“It was absolutely incredible and surreal to see the pages and characters from my book coming to life,” says author Kevin Kwan, whose 2013 summer read Crazy Rich Asians is being turned into a film starring Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong, and Henry Golding. “I still think I’m in shock, and I won’t believe it until I’m walking on a red carpet at the premiere.”
The book, the first in a trilogy that includes China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, garnered rave reviews and appeared on national bestseller lists. “I was inspired by my childhood, and also my frequent trips back to Asia over the years,” says the author. “I would tell my friends all the outrageous stories of what happened on my trips, and they always urged me to put it down on paper.”
Kwan was born and raised in in Singapore, then moved to the United States at age 11. “Everything was an adjustment,” says the author, who later attended the University of Houston before moving to Manhattan, where he currently resides. “I had to learn how to mow a lawn, I had to figure out what MTV was, and I had to change the way I spoke, because my proper English accent would have gotten me shoved into a locker in no time.”
Here, Kwan—who spent time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and on the sybaritic island of Langkawi during the filming of Crazy Rich Asians—revisits his hometown of Houston to share some insight into the best the city has to offer. “It’s a city that’s really come into its own with so many incredible things to do, see and eat,” says Kwan of the Texas metropolis. “I love the art scene, I love the shopping, and I especially love all the amazingly authentic Asian food in Bellaire. I’m sorry New York, but Houston beats New York any day when it comes to the Asian food scene.”
Cup of Joe: Brasil. I’ve been coming here since my college days; it was the place to hang out and get fueled up on coffee before heading out for a night of clubbing.
Power Lunch: Backstreet Café, set in an old house, has long been my go-to place whenever I’m back in town and I love their crab cakes.
Cocktail Hour: A legendary watering hole long favored by local cognescenti, Marfreless is well hidden behind a signless door and has a cool speakeasy vibe. It’s a great place to order a classic cocktail like a Tom Collins.
Retail Therapy: Krispen is a decadent treasure trove filled with the most beautiful home accessories from around the world, and I always find the best gifts there.
Field Trip: The Menil Collection is one of the top museums in the world, and catching a quiet meditative moment in the Rothko Chapel –a sublime space designed by Mark Rothko—is one of the my favorite things to do.
Date Night: The Black Labrador is a quaint and romantic British pub; my favorite dish there is actually a dessert—their Scottish Apple Pie with a brandy cream sauce, served a la mode.
Don’t Miss: The Beer Can House’s façade was lovingly covered in more than 50,000 beer cans and bottles by its owner John Milksovisch over two decades, and there’s nothing like it anywhere else on the planet.
Hidden Gem: Take a stroll down North and South Boulevards in the Museum District of Houston. The amazing archways of live oak trees make it one of the most uniquely beautiful streets in America.