It’s the 20th anniversary of our annual Gayest & Greatest awards, and we’re thrilled to present this year’s winners. It’s a landmark for us and, we think, for Houston’s LGBT community.
It’s been 20 years of holding up individuals, businesses, and organizations, saying, “These are our leaders. These are our allies. We’re proud of them and the work they do.”
In recognition of two decades of Gayest & Greatest awards, we decided to play “20 Questions” with some of the winners. We uncovered some whimsical facts (singer Nina Lombardo proudly knows every word to every song on TLC’s CrazySexyCool album), some little-known trivia (a rapper once asked The Chocolate Bar to close on Valentine’s Day—the busiest day of the year—so he and his girlfriend could have a private chocolate body-painting session) and some more serious sentiments (Dr. Angela Sturm considers the facial feminization work she does to be life-changing and, in some cases, lifesaving for her transgender patients).
Congratulations to all of our winners and finalists! —Olivia Flores Alvarez
OutSmart will be announcing the winners of the People category at our 20th annual Gayest & Greatest Awards ceremony, which will be held on October 19, 5–9 p.m., at Rich’s Houston (2401 San Jacinto St.). Please join us then for an evening of live entertainment, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, prize giveaways, and much more.
Best Female LGBT Business Person
Finalists: Sandy Bubbert, Kathy Hubbard, Julie Mabry, Kiki Neumann, Tammi Wallace
Best Male LGBT Business Person
Finalists: Charles Armstrong, Mark Delange, Woody Gould, Bradley David Janacek, Irwin Palchick, Grey Stevens
Favorite Female (Commercial) Radio Personality
Finalists: Roula Christie (104 KRBE), Sarah Pepper (HOT 95.7), Erica Rico (93Q)
Favorite Male (Commercial) Radio Personality
Finalists: Al Farb (93Q), Blake Hayes (Coast 93.1), Special K (104 KRBE), Ivan Trujillo (HOT 95.7)
Favorite Female (Community) Radio Personality
Finalists: Jenifer Rene Pool, Judy Reeves
Favorite Male (Community) Radio Personality
Finalists: JD Doyle, Ray Hill, Bryan Hlavinka
Favorite Female Community Hero
Finalists: Julie Mabry, Annise Parker, Fran Watson, Carol Wyatt-Woodell
Favorite Male Community Hero
Finalists: Dalton DeHart, Don Gill, Brad Pritchett, Lou Weaver, Gary Wood
Favorite Female Community Photographer
Finalists: Dawn Browne (Degrees North Images), Julie Christine, Yvonne Feece
Favorite Male Community Photographer
Finalists: John Cox, Dalton DeHart, Eric Edward Schell
Favorite Female Local Politician
Finalists: Ellen Cohen, Sylvia Garcia, Annise Parker, Fran Watson
Favorite Male Local Politician
Finalists: Garnet Coleman, Robert Gallegos, Mike Laster, Lane Lewis, Sylvester Turner
Favorite Female TV Personality
Finalists: Deborah Duncan, Maggie Flecknoe, Melanie Lawson, Dominique Sachse
Favorite Male TV Personality
Finalists: Frank Billingsley, Andy Cerota, Bob Slovak
Leading Female Fundraiser
Finalists: Robin Brown, Marion Coleman, Tammi Wallace, Carol Wyatt-Woodell
Leading Male Fundraiser
Finalists: Domenic Cusano, Don Gill, Skylar Gutierrez, Kent Loftin, Craig Sanford, Gary Wood
Most Prominent Female LGBT Activist
Finalists: Christina Gorczynski, Januari Leo, Melanie Pang, Fran Watson
Most Prominent Male LGBT Activist
Finalists: Ray Hill, Ryan Levy, Brad Pritchett, Lou Weaver, Gary Wood
Most Valuable Female Volunteer
Finalists: Nina Lombardo, Melanie Pang, Fran Watson, Carol Wyatt-Woodell, Sallie Wyatt-Woodell
Most Valuable Male Volunteer
Finalists: Mark Eggleston, Skylar Gutierrez, Brad Pritchett, Craig Sanford, Gary Wood
Favorite LGBT Philanthropic Organization
Finalists: Bunnies on the Bayou, The Diana Foundation, Out For Education
Best Local LGBT Website
Finalists: EqualityTexas.com, HoustonLGBTHistory.org, MyGayHouston.com
Best National LGBT Website
Huffington Post Queer Voices
Finalists: gayusapages.com, theadvocate.com
Favorite LGBT Benefit Event of the Year
Bunnies on the Bayou
Finalists: AIDS Walk Houston, Krewe of Olympus Ball, OutReach United Coming Out Party
Favorite LGBT Social Organization
The Diana Foundation
Finalists: EPAH, Houston Gaymers, Krewe of Olympus-Texas, Inc., Lambda NextGen, Montrose Softball League Association, OutReach United
Favorite Local LGBT Community Organization
The Montrose Center
401 Branard St.
Finalists: Bunnies on the Bayou, The Diana Foundation, EPAH, Krewe of Olympus-Texas, Inc.
Favorite National LGBT Organization
Human Rights Campaign
Finalists: The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Favorite Place to Take Out-of-Town Visitors
Discovery Green, Barry Mandel, President/Park Director
1500 McKinney St.
Finalists: The Menil Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Houston
An award-winning urban park, Discovery Green attracts some 1.2 million visitors a year. Along with a variety of green spaces, the park features a stage, dog park, playground, library, putting green, and lake, along with several eateries and water features. Public art, such as Jean Dubuffet’s landmark Monument Au Fantome, dots the park’s lawns and gardens. The park’s year-round programming includes more than 600 public events annually, including festivals, concerts, dance performances, and outdoor ice-skating. The park was created through a partnership between several Houston philanthropists and charitable foundations and the City of Houston. The 12-acre park is managed by the Discovery Green Conservancy.
Question: Besides Discovery Green, what’s your favorite spot in Texas?
Answer: The deck of our house overlooking Galveston Bay.
