The destructive effects of Hurricane Ida — the Category 4 storm that struck Louisiana in late August before moving through the northeastern part of the country — have opened up a devastating can of worms for the area’s seafood trade.

But some of Austin’s most revered chefs, restaurants, and booze-industry vets are hoping to net funds to help affected Louisiana fishermen by serving up a benefit tasting event.

Chef Adam Brick, who many will remember from his time at Apis Restaurant, is spearheading the culinary benefit, scheduled to take place Monday, September 13 from 6:30-9 pm at Justine’s Secret House on East Seventh Street.

Austinites can reel in tickets ($100 per person) online, with all proceeds benefiting the fishermen who were affected by the hurricane and are invaluable to the seafood industry, even in Austin. Hurricane Ida caused widespread damage to Southwest Louisiana, where many Austin restaurants source their snapper, grouper, crab, shrimp, tuna, and more.

Austin restaurants participating in the benefit tasting event include:

  • Justine’s
  • Mongers
  • Emmer & Rye
  • Hestia
  • Lutie’s
  • Foreign & Domestic
  • Comedor
  • Austin Oyster Co.
  • Lucky Robot
  • ATX Cocina
  • Huckleberry
  • The Peached Tortilla

Drinks, which are included in the ticket price (but please tip your bartender!), will be provided by Still Austin, Austin Winery, Celis Brewery, Austin Eastciders, Good Night Loving Vodka, and more.

In addition to the top-notch food and drinks, guests can hook some “very desirable” items and trips by participating in the onsite silent auction. Locals who can’t attend the tasting event can also do their part by donating to the fishermen recovery fund through GoFundMe.

Additionally, the following restaurants will offer a special of the week or a special of the day, with proceeds benefiting the Hurricane Ida fishermen relief fund:

  • Komé
  • La Condesa
  • Rogue Radish
  • Suerte
  • Uroko
  • The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas
  • Nancy’s Hustle in Houston

Foodies should note that masks will be required at the September 13 benefit event.

Houston First Courtesy Photo

Iconic Houston arts venue reopens to visitors after devastating Harvey damage

Houston to-do list

It took a year to heal and restore, but Houston's iconic Wortham Center has opened its doors once more to artists and audiences, welcoming visitors back into the city's performing arts home.

When 270 million gallons of water from Hurricane Harvey flooded the underground garages and tunnel connected to the Wortham and then pushed its way into the building — rising 12 feet in the basement — that might have been the end to one of the city’s most popular performing arts venues, but Houstonians pulled together to rebuild.

The mammoth undertaking to restore and return the space to its former glory, while taking measures for flood mitigation in the future, cost an estimated $100 million. Pumping out all the water and preserving the integrity of building was only the first step in those initial recovery months in 2017.

With one-third of 60 air-handling units damaged, and extensive destruction to much of the basement levels mechanical equipment, electrical and plumbing systems, the replacement and reconstruction took time.

Now, with the majority of the repairs complete — including the rebuilding of the Brown Theater stage — the Wortham will once again become a beacon for the performing arts in Houston. Grabbing tickets to shows there once again can be added to Houston tourists' to-do lists.

Before audiences poured into the theaters, Houston First Corporation, which manages and operates the Wortham Center, recently threw a homecoming reception of appreciation in the Cullen Theater to congratulate the many people responsible for the Wortham’s re-emergence as a vital part of the Theater District and downtown. Attended by Mayor Sylvester Turner and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, city officials, and representatives of many of the major performing arts organizations that call the Wortham home, the event gave those most familiar with the inner workings of the venue a chance to celebrate.

“Not getting back for this season, simply was not an option,” says Turner. “We knew we would be back and be ready for this season because that’s just who we are. We believe in one another.”

As the stage lights turned on this week, they first illuminated one of the world’s greatest opera singers, Plácido Domingo, for a special concert with Houston Grand Opera on September 26, but that’s just the beginning of the center's comeback. Other upcoming shows include the opera La Boheme, a stop on RuPaul's Drag Race world tour, the Houston Ballet's beloved Nutcracker, and comedian Paula Poundstone.

“Through these performances,” says Turner, “it infuses hope, aspiration, and inspiration into the people of the city of Houston.”

The restored Brown Theater.

