," Martin explains.
The menu includes pizzas, burgers and numerous dessert options. The most popular items on the menu are eggplant fries with brava sauce, duck confit, warm quinoa salad and crab cakes. "The menu is really big and has a whole lot of variety on it so that everyone can find something."
Martin has always had a passion for wine and made sure the menu he selected complimented both wine and craft beers. Bistro Menil offers cask wine and beer growlers alongside traditional bottle and by-the-glass options. The former allows customers to bring beer and wine home with them, or they can carry it to the patio or park beside the restaurant.
Martin and his partner in life and business, Paul, took advantage of even the most miniscule details to remind restaurant visitors that they‘re dining at a classic bistro. "We deliberately didn't have a tablecloth; we deliberately wanted to have a simple white napkin. This flatware pattern, this is from the 1930s. You still go to a bistro in France and see this pattern," Martin shared.
Even with careful planning and preparation there were some unexpected bumps when Bistro Menil first opened in fall of 2014. The staff is responding to comments from critics and non-critics by making changes to some aspects of the business while keeping true to their original vision. The restaurant is preparing for a big reset in mid February which will include a new spring menu along with a complete redo of the wine list and the wine program. According to Martin, the new wine list will be more accessible for customers. Martin was also bothered by the noise volume in the restaurant but didn't want to change the dynamic too dramatically.
"In Paris, a bistro is a lively place. We're a bistro," he says. "We want people to just walk by, come in and have a glass of wine or dessert." A new acoustical treatment is already in place to address the noise issue without compromising Martin's attempt to bring a European-style bistro to the Menil.
The Menil Collection is an award winning art museum that attracts visitors from around the globe. Martin and Paul hope to be able to say the same of their restaurant, which happens to be located on The Menil Collection's campus. "This is going to be an institution...people want to like it," Martin says. With their dedication and passion Bistro Menil promises to hold a steady footing in Houston's restaurant scene.
By Jenn Haight
Houston's Pride festival and parade, the culmination of more than a week's worth of parties and special events in June, with move to a new location and a new weekend in 2015.
Pride Houston announced today that the parade and festival will relocate to Downtown next June. The festival will surround City Hall and Tranquility Park while the parade will march down a roughly half mile L-shaped route beginning at Walker and Milam streets. Also the date will move to June 20, the second to last weekend in June instead of the final weekend in June as it has been previously. The final weekend is the traditional date for pride celebrations, commemorating the date of the Stonewall Riots that began the LGBT movement.
Organizers say the move from Montrose to Downtown allows for expansion of the festival and increased safety for attendees. It will also offer increased parking opportunities unavailable in Montrose and closer proximity to hotels for out-of-town participants. Other possible elements in the works are a giant disco ball over the parade route, additional viewing bleachers and a fireworks display following the end of the parade.
Click here to read more about the reasons for the move and a FAQ. There are also details on the new route.
Where's the party in Houston?
If an analysis of recent alcohol sales at the city's gay bars is any indication, the big gay party is at F Bar and JR's these days. The two bars have run neck and neck for the top spot among LGBT watering holes in recent months.
We averaged citywide mixed beverage sales reports from the Texas Comptroller's Office for 19 gay bars in the months of May, June and July.
When we last looked at these reports a year ago, the Montrose stalwart JR's was No. 1, followed by F Bar, which opened in 2011, and Blur Bar, the two-story dance club next door to JR's. The most recent three-month average shows F Bar inching ahead of JR's, with Blur still coming in at No. 3. A year ago, Meteor and South Beach rounded out the top five, respectively. Now, Meteor has fallen to fifth place with Crocker Bar taking over the No. 4 position.
It's important to note that some of the bars are only open a few days a week and all have different operating hours. This analysis simply looks at average sales volume over a three-month period that included June -- Pride month.
Three bars that were around a year ago -- The Usual, 611 and Venus Nightclub -- have since closed. Pearl Lounge on Washington also came under new ownership during that time and began catering to the LGBT community. And Eagle Houston, which had been located Downtown, relocated to the former 611 space in Montrose (Eagle's sales average below covers less than two months since the bar opened).
This list ranks the city's LGBT establishments by average sales tax receipts over the three-month period ending July 31. We've included the number of days each week the establishments are open for comparison purposes.
