Veterans of more than 50,000 successful jumps collectively, the skydiving senseis of Skydive Houston take jumpers of all experience levels on airborne trips to terminal velocity. Training begins with a short introductory video, followed by 20–30 minutes of ground school with a dive instructor, in which pupils learn the basics of two-person jumps, safety, and how to spot one’s mom from an elevation of 9,000 feet. Next, fledgling fliers strap into a tandem harness with their parachute pros and ascend to 14,000 feet in the school's own Twin Otter aircraft, named for the pair of shellfish-cracking mammals that powers its engines. Once out of the plane, pairs free fall for approximately 60 seconds, then enjoy about seven minutes of calm parachuting, after which instructor and customer safely land in a field or on the nearest naturally occurring pillow pile.
Another Time Soda Fountain transports patrons to a simpler time, with old-timey appliances and diner fare and shakes made the same way they were in the 1950s. Plant pincers in a patty melt ($7) or two chili-cheese dogs ($6.50), both garnished with fries, before washing them down with a slew of sweet elixirs. Phosphates, a fountain drink that hearkens back to the Depression era, are available in an array of flavors ($2), and milkshakes are crafted from traditional ice-cream flavors, such as chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, and the nontraditional coconut, butterscotch, peach, and pineapple ($4).
Hailing from humble beginnings in a renovated Mississippian gas station, McAlister's Deli has revolutionized the concept of fast food with healthy fare recognized by Parents in 2009. Premium ingredients, such as Black Angus roast beef and black forest ham, pile upon stuffed potatoes or artisan bread, sating hungers and silencing stomachs before they recite bank-account numbers. As patrons wait for servers to deliver meals, they sip signature sweet tea, swirled together onsite daily from pure cane sugar and a rainforest-certified black-tea blend as dictated by a closely guarded recipe.
Fish Place cooks everything fresh daily and its specialty is crawfish. The New Orleans–inspired eatery preps the crustacean in several classic ways, from cooking up just the tails to brewing an étouffée. Of course, the menu would be remiss to exclude specialties such as shrimp etouffee, crawfish etouffee, seafood jambalaya, stuffed jalapenos, and boudin balls. Other Southern staples include blackened catfish, shrimp jambalaya, and chicken and sausage gumbo. The sides ring authentic as well, complementing entrees with helpings of red beans with rice and hush puppies, so named because their deliciousness causes diners to speak in an awed whisper for several days.
Familial warmth is at the core of Lanie and Alex Ciocca’s quaint Italian restaurant in historic downtown Richmond. A wedding photo of the brother-and-sister team’s parents greets visitors to Italian Maid Cafe—chosen because of their mother's nickname—but it’s the menu of comforting Italian cuisine that truly introduces diners to the Ciocca experience. Growing up in Pittsburgh, the pair dined on pasta and sauces made by hand, and their dishes afford customers the same luxury. Chef Alex sautés veal scaloppini with red onions, mushrooms, and wine, and he marinates the Southwestern-inspired Italian-lime chicken breast in lime vinaigrette before grilling it and giving it a massage with cilantro sauce. The kitchen's rotating selection of specials and housemade desserts always presents tasty complements to cappuccinos and lattes.
Ray’s Gourmet Country’s executive chef Soren Pedersen is so dedicated to building a seasonal menu from the produce and meats raised near the Fulshear restaurant that Inside Rose-Rich Magazine noted, “There are no can openers at Ray’s, with everything being delivered fresh from the local markets.” If the hunt for dinner leads you here, you'll be rewarded with Saint Arnold–spiked fried gulf shrimp, foie gras and cognac terrine, and main courses such as chicken-fried ostrich, wild boar scaloppine, and braised veal cheeks. Desserts include pumpkin cheesecake with whiskey caramel and a double chocolate brownie with pear compote and amaretto-spiked crème fraîche. Ray's rolls out a brunch buffet every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and schedules live jazz and complimentary wine tastings on Thursday nights.
After honing her skill and chef's knife at two of her restaurants in Iowa, Yong's Asian Fusion & Sushi owner Yong Kolkman set her sights on Houston, eager to blend Chinese-Korean cuisine with the steak-and-burger fare of southeast Texas. The menu unites the Far East, Midwest, and Deep South. Iowa-style breaded-pork sandwiches, Japanese Teriyaki dishes, zesty General Tso's chicken, sushi, and chicken-fried steak are just a few of the offerings. The space evokes a rustic, roadhouse vibe, with corrugated metal walls peppered with Texas flags, Houston sports posters, and shrines to Sam Elliott's mustache.