A Guide to the Best of Houston’s Third Ward Neighborhood

Home to world-class universities, art galleries, family-run bakeries, and Black-owned bookstores, Houston’s Third Ward is one of the city’s cultural bedrocks.

By Phoebe Gibson Edited by Daniel Renfrow February 16, 2023

Art and community collide at Project Row Houses, a collective in Third Ward dedicated to storytelling, community enrichment, and neighborhood development.

Houston’s Third Ward remains one of the city’s cultural bedrocks (and not just because Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion have ties there). In Third Ward, visitors will find a microcosm of the city as spirited entrepreneurs and passionate artisans work their crafts, immersing the neighborhood in sights, sounds, and flavors that hearken back to Houston’s early Black history.

Third Ward was established shortly after Houston’s founding in 1836, making it one of the city’s original four wards. From the beginning, the neighborhood was a stronghold for the Black community, many of whom were newly emancipated from enslavement. In fact, Emancipation Park, Third Ward’s historical and cultural center, was founded on 10 acres of land purchased in 1872 by a group of people who were formerly enslaved, including the storied Rev. Jack Yates. Momentum for social progress and creativity also found their roots there, from Houston’s blues movement to the civil rights era. 

Third Ward’s mix of higher education (Texas Southern University and the University of Houston), landmark churches like Wesley A.M.E. and Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, and locally-owned storefronts all contribute to the neighborhood’s close knit and diverse community fabric. Third Ward’s home-grown chefs, local musicians, artists, and educators, all have a story to tell. Whether taking in an exhibit at Project Row Houses, feasting on a hearty meal at Ray’s or Frenchy’s, or browsing the shelves at Kindred Stories, there’s an essential piece of the city—of our collective story—to be experienced in Third Ward. 

Today the Tre, as locals call it, is a neighborhood grappling with how to hold onto its vibrant history amidst the dual forces of revitalization and gentrification. It’s a pocket of Houston worth experiencing and exploring, not just for what it was or could become, but exactly for what it is right now.

The Best of Third Ward


Project Row Houses is an essential starting point for exploring the narratives that fashioned, and continue to shape, Houston’s Third Ward.

Drink Like a Local


The Savoy

This Emancipation Avenue bar and grill is your Third Ward go-to for ambience, drinks, and eats, including a weekend brunch boasting dishes like chicken and red velvet waffle and lobster and grits.

The Spot

Established in 2006, The Spot is a neighborhood hub for hand-crafted cocktails, lively music, and dancing the night away. Think cozy dive bar where the bartenders know the regulars by name. 


When isn't a good time to hit up DBar? Known for its live music—oldies but goodies, fans say—there's surf and turf Mondays, Tuesday steak night, karaoke Wednesdays, Thursday late night happy hour, and ladies' night on Friday, to name a few. 

Grooves of Houston

 This Third Ward night club is a hot spot for hookah, Free Fridays (no cover charge with an RSVP), and Saturday brunch.

Eat Like a Local


Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack

Established in 1984, this quintessential Third Ward eatery is known for their smoked meats, fried fish, deep-fried corn on the cob, and peach cobbler. 

Houston This Is It Soul Food

With roots in Freedmen's Town, the earliest iterations of Houston This Is It Soul Food once served homecooked classics to jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway. Now chef-owner Craig Joseph is carrying on his family's legacy with comfort foods like oxtails and chitterlings.

Frenchy’s Chicken

Beyoncé basically put Frenchy's Chicken on the map (at least for non-locals), and this neighborhood staple's dependable, delectable Creole classics are why we keep coming back.

Cream Burger

Established in 1961, Cream Burger is Third Ward's mainstay for burgers, fries, and a milkshake. Heads up: This no-frills establishment is cash only.

green seed vegan

For more than 10 years, green seed vegan has been a bastion for vegan and raw eats like sweet potato dill fries, fresh-pressed paninis, and a variety of juices, smoothies, and elixirs.   

Shop Like a Local

If you're in need of a good book, you're sure to find one at Kindred Stories.

Kindred Stories

Cozy bookstore vibes meet artful, inclusive curation at Kindred Stories, a Black-owned bookstore that also hosts youth and adult book clubs, author talks, and other community events.

The Pop Up Collective

Black-owned artists, creators, and business owners are on full display at The Pop Up Collective, a boutique-style shopping experience showcasing local goods from local people.

