A Guide to the Best of Houston’s Northside Neighborhood
When people extol Houston as a food capital of the world, Northside’s Sunny Flea Market needs to be mentioned in the conversation. Embodying the expansive neighborhood's rich Latin culture, particularly with food, at the Sunny Flea Market you can get tacos de seso, huaraches de barbacoa, machetes de carnitas, micheladas with camarón, Mexico City-style hot dogs, bags of mangos, papaya, or yucca with lime and salt, chicharrón or edamame with Valentina, aguas frescas, licuados, cantaritos, and salchipapas. All within a short stroll from each other.
In addition to its strong culinary presence, Northside is also a go to area for indie art events, breweries, and music and theater shows. One can experience Northside’s downright “indieness” through zine festivals, art exhibitions at Hardy & Nance Studios, happy hours at Saint Arnold’s, and music venues that feature the likes of Chicano Batman, Mitski, and Blood Orange. During a performance at a warehouse in the area, we once witnessed a drag queen lip-sync in Spanish while controlling a giant puppet, which feels quintessentially Northside. Despite the fact that there are currently no endowed art institutions in the area, there’s no denying that Northside’s art scene is bustling. Now you know where to find it all.
The Best of Northside
Drink Like a Local
You’d be forgiven for missing the entrance to this buzzy Northside cocktail bar since its graffiti-sprayed doors have been made to look like an extension of the tire shop next door. Once inside, however, you’re in for quite a show as its low key, dive bar exterior gives way to a bright and colorful interior that is the perfect setting to enjoy the bar’s creative craft cocktails—all featuring house-made syrups, premium spirits, and freshly squeezed juices.
As Texas’s oldest craft brewery, Saint Arnold Brewery has established itself as one of the state’s premier craft beer producers. Its digs in Northside aren’t that bad either. The facility includes a 25,000-square-foot beer garden and restaurant as well as an indoor beer hall and tasting room—making it the perfect space to stretch out while enjoying your brewskies.
As Houston’s only raccoon-themed cocktail bar (there can only be one), Trash Panda Drinking Club holds a special place in the hearts of many Houstonians. The eclectic bar, decorated with paintings and murals that pay homage to its nocturnal namesake, features stellar cocktail and food programs that will have you wanting to stay and sit a while during your visit. Our choice as the most prime seat in the house? Well that would, of course, be right beneath the wall-mounted neon sign that reads, “Death is coming soon, eat trash, be free”—a mantra that perhaps perfectly encapsulates the vibe of 2023.
Eat Like a Local
This authentic Mexican panaderia was founded in 1994 and now has six locations in the Houston area. It’s a great spot to pick up conchas, empanadas, cookies, churros, and other sweet treats. The bakery’s tamales and tortillas are also pretty killer.
On the hunt for some of the best gorditas in Houston? Gorditas Aguascalientes has you covered. The authentic Mexican restaurant has eleven different gordita toppings, offering everything from carne de puerco to chicharrón and nopales. The restaurant also cooks up some really great sopes, huaraches, and tacos.
Known for its modern interpretation of Thai dishes, Asia Market Thai Restaurant has been dishing out killer Thai food from its Northside digs for years now. Must-tries at the restaurant include the tom kha soup, the pad kee mao noodles, and the panang curry.
Shop Like a Local
This farmers market is the oldest and also the largest in the city. The 18-acre market, established in 1942, is a great spot to pick up fresh produce, herbs, spices, plants, eggs, freshly butchered meat from R-C Ranch Butcher Shop, and homegoods. It’s also home to multiple restaurants, including Underbelly Burger and Wild Oats—meaning you can spend an entire day there if you so choose.
If you’re a fan of visiting flea markets, you can’t do better than Sunny Flea Market. The 35-acre market offers shoppers an endless array of delights. If you’re looking for pretty much anything, chances are you’ll be able to find someone selling it at the market—from copper pots to designer clothing to handmade cowboy boots and electronics. There are also great food and beverage options here, which you’ll need to take advantage of if you want to have enough energy to wander around this endless bazaar.
Hang Out Like a Local
If you’re looking for authentic and low-cost Mexican cuisine and pastries, this spot is for you. The iconic local bakery and cafe has everything from tacos and enchiladas to Mexican sweet breads and empanadas.
If you can’t decide whether you want to satisfy your sweet tooth or go for something savory, you can satisfy both at the same time at Donut Delight 2. The Northside bakery offers pastry fans an endless array of donut options as well as kolaches, breakfast croissants, burritos, and sandwiches.
For Outdoor Enthusiasts
This Northside park, open since 1925, has quite the history. Home of the infamous Moody Park riots in 1978, the park is decidedly calmer and more serene these days. One of the best greenspaces in the neighborhood—includes a basketball pavilion, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and playground areas.
Leonel Castillo Community Center
This community center provides valuable services to local families in need and offers intergenerational programs, youth enrichment programs, and fitness programs. In need of a cake decorating class or want to learn how to sew? Leonel Castillo Community Center has you covered.
For Art Lovers
Luis Jimenez's “El Vaquero” at Moody Park
“El Vaquero,” by artist Luis Jimenez, is one of the more iconic works of art in the city. Installed at the park in 1980, Jimenez said he conceived of Vaquero as both a parody of traditional equestrian statues and a commentary on the discounted influence of Mexican cowboys in the American West.
Gonzo247’s mural at Saint Arnold Brewing Company
This massive, 14-foot-by-48-foot mural at Saint Arnold Brewing Company is a total marvel. The mural depicts the brewery’s famous patron saint amidst a backdrop of Gonzo247’s graffiti embellishments.
For Date Night
Is there a better place to watch music in Houston than White Oak Music Hall? We sure don’t think so. The 8,000-square-foot live music venue regularly hosts top touring bands like The Lumineers and the Flaming Lips, as well as a bevy of local acts, making it a great option for date night.
Located on the border of Northside, this gallery and studio space boasts 15,000 square feet dedicated entirely to the visual and performing arts. The studio also hosts regular weekend markets, a perfect setting for a creative date that includes some artist-made retail therapy.
La Florecita Michoacana Paleteria Y Neveria
If you’re on the hunt for something that will satisfy your sweet tooth, you can’t do better than this Northside staple. The shop has everything from paletas to ice cream, mangonadas, and cups of elote.
This market features great Mexican food, shopping, live music, and pony rides for the kiddos—making it a treat for the entire family.
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