Restored Brown Theater
Houston First Courtesy Photo
The restored Brown Theater.
Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

Texas football superstar reveals $41.6 million of Hurricane Harvey donations was spent

watt a guy

Houston Texans megastar J.J. Watt simply wanted to help. As Hurricane Harvey was decimating his beloved city, the NFL and pop culture phenom released a video, enlisting fans and followers for support. He challenged them to raise for $200,000 to his Justin J. Watt Foundation via a YouCaring drive, “because I know these recovery efforts are going to be massive,” he told viewers.

Watt couldn’t have expected the overwhelming response. In less than two hours, the goal was met; within 24 hours, he surpassed $500,000. Soon he was announcing increases almost daily. The Tennessee Titans — sending love to their former home — sent $1 million to Watt’s campaign alone.

The final number: a staggering $41.6 million — the largest crowdsourced fundraiser in world history, according to the foundation.

Soon, Watt was receiving global praise, and was bestowed with the NFL’s Walter Payton Award, which recognizes the player who best demonstrates a charitable and community spirit. As SportsMap editor Fred Faour noted, the award was a no-brainer.

But, questions quickly arose as to where the funds were being appropriated; Watt even publicly responded to one dubious fan.

Finally, there are answers. On August 27, Watt’s foundation released a statement outlining the progress of the contributions made to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund started by Watt “following the destruction left by Hurricane Harvey 12 months ago.”

All funds have been distributed to eight nonprofits: All Hands and Hearts, Americares, Boys & Girls Clubs, Baker Ripley, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, and SBP, according to the statement released by the foundation and the Houston Texans.

Additionally, the monies have so far been used on:

  • The cleanup, repair and rebuilding of over 600 homes.
  • The recovery and rebuilding of over 420 childcare centers and after-school programs, serving over 16,000 children.
  • The distribution of over 26,000,000 meals to those affected.
  • Physical and mental health services to over 6,500 individuals.
  • Distribution of medicine to over 10,000 patients.

The statement also outlines a 12-month plan:

  • Home restoration and disaster case management, including assistance with temporary housing, furniture, appliances, transportation, and more with Baker Ripley.
  • Continued assistance with both physical and mental health services, including the distribution of medicine and implementation of mobile medical clinics with Americares.
  • Additional support to handle the massive increase in demand following Harvey, covering 48 counties through the Houston Food Bank, Coastal Bend Food Bank, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, and Southeast Texas Food Bank with Feeding America.
  • Rebuilding Harvey-damaged homes, while also focusing on providing resiliency for future storms in Rockport, Aransas County, Refugio County and San Patricio County with All Hands & Hearts.
  • Rebuilding and restoring damaged Boys & Girls Clubs centers in Harvey-affected areas, serving over 5,000 youth.
  • Repairing and rebuilding Harvey-damaged homes with Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to details of the disbursement, Watt released a lengthy letter to fans and supporters of his cause.

“As I reflect on the events of Hurricane Harvey one year ago, the memories of destruction and devastation remain, but they are accompanied by memories of hope, selflessness and the beauty of the human spirit. The actions of professional first responders and everyday citizens alike were an inspiration to the world and a shining example of the inherent good that lies within us all. Those actions locally were then supported by the actions of hundreds of thousands from around the world showing their support and donating their money in order to help out in any way they could.

I was fortunate enough to witness that generosity first hand, as the fundraiser that I started with a simple goal of $200,000 turned into an unbelievable outpouring of support from people all around the globe.

When it was all said and done, after the late donations and checks that came in after the deadline were counted, the total amount that was donated and is now hard at work in the community was $41.6 million. In the past year, those funds have been used to repair and rebuild houses, allowing people to finally return and once again have a place to call ‘home’. Those funds have restored and rebuilt childcare centers so that parents can once again have a place to take their children where they know they will be safe, so that they can return to work and resume a sense of normalcy. Those funds have provided millions and millions of meals to people who weren’t sure where their next meal might be coming from after being devastated by the storm.

And those funds provided physical and mental health care to those who suffered from the events of that awful weekend one year ago. While a great deal has been accomplished in the past 12 months, there is still much work to be done. Moving forward, there will be more of the same, as we continue to work with our incredible nonprofit partners to provide as much help and support as we possibly can for those affected by Harvey. I cannot thank everyone enough for your support and generosity.

