Founded in 1908 on land that was originally part of William Marsh Rice’s ranch, the city of Bellaire has always prided itself on having its own history and identity, separate from the rest of Houston. The busy stretch of Bellaire Boulevard just inside the 610 loop—the site of the Toonerville Trolley streetcar line until 1927—boasts a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants and community-oriented spaces.
4400 Bellaire Blvd., evelynspark.org
After Teas Nursery closed in 2009, local philanthropists bought its five-acre plot and donated it to the city of Bellaire as park space. Envisioned as a smaller version of downtown’s Discovery Green for Bellaire, the space will feature an on-site restaurant, great lawn, walking trails, butterfly garden, fountains and a bronze sculpture inspired by the tea party scene in Alice in Wonderland, plus a full calendar of events such as free yoga, concerts and movie screenings. The park is scheduled to open this summer.
4048 Bellaire Blvd., 713-665-3336, frenchcuffco.com
The local boutique around the corner is still an appealing option, as owner Kairy-Tate Barkley found when she opened her shop’s original storefront in Bellaire in 2008. Two more locations—in Tanglewood and Town & Country—have followed, with each staying true to its neighborhood’s hyper-local taste, stocking trendy yet timeless clothes and accessories and hosting regular trunk shows.
I W Marks
3841 Bellaire Blvd., 713-668-5000, iwmarks.com
Though still in the same location, this jeweler has grown from 500 square feet in 1978 to over 12,000 today. I W Marks stands out for both its fine jewelry and its watch selection—in 2012, second-generation president Bradley Marks debuted a 3,000-square-foot dedicated watch boutique featuring timepieces by Rolex, Omega, Philip Stein, Tudor and Michele. There’s also a dedicated watchmaker on-site.
4227 Bellaire Blvd., 832-649-4964, iburn.com
Look closely at the colorful mural in front of iBurn, and you’ll notice the trippy pattern is full of chile peppers. This shop stocks every spicy food under the sun, from barbecue sauces and salsas to chili mixes, pickles and chips with a kick. If you want to be like Beyoncé and keep hot sauce in your bag, this is the place to find it.
Kids Robotic Academy
4007 Bellaire Blvd. Ste. KK, 713-454-7004. kidsroboticacademy.com
Forget erector sets—today’s tots are all about robotics. This academy aims to encourage a love of math and science through hands-on experience solving problems with technology. Programs are geared toward whiz kids ages 2 to teen, who discover motors, gears, computer programming and advanced robotics through classes, parties, camps and competitions.
4201 Bellaire Blvd., 713-667-0983. moellersbakery.wix.com
Houston’s oldest family-owned bakery has occupied its spot on Bellaire since 1990, but it’s been open since 1930, with former locations in Midtown and Rice Village. From the beginning, it’s specialized in cakes, with the bakery using the same porcelain-and-brick oven since 1942. Particularly beloved are the petit fours—Moeller’s can sell upward of 200 dozen in a day.
3801 Bellaire Blvd., 713-432-1626. molinascantina.com
Opened in 2011, this is the newest location of Houston’s oldest extant Tex-Mex restaurant concept, owned and operated by three generations of the Molina family. The Mexico City Plate has remained virtually unchanged since 1941, and classics such as William’s Special and Jose’s Dip are named for regulars (although longtime fan George H.W. Bush has yet to earn his own namesake dish).
4191 Bellaire Blvd., 713-667-6554. palacelaneshouston.com
There’s been something of a bowling alley renaissance lately, with high-end lanes like Bowlmor and Lucky Strike turning a night out on the pins into something downright fancy. That has nothing to do with this old-school spot. While the thick layer of smoke and the space-themed carpet are no more, the place is otherwise unchanged, offering pure, no-frills bowling, best accompanied by a bucket of cheap beer and a burger from the grill.
Papa Ben’s Train Place
4007-e Bellaire Blvd., 713-523-5600, papabens.com
This is the only store in Houston that caters solely to model-train enthusiasts. Peruse the countless train sets for adults and kids—including new and classic models, often sold on consignment—on a Saturday, and you’ll get to witness a locomotive in action, running on the track around the shop. The place also serves as home base for Houston’s N’Crowd Model Railroad Society.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and School
3816 Bellaire Blvd., stmarks-houston.org
St. Mark’s church held its first services in a neighborhood theater in 1939, with the church itself constructed two years later to minister to residents of growing West University Place and Bellaire. A pre-school established in 1959 grew into the Episcopal School, which today goes through eighth grade. In 2012, the parish renovated the original church sanctuary in advance of its 75th anniversary.