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Best of 2023

Best of 2023 – Our Favorites of the Year

Our Best of 2023 list, an annual feature from the Avenue Property Group, highlights our favorites from media, shopping, dining and travel.

These are a few of our favorite things…

Halloween and Thanksgiving are now in the rear view mirror. Our annual trip to the store to replace all the burned out Christmas lights is done, and the house is fully decorated inside and out. Black Friday has come and gone, and Cyber Monday is in full swing… so that can only mean one thing (for us anyway) – it’s time for our Best of 2023 list.

This year has been one for the books. 334 days in and we’ve seen wars, hostages, near-miss government shutdowns, skyrocketing inflation, crazy high interest rates, and a stagnating housing market that oddly enough has not much affected home prices. And you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s one of the worst financial years we’ve been through in recent memory (save for the COVID shutdown), but market reports tell us that Black Friday purchases were up over 7.5% from last year. Go figure.

This month, as we’ve done for the last several years, we’ll be highlighting and celebrating some of our most remarkable finds of the year including our favorite stories, books, podcasts, music, movies, shows and products of the year. We’ll also be touching on our favorite local restaurants and weekend escapes. We’re interested to hear what you think of the list, and how yours would differ from ours, so we’re leaving commenting turned on below.  So let us have it!

*Word of note here, this is not to say that these things were necessarily released to the public in 2023, but rather, when we discovered them.

Happy Holidays
– Brian.


News  ·  Stories  ·  Books  ·  Podcasts  ·  Music
Movies  ·  TV  ·  Apps  ·  Shopping  ·  Dining  ·  Travel

Headlines around the world

Each year, we scour the headlines for the years top stories. 2023 was tame in comparison to recent years, but there was still a lot that kept us glued to the media. From foreign affairs to shock TV right here in our own backyard, here’s our list of some of the biggest, scariest, and craziest headlines of 2023.


The Inflation Slowdown

After last years rapid ramp-up of the Fed’s interest rate, consumers were wary of making large purchases, particularly in the real estate sector. Real estate brokers, lenders, and homebuilders countered by coming up with creative ways to effectively buy their rates back down again – a stopgap measure to hold homeowners over until rates (hopefully) come back down again. With inflation slowing, hopes are high that the Fed will slow or stop rate increases altogether.

Rise of AI

The Rise of AI

Apparently nobody paid any attention to the underlying story, or rather warning, that James Cameron was conveying in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. 2023 will go down in history as the start of the rise of AI. For good or ill, it’s here and from here on – it will only continue to permeate every facet of our lives. From writing articles, to creating images (the header image used for this post was created with AI), to even writing code, AI can already do it all. And you don’t have look much further than ChatGPT to try it all out.

Maui Fires

The Burning of Maui

In early August, high winds, wildfires, and a lagging emergency response system resulted in the scorching of over 2,500 acres of mainland Maui, over a 100 deaths, and hundreds more unaccounted for. Stories dominated the headlines and newscasts for weeks. To make matters worse, conspiracy theories about the cause, a sloth-like rebuilding pace, and real estate scammers left survivors and property owners alike angry and confused.

Mike Johnson

The Speaker Merry-Go-Round

The first time ever, a sitting House Speaker was voted out and the seat was declared vacant. Thus set off a merry-go-round of nominees, bickering, infighting, unrest and general Party upheaval. Predictably, concerns arose immediately about government shutdowns, lowering of credit ratings, institutional erosion, and of course, the war in Ukraine. Eventually Mike Johnson (R, Louisiana) won the coveted seat.

Gilgo Beach Killer

Gilgo Beach Killer Found

13 years after 11 bodies were unearthed in Long Island, an arrest has finally been made for at least three of them. The story has prompted countless articles, podcasts, and tv episodes in the true crime genre, originally popularized by podcasts such as Serial and Netflix’s Making a Murderer series. Heuermann at this time, is accused of killing only 3 of the ‘Gilgo Four’, a group of victims found off Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach.