1. F Bar - 6 days a week
2. JR's - 7 days a week
3. Blur Bar - 5 days a week
4. Crocker - 7 days a week
5. Meteor - 4 days a week
6. TC's - 7 days a week
7. Tony's Corner Pocket - 7 days a week
8. Guava Lamp - 7 days a week
9. South Beach - 4 days a week
10. George Country Sports Bar - 7 days a week
11. Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon - 5 days a week
12. Bayou City Bar & Grill - 7 days a week
13. Pearl Lounge - 7 days a week
14. Montrose Mining Co. - 5 days a week
15. Ripcord - 7 days a week
16. Michael's Outpost - 7 days a week
17. Thirteen - 7 days a week
18. Viviana's Nite Club - 3 days a week
19. Eagle Houston * - 7 days a week
* Eagle Houston was open less than two months of the three months examined
Following a couple months of downtime, Eagle Houston has opened its doors once again, this time in Montrose.
The bar formerly located in north Downtown took over the space at 611 Hyde Park Avenue, close to the Pacific Street strip. The spot has been completely renovated and includes a large, dual-level patio with a great second-floor perch perfect for watching the action below. The interior is well-lit with plenty of neon lights and a small dancefloor. There's even a leather/gift shop stocked with items to make your evening a little more interesting.
The new Eagle is a solid mix of neighborhood bar and fetish/leather hangout. Daily drink specials, attractive bartenders and regular theme nights are making this a new destination on the Montrose circuit.
Joey Garza and Jaime Loera want you to show your pride in Houston. And they'd really love it if you wore one of their t-shirts to do it.
The local duo's small apparel company, Joey & Jaime, showcases unique designs that speak to the dynamics of Houston, from the city's skyline and neighborhoods in the pattern of an "H" to spots that are quintessentially H-Town like the Astrodome. Those designs are quickly catching on among Houstonians looking to show their love and support for the city.
The company's slogan is "Bringing Houston together one tee at a time" and Garza and Loera tell the Houston Press their designs are intended to help Houstonians - natives and transplants - find commonality. "No matter where you're from, you're here now, why not show you're proud of the city?" Loera tells the Press.
It's that kind of attitude that landed Joey & Jaime on the Press' 2014 list of 100 Creatives. The list showcases locals, from photographers and dressmakers to tattoo artists and game creators, who comprise Houston's creative community.
"We visit lots of other cities like Austin, San Antonio and New Orleans," Garza told the Press. "We see where everyone is so proud of their city. We're proud of Houston so we try to figure out how to put that pride on T-shirts."
Shop Joey & Jaime's designs here and learn more about them and the company via the Houston Press.
It can't be easy acting for 90 minutes straight in front of a live audience. Throw in the detail that you're not just speaking your lines but rather singing every word, and the rock musical Murder Ballad becomes a true tour de force for a quartet cast.
On the heels of its New York City run, Murder Ballad's national regional premiere with TUTS Underground this month is garnering a lot of attention. The evocative story of a love triangle gone homicidal is at times funny, at times raucous and often downright titillating.
Let's get one thing straight from the beginning. Houston native Kristin Warren as the narrator is the star of this show. Each member of the four-person cast brings different strengths and tremendous vigor to their role. But frankly none has the raw talent of Warren, who adeptly renders her character's devilish, fly-on-the-wall part with an explosive singing voice.
Warren as the narrator introduces us to Sara (Lauren Molina), an impressionable millennial living in New York City and her boyfriend Tom (Steel Burkhardt) a young bar owner. Theirs is a relationship clearly built around physicality, but when Tom's playboy tendencies become too much for Sara, she bolts. Enter the less volatile Michael (Pat McRoberts), a professional with aspirations to settle down, who proves to be just what Sara needs. Marriage and a kid soon follow, and the years pass quickly on stage. Soon Sara finds her staid, quiet life on the Upper West Side isn't enough and she goes looking for the excitement she once had in Tom.
Complications ensue, as they often do in such situations. But arguably the most compelling element of Murder Ballad is just how common such situations really are. The "grass is always greener" theme of the tale is something we all struggle with, to varying degrees. Sure this relationship is solid, but is it enough? Yes, this job is a good one, but do I want more out of my career? The fact that Tom, Sara and Michael's particular predicament ends with a bloody bat makes it fantastic theater. But as the actors tell us in comic styling at the end, it's a cautionary tale that should be heeded.
