A Guide to the Best of Houston’s Greater Heights Neighborhood
Today the Heights is known as a bustling hot spot for nightlife. But few people probably remember that it was a “dry zone” from 1912 until that policy was repealed as recently as 2017. Originally founded in 1886 by Nebraskan Oscar Martin Carter as a utopian planned community, the Heights has also become one of Houston’s toniest neighborhoods. An array of truly picturesque (and expensive) historic houses provide the Heights with a level of charm that sets it apart from many other neighborhoods. But there is much more to the Heights than its charming and expensive real estate.
In fact, one doesn’t have to be able to afford to live in the Heights to enjoy its splendors. Its many unique clothing boutiques, coffee shops, specialty stores, breweries, and idiosyncratic bars make it an eclectic gathering area for visitors who probably couldn’t find these offerings all in one spot anywhere else in the city.
There’s a chill vibe that beckons entrepreneurial uniqueness and singular experiences in the Heights. Good Dog Houston, a gourmet hot dog restaurant, exists in the Heights but might be out of place in a neighborhood like Montrose (Its former Montrose location is now home to a wine bar.); Wild, a coffee shop, bar, and dispensary, flourished in the Heights before venturing into Montrose.
So if you find yourself in the Heights with some time to spare, start your day with a cold brew coffee and donut infused with CBD and/or Delta-8. Then shop for windbreakers and action figures from the ’90s at its many vintage stores and antique shops. Drink craft beer and eat hot chicken sandwiches for lunch. Take a walk along a bayou, smoke Honduran cigars, and sip a spicy cocktail to wash it all down—all while marveling at the pleasant black sheep quality that the Heights has in relation to all other Houston neighborhoods.
Best of The Heights
Drink Like a Local
Tikila’s retains the ice house feel with three patios, including palapas with swings, picnic tables, and turf. Order a tasty frozen margaritas or mojito, and since it’s called Tikila’s (tiki and tequila), look for skulls, tiki idol woodcarvings, and other kitschy, feel-good items. Kids are allowed until 7 p.m. daily, and dogs can come out and play on two of the three patios.
As one of Houstonia’s 50 hottest bars, Lei Low is not to be missed. At first glance from the parking lot, it doesn’t look like much, but step inside and you’ll be transported to a 1970’s era tiki lounge covered with funky tropical decor. Ride the wave of a Pain Killer cocktail and forget you’re in the city for just a couple of hours. This place truly is an escape.
Premium Draught Beer Shop
Tucked between a convenience store and Antidote Coffee, Premium Draught Beer Shop runs 16 taps for filling growlers. They also offer a large selection of individual cans and bottles from local and national craft breweries. Overwhelmed by the options? Ask owner Johnny Orr for a recommendation or helpful advice on what to try.
Big Owl Craft Brew House
Visit Big Owl’s taproom to sample flights from many different microbreweries in the region. And situated within the brew house is Turkey Forrest Brewing, their in-house nano brewery. Grab a growler to-go because you won’t find this stuff at the grocery store.
Eric Worrell Jr., a Houston native whose passion for rum distilling flows in his veins, is turning heads with his award-winning rum, all the proceeds from which, he , donates to the Lupus Foundation. Their motto? “Maintain an always-march-forward mentality.” With this kind of positive mental outlook, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Clutch Distilling’s tasting room.
Big Star Bar
This low-key watering hole is full of stories, eclectic dive bar decor, and plenty of outdoor space. Big Star Bar may be hard to spot between the recently developed modern bars surrounding the space, but if you can spot the twinkling lights and tiny blue structure, you’re in the right place. Grab a cold one and hang with the locals around the outdoor fire pits.
Eat Like a Local
The Rice Box
Feeling nostalgic? This energetic, neon-lit hotspot with four locations (Heights, River Oaks, Greenway Plaza, and Rice Village) serves up excellent renditions of Chinese-American classics like General Tso’s chicken, beef with broccoli, chow fun, sesame chicken, and fantastically crispy egg rolls. Remember, your takeout box folds into a plate.
Mico’s Hot Chicken
As one of Houston’s original hot chicken joints, Mico’s transitioned from food truck to storefront two years ago and has thrived ever since. The menu is small but classic—’cause when your food is good, you never need too much. Choose from the best-selling sammich, the tender basket, or the loaded fries, all cooked to your spice level of choice.