Favorite Place to Worship
Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, Rev. Troy Treash, Senior Pastor
2025 W 11th St.
Finalists: Bering Memorial UMC, Kindred, Living Mosaic Church, Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s UMC, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Rev. Troy Treash, senior pastor of the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, has a relatively simple job description: “To love,” he says. That short phrase is translated into dozens of ministry, outreach, and advocacy programs and activities; along with offering spiritual guidance and regular worship services, the church offers food and clothing to the community as well as financial assistance to those affected by HIV/AIDS. The church, based on the belief that God loves all people, had its first Houston home in an apartment in 1972. Two years later, with 14 people in attendance, it opened a tiny storefront facility. Fast forward to today, and the church has close to 1,000 members and a nine-acre campus. Rev. Treash, who joined the congregation as senior pastor in the spring of 2013, had long been a supporter of RMCC, including helping in its recovery after flooding from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. While at RMCC, Rev. Treash has led the church in its continued fight for inclusivity and justice for all people.
Question: What’s your favorite quotation outside of the Bible?
Answer: “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together,” from All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.
Favorite LGBT Blogger
Finalists: Joey Guerra, Simon Houston, Monica Roberts
A. J. Mistretta started to blog regularly when he joined Visit Houston in 2010. He was tasked with being the gay voice of the site, which included writing for MyGayHouston.com. As a blogger, Mistretta, who was a working reporter for several publications before joining Visit Houston, enjoys the ability to get information to readers quickly. “What I love about blogging is the immediacy. We can tell a quick story. Our readers on MyGayHouston.com love that sort of information, and we’re able to serve it to them through a rather robust social presence.” The opportunity to be a booster for Houston and especially to reach out to gay visitors is one Mistretta embraces. “I’m proud I get to tell the world about Houston and what makes it a great, diverse, and welcoming city.”
Question: Is there a filter or auto-correct you would like to add to your blogging?
Answer: An “Is this PC enough?” crosscheck. I think as bloggers, particularly in the gay arena, we like to be a little snarky or sort of tongue-in-cheek to get a laugh. But you have to be sensitive to the broader community. The laugh isn’t worth it if it comes at someone else’s expense, so it’s important to read it through others’ eyes.
Favorite LGBT Tweeter
Finalists: Shelby Jeffcoat, A.J. Mistretta
Favorite (Community) TV Personality
Houston Public Media
Leading Entertainer Fundraiser
Finalists: Tara Dion, Skylar Gutierrez, Nina Lombardo
Most Supportive Local Business of the LGBT Community
Legacy Community Health
1415 California St.
Finalists: Avita Pharmacy, Charles Armstrong Investments, F Bar, Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, Pearl Bar, Silver Eagle Distributors
Most Supportive National Business of the LGBT Community
Wells Fargo (tie)
Finalists: Shell, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines
Favorite Local Female Actress
Finalists: Emily Neeves, Holland Vavr
Favorite Local Male Actor
Finalists: Nathan Cruz, Brett Cullum, Mark Ivy, Fred White
Favorite Houston Museum
The Menil Collection, Toby Kamps, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
1533 Sul Ross St.
Finalists: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Gulf Coast Archive & Museum of GLBT History, Inc., Houston Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts Houston
The Menil Collection is more than just a museum; it’s a neighborhood. Toby Kamps, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art for The Menil Collection, calls it, “one of the most amazing neighborhoods of art in the world.” There’s the main building, an award-winning structure designed to blend into the low-key residential area that surrounds it, and there’s the Cy Twombly Gallery, the Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall, and the Rothko Chapel. The Byzantine Fresco Chapel, Bistro Menil, a bookstore, and park dotted with dozens of old growth oak trees complete the current campus. A new building, the Menil Drawing Institute, is set to open in 2017. The Collection was initially built from the private holdings of 10,000 art works and artifacts collected by John and Dominique de Menil ranging from antiquities and African art to art of the Pacific Islands, Native American art and Byzantine art to modern and contemporary art. The holdings have doubled in size in the years since the death of Mrs. de Menil in 1997. The art, campus, and programming of The Menil Collection reflect the interests and values of the couple, who were activists as well as art collectors. “It’s fair to say that a kind of humanism, an interest in the struggles and the condition and the power of the individual, is baked into everything the museum does,” says Kamps.
Question: What’s your favorite piece of trivia about the Menil Collection and campus?
Answer: All of the trees were placed by Mrs. de Menil.
Best Local Theater
Stages Repertory Theatre
3201 Allen Pkwy #101
Finalists: Alley Theatre, The Catastrophic Theatre
Best Performing Arts Company
Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS), Jeff Cleveland, Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy
800 Bagby St., #200
Finalists: Alley Theatre, Houston Grand Opera, Society for the Performing Arts, Stages Repertory Theatre
It was a one-night-only performance of Bells Are Ringing in 1968 at the then-newly constructed Miller Outdoor Theatre that was the start of Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS). The production had been the brainchild of Frank M. Young, a pre-med student who worked part-time at the Houston Grand Opera. In the almost 50 years since, TUTS’ summer musical at Miller has become a mainstay of the Houston theater scene. TUTS performs its regular season at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, where, in a nod to its outdoor beginnings, fiber-optic lights on the ceiling of Sarofim Hall replicate the Texas summer sky. Highlights from last year include Mary Poppins flying over the audience in the Disney musical and a showcase of child performers in Matilda’s famous “maggots” scene.
Question: Is there a character that best represents the TUTS spirit?
Answer: Thoroughly Modern Millie! She is kind, brave, daring, fun, and flexible.
