February 2007 Issue

On the Cover


On November 5, 181,500 people crowded into a former cow pasture north of Fort Worth to watch 43 race cars drive really, really fast for five hundred miles. That day, the Texas Motor Speedway would be, measured by population, one of the largest cities in the state. Welcome to NASCAR, Texas.


Check Mates

Fernando Spada and Fernando Mendez are the Karpov and Kasparov of Brownsville: chess champions whose lifelong competition has produced a rivalry every bit as fierce as those of Ali and Frazier, McEnroe and Borg, or Nicklaus and Palmer. Did I mention that they’re in the fourth grade?

North Toward Dome

The best way to visit the Capitol, the state’s grandest public building, is to take the 45-minute guided tour. But there is much more to see if you know what to look for, and I’m going to tell you precisely that.

The Beating of Billy Ray Johnson

The short, slight, mentally disabled black man was found on the side of a road in Linden, huddled in a fetal position. He was bloody and unconscious—the victim of a violent crime. But another tragedy was how residents of the East Texas town reacted.

Where to Eat Now 2007

Well, first and foremost, Dallas, since four of the year’s ten best new restaurants—including the top three—are there. But if you’re hip and hungry in Houston, Austin, or San Antonio, my list won’t disappoint.


Sarah Bird

Tour De Farce

The absurdity of the college visit (and why you should leave your kids at home).

Abraham Verghese

Bedside Manners

In the high-tech, test-obsessed world of modern medicine, percussion is fast becoming a lost art, and that’s bad for both patients and doctors.


Not Too Late

Sell 20 million of your debut album and you suddenly bring a little clout to the table. No one has wielded hers more curiously than NORAH JONES, who followed her elegant Arif Mardin-produced 2002 triumph with a reluctant shrug: a homemade-sounding second album and a barely serious side group with

The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster

Those lucky enough to have caught RUTHIE FOSTER live, particularly years back when she sat in with the Austin gospel act the Imperial Golden Crown Harmonizers, know something her albums have never fully betrayed: She’s a stone soul singer who’s been masquerading as a folk act. No longer. THE PHENOMENAL


LUCINDA WILLIAMS’s music is evocative in a way others can’t touch. It’s not only the fragility and ache in her voice but also her economy of language, with its declarative simplicity that cuts to the heart. A perfect album is a rarity, yet Williams has made two, her 1988 self-titled

Chasing Justice

As a Texas death row in-mate trying to prove himself innocent of a rape and murder in Tyler, KERRY MAX COOK was reminded of his fate every time another con made the death walk. CHASING JUSTICE is a hellish tour of a criminal justice system whose officers allegedly railroaded Cook

Lost Echoes

In his newest genre-bending thriller, LOST ECHOES, six-time Bram Stoker Award winner JOE R. LANSDALE writes, as always, with the ease of a man born to the task. Meet young Harry Wilkes, of Mud Creek, who hears “dark sounds” from violent events of the past in the places they occurred.

Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track

ROLLERGIRL: TOTALLY TRUE TALES FROM THE TRACK, the memoir from Austin roller derby star MELISSA “MELICIOUS” JOULWAN, proves the cliché: You really can’t judge a book by its cover. In this case, a photo of two leggy skaters in the miniest of skirts (and is that a flash of panty?)

Ravi Batra

In The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution Against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos, the best-selling author and Southern Methodist University professor of economics expounds on corruption and the keys to global prosperity.Your new book identifies a laundry list of global economic problems. Can you single out the most worrisome?

Artist Interview

Patty Griffin

Austin chanteuse Patty Griffin is known for her deeply introspective music, yet her new album, Children Running Through (ATO), is joyous and fun.You seem to change moods from album to album. Are you easily bored? Yeah, I can’t stand the songs anymore [laughs]. You get exhausted on the road and

Joe Ely

“You feel like you’re passing through time, but you don’t really feel like you’re leaving any time behind. You’re kind of in the moment, because the wind’s in your face and there’s always another highway.”


Web Exclusive

Making a Move

Senior editor Katy Vine on writing about the chess phenomenon in Brownsville.

Web Exclusive


Senior editor Michael Hall on driving a race car at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Web Exclusive

Crime and Punishment

Senior editor Pamela Colloff talks about racism in rural Texas and Billy Ray Johnson, who was brutally beaten in the East Texas town of Linden.


Alsatian Sauerkraut

5 pounds sauerkraut (sold in individual bags; Boar’s Head brand is good), rinsed well in cold water 1 smoked pig knuckle (Boar’s Head brand) 8 strips of thick-sliced bacon (called country-style), cut into large pieces 2 yellow onions (sliced) 10 cloves of garlic (sliced) 3 bottles of Heineken beer 1

Pat's Pick

Grill at Leon Springs

IT’S A LITTLE EMBARRASSING to admit this, but I’m a sucker for off-the-wall restaurants. Just say “Tasmanian-Eskimo-Zulu vegan fusion” within earshot of me and I’ll be making reservations in a flash. This strange condition is something that happens if you eat out all the time—you become terminally bored with good,

Web Exclusive

Food Obsessed

Senior editor Patricia Sharpe on ranking the state’s best new restaurants.

Books That Cook

Books That Cook

Matt Martinez is in the family business. His grandfather introduced the Tex-Mex restaurant concept to Austin in 1925, and in 1952, his father opened Matt’s El Rancho, now a landmark of Tex-Mex restaurant history. Martinez hopes to spread the gospel of Tex-Mex with his cookbook, Mex Tex: Traditional Tex-Mex Taste,


Editor's Letter

Nobody but Craddick

“IF YOU’RE GOING TO SHOOT THE KING, you’d better kill the king.” That’s what famous blogger and occasional journalist Paul Burka, our senior executive editor, told me on the phone the morning of Saturday, December 23, as I was huffing and puffing between sets of tennis. He had called to

Around the State

Around the State

Jordan’s PickMuseum Of Fine ArtsHoustonIMAGINE THAT SOCIALITE Anne Bass is remodeling her closet, and instead of putting her couture dresses in storage, she’s sending them to you for safekeeping. If that seems far-fetched, consider a comparably extravagant loan happening in the art world this month: The Metropolitan Museum of Art,

Roar of the Crowd

Shell Shock

I WOULD LIKE TO THANK you for an article that has mapped out my 2007 New Year’s resolution: to try as many tacos as possible on your “The Greatest Tacos Ever Sold” list [December 2006].HEATHER SEGRESTAustinMY SUBMISSION FOR the sixty-fourth taco on your list is the fried taquito (I

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