You have truly provided an unbelievable example of what the human spirit is capable of accomplishing. Every time that I am fortunate enough to witness someone step back into their home for the first time or a child run around on the playground again, I am reminded of the generosity of strangers that helped make it all possible. Thank you and never stop spreading the positivity! #HoustonStrong”


Once-popular North Austin pub shutters — owners blame Hurricane Harvey

Strange Shuttering

Multiple locations of a once-popular bar chain shuttered across the state this week including one in Austin. Strangely, the establishment cited Hurricane Harvey as one of the causes.

Sherlock's Baker St. Pub and Grill announced on Facebook that its Research Boulevard location in North Austin is now closed. A call to Sherlock's sister restaurant, Baker Street Pub & Grill on South Lamar confirmed that they are still open.

The company also announced it was shuttering two outposts in north Houston — one in Willowbrook and the other in Cypress — but the Houston location of Sherlock's on Westheimer remains open. Two locations in Fort Worth also closed, as CultureMap Fort Worth reports.

All of the shuttered bars posted essentially identical messages to Facebook that read in part:

"Although the timing of this may be difficult for everyone, we want to assure you that we will provide opportunities for every eligible employee to be placed at another location. We’ve made a lot of friends and we hope that your memories here will last a lifetime. This chapter closes, but another will open soon."

Of course, as many outraged employees pointed out on the Austin post, Harvey's effect didn't reach Austin or Fort Worth. The decisions to shutter seems even more abrupt given that both the Austin and Willowbrook locations posted a full month's worth of band bookings on December 1.

The closures are only the latest setbacks for owner HUSA Management Inc. Earlier this year, the company closed the Local Pour in Houston to make way for a 30-story luxury high rise. Baker St. Pub's Rice Village location closed in 2016 when the property owner elected not to renew its lease; that location ultimately became the city's second of the Austin-based Hopdoddy Burger Bar.

Photo courtesy of Galveston Island Visitors & Convention Bureau

Galveston hosts free beach weekend to support Harvey relief efforts

After the Storm

The Galveston tourism community is pitching in to support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts with a number of free events on the island this weekend. Galveston Cares, on September 30 and October 1, includes free admission to all beach parks, plus free parking along the Galveston Seawall and free trolley service throughout the island.

Voluntary donations will be taken at the beach park gates to support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts on the mainland.

Free events include a family challenge obstacle course at Stewart Beach, from 11 am to 4:30 pm Saturday, with a $2,000 prize (families can register here) and a fireworks show in honor of first responders at 9 pm on Saturday at 37th and Seawall. (The fireworks show was rescheduled from Labor Day weekend.)

Got a hankering to sing? Visit The Grand 1894 Opera House during a free “open mic” event on the stage of the historic performing arts center from 12-4 pm Saturday.

Discounted attractions also include a buy-one-get-one-free special on admission tickets to the 1895 Moody Mansion and The Bryan Museum.

Other great deals for a good cause include:

  • Casa del Mar Beachfront Suites will donate 20 percent of revenues from September reservations that book with the #GalvestonCares promotion to Harvey relief efforts.
  • Hotel Galvez and Spa will provide complimentary breakfast for two for reservations made on September 29 through October 1 that mention #GalvestonCares. Not valid on prior reservations.
  • Galvez Bar and Grill is donating $5 for every prime rib dinner sold Thursdays through Sundays through the end of October.

On Saturday, Yaga's will donate $2 of every Gumbo Stroll ticket at the Galveston Island Wild Texas Shrimp Festival to Harvey relief efforts. Gumbo Stroll tickets are $10 and allow attendees to sample offerings from 80 shrimp gumbo cook-off teams. The festival, which takes place September 29 and 30 in historic downtown Galveston, also includes an official 5K race, a boat show, the Lil’ Shrimps Children’s Parade, vendors, live music, and more.

“We were fortunate to fare well through Harvey, but we also know what it is like having gone through Hurricane Ike nine years ago,” Galveston Park Board executive director Kelly de Schaun said in a statement. “We want to show our support and hope that Galveston can be a place where our neighbors can experience some normalcy, take a break, and enjoy time with their families.”

Photo courtesy of Austin Portfolio Real Estate

After Hurricane Harvey, this Austin real estate company pitched in to help

Hurricane Helpers

Perhaps the one good thing to come out of our state's recent severe weather has been the reactions of its residents. When Hurricane Harvey hit, Texans immediately rolled up their sleeves and got to work helping their neighbors.