Best Art Gallery/Place to Buy Artwork
John Palmer Art Gallery & Studio
1218 Heights Blvd.
Finalists: Archway Gallery, Jumper Maybach Fine Art, McClain Gallery, Ryan Fugate Fine Art
Best Auto Mechanic
Montrose Automotive Center (tie)
4720 Montrose Blvd.
Tech Auto Maintenance (tie)
37 Waugh Dr.
Finalists: Clear Lake Body Shop, RMS Automotive
Best Domestic Auto Dealership
River Oaks Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram
4807 Kirby Dr.
Finalists: Beck & Masten, Central Houston Cadillac, David Taylor Cadillac, Gillman, Knapp Chevrolet, Planet Ford, Tesla, Tommie Vaughn
Best Import Auto Dealership
Audi Central Houston
2120 Southwest Fwy.
Finalists: Advantage BMW Midtown, Clear Lake Fiat, Jaguar Land Rover Houston Central, Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land, Momentum BMW, Momentum Mini
HEALTH & BEAUTY
Best Male Chiropractor
Dr. Ken Lester
1603 Shepherd Dr.
Finalists: Dr. Matt Arnold, Dr. Edwin Hamlett,
Dr. Sherman Yeager
Best Female Chiropractor
Dr. Jackie Doval
404 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Dr. Kay Rankin, Dr. Day Lee Snell
Dr. Jacqueline A. Doval (aka Doc Jackie) has treated both the human and equine members of the Houston Police Department. A licensed doctor of chiropractic, she’s also certified in animal chiropractic. After a mayoral candidate in the recent election proposed to eliminate the HPD Mounted Patrol, Doval launched a social media campaign to rally support for the unit. “Thankfully, the HPD Mounted Patrol is still with us!” Doval tells us. “Can you imagine events like the Pride Parade without their presence?” Among her other human clients are members of the Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony, the Houston Astros, and Team USA athletes. Her non-human clients include animals from Houston World Series of Dog Shows, Search and Rescue Canines, and World All Around Rodeo Horses. We asked Doval if humans or animals make better clients. “Chiropractic on animals can be quite dramatic, as the impact is often immediate. The demeanor and stance of an animal will noticeably change. Humans tend to complain more. As soon as they feel better they go right back to the behaviors that brought them to me in the first place.”
Question: Any species of animal you would like to work with but haven’t yet?
Answer: My dreams include adjusting a giraffe and an elephant. To adjust a lion would be way cool! I would love to adjust animals in the Houston Zoo!
Best Cosmetic Skin Care Center
The Skin Renewal Center
1512 West Alabama St.
Finalists: Bellaire Dermatology, BeYOUtiful Anti-Aging & Skin Care, Skin Day Spa, Skin Renaissance Center
Best Cosmetic Surgeon Center
Camille Cash, MD (tie)
2150 Richmond Ave., Ste. 103
Facial Plastic Surgery Associates (tie)
6655 Travis St., Ste. 900
Best Day Spa
Skin Day Spa (tie)
240 W 29th St.
The Petite Retreat (tie)
1034 Heights Blvd.
Finalist: Alira Boutique Salon and Spa
Best Female Aesthetic Physician
Angel Sturm, MD, FACS
Facial Plastic Surgery Associates
6655 Travis St., Ste. 900
Finalist: Krista Olson, MD, FACS/Baylor College of Medicine Facial Plastic Surgery Center
If you go to Dr. Angela Sturm and tell her you want to look like this celebrity or that movie star, you can expect to have a lengthy conversation. The chief of staff at Houston Hospital for Specialized Surgery, Sturm finds that understanding the “what” and “why” of a patient’s quest for physical transformation helps her to find the “how” of it. “My philosophy is that each person is beautiful and plastic surgery [is] an option that can amplify that beauty and boost their confidence,” she tells us. “I think most people know but do not acknowledge the impact that confidence has in our personal lives, professional lives, and every personal interaction. I think, as a society, we should place higher value on having a high self-esteem and confidence and accept that there are many ways to achieve this.”
Question: What part of your work do you find especially satisfying?
Answer: One of the most rewarding parts of my practice is facial feminization, when I get to be a part of my transgender patients’ transition. These procedures are absolutely life-changing, and transitioning can be lifesaving.
Best Male Aesthetic Physician
Patrick McNamara, MD
The Skin Renewal Center
1512 West Alabama St.
Finalist: Russell W. H. Kridel, MD, FACS/Facial Plastic Surgery Associates
Best Female Dentist
Carol K. Alvarado, DDS (tie)
3010 Philfall St.
Cynthia Corral, DDS (tie)
Bayou City Smiles
2313 Edwards St., Ste. 150
Finalists: Jewel Day, DDS; Dianna Wilde, DDS
Best Male Dentist
Bruce Smith, DDS
1006 Missouri St.
Finalists: Marcus De Guzman, DDS; Cory Logan, DDS; Randy Mitchmore, DDS
Best Female Eye Doctor
Juliet Farmer, OD
2502 Woodhead St.
Finalists: Mary Green, MD; Christine Tyler, OD; Lisa Woo, OD
Best Male Eye Doctor
Stewart Zuckerbrod, MD
Houston Eye Associates
5420 Dashwood Dr., Ste. 101
Finalists: Bimal Patel, OD; Scott Sawyer, MD; Crosby Wallace, MD
Best Female Hair Stylist
Alex Burton Studios
6100 Westheimer, #135
Finalists: Celina Arezola, Krislon Lona
Best Male Hair Stylist
Q The Salon
1512 West Alabama St.
Finalists: David Armendariz, Don Gill, Trey Gillen, Michael Kemper, Anthony Skoogie
Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour and entertainment icon Liza Minnelli are just two of the clients Q the Salon owner and artistic director Joel Quinones has worked with over the years. His work has been on the cover of Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue, among others. An in-demand stylist and makeup artist since the beginning of his career in 1987, Quinones leads a talented and experienced staff in providing hair and skin-care services at his Montrose-area salon.
Question: What’s your definition of beauty?
Answer: My idea of beauty is being healthy inside and out. When your mind and body are connected . . . then everything clicks. At that moment, people feel great about themselves and, in turn, help others to want in on that vibe. Alicia Keys, who’s wearing no makeup right now, Kendall Jenner, [a] young, classic beauty, [and] Amy Schumer, [a] curvy girl with a tough, smart mindset, [are] all beautiful, all different, and all successful!