Be More Pacific
At Be More Pacific, the Heights version of the concept born in Austin, the fried rice gets a workout in a dish called S.C.C.L.B.F.R. That stands for spicy coconut curry lime bacon fried rice, and you taste all of those things in nearly every bite of this classic hangover food. But that’s not all: Be More Pacific tops this mouthful of a dish with an egg, making it the all-day dish of your dreams.
El Bolillo Bakery
Looking for Houston’s best Mexican bakery? Look no further. While bakeries such as Common Bond focus on traditional French baked goods, El Bolillo serves a range of pastries, or pan dulce (“sweet bread”) from Mexico, which has been inspired and influenced by both French and Spanish baking since the 18th century. Stock up on colorful Mexican pastries and tres leches for your Sunday brunch, and start pondering your design for a custom cake to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
Sometimes—especially after a rough night—you just want big, fluffy, carb-fueled pancakes, and you can get a beautiful stack at this luminous little diner that whips up breakfast all day long. Three thick, soft, soul-warming flapjacks hit the spot with a dab of butter and a drizzle of syrup, but for $1 more, you can take them over the top by adding candied pecans, banana, or chocolate chips. They also serve sandwiches, pasta, and burgers at lunch and dinner time.
Shop Like a Local
Head to Woodland Heights for a reading break at Kaboom Books. The storefront is both charming and relaxing, with an entrance adorned by lush foliage and an inside overrun with towering shelves of used books (more than 100,000 titles in stock). Kaboom started in New Orleans and its Houston location has been around for 44 long years.
Heights Common Market
If you want to fully dive down an all consuming rabbit hole of cool toys, exotic ephemera, vintage clothing, and (potentially highly valuable) memorabilia, this is your spot. But make sure you give yourself ample time to explore. With 8 independently run specialized shops that offer everything from comic books to antique goods, to handmade clothing, this is the city’s best spot to tickle your inner collector.
AG Antiques is a historic pillar of the Heights, founded by two cousins in the same building that their grandfather owned and operated as a dry goods store in the 1930s. The familial feel of the location is evident throughout the shop, as antique items fill the rooms with a sense of nostalgia that could lure you into wandering the halls for hours. Even if you’re not looking for something to take home, you’re bound to find a treasure or two here.
Imagine a fun retail space that not only offers a distinctive candle-making station, sweet merch, and tasty cocktails, but also highly Instagram worthy surroundings. That’s what you’ll get at Manready Mercantile. The Candle Bar downstairs hosts candle making workshops where you can sip whiskey and customize that perfect scent to take home. If you head upstairs for some shopping, we guarantee you won’t be coming home empty handed.
Vinal Edge Records
Since 1985, Vinal Edge has provided the Heights with a top-notch selection of vintage records. The shop’s collection boasts more than 100,000 albums from all music genres, including jazz, classic rock, country, electronic and much more. In addition to the huge vinyl inventory, the shop offers a selection of DVDs, posters, books, and small goods.
Hang Out Like a Local
This Heights hangout provides all the soft jazz, homey furniture, and light bites (and plenty of vegan options) you’ll need to get some serious work done. If you’re looking for a great cup of coffee and a bit of a hipster vibe, fully equipped with outlets and Wi-Fi, this quaint coffee spot is the place for your late-night or weekday grind. Try the cajeta latte, made with goat’s milk caramel. You won’t be disappointed!
This low-key, stylish, and spacious coffee joint provides a great place to grab a cup of gourmet coffee and feel good while doing it. As a nonprofit business, all proceeds go toward efforts aimed at ending human trafficking.
With a vibrant and colorful interior, you’ll want to dress your best and snap a few selfies at this lively coffee spot. Bright neon lights illuminate Wild Concepts' walls, and if that’s not enough to open your eyes, the Delta-8 filled bud bar surely will.
Visiting Wolfsmiths Heights is like being an awkward teenager and stumbling across that secret club where everyone is a few years older, decades wiser, and a zillion times cooler than you. And they all ride custom made motorcycles. Yeah, at first it might be kind of intimidating, but keep going back for the delicious tacos, killer coffee, finely crafted motorcycle gear, and generally overall good vibes, and you really will feel like a local in no time. After all, any place that bills itself as “Purveyors of Fine Coffee - Motorcycles - Air-Cooled Cars - Tacos - Music - Dry Goods - Events - Life” must be cool, right?