Once upon a time…

We are voracious readers. Books, news apps, blogs, newspapers, and social media all feed that appetite. But there are some articles that just fall outside of the norm that we find interesting. Here’s our take on some of our favorites of the year.

Now and Then

The Beatles are back on the charts

50 years later and The Beatles are STILL the most influential rock band in history. With the help of a little AI, the very LAST Beatles single was just released and it’s… amazeballs. 5.5m listens and over 35,000 comments in one day. Man, that sound takes me back to very first time I listed to my mom’s ‘Meet the Beatles’ vinyl as a child. My musical heartstrings were tugged hard on this one.


Back before social destroyed it all

I was an EARLY adopter, so I remember nearly all of these. But many these days have no idea about the history of the internet. Here’s a cool trip down memory lane to fix that. From the first sketch, to the first bug, email, virus, and meme… it’s all been recorded in a quick, visual way. Kids these days will never know the pain (or even what it is) of a 300 baud dial-up modem trying to connect to Compuserve and praying that an incoming call didn’t knock you off.


Vermont Town Bans Influencers

Being from Texas, this story is probably not something a lot of us will relate to. You see, our neighbors to the North actually have seasons, and when Fall rolls around, nature puts on a massive art show. So much so that influencers invade these areas for no other reason than to admire themselves on camera, sporting duckface, and thus proliferate, as invasive species do. One small Vermont town has had enough.


700,000 Photos Used to Map Titanic

When James Cameron released Titanic in 1997, he unknowingly introduced an entire new generation to the tragic story. The fact that it was the first Titanic film to include actual footage of the shipwreck almost certainly ignited renewed interest in its sinking. The public’s never-ending fascination might explain why a deep-sea mapping company recently took 700,000 photos, from every conceivable angle, to create the most detailed, crystal clear images of the shipwreck ever. They are absolutely stunning.

Proposition 4

Prop 4 to Deliver Property Tax Relief

After months of heated debate and negotiations, not to mention two special sessions called by Governor Greg Abbott, both houses finally agreed on a $12.7 billion property tax relief package known as Proposition 4, the largest such package in Texas’ history. The Governor signed off on that package on August 9th, officially sending it to voters for passage. In November, Texas voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 4 giving Texas property owners and business alike much need property tax relief.

Books we couldn’t put down

There is a never a lack of great books coming down the pipeline, and each year we try to read some fiction, some non-fiction, with a little bit of personal development and business / wealth-building titles. This year we found some doozies.

Your Last Birthday

Sojka returns with a dark, gritty tale filled with East Texas characters all of us can really feel like we know. He has an uncanny ability to weave intricate stories through a maze of (usually) flawed, but always likable characters that I find myself becoming emotionally attached to. Add to that the underlying theme of a ticking clock, and you get a page-turner of a story that I had a REALLY hard time putting down each night.

Be Useful

In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book, the depth of his insights into a life dedicated to service and creating a meaningful impact is striking. This book imparts a critical lesson: true success transcends personal accomplishments, emphasizing the importance of giving back and elevating those around us.

Tax Free Wealth

Tom Wheelwright’s Tax-Free Wealth offers insightful strategies for reducing taxes while building wealth. The book simplifies complex tax laws, providing practical advice for investors and business owners to maximize their wealth by making informed tax decisions. As a tax advisor to Rich Dad’s Robert Kyosaki, Tom’s advice is sought by business owners and investors the world over.

Energy Follows Thought

From his earliest work in the 1950s to today, Willie looks back at the songs that have defined his career, from his days of earning $50 each for his biggest hits, to his less well-known songs (but incredibly meaningful to him) to his concept albums. Along the way, he also shares the stories of his guitar Trigger, his family and “family,” as well as the artists he collaborated with, including Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Ray Charles, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Dolly Parton, and many others.

Do Hard Things

Steve Magness’ book redefines toughness and resilience, highlighting the drawbacks of enduring pain and its impact on long-term performance. It emphasizes embracing discomfort and mindful responses to challenges, promoting true mental strength and success. Key lesson: Embracing discomfort and mindful adversity management fosters inner strength and significant achievements.