Best Female Mental Health Therapist
LPC, LMST, LCDC, RN
3730 Kirby Dr.
Finalists: Kristen Anderson, PhD; Enod Gray, LCSW, CSAT-S, CGP; Dee Young, LPC
Best Male Mental Health Therapist
Robert Snellgrove, LCSW
4200 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: Tony Aucoin, LCSW, LCDC; Ty Lerman, MA, LPC; Ken McLeod, LCSW, ACSW
It was the HIV/AIDS crisis 20 years ago that pushed Robert Snellgrove into the mental health field. Then a practicing architect, Snellgrove decided to change careers after an ah-ha moment on a job site. “The president of a major bank was on his hands and knees inspecting his new wood floor to find any flaws. He found a dot of unstained wood. I thought, ‘Wow, everyone I know is dying and this is what is important to the president of a multi-billion dollar banking institution.’ On that day, I knew what I needed to do.” Snellgrove returned to school, earned a graduate degree from the University of Houston’s Graduate School of Social Work and began working as a therapist. Snellgrove says his work with HIV-positive clients has changed over the years since the disease is no longer the immediate death sentence it once was. “[At first,] it was a time of hopelessness, but also a time that the LGBT community was at its very best. At [one point] the new issue was survivor’s guilt. I still work with young people who have just seroconverted, and today, this has its own different challenges. [Now, newly seroconverted people think], ‘I knew better.’”
Question: Any television or film characters you think need your professional help?
Answer: I’ve been binge-watching Nurse Jackie, and [those characters] would qualify for some unhealthy behavior.
Best Mental Health Therapist/Psychiatrist
Daniel Garza, MD
2323 Shepherd Dr., Ste. 805
Finalists: Barry Gritz, MD; Chad Lemaire, MD
Best Mental Health Therapist/Psychologist
Woodja Flanigan, PhD (tie)
2211 Norfolk, Ste. 206
Mike Harrison, PhD (tie)
1501 Crocker St., Ste. 1
Finalists: Kaden Stanley, PhD
Best Female Mental Health Therapist/Psychologist
Kristin Anderson, PhD
9525 Katy Fwy., Ste. 200
Best Female Personal Trainer
Shana Ross Fitness
629 W 22nd St., Ste. 1
Finalists: Angie Lynch, Kimberly Marler, Danielle Sampey
If you sign up to train with Shana Ross, you’ll be smart to pack a big sense of commitment in your gym bag. “We’ll support you and teach you, but you have to bring the commitment,” Ross writes on her website. It’s a refrain clients hear over and over: changing your health is possible, but it takes time and commitment. (Translation: if you’re looking to lose weight and get a chiseled body overnight . . . ah, Shana Ross can’t help you.) She helps clients set realistic goals and make gradual changes to their exercise and eating habits for optimum long-term results. That’s contrary, Ross knows, to the miracle pills and 30-day transformations promised by other trainers and health coaches. Ross doesn’t think much of the people who make such false promises. “There aren’t many fitness celebrities that I can get on board with. Most are in it for the money and will endorse any product that will make them a buck. I miss Jack LaLanne.”
Question: What’s the one concept you want to get across to clients?
Answer: Better health begins with better food. Period. No one can attain optimum health just by beginning to workout.
Best Male Personal Trainer
Finalists: Justus Christianson, Michael Shallis, Michael White
Best Female Physician
Julia Kovacs, MD (tie)
427 W 20th St., Ste. 303
Sandra Scurria, MD (tie)
6565 West Loop South, Ste. 300
Finalists: Patricia Salvato, MD
Best Male Physician
Gordon Crofoot, MD
3701 Kirby Dr., Ste. 1230
Finalists: Octavio Barrios, MD; James Carroll, MD; Roland Maldonado, MD; Rudolph Marin, MD;
Shannon Schrader, MD
Best Gym/Place to Work Out
1501 Durham St.
Finalists: 24-Hour Fitness, Club Houston, Define Body, EADO Crossfit, FIT, LA Fitness
Best Male Massage Therapist
Ryan Fugate (tie)
Tom Zeppelin (tie)
Finalists: Joel Leal, Stan McDonald/Stan’s Hands Massage, Jeremiah Sammons
Best Female Massage Therapist
Robin Mack, LMT & 200 RYT
Finalists: Crysti Sherwood/The Petite Retreat
Walgreens on Montrose
3317 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: AVITA Pharmacy, CVS Pharmacy, Kroger Montrose
Best Tanning Salon
907 S. Shepherd Dr.
Finalists: JHL Emporium & Spa, The Tan Man
Best Tattoo Parlor
713 Tattoo Parlour
1533 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Electric Chair Tattoo, Prison Break Tattoos, Secret Tattoo
HOUSE & HOME
Best Female Insurance Agent
3200 Southwest Fwy, Ste.1900
Finalists: Pam Ellis, Kathy Huyhn
Best Male Insurance Agent
3 E. Greenway Plaza,
Finalists: Clay Boone, Jeremy Henry, E. Bailey Moore, Patrick Torma
AJ’s Urban Petals
1217 W 20th St.
Finalists: Downtown Blooms, Glenwood Weber, John Friedman Flowers, Ronnie Seibert
Best Furniture Store
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
4091 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Cantoni, Gallery Furniture, IKEA, Joybird, Noel Luxury Living
Best Furniture Store on a Budget
7810 Katy Fwy.
Finalists: EC Home Décor & Furniture Outlet, Gallery Furniture
Best Gardening/Nursery Supply
Joshua’s Native Plants & Garden Antiques
502 W. 18th St.
Finalists: Buchanan’s Native Plants, Fountains & Statuary, Frazier’s Ornamental Concrete
Best Home Remodeling Company
Unique Builders & Development
5320 Gulfton Ste. 9
Finalists: C House Renovations
Best Interior Designer
Kevin Hamby, RID, ASID
Finalists: Ben Johnston, Kelly Gale Amen Design, Ruben Freeman, Steven Alley with Elizabeth Cole
Have you ever been to the Diamond Club at Minute Maid Park? Or the presidential suite at the Doubletree Allen Center? Maybe you’ve been to one of the dining rooms at the Traditions Golf Club? Then you’ve seen interior designer Kevin Hamby’s work. A magna cum laude graduate from the University of Houston, Hamby has designed corporate offices, hotels, salon spaces, and restaurant dining rooms, as well as private residences. Throughout, Hamby adds a bit of fabulousness to form and function.
