Dec. 16, 2010
Check back on fightingillini.com for more insider perspectives from notable former Illini leading up to the Texas Bowl.
Despite a constantly jam-packed medical school schedule, former Illini swimmer Marissa Clapp has made sure to make the most of her time in Houston thus far. In the midst of her second year of med school at the Baylor College of Medicine, the Danville, Ill., native has embraced the local lifestyle and the unique entities nearly impossible to find in the Midwest.
"The medical center is amazing," Clapp said. "To see such a large concentration of hospitals and research in one confined place is without comparison. Not to mention that some of the facilities such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center has the appearance of a palace rather than a hospital. Within the largest medical center in the world are the two top ranking medical schools, Baylor College of Medicine and University of Texas-Houston."
Outside of her life as a med student, Clapp enjoys seeing what the local shops have to offer, in addition to the many, many restaurants comprising the Houston area.
"Cavender's Boot City is a must visit while in Houston, especially if you're looking to buy something memorable," Clapp said. "It carries unique Southern-style clothing, cowboy boots and hats and other fun Texas apparel. It is not strange to see someone wearing their cowboy hat to the mall or grocery store."
Clapp, who lives right across from Reliant Stadium, the site of this year's Texas Bowl, noted nearby barbeque joints Goode's Armadillo Palace and Pappas Bar-B-Q as excellent choices for fans venturing to Houston. For the best sauce in town, Clapp recommended Rudy's Country Store & BBQ, which is about 20 minutes west of the stadium.
Goode's Armadillo Palace, which has been voted "Best Hamburger in Houston" by the Houston Press the last two years, features live music Thursday-Saturday, a great outdoor patio and according to Clapp, provides a great spot for a picture in front of the giant armadillo outside.
Additionally, Clapp cited Pappas Bros. Steakhouse as having "the best Texan steak money can buy," while on Westheimer Road, Clapp said Chuy's serves the best margaritas and is the best place in Houston for Mexican food and RA is the best option for sushi.
"My close friend's husband just opened a new restaurant/ tequila bar on Washington Street called TQLA Houston," Clapp said. "They serve wonderful food, have great happy hour deals, and are open late. Washington is the new hot spot in Houston for young adults and has several clubs for dancing."
For fans looking to bust a move, Clapp recommended Wild West, which she said has hands down the best dance hall around and free dance lessons on Sunday nights, along with karaoke.
Houston also has much to offer for families, with NASA and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, while young people can enjoy all that Midtown, Rice Village and Washington have to offer for nightlife.
As a member of the Illinois swimming and diving team from 2006-09, Clapp found much success inside and outside the pool. The two-time team Athlete of the Year currently holds three school records in the 200 breaststroke (2:12.95), 200 individual medley (2:00.03) and 400 individual medley (4:13.85) and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
Additionally, Clapp was the recipient of the prestigious Bronze Tablet University Honor for concluding her academic career at Illinois with a 3.89 cumulative grade point average in kinesiology. To be eligible, students must have a 3.5 minimum GPA through the academic term prior to graduation and rank in the top three percent of student in their college's graduating class.
Clapp is currently pursuing a master's degree in physician assistance at the Baylor College of Medicine.