Like movies, but for the ears

Podcasts have exploded in popularity over the last several years, and even prompted a lot of folks, just like me, to cancel Audible subscriptions in their favor. And you can listen to just about any topic you could imagine. Here are some of our favorites this year.

State of Mind

There’s something different about Texas. But how do you define it without resorting to cliches about cowboys and oilmen? From Texas Monthly, you’ll hear stories from a wide array of other Texans, each about life in the Lone Star State, from the team behind “Boomtown,” “One by Willie,” and “Tom Brown’s Body.”

The Idaho Massacre

On November 13, 2022, four students from the University of Idaho are brutally murdered in an off-campus house. After a lengthy investigation and cross-country manhunt, a Ph.D. student from a neighboring university is charged with the crimes. As it turns out, the 28-year-old was majoring in criminology, studying the behavior of killers like the ones he would later be accused of becoming.

Morning Brew Daily

The Morning Brew Daily is a daily talk show that covers the latest news on business, the economy, and everything else and features Neal Freyman and Toby Howell. Witty, informative and everything you need to start your day, the Morning Brew Daily is the perfect compliment to The Morning Brew’s Daily eNewsletter.

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

After 25 years at the Late Night desk, Conan realized that the only people at his holiday party are the men and women who work for him. Over the years and despite thousands of interviews, Conan has never made a real and lasting friendship with any of his celebrity guests. So, he started a podcast to do just that.

The Millionaire Real Estate Agent

The Millionaire Real Estate Agent Podcast with Jason Abrams documents, demonstrates, and demystifies the models and systems driving big profits and big lives for the industry’s most successful agents. Each week, Jason and his guests journey into the heart of real estate to empower listeners with strategies and inspiration they can use to reach new heights in their business.

Music you won’t find on mainstream radio

We tend to shy away from mainstream commercial music, even that which comes out of Nashville. I can’t even tell you the last time my car stereo tuned into a local station. This year’s selections all hail from the Americana category, which is what country was before it sadly became what it is.

Cat in the Rain

After lead singer Evan Felker took an ‘indefinite hiatus’ to deal with his addictions, Turnpike Troubadours rabid fans found themselves wondering if the show was over for good. Returning with their first studio album since 2017’s A Long Way from Your Heart, Cat in the Rain‘s leadoff single, Mean Old Sun, quickly put those fears to bed.


Americana’s lead-off maestro returns with his ninth album since leaving the Drive-By Truckers, somehow finding the time to record in between a grueling tour schedule, COVID-19, and backing both his wife Amanda’s Shires new album as well as The Highwomen.

Sweet Western Sound

Magic is what happens when you combine Tanya Tucker’s gravelly tone with the superstar double-punch production from Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings (yes, that Jennings family). Vintage country and western is on full display and is a welcome relief from the country pop of today’s radio.

Zach Bryan

The new self-titled album from singer-songwriter-producer Zach Bryan is an expansive yet intimate 16-track set that explores the Grammy-nominated artist’s Oklahoma roots as well as his vast and varied confluence of musical and literary influences

Twenty on High

Alabama native Drayton Farley has as honest a voice as you’re likely to hear in the burgeoning scene of country, folk, roots, and Americana music. With songs and lyrics pulled from real life experience, there’s a grounded feeling to his stories, a confessional quality that rings true to those who know. His voice fills the room like cigarette smoke, curling into every corner of you, with a fine grit rasp that smooths out every rough edge.

At the Movies or Streaming at Home

After a couple of years in which the movie industry saw streaming services skyrocket in popularity, Hollywood continued its return to theaters this year, and brought some seriously big hits with them. We can almost certainly count on the big ‘theaters vs. streaming’ release decision from here on out:


Everyone knows the story of Michael Jordan, but how Michael Jordan became Air Jordan isn’t as widely known. Boasting some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Air explores the story behind the partnership between Jordan and Nike and the creation of the sports Empire.


To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full‐on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken. Such is the plight that our heroin finds herself in and her only chance of ‘fixing’ her world is to travel to the real world.