Question: What’s the one decorating rule you never break?
Answer: I have never been a designer who uses an excessive amount of pattern within my selections. Too much pattern creates a less unified approach to the space and your eye tends to not be able to rest. It’s like using too much hot sauce on your tacos . . . you can’t taste anything else except the spicy sauce.
4229 Bellaire Blvd.
Best Landscaping Company
AJ’s Landscaping and Design
1223 W 21st St.
Finalists: McDugald Steele, Windswept Landscaping and Design
Best Plumber Village Plumbing
5403 Kirby Dr.
Finalist: Tom Pierce Plumbing
Best Pool Company
1935 Richmond Ave.
Finalists: Anthony & Sylvan Pools, Pools by James, Premier Pools and Spas
LEGAL & FINANCIAL
Best Bank/Credit Union
Finalists: Amegy Bank, Bank of America, BBVA Compass, Capital One, JP Morgan Chase, Regions Bank
Best Female Attorney
Moore and Hunt
3608 Audubon Pl.
Finalists: Phyllis Frye, Diana Sims, Fran Watson, Clyde Williams
Best Male Attorney
Raed Gonzalez (tie)
Gonzalez Olivieri LLC
2200 Southwest Fwy, Ste. 550
Mitchell Katine (tie)
Katine & Nechman
1834 Southmore Blvd.
Finalists: John Nechman, Daniel O’Neil, Jerry Simoneaux, Dwayne Todd
Best Female Financial Planner/Advisor
Midtown Financial Group
3355 West Alabama, Ste. 180
Finalists: Felicia Flores, Britt Kornman
Best Male Financial Planner/Advisor
1700 West Loop S, Ste. 255
Finalists: Domingo Barrios, Shawn Kuehn, Mike Ryan, Reed Padgett
Best Female Accountant/Bookkeeper
Hubbard Financial Services
2615 Montrose Blvd.
Best Male Accountant/Bookkeeper
Gary M. Gritz, PC
CPA Bookkeeping Service
230 Westcott, Ste. 210
Best Doggie Day Care
Molly’s Mutt House
3407 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: Daisy’s Dog House, Rover Oaks Pet Resorts, West Alabama Animal Clinic
Best Place to Adopt a Pet
900 Portway Dr.
Finalists: BARC, Friends For Life, Rescued Pet Movement
Best Female Veterinarian
Christie Cornelius, DVM (tie)
1111 West Loop S, Ste. 120
Danielle Rosser, DVM (tie)
West Alabama Animal Clinic
2030 West Alabama St.
Finalist: Katie Eick, DVM (South By South Vets)
Best Male Veterinarian
Richard Clive, DVM
Midtown Veterinary Hospital
1434 West Alabama St.
Finalist: Randy McBride, DVM (Neartown Animal Clinic)
Best Place to Buy Pet Supplies
Finalist: Central Pet Market, Molly’s Mutt House, Natural Pawz, Petco
Best Female Real Estate Agent
Karen Derr (tie)
Town and Country Real Estate
1135 Heights Blvd.
Debbie Levine (tie)
Greenwood King Properties
3201 Kirby Dr.
Finalists: Melanie Combs, Pamela Efferson, Lynette Lew, Pat Walker
Best Male Real Estate Agent
1616 S. Voss Rd., Ste. 900
Finalists: Jared Anthony, Edward Delgadillo, Tim Surratt, Andy Weber
Best Home Builder
Unique Builders & Development
5320 Gulfton Ste. 9
Finalists: Al Ross Luxury Homes, Farb Homes, Loyd Russel Homes, On Point Custom Homes
Best Mortgage Company
601 Sawyer, Ste. 660
Finalists: BBVA Compass Mortgage, John Frels-Sente Mortgage, Prime Lending Group/Steve Baker, Republic State Mortgage/Robert Spiegel
Best Title Company
1980 Post Oak Blvd., Ste. 110
Finalists: Chicago Title Inner Loop, North Star Title Company
TRAVEL & VACATION
Finalists: American Airlines, United Airlines
Best LGBT Cruise or Tour Company
Concierge Travel (tie)
4920 Mimosa St.
Gayribbean Cruises (tie)
Finalists: Aquafest, Brand G Vacations, Olivia Cruises
Best LGBT Travel Destination
New York City
Finalists: Galveston Island, New Orleans, Puerto Vallarta, Walt Disney World
Best Local Transportation
Finalists: Lone Star Cab, METRO, Yellow Cab
Best Local Travel Agency
4920 Mimosa St.
Finalists: Aquafest, Travel Experts–Mark Hoyer, Vanguard Travel
Best Travel Website
Finalists: Concierge Travel, Gayribbean Cruises
WEDDING & EVENTS
Best Wedding Venue
Chateau Polonez (tie)
12612 Malcomson Rd.
La Torretta Lake
Resort & Spa (tie)
600 La Torretta Blvd.
Finalists: 1940 Air Terminal Museum, Avant Garden, The Heights Villa, LifeHTX, Marriott-North Houston
Best Wedding Photographer
Anne Marie D’Arcy
1517 Bonnie Brae #1
Finalists: Dawn Browne (Degrees North Images), Wilson Parish Photography, Yvonne Feece
Best Wedding Planner
Gray & Associates Events
720 Rusk St.
Finalists: A Day to Remember, Rexberry Luxury Weddings and Events, Pop Up Wedding Houston
