Architecture & Lodging
2005 Readers Poll
2005 Critics Picks
Best Bed & Brothel

Located on the corner of San Jacinto & Third is a red brick edifice, once home to the 16th season of MTV's Real World cast: Wes, Melinda, Lacey, Johanna, Rachel, Danny, and Nehemiah. But who cares about them? The Real World house was 8,000 feet of carnal fury with hot tub, circular bed, shag rug, the "red room" (with views of the bathroom), and bedrooms with names like "Guava Cactus," "Thistle," and "Tumbleweed," spawned we're sure, from some agave-induced Texas theme. Throw in some body shots, group showers, and cheerleaders and you've got the best little bed & brothel in town. Only the building itself knows what the show could not show. The cast may be long gone, but the legacy of her lingering lasciviousness lives on. Oh, if those walls could talk.

Real World House
Third Street and San Jacinto

Best Construction and Revitalization of Civic Space

Walking into the quiet atrium of the new Carver Museum and Cultural Center feels like being in the heart of a nautilus shell. Wrapped around you are light, history, heart, struggle, celebration, and the solidity of white and red stone. The ambitious Carver complex centers around the old Carver Library, the first library for residents of color on the Eastside of Austin. The transformation of the library and the birth of the Cultural Center – modern buildings flanking the old wood-framed structure – is one of the proudest, wisest, and most beautifully accomplished civic changes Austin has ever seen. Go to see the mosaic murals gracing the south side of the building; visit the dance studio, gallery, darkroom, or theatre in the museum; sit in the library's comfortable chairs or its marvelous children's reading area; and take a tour through Juneteenth history in the gallery. Hard-won, deeply earned, and aesthetically sumptuous, the Carver Complex is the new heart of East Austin.

George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, 1165 Angelina, 974-4926; Carver Branch Library, 1161 Angelina, 974-1010

Roxanne Jo Mitchell

Roxanne Jo Mitchell

Best Day Trip Dream Within a Dream

Close your eyes. Instead of waking up from a dream, you'll be waking up to one. That is, if you heed our advice: Take a trip to nearby Wimberley, Texas. Find Mill Race Road. Go to the end of the trail that kisses the creek's edge. Open your eyes. Creekhaven, the looming chalet on the banks of Cypress Creek, is one with her environs, right at home among centuries-old – in some cases millennia-old – cypress monuments. Inside, Creekhaven pays tribute to these surroundings with lazy, sprawling decks and breathtaking rooms named for Texas wildflowers. The prize bloom is the Water Lily, a generous two-room suite with rich, honey-colored paneling that frames a panoramic view of the creek. Pat and Bill Appleman, who took the neglected property and restored her to new-found heights of glory, are – in addition to fabulous hosts – keen supporters of Wimberley's burgeoning art scene. They not only contracted the vision of local artist Denice Calley to develop each room's theme with murals and appropriate touches, but their Meek Gallery, located within the inn, features works of local talent. Creekhaven offers the type of respite found in dreams. Problem is, you'll never want to wake up.

Creekhaven Inn
400 Mill Race

Best Football Helmet for a Giant Saint

Go Saints! And go Shoal Creek Saloon for keeping Lamar salty. The black and gold fleur-de-lis-emblazoned football helmet icon out front is made of a recycled VW bug turned on end – but don't let that confuse you. Shoal Creek Saloon is one of the last holdouts on that stretch of Lamar that won't ever be a yuppie-hippie haven. Even if the creek waters rise again, these Louisiana ex-pats will still be serving shrimp po'boys and spicy boiled crawfish like the best of them. Sports-bar atmosphere meets Cajun crabshack, and the giant football helmet keeps everybody from getting a brain injury.

Shoal Creek Saloon
909 N. Lamar

Roxanne Jo Mitchell

Roxanne Jo Mitchell

Best Grottoes to Pray In

Walk through the manicured gardens on the grounds of Santa Julia's Church at Lyons & Tillery at night, and you'll find a little, handmade stucco and brick cave to the Goddess – in her incarnation as Virgen de San Juan de Los Lagos. Hundreds of lit candles flicker, and shadows tremble on the smoke-stained walls. The biography of a whole community is placed at the feet of the Virgen, in the form of photos of babies and soldiers, handwritten letters on torn notebook paper, prayers. Come on, be a petitioner. Kneel on the torn red vinyl and brass footstool. Then stroll the grounds behind the school until you find another grotto, where you may lay your burdens at the feet of St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost and impossible causes. Light a candle of your own in these tiny temples; make it glow for those you love.

St. Julia's Catholic Church
3010 Lyons

Best Higher Education State of Mind

Home of Austin Community College's Cultural Center, featuring the Latino/Latin American Studies Center (El Centro) and the African-American Cultural Center, ACC Eastview, with its signature Austin-style design, inviting open air breezeways, and elevated walkway connecting buildings, is in a state-of-the-art state of mind ... and that spells success for many generations to come. The newest of ACC's six campuses, Eastview is the jewel of the ACC crown. In addition to offering a plethora of university transfer courses, this campus offers programs geared toward immediate employment in the fields of health sciences, child development, criminal justice, culinary arts, fire protection technology, hotel/restaurant management, and travel/tourism.