Also known as Equilibrium Social House, EQ offers a variety of seating options in a mellow, vintage cafe right off Heights Boulevard. Housed inside a charming old home, this quiet and friendly atmosphere is the perfect spot for some midday studying, remote working, or just catching up with a friend over lunch. EQ Heights also has an expansive patio (with fans, too!), but parking is tricky, so try and carpool or get there early.
For Outdoor Enthusiasts
Montie Beach Park
We apologize in advance to all the people who already know and love Montie Beach Park, and who appreciate that much of the park's charm is due to how few people currently go there. We're about to blow up your spot. This 23-acre hidden gem of a park features a wonderland of facilities for the whole family to enjoy, including tennis and basketball courts, softball and soccer fields, picnic areas, jogging paths, and a children's playground. It even has its own civic club dedicated to “raising funds for a master plan for the park’s development.”
This spacious park right on the bayou has direct access to the White Oak Bayou Trail and provides beautiful views of the Downtown Houston skyline. Stude Park includes a small playground, swings, bike path, B Bike rentals, a pool, and community center. The center even hosts regular events, including an after school program. Free parking is available in the designated lot and on the street.
White Oak Bayou Trail
Whether you start Downtown and travel North West to North of 610, or head southeast along the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, the trail is great for a long run or bike ride. You’ll experience many different views along the way, and for the botanist enthusiasts, you can take a native plant pit stop to see Texas wildflowers and pollinator weeds at Stude Park. Then a ways down, stop at Patterson Park to cool off and have a cold beverage. There are plenty of good signs in place to let you know the intersecting streets to guide you to your destination.
Houston Heights Bird Sanctuary
This unexpected beauty takes you out of the Heights and into a forest-like fairytale. The Bird Sanctuary is a nesting ground for native and migratory birds and a great place to unwind, meditate, or do some journaling. It sits along the White Oak Bayou Trail and the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, so there are multiple ways to access this small gem. It’s easy to miss, so be on the lookout for it, otherwise you’ll pass it right on by!
Constructed in 1892, and located on Heights Boulevard on 18th Street, Marmion Park has its fair share of historic significance. The Cooley mansion–the lot where Marmion Park sits and where you’ll now find a beautiful Gazebo–was one of the first houses built in Houston Heights. The house stood on a half-acre lot before it was eventually dismantled in 1965. The lot remained vacant until 1979, when it was purchased by the Houston Heights Association for the purpose of constructing Marmion Park, named in honor of the last mayor of Houston Heights, J.B. Marmion. The park’s award-winning Kaiser Pavilion was designed to emulate the Cooley home’s unique turret and is a lovely place to take a picture or romantic stroll in the afternoon.
For Art Lovers
Casa Ramirez FOLKART
Not a gallery in the usual sense, Casa Ramirez stands as a cultural pillar in the community offering a selection of folk art exhibits, Mexican dresses, local artist work, books, decorations, and more. Nationally known and recognized, the gallery/market, owned and operated by Macario Ramirez and his wife Chrissie Dickerson Ramirez, promotes and celebrates the rich and vibrant Latino culture, especially that of Mexico, Texas, and the Southwest. Classes have been offered on Dia de los Muertos traditions and altar building, learning Spanish, history lessons on tequila, book readings, and storytelling. Artists also host workshops like gourd painting and mosaic tile techniques.
G Spot Contemporary Art Space
This gallery takes a grassroots approach and is unafraid to challenge convention. G Spot Contemporary Space owner and artist Wayne Gilbert takes a seasoned approach to creative culture that makes Gilbert’s spot a worthwhile stop. The gallery’s ever changing exhibitions (monthly) showcase eclectic and often provocative work by emerging and established artists from all parts of the globe.
The Whimsy Artisan Boutique
If you’re into one-of-a-kind, handmade quirky items, and love supporting local artists, The Whimsy Artisan Boutique, located within Heights Common Market, is the spot to check out. Surprisingly, this cute and very small shop owned and operated by artist Jessica Carlos and her husband, Louis, showcases and sells art from over 150 local artists, makers, movers, and shakers in a wide range of styles. If you’re not out to shop, this is still a great place to stop by and check out all the fun art.