Best Wedding Cake Bakery
Who Made the Cake, Nadine Moon, Confectionary Artist
1811 S Shepherd Dr.
Finalists: The Acadian Bakers, David Alcorta Catering, The Dessert Gallery, Three Brothers Bakery
Confectionary artist Nadine Moon counts NFL player Mike Evans and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as wedding-cake clients. (Different weddings, of course.) She’s created cakes for Matthew McConnaughey, Sir Elton John, and Michael Jordan. She was named one of 2016’s Top 10 Cake Artists in North America by Dessert Professional Magazine and she’s also in The Knot’s Hall of Fame. Her A-list client roster means she’s baked, decorated, and constructed towering cakes, including a jaw-dropping 10-foot-tall Cinderella’s-coach cake and a life-size wedding dress. She’s also used 22-karat gold luster dust and $1.3 million dollars of real diamonds and jewels, not to mention thousands of sugar flowers and miles of fondant, to decorate her creations. The one thing she hasn’t worked with? Fireworks. “I don’t want to be responsible for a venue ending up on the 10 p.m. news because my cake set off the sprinkler systems and the wedding was ruined,” she says.
Question: What’s been your favorite reaction from a bride about her cake?
Answer: Every once in awhile I will have a bride that actually cries tears of joy. That is the ultimate compliment!
Best Catering Firm
Jim Benton of Houston
2811 Eastman St.
Finalists: City Kitchen Catering, David Alcorta Catering, Don Carlos Catering, Elegant Events by Michael, Melange Catering & Events
SHOPPING & SERVICES
Best Female Astrologer
920 West Main St.
It was some 25 years ago when a young Lilly Roddy found out that a friend knew about astrology. Fascinated with the subject, she peppered him with questions so frequently, he finally just handed her a book and said, “Go find out for yourself.” She did. Enthusiastically. She’s since become a trained astrologer and built a loyal following of clients who go to her for advice about business, personal, and financial issues. (Thinking about buying a house? Or getting married? Having surgery? Go to Roddy first. It’s much, much easier to pick a good time to do it beforehand than to figure out how to overcome any problems caused by bad timing choices afterward.)
Question: What’s the biggest misconception about the Zodiac?
Answer: Skeptics will say the signs and constellations don’t actually line up. It’s hard to explain to people why they’re wrong, except to say that the signs and constellations line up every 26,000 years.
Best Male Astrologer
Body Mind & Soul
7951 Katy Frwy., Ste. N
Best Copy/Print Shop
1201 Westheimer Rd.
Finalist: 2 Day Post Cards
Best Grocery Store
1701 West Alabama St.
Finalists: Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods
Best Jewelry Store
I W Marks (tie)
3841 Bellaire Blvd.
Zadok Jewelers (tie)
1749 Post Oak Blvd.
Finalists: Bulgari, Cartier, Loggins Jewelers, Silverlust, Tannenbaum Houston
Best Liquor Store
Spec’s Wine, Spirits, and Finer Foods
2410 Smith St.
Finalists: Economy Liquor, Goody Goody Liquor, Richard’s Liquor
Best Men’s Clothing Store
Billy Reid (tie)
2702 Westheimer Rd.
Jos. A. Bank (tie)
4081 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Armani Exchange, The Ivy League Menswear, Under Armour
Best Women’s Clothing Store
2601 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Anthropologie, Armani Exchange, Zara
Best Place to Buy Cellular Phones
Premier Wireless (tie)
12220 Murphy Rd., Ste. F
Finalists: RadioShack, Walmart
Best Place to Buy Erotic Playthings
Hollywood Super Center
2409 Grant St.
Finalists: Adam & Eve, Eagle Trading Co., Erotic Cabaret
Best Place to Buy Eyewear
The Eye Gallery (tie)
1806-B Westheimer Rd.
4317 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: Eye Contact, Eye Elegance, FOCUS, River Oaks Vision
Best Specialty Food Store
3815 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Phoenicia, Spec’s Wines, Spirits, and Finer Foods, Sprouts
Best Local Hotel
5701 Main St.
Finalists: Aloft Hotel Galleria, La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa, The Sam Houston Hotel
Best 24-Hour Restaurant
House of Pies
3112 Kirby Dr.
Finalists: Katz’s Deli, Midtown Bar & Grill
Goode Company Barbeque
5109 Kirby Dr.
Finalists: Gatlin’s BBQ, Pappas Bar-B-Q
602 Fairview St.
Finalists: Lankford Grocery, Urban Eats
The Black Labrador
4100 Montrose Blvd. #8
Finalists: Red Lion Pub, Queen Vic
Baba Yega Cafe (tie)
2607 Grant St.
Gloria’s Latin Cuisine (tie)
2616 Louisiana St. #101
Finalists: Baby Barnaby’s, Cadillac Bar, Urban Eats
2710 Montrose Blvd. #A
Finalists: Gumbo Jeaux’s, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Ragin’ Cajun
Ginger and Fork
4705 Inker St.
Finalists: 369 Chinese, Ambassador Chinese Restaurant, Auntie Chang’s Dumpling House, Montrose Chinese Restaurant
5757 Bissonnet St.
Finalists: El Meson, El Rey
616 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen, Paulie’s Restaurant
The Chocolate Bar, Eric Shamban, Co-Owner
1835 W Alabama St.
Finalists: The Acadian Bakers, The Dessert Gallery, Rita’s of Houston Heights
You get your chocolate served up with a big helping of family-friendly hospitality at The Chocolate Bar, co-owner Eric Shamban tells us. Along with co-owners Gilbert Johnson and Tino Ramirez, Shamban works hard to meet every client’s request for the rich, delicious chocolate cakes, ice creams, and candies The Chocolate Bar offers. He admits there have been a few they haven’t been able to accommodate. “Little Wayne wanted us to close the store on Valentine’s Day—the busiest day of the year—so that he and his girlfriend could do body painting with chocolate,” he tells us.
Question: If you could create a flavor to represent Houston, what would it be?
Answer: We already have it—Totally Nuts. [It’s] chocolate ice cream with seven different types of nuts folded into the chocolate ice cream base. Do you really need an explanation as to why?