Exchange To Change 

Escape the department store monotony and step into Exchange To Change, a thrift store focused on individuality, expression, and giving back to the community.

Hang Out Like a Local


Doshi House

This atmospheric coffee shop is the perfect spot for meet-ups, remote work, studying, and enjoying vegan eats and drinks. And you don't have to be a vegan to relish the flavors; even the vegan Korean BBQ taco is known to convert skeptics.

Crumbville, TX

Ella Russell's Crumbville, TX is a cookie, cake, and dessert haven. Take, for example, the neon pink Cookie Minaj or the Mayniac Munch, a moist mash up of red velvet, chocolate chip pecan cookie dough, and Oreos all rolled into one. 

Ms. Myrtle’s Bakery Shoppe

Recipes and techniques passed down from generations of the Jackson family are what set this Southern style bakery apart. You'll taste that heritage through favorites like Ms. Myrtle's sweet potato pie or Ms. Delia's tea cakes, a recipe from a great-great grandmother.

The Nook Cafe and Bar

The Nook Cafe and Bar is more than a spot for caffeine and productivity near the University of Houston, though there's plenty of that too. The hub's late hours, board games, community events, plus a new upstairs bar and rooftop patio, have transformed it into a hangout for all. 

Boba Chick

Get your boba fix at Boba Chick, a casual spot for a variety of customizable milk teas, plus Taiwanese popcorn chicken and chicken tenders. What's not to love?

For Outdoor Enthusiasts


Emancipation Park 

To get a sense of the history, community, and story of Third Ward, spend time at Emancipation Park, the first public park in Houston. We highly recommend the virtual and audio tour to make the most of your outing.

MacGregor Park

MacGregor Park sits along Brays Bayou, an 83-acre urban green space outfitted with tennis courts, basketball courts, disc golf, and a hike-and-bike trail.

Brays Bayou Greenway

Third Ward's proximity to Brays Bayou Greenway connects the neighborhood to more than 30-miles of hike-and-bike trails and greenspaces, including access from MacGregor Park to Hermann Park to the west and East End's Mason Park. 

Blodgett Urban Gardens 

Imagine a green garden oasis near Texas Southern University in the heart of Third Ward; that's basically Blodgett Urban Gardens, a community garden devoted to sustainable gardening, healthy eating, and community education.

For Art Lovers


Project Row Houses

Art and community collide at Project Row Houses, a collective dedicated to storytelling, community enrichment, and neighborhood development. 

The Orange Show

An eclectic mash up of visual and folk art, The Orange Show is best experienced by way of scavenger hunt. 

Blaffer Art Museum

Looking for a free contemporary art museum that engages international artists? Look no further than the University of Houston's Blaffer Art Museum. 

Smither Park

More than 300 artists have contributed to the mosaic menagerie found at this one-of-a-kind "folk-art inspired green space." 

Ennis Street Murals 

Drop by the corner of Elgin and Ennis Streets for some iconic Third Ward street art, including everything from art for art's sake and fun photo-ops to the symbolic and stirring, like artist Zack Murray’s famous mural of George Floyd. 

For Date Night


Club 3710

If it's a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night in Third Ward, you need to be at Club 3710 to experience the gravitational pull of live jazz, hip-hop, and rhythm and blues for yourself. 

Marlos Bar & Lounge

This intimate space at the edge of Third Ward is perfect for a cozy date night filled with live music, dancing, and good drinks. 

Cullen Performance Hall

At the heart of the University of Houston is the Cullen Performance Hall, a cozy venue for everything from public lectures and symphony orchestra to comedy shows and concerts.

Moores Opera Center

For award-winning productions in a space reminiscent of European opera houses, the University of Houston's Moores Opera Center is a must. Engage in the grand world of opera, or sit back and enjoy the variety of musical programming offered at Moores Opera Center.

Hidden Gems


University Museum at Texas Southern University

A museum that's an authority on art from the African diaspora, and at no cost? Meet the University Museum at Texas Southern University, a hidden gem of art from greats like John Thomas Biggers.

The Gite Gallery

Tucked away in a 1943 two-story brick home is The Gite Gallery, a commercial art gallery centered on sub-Saharan African art. Here, you'll find everything from original paintings and sculptures to artifacts and textiles.

Current and Upcoming Neighborhoods

East End | Midtown | Downtown | Montrose | Third Ward | North Side | Asiatown | Rice Village | Museum District | The Heights

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