Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from a Chicken Fried Steak Festival in Lamesa and a look at Houston's cultural development to a talk from George Clooney and a tribute to Roy Rogers. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[Apr 27–May 3]
Brave New World
Some still stereotype Houston as a cultural dead zone swarmed by a cloud of pollution, but the truth is it is an environmentally conscious, artistically inclined, multicultural community. “The American future is here in Houston now,” said Stephen Klineberg, a sociology professor at Rice University who will host “Interesting Times Celebrating Houston,” a look at how the city has radically changed in the recovery period since the oil bust of 1982. Klineberg bases his assertion of Houston as the new template for American cities primarily on its ever-changing population, which, he said, recently surpassed New York as the country’s most ethnically diverse. Complementing Klineberg’s talk will be the premiere of “Interesting Times: Tracking Houston's Transformations Through 30 Years of Surveys” the documentary chronicling the past thirty years in Houston, as measured by the Kinder Houston Area Survey. “You can see a city reinventing itself,” Klineberg said. “Quality of life had never been important, and now it has become central to attracting talent to grow businesses in the twenty-first century.”
Discovery Green, April 27, 6:30 p.m. discoverygreen.com
Into the Fryer
In 1976 Larry BeSaw of The Austin American-Statesman wrote an article about the history of chicken-fried steak, claiming that the dish was first served at Ethel’s Home Cooking, in Lamesa, a rural Panhandle town. “He wrote this story saying that back in 1911 there was a restaurant here that had a cook and he misunderstood what the order was,” said Sandra Adams, president of the Lamesa Area Chamber of Commerce. “The customer wanted an order of chicken and an order of fried steak. Well, when it got to him, it was chicken-fried steak.” The article was meant to be a work of fiction, but many continue to believe its tale, including, apparently, Representative Tom Craddick, Republican of Midland, who in 2011 helped pass a law designating Lamesa the “Legendary Home of the Chicken-Fried Steak.” Celebrate this quintessential Texas dish at the second annual Chicken Fried Steak Festival, with new attractions like hot-air balloon rides adding to the vendor booths serving up the crispy, gravy-coated sliver of meat.
Forrest Park, April 27-29, various times. ci.lamesa.tx.us
The food scene in Austin is closing the gap on the city’s vaunted music scene, thanks to its world-class barbecue, fleet of food trailers, and Paul Qui, the Uchiko chef whose win on “Top Chef” showed that the city can foster culinary ingenuity instead of relying on comfort-food staples. The inaugural Austin Food and Wine Festival will coronate the city as a new gastronomic destination. The weekend will start with a dinner of 13 offerings prepared by 13 star Texas chefs, with the Americana legend Lucinda Williams playing tunes. Palettes will be defined over the weekend with cooking demonstrations by superstar chefs like Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar, who will be on the panel “Cereal: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore,” and Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto, on “Junk Food Personified.” One of the most anticipated events will be the Rock Your Taco Showdown, which will pit homegrown talent, including the James Beard-winner Tyson Cole and the “Top Chef” contestant Sarah Grueneberg against the international masters Marcus Samuelsson and Masaharu Morimoto in a battle for the dish all Austinites are passionate about.
Various locations, April 27-29, various times. austinfoodandwinefestival.com
Hail to the King
Whether through his B-movies before World War II or his television show after, the way many of us learned about being a cowboy was to watch Roy Rogers. The Ohio native earned the title King of the Cowboys by often romanticizing Texas, with movies like “The Ranger and the Lady,” one of the first looks at a Texas Ranger. Rogers’s legacy will be revisited at A Tribute to Roy Rogers, featuring Roy Rogers Jr., his son, and Dustin Rogers, his grandson, performing the western music that earned their eponym multiple inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It might just be one of the biggest “Happy Trails” sing-alongs ever.
Uptown Theater, April 28, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. uptowntheatergp.com
Sing It Again
Jerry Jeff Walker, an essential figure in the cosmic-cowboy scene, can get lost among titans like Willie Nelson, but a tour by the folkie Todd Snider in support of his new album of Walker’s songs will reaffirm Walker’s role in the scene’s unification of the hippies and rednecks.
Granada Theater, May 2, 7 p.m. toddsnider.net
For the first time in the United States, the actor George Clooney will invite questions from the public about his humanitarian pursuits, making for an opportune time to ask him about his recent protest and arrest at the Sudanese Embassy.
Wortham Center, May 3, 7 p.m. brilliantlectures.org