Best Food Truck
Finalists: The Rollin’ Kitchen, The Waffle Bus
1962 W. Gray St.
Finalists: George’s Bistro, Le Mistral, L’Olivier
2520 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: Myth Kafe, Theo’s Restaurant, Yia Yia Mary’s
Lankford’s Grocery & Market
88 Dennis St.
Finalists: The Acadian Bakers, Barnaby’s Cafe, The Burger Joint
2800 Kirby Dr. B132
Finalists: Indika, Khyber North Indian Grill
Riva’s Italian Restaurant
1117 Missouri St.
Finalists: Carrabba’s, Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino, Maggiano’s Little Italy
904 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Aka Sushi House, The Blue Fish, Crave Sushi, Kata Robata
Best Lunch Spot
604 Fairview St.
Finalists: Bambolino’s Pizza, Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, Maine-ly Sandwiches, Urban Eats
Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine
912 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill, Myth Kafe, Niko Niko’s, Theo’s Restaurant
El Tiempo Cantina
1308 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, La Mexicana Restaurant, La Tapatia, Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen
Best New Restaurant
Ginger and Fork
4705 Inker St.
Finalists: Les Ba’get Vietnamese Café, State of Grace
Star Pizza (tie)
2111 Norfolk St.
Bollo Woodfired Pizza (tie)
2202 W Alabama St.
Finalists: Bambolino’s Pizza, Pink’s Pizza, Pizza L’Vino, Pizzeria Solario
Best Restaurant for Cheap Eats
Barnaby’s Café (tie)
604 Fairview St.
Tacos A Go Go (tie)
3704 Main St.
Finalists: Fajitas A Go Go, Jax Grill, Jenni’s Noodle House
Best Restaurant for Elegant Dining
Rainbow Lodge, Donnette Hansen, Owner
2011 Ella Blvd.
Finalists: Café Annie, Caracol, Ouisie’s Table, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
We can’t tell you any of the big-shots and celebs who have dined at The Rainbow Lodge. That’s because, according to the restaurant’s owner Donnette Hansen, “What happens at The Lodge stays at The Lodge.” We can tell you that the food and atmosphere are perfect for any special-occasion dinner. With a menu that includes game (antelope, elk, and wild boar) and seafood (sea bass, lobster, and rainbow trout), The Lodge offers a casual, but refined approach to dining. “You don’t need to wear a coat and tie to enjoy a fabulous [dinner and] wine, presented with style and grace,” says Hansen. “The Rainbow Lodge is sophisticated, not stuffy!” The Lodge is housed in a rustic hundred-year-old log cabin and sits on an acre of grounds on the banks of White Oak Bayou. Over the years, Hansen has seen diners become more interested in the origins, preparation, and presentation of The Lodge’s offerings. “I love that guests want to know more about their food—such fun table talk. It allows us to talk about our onsite gardens, citrus grove, and beehives.” (Insiders know to order the off-the-menu buffalo chili in the winter.)
Question: Who would you like to have dinner with at The Rainbow Lodge?
Answer: Mother Nature rocks . . . hard to sit her down, though.
Best Restaurant for Outdoor Dining
307 Fairview St.
Finalists: Backstreet Café, Harold’s Restaurant & Tap Room
Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen
4611 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Little Pappas Seafood Kitchen, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
Best Steak House
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
1200 McKinney St.
Finalists: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Steak 48
904 Westheimer Rd.
Finalists: Azuma Sushi & Robata Bar, Crave Sushi, Miyako Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, RA Sushi
Khun Kay Thai Café
1209 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: Nidda Thai, Thai Cottage
2305 W Alabama St.
Finalists: The Doshi House, Green Vegetarian Cuisine, The Hobbit Café, Phoenicia Specialty Foods
Mai’s Restaurant (tie)
3403 Milam St.
Noodle House (tie)
2808 Milam St.
Finalists: Jenni’s Noodle House, Kim Son Restaurant, Les Ba’get Vietnamese Café, Thien An Sandwiches
DRINKS & SPIRITS
Club or Restaurant with Best Happy Hour
George Country Sports Bar
617 Fairview St.
Finalists: Bayou City Bar and Grill, Crocker Bar, JR’s Bar & Grill, Pearl Bar
Club or Restaurant with Best Margarita
El Tiempo Cantina
1308 Montrose Blvd.
Finalists: F Bar, Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, La Tapatia, Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen
Club or Restaurant with Best Martini
570 Waugh Dr.
Finalists: Harold’s Restaurant & Tap Room, JR’s Bar & Grill, Ouisie’s Table
Favorite Brand of Beer
Finalists: Karbach Brewing Company, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Shiner
Favorite Brand of Liquor
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Finalists: Deep Eddy Vodka, Dripping Springs Vodka, Ketel One Vodka
Favorite Wine Bar
307 Fairview St.
Finalists: Beckrew Wine House, Camerata at Paulie’s, Harold’s Restaurant & Tap Room, Oporto Fooding House & Wine
ENTERTAINMENT & NIGHTLIFE
Best Drag Show Bar
202 Tuam St.
Finalists: Michaels Outpost, TC’s Houston’s Premier Showbar
Favorite Bar to Shoot Pool
George Country Sports Bar
617 Fairview St.
Finalists: Eagle Houston, Guava Lamp, Neon Boots, RIPCORD
Favorite Bar to Two Step
Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon
11410 Hempstead Rd.
Finalists: Guava Lamp, The Room Bar
Favorite Club after 2 a.m.