Art Car Museum
Nicknamed the “Garage Mahal”, Houston’s Art Car Museum features funky cars of all shapes and sizes decked out in colorful art and adorned with a whole array of oddities and ephemera. Included are decorated low riders, tricked out hot rods, customized jalopies, and everyone’s favorite car canvas, the VW Beetle. Exhibits change monthly to keep it fun and fresh for locals and aside from art cars, the museum showcases local artwork on the surrounding walls and gallery rooms. Plus it’s totally free and by donation only!
For Date Night
First Saturday Arts Market
You know the drill! Bring your wallets and a date for First Saturday Arts Market in the Heights. Expect artists selling everything from paintings, sculpture, and photography prints, to jewelry, clothes, and other popular art mediums. This event is an all-in-one fun date idea, where you can grab a bite to eat, grab a couple of drinks and listen to live music while you shop around.
If you and your date are itching to immerse yourselves in a romantic evening of intellectual musings and good old fashioned civic discourse, look no farther than 14 Pews. This multidisciplinary, artist-run nonprofit, founded and run by Executive Director Cressandra Thibodeaux, is “passionate about engaging and challenging our audiences through the visual arts, film and theater.” 14 Pews features a wide array of provocative events including independent art house films, speaker presentations, theater performances, and even the occasional wedding.
Grab a reservation at Hando, an intimate hand roll (aka temaki) sushi space with a 22-seat dining area and killer cocktails. The drinks also extend to the bar next door, Kanpai Club, a nine-foot-wide speakeasy-like space just next to Hando. Grab drinks while you wait for your seats or come in for a late night cap.
This fine-dining Korean steakhouse has a fully-loaded menu with several dishes featuring a nod to American steakhouses, including prime rib, American and Japanese wagyu, and meats dry-aged in-house and cooked-to-order. While the star of the show is the food, the interior also deserves your attention. Each table is framed by tall booths clad in brown alligator printed material, providing cozy and private seating around the table-top grills. For cocktails, you can’t go wrong with the El Dorado or the Rose Coloured Glasses. Or simply choose any of their 173 wines to enhance your romantic dining experience.
Have you been holding on to that G.I. Joe action figure, the one with the kung fu grip that’s still in the box? What about that Cabbage Patch doll or Teddy Ruxpin or He Man? If so, it might be time to head to Misfit Toys to meet with owner Daniel Rivera. He and his team are pros at assessing the value of vintage merchandise and can even help sell your collectibles. Who knows, you just might be able to pay for your kid's college tuition with what you make. Or finally pay off your own!
Heights Cigar Lounge
Lots of people are passionate about smoking cigars, but not everyone is as passionate about smelling cigar smoke and sparking one up in public can be a very polarizing act. Thankfully for cigar lovers, Heights Cigar Lounge is your “den away from home,” or what they like to call “daddy day care.” Here cigar lovers can puff to their heart’s content nestled in one of several leather recliners, near a soothing fireplace while watching their favorite team on a flat panel TV or playing their favorite board game on the large gaming table.
If you’re looking for a gift or want to make the ultimate charcuterie board, take a trip to Houston Dairymaids. Just down Airline Drive is a local cheese shop that’s been open for 16 years, and specializes in bringing in over 150 varieties of cheeses from Texas and around the world; but only the best of the best. Nothing here is wrapped in plastic—it’s bespoke cheese, cut by hand, to order, and carefully wrapped in paper so it can breathe. Can’t decide? They’ll let you taste anything they have in stock and also offer a small selection of handpicked wines.
El Gato Coffeehouse
Love coffee? Love it even more with a cat on your lap? Then El Gato Coffeehouse is for you. Houston's first and only cat cafe and cat rescue service allows guests to enjoy a cup of coffee while cuddling up with a handful of furry felines. As a response to the many abandoned cats in the wake of COVID-19, El Gato Coffeehouse and El Gato Charities were created to "provide a comfortable environment for adoptable cats until they find their furrever home."
Street Food Thai Market
If you’re looking for something extremely tasty, Street Food Thai Market should be on your radar. As a mom and pop run restaurant and grocery store, this spot has provided customers with traditional Thai/Laos dishes and groceries for over thirty years and is considered a Heights staple. The idea is that you get to eat a delicious meal, and then you’re able to purchase the ingredients to take home to make for yourself. Fun!
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