So You Just Moved to Houston
First thing to remember, whether you’re from somewhere else or not, Houston is Houston. It isn’t New York or Chicago, not Seattle, neither Miami nor San Francisco. It’s Houston and it’s important to know that.
Houston started without zoning laws, which catapulted inner ‘islands’ of the city that are home to some of the coolest motleys of food, music, people and things to do but let’s first acclimate you with a map of Houston. As you can see in the graphic below, Houston’s highways and roads are built a lot like a spider web. There are two loops that surround the city, the inner loop, 610 and the outer loop, Beltway 8. From the heart of downtown Houston, highways spider off in just about every direction and intersect with these two loops to easily get you to where you need to go. Naturally, with any city, the further from downtown you get, the closer you are to Burbland. And the more you drive during peak traffic hours, the more you will grow to hate Houston. This brings us to our first popular question.
I Hear the Traffic Sucks.
It does. Royally. It makes anyone wonder what it might be like to rip the wheel into oncoming traffic and end the misery. It also makes you glance at your phone to find the closest happy hour, sports bar or dinner spot. Then, once you’ve been here long enough, it becomes the enabler to your consideration to living in an area close to work yet easily accessible to the social life you deserve. The ridiculously shitty traffic is what we think will take Houston to its knees to become a walking city. And that’s when Houston starts to get really fun because those “islands” we talk about, have become walking islands in themselves. Back to that map again, you see some specific highlighted areas.
The ones we focus on today are where most of the Millennials live, inside the inner loop of 610; Downtown, Midtown, Montrose, Houston Heights, Rice Military, Upper Kirby and River Oaks [rich folk].
Tell Us More About These “Islands” of Houston
From what we’ve seen, Downtown Houston has had an interesting lifespan. The nightlife has gone from being as “hood” as it gets to a ghost town. Now it is known for its prohibition styled vibe of signature cocktails and trendy music within the walls of some of the oldest buildings in Houston. As with anywhere in this city, the food is varied to include Asian, American, BBQ, Italian, Mexican (duh!) and naturally, plenty of steakhouses. You are, after all, in Texas. The main strip of bars that most Millennials frequent reside on a street named as such, Main Street. The Berringer, Dean’s, The Nightingale, Bad News Bar and La Carafe (the oldest bar in Houston) are a handful of gems that Downtown keeps to itself. Opening in days, Bovine and Barley will be a new staple to Downtown. You’ve also got the Toyota Center where our super sonic Rockets play and Minute Maid where our beloved Astros play ball.
Beautifully enough, a 5-minute cab ride or a short railcar tour can take you to a very different part of Houston, Midtown.
Midtown’s nightlife is definitely a younger and more reckless feel when compared to a night out Downtown but is the known area that everyone goes out, especially when you first move here and are trying to get acclimated. Bars with lines that wrap around the block, and shoulder-to-shoulder interactions are how you’ll generally wait for drinks at the bar, especially if it’s after 11p. Everything fans out from the staple of Midtown, Pub Fiction. On the same block and just next door to Pub Fiction (locally referred to as “Pub”) is Third Floor, a huge bar known for it’s endless rows of craft brews. There is no real dance floor, but a great place to begin the night with snacks and table talk. Around the corner from Third Floor is Celtic, a well-known patio bar in Midtown, known for her packed Sunday Brunches that are complete with DJ’s and water misters to keep you cool.
You can take a 400-yard walk to a second cluster of bars for much of the same kinds of experiences. Gas Lamp is a three story “club” more or less, with different concepts on each floor. Don’t get fooled into paying your way to the top floor. They serve shots out of Dixie Cups and drinks out of plastic cups. You stand around on fake green carpet for “grass” staring at each other as you all think the same thing, lame. But it does have a cool skyline view and a cool rooftop experience until the sweltering heat hits. The second floor is the best in terms of experiences. All indoors, a good sized dance floor and multiple bars so you don’t have to pile up too deep at one bar to wait out the pushes and shoves for that overpriced drink. Pub, Celtic, Third Floor, and Shot Bar are all owned by the same crew and they put on some of the most incredible holiday block parties in the city. If you’re not feeling that vibe, set out for Montrose.
Montrose is home to Houston’s gay pride and many, amazing people and restaurants. Antique shops, bars with incredible personality and food are tucked into the history of this part of town. A very eclectic, yet super cultured crowd of shopping, snacking, drinking and people, this area is. Common Bond, a great brunch spot, The Hay Merchant, Pistoleros and Stone’s Throw are some beautifully decorated spots to have a drink or eat. The Hay Merchant is a guy’s guy kind of place. Pistolero’s has it’s own latin style vibe and Stone’s Throw is definitely a vintage, dapper kind of place.
We’ll get back to this one. For most, it’s a place that you drive through to dream about what you’ll have when you grow up one day. It is great to note though that it is close to one of the main running spots in Houston, Memorial Park and the 3 Mile Loop.
Upper Kirby is, as many would call it, a more “ritzy” area of town, with much high-end opportunity for shopping and dining. Sitting closely to River Oaks, something must have rubbed off over there. There are a few bars in this area, and another good cluster a few short blocks off from Kirby itself is Corner Table. Within the same maze of a building, you have the Mixology Room and the Oak Room. Be sure to stop by Marquis II if you’re over there. It’s an iconic bar for their Long Islands, fact you might want to take an Uber.
Rice Military, in terms of food and booze could be summed up as “Washington Street”. There are some places that have stood the test of time but overall, this strip of the city goes through slumps of popularity with the millennial crowd. One place that never seems to waiver is Canyon Creek, which can be found at the very end of Washington, close to where Westcott Street meets. That bar is great for almost any occasion, a good meal, great people and an enormous patio.
The Heights of Houston has a Montrose-ish influence with a neighborhood feel. Small business oriented, this place goes hard. A ton of hidden gems, too valuable to say out loud. Our best advice for getting to know the Heights is to get out and explore West 19th Street. Start at Yale and West 19th and just stroll (unless it’s summer, then cruise). ManReady Mercantile is a place that warrants a fist pump as you’re driving by. It’s just that cool. They offer you a gentleman’s drink as you walk around to peruse the vintage style products. There is also a barber who knows his shit downstairs hacking away to show the dapper side of men.
Our biggest encouragement to someone new to Houston is to explore. Don’t be afraid to step into a place you never thought you would. And stay tuned to this article, we will be refining it and adding to it as discussions come up and places of purpose stand out.