Murder Ballad is the second-to-last performance in the inaugural year of TUTS Underground. So far, the new, more immersive experience is proving a successful venture for Theater Under the Stars. In the case of Murder Ballad, the set is actually a working bar, where guests can grab a cocktail and even play a round of pool before the show starts. Some guests are even invited to watch the action from tables set up on stage, as if they're patrons in the bar itself. The intimate experience brings us that much closer to the cast, allowing us to see details of their interactions that would be lost in a larger staging. TUTS Underground is certainly on to something.
Murder Ballad has five more performances through Sunday. Click here to get two tickets for the price of one!
It's not easy to ignore the cultural phenomenon that is RuPaul's Drag Race. Now in its sixth season, the Logo reality show has brought the art of drag back into the limelight, introducing it to a new generation. What was once a dying performance practice, largely relegated to older gay bars and special events has made a strong comeback in mainstream clubs. Here in Houston, hotspots like F Bar and South Beach now do weekly shows, sometimes featuring special guests from Drag Race itself. There's no denying that drag has returned to the forefront of gay culture.
All that said, I am a latecomer to the church of Ru. I've seen the celebrated drag queen perform live a couple of times (an incident with a high-powered fan while opening a club in Austin in 2009 almost caused her to lose a wig). And I've certainly enjoyed my fair share of the resurgence in quality drag shows. But I confess I'd never watched an episode of Drag Race. It always seemed that things were busy around the start of the season and TV took a backseat. Once a few weeks had passed, I figured I didn't have time to catch up so I decided to tune in next year.
It's not easy being the only gay at a party who doesn't get the Drag Race references. Terms like "sashay away", "halleloo" and "throwing shade" rapidly made it into the vernacular of gay men. I found it difficult to comprehend the excitement of friends who simply had to see the queen from this season or that one when they came to town to perform. I didn't get it. What was so special?
This season I had a reason to watch. A performer I've known for many years is competing this round, and the opportunity to see her go head-to-head with other fierce drag queens was too great to pass up. I settled in solo for my first Drag Race viewing at home last night. Popcorn-check.
From the start, I'm very impressed by the production value of the show. I know the comparison has been made many times before, but it really is a super gay, no-holds-barred, every-girl-for-herself version of Project Runway-and it's awesome.
In the season premiere, only seven queens were introduced, with the remaining seven set to take the stage next week. There will be plenty of time to dissect the pluses and minuses of each performer. But for now, I'm just going to offer two-word descriptions of those that strutted down the runway last night.
Adore Delano. Hot mess.
Laganja Estranja. Amazingly flexible.
BenDeLaCreme. Campy fake.
April Carrion. Exotic shade.
Vivacious. Overly serious.
Gia Gunn. Vicious queen.
Kelly Mantle. Just tired.
JRs is hosting Drag Race viewing parties every Monday night throughout the season.
Texas' premier matchmaker for gay men weighs in on the search for the right guy
With a New Year, new resolutions, and the promise of spring around the corner, I'm urging open discussions and friendly suggestions for those looking for love. Start doing things differently now, to get real about finding the one.
Take it offline. Close the lid on the laptop. Consider being so crazy as to remove the app.
I coach clients that when online - if you must - find more sophisticated, mature, and respectable face-to-face opportunities for meeting the person also seeking a long-term relationship. As Rumi said, "What you seek is seeking you." Whether you're new to Houston, or have simply grown tired of seeing the same ol' faces with your routine attempts at partner seeking, let a straight ally give you a nudge to try something different this year:
- Network - Be brave. Visit your city's LGBT networking groups, or LGBT Toastmasters Club. In Corporate America, check out into Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, or for smaller gatherings, connect with local LGBT entrepreneurs through StartOut. The National Conference on LGBT Equality just happened in Houston! Hopefully you got a chance to participate.
- Advocate - Don't just read about the latest efforts of, in our case, Equality Texas or the HRC (Human Rights Campaign), attend their mixers, volunteer for their galas, and go to their watch parties. Hint: Volunteering to work the registration table brings you face-to-face with every attendee. Good guys doing good works. At least that filters out those that only live online, saying they do good, but don't get out.