810 Pacific St.
Finalists: Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon
Favorite Club for Dancing
2401 San Jacinto St.
Finalists: F Bar, Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, Pearl Bar, South Beach
Favorite Club If You’re Under 21
810 Pacific St.
Finalists: Bayou City Bar and Grill, Blur Bar, Numbers
Favorite Drag King
Finalists: Damien Love, Zambi
It’s been just four years since Ian Syder first stepped on stage, but he’s done lots . . . and lots . . . in that short time. He was the first-ever Mister Meteor (2013), twice the About Magazine’s Drag King of the year, and has taken on the personal responsibility of promoting his art form across the state. Syder can sum up his approach to his work in one word: professionalism. “It is the single most important thing you can have as a performer,” Syder says. “Drag kings aren’t very common in our market, and we have to work hard and be completely professional, win, lose, or at a paying gig.” Syder appreciates his audience at every show. “I always perform with the knowledge that the audience is the reason I have a stage in the first place.” While he has a successful career with title wins and touring dates, all of his performances haven’t been glitch-free, Syder tells us. “During a competition once, I had a wardrobe malfunction. My pants split completely up the inseam! I kept going as if nothing had happened and won the competition that night. The show must go on!”
Question: Who was your celebrity crush when you were a teenager?
Answer: Luke Perry. It shows my age, I know!
Favorite Drag Show Host/Emcee
Finalists: Roxanne Collins, Dessie Love-Blake
With more than 30 years on stage, female impersonator Kofi has lots of pageant titles to her credit. The most recent is Miss Continental Plus 2015. She also has crowns as Miss Houston America, Miss Black America Plus, and Miss Gay USofA at Large, along with dozens more. When she’s not winning titles of her own, she regularly hosts and emcees pageants and shows. She’s currently emcee for Charlie’s Angels at JR’s and So You Think You Can Drag at South Beach.
Question: What’s your signature song?
Answer: A few years ago, I recorded “Roxy” from Chicago with new lyrics. It’s called “Kofi’s Haute.” A friend helped me with the lyrics, and everywhere the original song said Roxy, it said, “Kofi’s haute.” I did it in a pageant.
Favorite Female Bartender
Finalists: Crystal Murley, Rey ‘Lareyna’ Rodriguez
Favorite Male Bartender
Tom Rico McCumber
Finalists: Adam Hancock, John O’Brien, David Truong, Travis Webb
Favorite Female DJ
Finalists: DJ Tina Langner, DJ Aracely Manterola, DJ Melle Mel
Athena “Athenz” Armylagos, who stays busy with a variety of music, acting, and modeling gigs, says she hasn’t yet had an “I’ve made it!” moment of success in her career—even though she’s opened for artists such as Adam Lambert and Duke Dumont. “I strive to become the best version of myself daily,” she tells us. “There will always be goals I have yet to reach because I am continually setting new ones.” A member of the HOT Chix Mix show on 95.7 KKHH radio, Athenz says her current go-to happy song is “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris and featuring Rihanna.
Question: What’s your favorite spot for canned music in Houston?
Answer: I would have to say Uptown Sushi because I am a big foodie and they always play the best music.
Favorite Male DJ
DJ Joe Ross
Finalists: DJ JD Arnold, DJ Ben Phoenix
Favorite Gay Bar
Houston Eagle, Mark De Lange, Owner
611 Hyde Park Blvd.
Finalists: Crocker Bar, F Bar, Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, Pearl Bar, Rich’s Houston
Houston Eagle, the self-proclaimed “home to the man’s man,” has a simple goal—to be a “friendly neighborhood bar where you can be yourself and come as you are,” says owner Mark De Lange. Part of the oldest continually operating gay bar brand in the world (there are currently over 30 worldwide) and catering to bears, jocks, and the leather-clad, Houston Eagle started in 2012 as a once-a-week party inside another bar. The weekly event grew in popularity, and The Eagle was moved to a new location, operating three nights a week. In 2014, it moved to its current Hyde Park location. Known for its 29-degree pour and ever-changing lineup of craft beers and liquors, Houston Eagle hosts an annual Mr. Texas Eagle competition with the winner going on to the International Mr. Leather competition in Chicago.
Question: Which celebrity would you like to visit Eagle?
Answer: [That’s] really difficult for me. Since I own bars and nightclubs, I literally have no life to tell you who’s a celebrity and who’s not. I guess for [a] celebrity, I’d say J.J. Watt, as he’s hotter than hell.
Favorite Local (Non-Drag) Entertainer
Nina Lombardo (tie)
Morena Roas (tie)
Finalists: Skylar Gutierrez
The host of Karaoke Wednesdays at Pearl Side Bar, singer Nina Lombardo mixes blond dreadlocks with pin-up-girl curls, colorful tattoos with body piercings, and a wonderful singing voice with a tough-chick persona. It works. On stage and off.
Question: What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
Answer: I know every word to every song on TLC’s CrazySexyCool album. Really, zero shame though.
Singer Morena Roas didn’t like the way she was treated during an open-mic session at a local bar. Instead of complaining or slinking quietly away, she started The Floor Is Yours, a talent showcase for LGBT artists, at Guava Lamp. Recently she added emcee duties for the Notes & Jokes, a Tickle Me Tuesday event at Skol. She’s not a comedian, Roas wrote on her Facebook page, “[but] I’m a killer with the knock-knock jokes.” Roas, who counts Selena, Lauryn Hill, and Adele as musical influences, has an acoustic album in the works.
Question: What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
Answer: Hmm, I really like Bollywood music. It’s like my Disney!
Favorite Local Band
Houston Pride Band
Finalists: The Band Hennessey, Colonial Blue, Fluff The Kat
Favorite Place to Show Off Your Leather
715 Fairview St.
Finalists: Club Houston, Eagle Houston
Favorite Place to Watch Male Dancers
Tony’s Corner Pocket
817 W. Dallas St.
Finalists: JR’s Bar & Grill
Favorite Straight Bar
307 Fairview St.
Finalists: Axelrad, Public Services Wine & Whisky, Rudyard’s British Pub
Favorite Women’s Bar
4216 Washington Ave.
Finalists: F Bar, Houston Eagle, Ranch Hill Saloon
Most Divine Drag Queen
Finalists: Kofi, Violet S’Arbleu
Olivia Flores Alvarez is an occasional OutSmart contributor. She’s covered the arts and culture for more than 15 years. Her work has appeared in the Houston Press, BravoHouston!, El Día, digitalcity.com and, a really, really long time ago, in This Week in Texas (TWT).