It’s a very rare thing to see people looking excited while waiting in line outside a school bus. But rather than whisk disgruntled kids to school, this bus is staying parked long enough to serve up old school burgers and fries made entirely from scratch. Each of the burgers––which bear school-appropriate names like the study hall, the subsitute, and the homeroom––is made using a blend of three cuts of black angus beef, before being topped with ingredients like homemade ketchup, pickles, and thick-cut bacon, and placed between freshly baked buns. The study hall sizzles with slow-braised pork belly, Spanish onions, and homemade BBQ sauce, while the substitute swaps everyday lettuce and tomato for bleu cheese, bacon, burgundy-laced mushrooms, and caramelized onions. Of course, even diners with perfect attendance like to shake up their lunchtime routine now and again, and so Chef Bernie creates a globally-inspired daily special, the field trip, which might feature anything from German pretzels and mustard to spicy Mexican guacamole. Thanks to its from-scratch philosophy, Bernie’s Burger Bus has won numerous awards, including the title of best food truck from the My Table Culinary Awards, and "best burger" from the Houston Press. But there's another list earning even more buzz at Bernie's: the detention list. Customers who order Bernie's detention burger––two angus beef patties sandwiched between two applewood bacon grilled cheese sandwiches, and topped with crispy onions, cheddar, and all the fixings––are rewarded with a spot on Bernie's prestigious detention list, only if they finish the mammoth mess or smash it in into a locker.
To call The Body Shop a mere skin and body care store is to miss half of what makes it special. Late founder Dame Anita Roddick was a pioneer for ethical business practices; upon opening her first store in Brighton, England, in 1976, she developed company values such as "Defend Human Rights" and "Protect The Planet." She somehow balanced principles and profit, partnering in global campaigns with UNICEF, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and the United Nations, all while ultimately expanding her brand into 2,500 locations in over 60 international markets. After her death in 2007, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, ?She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market. . . . She was an inspiration.?
Indeed, the Body Shop exhibits an eco-friendliness and social consciousness that's hard to come by in a company of its size. Its products have been fair-trade since 1987, and its Against Animal Testing movement led to an EU-wide ban of animal testing of cosmetics. The products are made from ingredients harvested from around the world: shea butter from Ghana goes into body scrubs and butters, and Indian artisans craft wooden massagers and tote bags that are screenprinted by hand. But all that isn't to say the company's production practices overshadow its final products. Skincare treatments such as the brand?s iconic body butters, facial products, and gift collections often appear in Allure, Marie Claire, Lucky, Seventeen and other national publications.
Since its origins as a converted parking garage, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has ushered film-lovers of all breeds into its auditoriums, even gaining a following among Hollywood legends; Quentin Tarantino has been known to host five-day movie marathons at Alamo. The theater has earned that reputation by making moviegoing a personal experience, from the menu of handcrafted snacks and locally brewed beer to the completely ad-free presentations before shows. Alamo?s ninja servers pick up written food and drink orders throughout the movie and serve moviegoers directly at their seat. The staff enforces a strict no-talking, no-texting policy by kicking out any offenders, falling just short of yanking them from their seats with a giant's shepherd's crook.
Both first-run blockbusters and classics are projected onto Alamo's silver screens in crisp 35-millimeter or digital format. Meanwhile, surround speakers immerse audiences in the cinematic soundscape, whether they're seated in one of the expansive theaters afforded to blockbuster reels or the more intimate spaces reserved for indie films wound around tiny bobbins. Despite Alamo's vow of silence, fan-centric Quote-Along and Sing-Along nights encourage guests to shout their favorite lines, and actors, directors, and other celebrities often attend special screenings to lead in-depth discussions. These exclusive events have led to acclaim for Alamo from publications such as Entertainment Weekly, which called it ?one of America's most fanatically unique moviegoing experiences,? and Wired, which opined that it "might just be the coolest movie theater in the world."
Since its founding in 1980, Sun & Ski Sports has remained true to its philosophy: “do a few things, but do them better than anybody else.” The shop stocks equipment in five categories of extreme and outdoor activities, including camping, skating, running, bicycling, and water and snow sports. It specializes in these to ensure its merchandise maintains a high standard of quality, and its employees are knowledgeable participants in the sports their department represents.
Bikers can drop off their steeds for tune-ups from certified mechanics who put all brands through the rigors of a 12-point inspection, checking chains and adjusting wobbly pedals and malfunctioning spoke-card motors. While waiting, curious eyes might linger on a North Face two-person tent, a Blackburn Airtower bicycle pump, or a vast selection of shoes from brands such as New Balance and Asics. Men and women can traipse nearly barefoot in the park with Vibram FiveFingers, which offer minimal structural encumbrances for a more natural stride, or cast their feet aside for the new-wheeled prowess that comes with a Fuji SL-1 LE Ultegra performance road bike.
For Meredith McCord, looking at a piece of pottery brings back decades worth of memories. McCord started The Mad Potter in 1998, and since those early days, she's used her kiln to immortalize countless special moments. She traveled to hospitals to capture the footprints of newborns, helped a young man create a dessert plate with the words "Will you marry me?" emblazoned across it, and auctioned off items for charity. Yet some of her fondest memories center on the day-to-day interactions with customers, specifically when they return to pick up their fired pieces and utter three words of amazement: "I did that?"
The Mad Potter has since expanded into three Houston-area locations, where children and adults come to paint their own works of art or create replicas of their ancient ancestors' garden gnomes. More than 500 bisqueware items line the shelves of each studio, including coffee mugs, plates, and figurines. Staffers then help visitors select from more than 54 available colors of paint and supply them with everything else they might need, including brushes and stencils. The staff can even take things over and create more intricate designs?while still consulting closely with the customer. Whatever route a person chooses, there's always time for a sip of wine or beer; the River Oaks location sells wine and beer while Bellaire and Woodway maintain a BYOB policy.
Instead of picking out a premade, cookie-cutter holiday card for her family, Kristen decided to make her own. This small decision eventually led to huge opportunities: her husband, Sammy, was so impressed by her homespun creations that the two of them decided to channel Kristen’s craftiness into their own business. Today, the married duo captain Keeping Me Posted, a creative operation that combines Kristen's talent for colorful designs with Sammy’s business know-how to yield custom, one-of-a-kind cards printed on first-rate materials.
Once customers choose from more than 200 designs, including modern shower invitations, moving announcements, and Christmas cards, they can upload images from their computer or straight from Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, or SmugMug. The program easily filters pictures into black-and-white or sepia tones for those sending cards to family members who live in the 1920s. Customers can also personalize the cards with their names and personal messages. Once an order is submitted, the staff optimizes each photo for printing by removing red-eye, brightening hues, or sharpening the resolution if needed. HP Indigo printing presses then emblazon designs on thick, high-quality matte paper. Customers interested in crafting a wholly unique creation can call to have Keeping Me Posted custom design any card for no extra cost.