Austin Community College
Austin Community College Eastview Campus, 3401 Webberville Rd., 512/223-5100
Austin Community College Bookstore, 817 W. 12th, 512/474-7528
Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus, 1212 Rio Grande, 512/223-3000
817 W. 12th, 512/474-7528
Austin Community College Riverside Campus, 1020 Grove, 512/223-6000

Jana Birchum

Best Interior Design Guru

Uchi. Oslo. Wildflower. The Real World: Austin house. Jackson Ruiz Salon. Bettysport. Underwear. Mint. Girl Next Door. You've seen them, and he's designed them. Zen, San Antonio. Restaurant Le Rêve, San Antonio. The Red Bull Lounge for American Airlines, Dallas. And the tour bus for a popular trio of singers we're not allowed to mention. He was part of the team that designed the fabulous By George interiors, and his latest projects have been the renovation of 3100 S. Congress, and the fashionable Peacock on Pedernales. Joel Mozersky has left his indelible design imprimatur all over Austin. His interiors often have retro touches but are always completely modern. Not only highly skilled but highly entertaining as well, he is a stalwart presence on the Austin style scene. Truly among the best things Austin has to offer, he's original, he's deeply talented, and he's all ours., 302-3732, 913-3732

Best Place to Get Yer Tile On

At Vanilla Girl, it’s all about the sparkly, shiny, thrilling details. So hip, so chic, every corner and nook of the studio on South First Street is packed with delightful gifts, handmade greetings, luscious jewels, and gotta-have-it fashion. And that’s just the storefront. The pièce de résistance, the crème de la crème of Vanilla, is their stunningly gorgeous mosaic work: vases, mirrors, picture frames, tabletops, and chairs to match. Even the floor is tiled with a thousand bursting suns and spiraling star beams. Owner Elise’s specialty is in the grout and the shattered pieces, all formed together in her own unique language, gussying up the homes and businesses of Austinites in the know. Now you know.

Vanilla Girl Designs
2209 S. First

Roxanne Jo Mitchell

Best Place to Throw a Throwdown

The idea of a party in a gallery might bring to mind stuffy artistes sipping wine in a conspicuously dance-free environment. The truth couldn’t be more different when it comes to parties at Gallery Lombardi, a space that’s become increasingly popular for private (and public) parties over the past year. Anything but stuffy, parties at this place have been known to get downright rowdy. The large open floorplan has ample room for live bands to set up, and the gallery’s Warehouse District location is remote enough that you can turn it up to 11. Parties often spill out of the space’s garagelike doors and into the street, and we’ve even heard of partygoers dancing on the tops of stopped freighter trains (though of course, we don’t condone such risky behavior).

Gallery Lombardi
910 W. Third, 512/481-1088
602 W. Seventh Ste. A, 512/481-1088

Best Throwback on the Street

Truth be told, we don't know much about the old Rio Rita on East Sixth, except that it was once an orquesta haven back in the day (1950s) and that sometime in the early Seventies someone erected this wondrous bit of commercial psychedelia, which we are darn glad no one has taken down since. Back then, 7UP might as well have been the electric Kool-Aid acid soda of the now (then) generation with its defiantly "Uncola" rainbow butterfly ad campaigns, distinguished by the deep dark growl of Trinidadian voiceover master Geoffrey Holder (Baron Samedi in Live & Let Die, and the narrator of Tim Burton's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory), describing the difference between the "Cola Nut" and the "Uncola Nut..." This bit of commercial art stands the test of time. And it should. The original campaign was designed by pop art master and Yellow Submarine creator Peter Max. Long may it glow!

Rio Rita
1203 Chicon

Roxanne Jo Mitchell

Best Urban Archeological Application

When archaeologists go out in the field, it typically means heading to remote, unpopulated locales. Sometimes, expected ruins are even uncovered in construction sites. But a busy urban parking lot? Yep, Mangia Pizza at 35th & Guadalupe was the site for this archaeological challenge: to restore the Mangiasaurus dinosaur statue that had sat atop the building. The creature was found in sorry condition after vandals uprooted the pizzavore, but the Texas Memorial Museum team of paleontologists (including a personal physician!) came to the rescue. In short order, the "fascinating creature of the Crust-aceous" resumed her position atop the pizza joint, fully restored and reconstructed. Who says archaeologists are stuck in the past?

Texas Memorial Museum
2400 Trinity

Most Affable Postmortem Greeting

Dusk. Winter. Starting to rain, and what luck! You’re waiting for the No. 37 bus as cars hurtle by above on the upper deck, and (luckier still!) right here on the ground, at alarming proximity to your book bag. Headlights blink on as night falls and rain begins in earnest, and checking south again for the No. 37, you turn away from the highway toward the chain link separating the evening rush from Mount Calvary Cemetery. That’s when you see it in the fleeting taillight glare, a sizable gray headstone engraved: HELLO. And you’re reminded that you may be pissed, but you’re alive.

Hello family plot, southwest corner of Mount Calvary Cemetery
I-35 & Manor

Roxanne Jo MItchell

Most Likely Place to See the Bat Signal

The next foggy night you find yourself wandering the warehouse district, turn your head to the Frost Tower. It’s pretty easy to picture the bat signal blaring over the four pincerlike pillars. Besides, we already have our Joker (Hola, Mofo!), Two-Face (DeLay), and Superman (Mssr. Tour de France). Clearly, we need a Batman. Or Catwoman, if Ann Richards is willing to suit up in tight black leather.

Frost Bank Tower
401 Congress

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