- Connect - Subscribe to online enewsletters from LGBT friendly professionals, realtors, entrepreneurs, and especially nonprofits. They direct you to gay friendly socials, mixers, themed parties, and opportunities for networking. Again, if you don't have a "plus one" as your date, then sign up to volunteer.
- Meet Ups - In our fast growing cities in Texas and beyond, Meet Ups are becoming more popular. Meetup.com allows you to select groups or subsets within the LGBT community - from newcomers in your city, to cyclists, to fellow professionals, and book clubs to name a few. You could be on a bike ride around the city with 20 other gay singles by tomorrow after work, with a social dinner to follow, or a social brunch on Sunday.
- Get Out - Hang out at the farmer's market, book signings, lectures, museum special events, and even locally owned neighborhood coffee shops. Attend a grand opening of retaurants, retail, and locally owned and operated neighborhood shops. (True story: My website developer was hit on while working on my gay matchmaking biz site, simply because of another coffee drinker looking over his shoulder to see the LGBT-friendly site. So if reading online at coffee shops, I highly recommend reading respected enewsletters or sites like Advocate, Huffington Post, Outsource, or HRC.)
And while this all sounds obvious to some, it's a little intimidating to others, so please know we are professional matchmakers and here to help. There's no one way to find the perfect person for you. But sitting at home with a laptop probably isn't going to find your Valentine. Soooooo...close the lid and GO in search. I promise, he's looking for you as eagerly as you are searching for him. #loveislove
Tammy Shaklee is the president and head matchmaker at He's for Me. Learn more about the company and its services at www.H4M.com or (855) 443-7463. Get more advice on going offline here.
It's going to be a rodeo for the books. Star performers including Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Usher, Maroon 5 and many more will take the stage at Reliant Stadium for RodeoHouston 2014 this March.
The three-week extravaganza that is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo includes one of the largest livestock shows in the country, a mega midway, nightly championship rodeo competitions and, of course, the 21 concerts.
"The range of talented artists illustrates the Show's diversity," says Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo President Joel Cowley. "We are welcoming new, upcoming artists as well as celebrating timeless legends."
Last year the HLSR broke its all-time attendance record, bringing in more than 2.5 million attendees over the three-week run. Perhaps even more amazing is that the Rodeo was included among the top 10 places that people check-in on Facebook around the world. No small feat considering those other places are year-round spots like Times Square and Disneyland.
RodeoHouston runs March 4-23 and tickets starting at just $18 go on sale Jan. 20.
Weekday performances start at 6:45 p.m. Weekend performances kick off at 3:45 p.m.
2014 RodeoHouston lineup
March 4: Brad Paisley
March 5: Eli Young Band
March 6: Reba McEntire
March 7: Usher
March 8: Chris Young
March 9: Selena Gomez
March 10: REO Speedwagon
March 11: Jason Aldean
March 12: Jake Owen
March 13: Maroon 5
March 14: Keith Urban
March 15: Hunter Hayes
March 16: Pesado and Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizarraga
March 17: Luke Bryan
March 18: Robin Thicke
March 19: Florida Georgia Line
March 20: Blake Shelton
March 21: Easton Corbin
March 22: The Band Perry
March 23: Zac Brown
Houston is hosting one of the biggest LGBT events in the country this month, the 26th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. The conference comes to the Hilton Americas-Houston, January 29-February 2, 2014.
Creating Change draws more than 3,500 LGBT organizers and activists from across the U.S. to build new skills and learn from their peers. The conference is run by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and this year will feature keynote actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox as its keynote speaker.
The multi-day program includes more than 350 workshops and training sessions, four plenary sessions, and many different networking opportunities. There will also be fun events inside and outside the conference for attendees.
Participants this year are likely to reflect on issues such as the recent string of state marriage equality victories, the federal agenda for equality, local initiatives to create safer schools, and legal equality for transgender members of the community. Seminars will also focus on building alliances with pro-LGBT allies and religious organizations.
Click here to learn more about the conference. Click here to register now!
Also read more about the conference here from OutSmart and a seperate interview with Laverne Cox.