Case in point: Austin Portfolio Real Estate. The luxury boutique firm wasted no time mobilizing its staff and joined its parent franchise company, Keller Williams, at Mega Relief in Houston. Mega Relief is part of a larger program called KW Cares, which continuously aides in relief efforts.

KW Cares partnered with the Salvation Army to assist those affected by Harvey. Not only did Keller Williams provide monetary donations, but its employees loaded up three semi-trucks full of donations, supplies, and the tools necessary to clear out homes and start the rebuilding process. Once the trucks were loaded, teams headed out to the disaster areas to work side-by-side with residents and other volunteers.

"Just like everybody else, I was glued to the TV watching the utter devastation that took place in the days surrounding Hurricane Harvey," says APRE Realtor Marielle Quaid. "I didn’t know what to expect when we drove down to Houston. With all the news and what I was hearing, I was expecting some form of chaotic apocalyptic images: empty streets, closed stores, and flooding everywhere."

Classified as one of the most devastating natural disasters to have touched the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004, Hurricane Harvey caused much of South Texas to suffer major loss of property.

"I was at the Second Baptist church in Houston, helping with all the supplies and such that they were being given to the families," says Realtor Kathleen Bucher. "It was overwhelming to see hundreds of KW agents from all across the country giving their time and love, and committing to give to those who have lost so much in Houston due to the hurricane. I am so proud to be with a company that time and time again gives back to those in need. It is a company culture that is rare to see and an honor to be a part of."

Though the recovery and rebuilding efforts continue, residents and evacuees of the affected areas can take refuge in the notion that they don’t have to do this alone.

"People were connected," says Quaid. "They were smiling in the face of a difficult reality. I truly felt like I was a part of something that represented the best in humanity."


Austin Portfolio Real Estate guides its clients through real estate transactions with outstanding service, uncompromising ethics, and exceptional knowledge. The agents are selected for their commitment to service, integrity, and professionalism. To learn more about Austin Portfolio Real Estate, visit here or call 512-901-9600.

Realtor Weston Lipscomb with some of the three semi-trucks' worth of supplies that came to Houston.

Mega Relief in Houston
Photo courtesy of Austin Portfolio Real Estate
Realtor Weston Lipscomb with some of the three semi-trucks' worth of supplies that came to Houston.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Austin 'Top Chef' winner emerges after controversy to open upscale Mexican restaurant, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From cross-country tours to best-in-state colleges and snacks, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Austin 'Top Chef' winner emerges after controversy to open upscale Mexican restaurant. Bacalar has opened after years of preparation and controversy surrounding the chef's departure from his last role.

2. Nebraska Furniture Mart to bring massive new store and 700 jobs to Austin suburb. NFM will anchor a development that will include a 250-room hotel and 30,000-square-foot convention center.

3. Hello Kitty Cafe Truck says hi to Austin on cross-country tour. Among the new items is a bright pink tote bag with rainbow straps and desserts decorating the front, and an assortment of Hello Kitty baked goods.

4. UT Austin rises to the top in new list of best Texas schools for 2024. UT Austin claimed No. 2 in Texas, and ranked No. 32 nationally. It fared similarly in Niche's list of top public universities.

5. How to get every possible discount at the 2023 State Fair of Texas. The fair starts its 24-day run at Fair Park in Dallas on September 29, bringing with it music, games, food, and more.

R&B singer Mélat epitomizes the independent Austin music experience in new album

local releases

Even though Mélat is always busy — appearing in seemingly every major community showcase — she hasn't released a new album in four years. That is, until today.

Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men — with an appropriately grandiose title for the R&B singer's prodigal return — is out on September 29, with 14 gooey tracks incorporating everything from trap beats to gospel harmonies. It follows up 2019's After All: Episode One, with similarly spacious orchestrations and a little more confidence this time around on the songwriter's part.

"I feel like [after] going through COVID and all the things that have happened in the past four years ... it's the dawning of a new era for me," says Mélat. "I feel like I've shed a significant amount of fear, and doubt, and all these things that as humans we have to work to get off of ourselves. It feels like a new beginning for me."