Cocaine Bear

When a drug smuggler plunges to his death from a plane over Tennessee, the cocaine buried in his duffel bag goes missing. It’s only after a series of gruesome deaths are discovered that authorities realize that a black bear had consumed it. What follows is a grizzly (no pun intended), but hilarious (mis)adventure. The movie is LOOSELY inspired by true events.

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part I

Tom Cruise returns with his IMF team in a movie that was largely panned by critics, but we found it immensely enjoyable. The team in engaged to track down the keys to a chamber that houses a dangerous new cyber weapon that went rogue. Again, can’t we see how dangerous AI can be?!

Sound of Freedom

Sound of Freedom, after incredibly finding no support from big Hollywood producers, found its funding through crowd-sourcing. The most successful movie to ever do so. It’s the incredible true story of a former government agent turned vigilante who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue hundreds of children from human traffickers.

Remember when binging wasn’t about TV?

Breaking Bad not only had a massive following of loyal watchers… it also coined the phrase binge-watching that applies to so many more shows these days. All these new streaming services have created a new addiction for movie and television watchers. Here’s some that we loved this year:

Black Mirror

Much like The Outer Limits and Twilight Zone before it, Black Mirror is an anthology series of speculative fiction. Most episodes are set in a near-future dystopian society using themes of technology and contemporary social issues. There is no voice-over summaries as with Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, but the stories are told in a way and they don’t need them. Stream on Netflix.

Lessons in Chemistry

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry tells the story of Elizabeth Zott, a gifted research chemist played by Brie Larson in 1960s California whose career takes an unexpected turn when she becomes the unlikely star of an immensely popular TV cooking show. Stream on Apple TV+.


Mindhunter is a phycological crime thriller based the 1995 true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit and tells the story of the founding of the Behavioral Science Unit at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Quantico, VA in the 1970s. This is a must watch for true crime buffs. Stream on Netflix.

The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer was adapted for television by David E. Kelley and is based on the books by Michael Connelly. Season 2 dropped this year, and centers on the legal career of Mickey Haller, a Los Angeles attorney who works from the back of his Lincoln vehicles. Stream on Netflix.

The Diplomat

In the midst of an international crisis, Kate Wyler, a career diplomat, lands a high-profile job for which she is not suited, with tectonic implications for her marriage and her political future. Fans of The West Wing and Madam Secretary will love this show – the storyline and character development are absolutely amazing. Stream on Netflix.

What app should I download next?

The Apple App store and Google Play both maintain top app lists, but their rankings are typically determined simply by downloads.. and I don’t know about you… but I’ve got lots of apps that I rarely use. That’s why we’d like to share our list of apps that we use everyday. Perhaps you’ll find that even just one of these can become a new favorite.

AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run

Whether you hike, bike, run, or walk, AllTrails is your companion and guide to the outdoors. Find detailed reviews and inspiration from a community of like-minded trail-goers. Plan, live, and share your outdoor adventures. Custom route planning helps you search for dog-friendly, kid-friendly, stroller-friendly, or wheelchair-friendly trails, and more.

Blackmagic Camera

Blackmagic Camera is a world-class video recording app for iPhone from the makers of DaVinci Resolve, the industry standard for video editing. Best of all, it’s completely FREE. No upgrades, no in app purchases needed. If video is your bag, you NEED this app.


In all the madness that surrounded Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, Instagram spent their time creating a virtual Twitter clone called Threads. In just days, the new platform gained millions of users and continues to grow to this day. If Twitter, err… X, no longer suits your needs, Threads is a great free alternative and it’s tightly integrated with both Instagram and Facebook.


Photomator, formerly known as Pixelmator is a photo editing powerhouse, offering incredible tools for enhancing, retouching, and managing your photos. It includes an extensive collection of cutting-edge color adjustments, automatic selections powered by AI, powerful batch editing features, Clone and Repair tools for removing unwanted objects, and much more.


