JUSTIN AND KATE ON H-TOWN

Kate Upton and Justin Verlander disclose their 5 favorite Houston haunts

Photo by Daniel Ortiz

This article originally appeared on CultureMap and was written by Holly Beretto.

Houston once again is in the national media spotlight. This time, it's courtesy of Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and his ultra-glam, supermodel wife, Kate Upton, who dish to the New York Timeson their five places to visit in the Bayou City. While neither was born in Texas, they got here as quickly as they could, as the saying goes, and they say they've become immersed in the energy of their new hometown.

With the addition of their baby, Genevieve, and Verlander inking a deal with the Astros to stick around until 2021, Upton and Verlander definitely consider themselves Houstonians. Having the dynamic duo sing the city's praises should increase that intense local pride and serve as a reminder to all that Houston is totally celeb-worthy.

So, where do Verlander and Upton like to hang out? Here's some of what they share with the Times.

Downtown

No surprise that Minute Maid Park made the couple's list of favorite places in Houston. It is, after all, a home away from home for them. Verlander touted the enthusiasm of them fans when the team won the 2017 World Series. "Feeling that atmosphere in the ballpark was amazing," he says. Meanwhile, Upton talked about how she and Verlander's brother have a superstition they follow. "We eat popcorn to get hits."

EaDo

Kate Upton — who needs no introduction as she's often called one of the world's most beautiful women — does a serious name drop of her own when she shares her love of Nancy's Hustle (which won Restaurant of the Year at this year's Tastemaker Awards). "My friend Stella McCartney introduced me to it and it is the best burger I have ever had," she tells the Times. "They use an English muffin instead of a bun and it really just enhances the flavors."

There was a bit of bickering between the couple when Upton told Verlander, a self-professed burger lover, about the dish. When she insisted they stop in after a game, though, his skepticism vanished. "..[It] really is to die for," he said. Upton clarifies. "[He] said the burger was in the top three [that he'd eaten]." Verlander, clearly sold, does have one significant question: "But does it count as a burger if it's on an English muffin?"

Montrose

Who doesn't like meandering around Montrose, with its funky shops and headlining bars and restaurants? Those who do this routinely might run into the power couple, who told the Times they love the trendy neighborhood. Upton gave shout-outs to home good store Biscuit, Texas honkytonk Goodnight Charlie's, and the Chris Shepherd-led UB Preserve. Verlander offered a pro tip: "[G]oing on a Monday is sometimes better because it's not as crowded."

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about their favorite spot in River Oaks.




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Willson Contreras could give the Astros some extra pop in the lineup. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

“The Hot Stove League” is the nickname given to Major League Baseball's offseason. In particular, the free agent signing period in late November/early December. Trades are also made during this period. Now that Astros' owner Jim Crane has ousted all opposition to his idea of how things should be run, he's free to do things the way he sees fit.

He opened it by not hiring a general manager to replace James Click. Instead, he opted for a committee of assistant GMs. Those guys are assisted by some special advisors, like former Astros great Jeff Bagwell. Crane likes and wants to take a big swing at things. He'd probably hit about .250 with 30-plus home runs every season. Can't leave out his guaranteed 80-100 strikeouts. Typical power hitter. It's all or nothing, except Crane has been making great contact and knocking some things out of the park.

Signing Jose Abreu was an example. Yuli Gurriel looked as if he was losing the battle with “Father Time” during the regular season. This was an insurance policy at first, and designated hitter. Another prime example is their reported interest in C/DH/LF Willson Contreras. His bat would be a major upgrade over past Astro catchers. Although Martin Maldonado may not be going anywhere, having a quality bat to relieve him is key. Add the fact that he plays some outfield, and he's almost a “two birds with one stone” type of signing.

Abreu may be 35 years old, but he's coming off a year hitting .304 with 15 home runs. Contreras may be the younger of the two at 30, but his .243 average hurts the fact that he hit 22 home runs. Both sport an OPS above .800 for their careers. Bagwell said he wants Yordan Alvarez to play left field 45% of the time. The other 55% can be Contreras, Chas McCormick (assuming Jake Meyers is still in the mix for center field), and whoever else they sign or bring up from Sugar Land. When Contreras isn't in left, he needs to be behind the plate or hitting DH. I'd really love the idea of him sitting under Maldonado's learning tree for a year and taking over catcher long-term. Not many can be the catcher "Machete" is, but hitting 50 points better than him has its advantages.

Then there's the reported interest other teams have in Justin Verlander. Supposedly, the Mets have met with him via Zoom. The Dodgers are interested and are seemingly the leaders in the clubhouse to sign him. However, I wouldn't count Crane and crew out. He may come to JV last minute and offer him something comparable in order to keep him around. He strikes me as the type of guy who'll keep his plays close to the vest, then make a Godfather type of offer. He negotiated Verlander's last deal with the team himself. Coming off a World Series win, Cy Young win, and opting out of said deal, Verlander is most likely looking to get one final payday that'll also land him on a contender.

Having a winner is one thing. Having a winner committed to winning long-term is another. Crane wants to strike while the iron is hot. Sure, he wants his franchise to be sustainable. But he also wants to keep the World Series window open as long as possible. Kyle Tucker's next deal will be one to watch. Having an embarrassment of riches on the pitching staff means you have trade bait. Keep an eye on old Jimmy Crane. I think he might be the best thing to hit Houston sports in quite some time.

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