The title of this "foundational" album, in Mélat's words, reaches back to two EPs that the singer has since grown out of, but represented a similar feeling of self-definition as her first-ever releases. First was Canon Aphaea, then Canon Ourania; Both referenced Greek goddesses. This time, Metis — Zeus' first wife, a Titan goddess, and the embodiment of wisdom — was the inspiration.

M\u00e9lat Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal MenThe album cover ties in "Easter Eggs" from Black woman-owned brands: fashion by Savage X Fenty, Black Girl Magic wine by McBride Sisters Wine Company, and an Ethiopian necklace referencing the singer's heritage.Shot by Marshall Tidrick

The subtitle comes from humbler origins than it sounds; probably something she read on Wikipedia, Mélat says, but definitely borrowed nonetheless. The quote also gives a name to a track in which the singer speaks semi-candidly about false idols and the wisdom to duck away from the judgment of "mere mortals."

"I'm like a lot of people in that I can be my worst my own worst critic," she says. "I hate my speaking voice, but I put it on the album [because] my gut was telling me, no, this needs to be said. There are songs that were cut from the album [that were part of] the plan the whole time."

Much of Mélat's local pull comes from her transparency about being an independent artist, which she discusses often on social media and will surely expound upon more when the Austin chapter of Women in Music launches later this year, with her on the leadership team. Nothing about working without a label is foreign to Austin musicians (although the landscape is slowly growing), and the singer confirms that she doesn't "know any other way to do it," but hints of that freedom shine through some tracks.

"Canon Metis," the opening track, pieces together a sort of trailer for the rest of the album with atmospheric synths and spoken announcements by disembodied femme voices — a softly futuristic approach. But "Lambs to Lions" and "The Now" deliver nostalgia via backup vocals and instrumental stylings, while "I.D.M.T.L.Y. (Freestyle)" pares things down to a simple phone recording that the songwriter and her close collaborator, sound engineer, and manager, Pha The Phenom, chose not to develop any further.

No through-lines were questioned. Nothing needed to be justified, except to each other. Both have gotten into meditating, anyway, so it's all about feel.

"I feel like I've gathered all this wisdom," Mélat says. "You can't really trust the quote-unquote gods, which are the shiny things that will distract you ... and you can't really worry too much about the judgment of others, because everybody's just human. I need to do what feels right for me."

There is no tour planned to promote the album yet, but given the singer's track record, it won't be long until something is on the books. A music video for "So Help Me God," incorporates AI technology via Kaiber AI, will be released on October 4.

Listen to Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men on your favorite streaming platform.

Unique art sale champions thousands of works by Austin artists who may not have homes

art everywhere

The streets of Austin reveal a vibrant artistic spirit if you know where to look. Art From the Streets (AFTS), a nonprofit uplifting unhoused artists, invites art lovers to discover this local creativity at the annual Art Show & Sale on October 21-22.

Art from the Streets sale

Photo courtesy of Art From The Streets

Onlookers look through hundreds of unique art pieces by unhoused Austinites.

Art From the Streets has announced its 31st Annual Art Show & Sale at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, best known for its holiday market. This two-day event will showcase thousands of original artworks from unhoused and at-risk artists in the Austin area, from compelling portraits to vibrant abstracts, all while supporting an amazing creative community.

Attending this event gives the Austin community the special opportunity to meet these artists, hear their stories, and purchase their one-of-a-kind creations, with 95 percent of the art sale proceeds going directly to the artists themselves.

In turn, it provides platform for the artists to proudly display their works, coming into the arts scene in an official, marketable capacity. It brings visibility to their skills and lets them earn income from their passion.

"We believe that these artistic endeavors form a pathway to self-determination, and we invite the Austin community to join us this October in supporting these artists by making connections and purchasing some amazing art," said AFTS executive director Kelley Worden in a press release.

Volunteers form the backbone of AFTS by assisting with a wide range of tasks, from facilitating art creation sessions to helping with exhibition setup and more; the funds that AFTS collects through donations and art sales are directly funneled back into supporting these volunteers' efforts, providing art supplies, covering exhibition costs, and supplying other resources needed to uplift the unhoused artists in the Austin community.

The 31st Annual Art From the Streets Show & Sale will be held at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar from October 21-22. Attendance is free and open to the public, with a suggested $5 donation at the door to help support AFTS' mission of empowering unhoused artists. RSVP on Eventbrite.