There’s much to applaud about the renovation of this Kirby Italian-food favorite (still operated by the Carrabba family rather than the chain): an expanded, open dining room and bar; lots of counter seating; great lighting; convenient garage parking across the street; and upbeat servers. But it’s the food that keeps us coming back: hefty veal marsala alongside pasta coated with tomatoes, basil, and garlic.

Hai Cang Seafood

This popular spot has the ambience of a dated strip center, but it’s celebratory inside, with table after table of multigenerational families chatting, laughing, and feasting—the very mark of authenticity. Admittedly, we were daunted by the menu, with its 200-plus items, but we took a winning shot at crab-and-white-asparagus soup and duck lettuce wraps, a different take on the ubiquitous chicken version. We liked the Hunan-style crispy fish, a whole tilapia fried and drenched in sweet-and-sour sauce with red and green peppers.

Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette

Every Saturday, mid-afternoon, Liberty is packed with oyster slurpers and chardonnay sippers. Those partial to the deep fryer will be happy to know that our fried shrimp and oysters, on a huge platter, were seasoned right and wearing crunchy batter—and who can pass up those skinny fries? Also nice (if begging for a squirt of lime) was the hunk of tuna steak with grilled whole bok choy and super-rich creamed mushrooms. The only real gaffe was the watery seafood gumbo.

The Ring and I

I was in my thirties when I learned that my grandmother had left me her engagement ring. The ring, from Tiffany circa 1929, is breathtaking: the art deco setting, anchored in a platinum band, holds a substantial emerald as deep in hue as an Irish hillside, flanked by two dazzling, emerald-cut diamonds. Though the stones hardly rival the Chiclet-size rocks I’ve seen on the hands of other Texas women, the effect is nevertheless striking.

A Room With a Brew

Menger Bar, Menger Hotel, San Antonio

If anyone deserves a drink, it’s the traveler. Which is why the hotel bar is such an important amenity. It’s the place where, weary from her journey, a wandering soul marks the end of her drive/flight/walk from the office and toasts her impending vacation/sabbatical/happy hour. At a hotel bar anything can happen.

Bar None

On a recent weekday morning, while reading on the lawn of Market Square Park (301 Milam, 713-223-2003)—a micro-oasis of red-brick paths and art installations on the northern end of downtown Houston—I took an informal tally of my fellow park dwellers: one 6-year-old ballerina-in-training led by her parents, two retirees with matching pedometers on their waistbands, two dog owners, three dogs, one bench sitter, a dozen office workers in line for breakfast

Re-Imagining Uses for the Astrodome

The Astrodome’s ship has all but sailed: Houston voters last week decided, by a margin of 53 to 47, not to turn it into a convention and events center. While there’s still the chance that a private investor will attempt to redevelop the space, or that the city will hold another vote before the building’s as-yet-unscheduled demolition, the fate of the building is probably decided, and it probably doesn’t look good. 

Still, if the Astrodome were to be redeveloped, what would that look like? The city has solicited proposals in the past, though none have progressed very far—and the fact that Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation Executive Director Willie Loston told KXAN that they range “from the sublime to the ridiculous” may be a part of why. So when Architect’s Newspaper announced the winners of their Astrodome redevelopment proposal contest, we took note: maybe there’s a good idea in that bunch? 

“Good” might be too strong a way to put it for some, but “sublime to ridiculous” is still at play here. Feel free to take a look at their four winners and determine where they fit


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