If you’re a real estate investor, and analyzing deals is a part of your daily routine, BallparkDeal (yes, all one word) should be part of your arsenal. It allows you to quickly analyze potential investment properties to see if they meet your requirements.

Food is life

Residents all over Katy and Fulshear have been begging for some great new dining options for years. They’re tired of fast food and huge chains restaurants and are just looking for something a little… different. This year, those wishes have been granted.

Southern Dough Baking Company

Conveniently located in Old Katy, Southern Dough Baking Company offers a delightful blend of traditional Southern cuisine and contemporary culinary innovation. Savor the daily specials or opt for a classic deli sandwich, then top it all off with fresh ice cream or homemade pie.

Twisted Egg Shack

Katy has a charming little gem for quick-serve breakfasts in the Twisted Egg Shack. The staff are not only friendly and outgoing but also impressively swift in their service. Popular favorites include the Twisted Chick Bowl and the French Toast Sticks – both are absolute must tries and go great with your choice of cocktails or coffee.


Located in the former location of Coopers Old Time Pit BBQ, Doneraki has beautifully remodeled their newest location into an absolute gem. The fajitas are perfectly tender and their margaritas pack a flavorful punch. Outdoor dining and entertainment for the kids makes this a perfect family destination.

Handels Homemade Ice Cream

Handel’s Ice Cream offers an incredible selection of unique flavors that taste delightfully homemade. Check out the sampler which allows for tasting four flavors at once. Among the standout options are Key Lime Pie, French Silk Pie, Cake Batter, and Cinnamon with Graham Crackers. Complemented by the friendly and kind staff, this ice cream shop is sure to replace the regular stops.

Maple Street Biscuit Company

Maple Street Biscuit Company offers an inviting atmosphere with exceptionally friendly staff and ample seating. Its extensive menu can made choosing a challenge though. Of specific note, you’ll want to try the biscuits and gravy – the taste and texture of which is amazing. Good portion sizes provide great value for the money, and it has the feel of an old-town diner.

A Great Escape

We know it’s holiday time, but because of lot of popular destinations require reservations, it’s never too early to get a jump start on planning your great escapes. Here are five we highly recommend.

George Bush Presidential Library

This museum and library beautifully encapsulate the multifaceted life of George H. W. Bush, from his early years to his presidency. The vast collection of memorabilia and historical artifacts reflects the many roles he played throughout his life. The experience is both educational and inspiring, offering a deeper understanding of his legacy.

Garner State Park

Garner State Park is a haven of natural beauty, offering an ideal setting for those seeking to immerse themselves in nature. It’s a perfect spot for a variety of activities including relaxing, swimming, hiking, and camping. The park is well-maintained, and the staff is consistently helpful and friendly, enhancing the overall experience.


Gruene, steeped in over a century of history, offers a vibrant snapshot of Texas culture. Spanning 15 walkable acres recognized as a National Historic District, this charming town invites visitors to shop, dine, and dance within the walls of Texas’ oldest dancehall.

Hamilton Pool Preserve

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a stunning natural oasis in the Texas Hill Country, featuring a 50-foot waterfall and emerald-green pool set amidst limestone cliffs and lush vegetation. Ideal for swimming, nature photography, and hiking, this picturesque spot offers a tranquil retreat with well-maintained facilities and helpful staff.

Lost Pines Resort

Lost Pines Resort offers a unique blend of comfort and adventure, nestled amidst the tranquil beauty of Texas pines. This resort provides luxurious accommodations, diverse dining options, and a range of activities from relaxing spa services to exciting outdoor adventures. Ideal for families and couples seeking a serene getaway with the option for fun and exploration.

Take our money, Amazon

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel like we’re on a first name basis with the Amazon delivery guy. He brings me my stuff and never complains! And this year, we came across some amazing products that we just had to share. A LOT of these are currently having pre-black-friday sales right now.

So that’s it. That’s our list for 2023. What do you think? What would you add, and why? We’ve opened up the comments section below because we want to hear from you. So let us have it! And until next year, have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Want more? Check out our previous Best-Of lists:

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