The 3600 block of Main Street used to be referred to as “The Island” because it seemed to stand alone from the rest of the city.
But nowadays, the bustling Mid Main area is an Island no more and, for the past decade, it’s been celebrating its unique vibe with a regular block party that kicked off this month.
The celebration focuses on the commercial establishments from 3500-3700 blocks of Main Street. The event runs from 6 to 10 p.m. the first Thursday of the month from March to June for spring, and again in the fall from September to November.
It’s become a great way for Mid Main to show off its character. Located between the Medical Center and Midtown, it’s a stop right off the METRORail. Visitors to this playful slice of Houston can get something to eat, have a tasty cocktail, go shopping for unique items and records, or check out live music on any given day, making the neighborhood slogan “Eat, Shop, Rock” a reality.
It’s an area that’s packed with history, too. From the time the historic Ensemble Theater was founded there in 1976, the block has grown tremendously, becoming one of the most original spots in Houston to enjoy nightlife.
Slowly coming into its own since the late ’90s, Mid Main has become one of the city's most walkable areas, where developers have largely maintained the more than 100-year-old brick buildings and tastefully added new structures for shops, restaurants and venues, creating a community.
The spring season of First Thursdays marks 10 years of open-air fun that kicked off March with a number of live bands, DJs, local vendors and art car parade vehicles. A $10 wristband allows visitors to catch all the special performances, as well as sample free alcohol (such as Frankly Vodka) and get complimentary beer from one of the sponsors, St. Arnold 's Brewery.
The fee also goes toward a different no-profit every month, such as the Orange Show for Visionary Arts. The wristbands also allow entry into the Continental Club for a special First Thursdays' performance. Wristband purchases can be made in Mid Main Lofts lobby or online.
The next Mid Main event is April 7. (Check the Houston Mid Main events Instagram page for updates on sponsors and performances.)
The Mid Main Gallery in the lobby of the Mid Main Lofts is where you can find a lot of First Thursday energy. It’s where an AVM Hawkins exhibition entitled Impetus opened this year’s spring run of events. Each month, the gallery will exhibit a new local artist, and all works are available for purchase.
The Winbern Night Market is another First Thursdays tradition, taking over a closed-off street that runs along the Mid Main block. A variety of vendors stop by, including farm-to-market goods from The Farm at Bald Hill, Flying Saucer Farms and Verde Greens. Other local small businesses like Everything Con Queso, Lorita Makes and 6pm Candle Co. have all been vendors for the outdoor market. Sometimes food trucks come out in place of market vendors.
First Thursdays are a great way for Houstonians and visitors to the city to get to know this distinctive neighborhood and support local merchants. But if you can’t make it to the monthly event, keep in mind that the area is still a Houston gem that can be enjoyed any day of the week.
Here are some places that you won’t want to miss during First Thursday and beyond.
The newest kid on the block is already making a name for itself and was recently listed on Texas Monthly’s “Where to eat now” list. Winnie’s offers craft cocktails and a full menu filled with po’ boys, oysters and more. The interior decor, comfortable patio and knowledgeable waitstaff make it a warm and welcoming place that combines the charm of Houston and Louisiana. D-fi & the Contenders performed as part of the most reecent First Thursday.
You can never go wrong with a good taco or two. Tacos A Go Go has been a block staple since it opened with its classic and quality tacos and Tex Mex food and drinks. It’s a perfect spot to settle in for lunch or dinner, or get it to go and enjoy the food while listening to music next door at the Continental Club’s Pachinko Hut in the backyard.
Some like it hot and, if you do, this is the perfect place to go. With its award-winning Chinese cuisine, diners are sure to sweat and get full with the restaurant's authentic and extensive menu. Be warned; spicy is in the name for a good reason.
Brass Tap offers more than 150 beers on tap, including local, national and globally sourced options. Along with its extensive drink menu, patrons can enjoy a variety of snacks made to share while sitting outside and enjoying the scenery of the busy Mid Main life.
Double Trouble makes some of the finest cocktails in the city and for those looking for a pick–me-up, it also has a full coffee bar. It makes the perfect place to get the night started before heading out to dinner or to see a show on the block. The bartenders have excellent taste in music and put the quaint tiki bar’s turntable to use, creating a vibe that is always changing. On First Thursdays, local DJs can usually be found spinning records on the patio.
Get ready to move fast and grab delicious sushi from this high-quality revolving sushi bar. With reasonable prices and a large selection of options, this is a great spot to stop for a snack during the First Thursday festivities.
Who doesn’t want a sweet treat? Baker’s Man’s delicious little bundt cakes are where to go if you’re looking for a tasty snack to share or eat by yourself. These petite creations come in a variety of flavors and used to be part of the First Thursday market before its brick-and-mortar shop was opened on the block.
If you aren’t ready for the rodeo, pop into this custom western wear shop run by husband and wife Ben and Bonnie Kennimer. This small spot can be easy to miss since it’s situated above Big Kat’s Barbershop. It is well worth the trip upstairs to see not only one-of-a-kind creations, but the jam-packed studio space where the couple works.
Walking into My Flaming Heart is a vortex of creativity and oddities. With more tiny knicknacks than grandma’s house, this unique shop has something for anyone as it is filled with estate sale finds, vintage clothes and cowboy boots, one-of-a-kind creations by shop owner Judy Masliyah and her crew, and an extensive array of beads and materials for jewelry making and crafting. Be prepared to spend time soaking in every strange detail of this shop, which will be offering a 20% discount for First Thursday attendees.
The name says it all as this shop is a beautiful collection of one-of-a-kind but accessible vintage goods. The shop is always filled with fashion from the past, featuring sections from the ’50s to the turn of the millenium. It’s one of the few vintage shops with a men’s section and housewares along with its wall of sunglasses to get you ready for spring with a buy two, get one free First Thursday special.
This record store is a real gem and lesson in music history. Browsing the walls and shelves provides an education for visitors, with newspaper clippings brought in from San Marcos’ Sundance Records, where major events in music history are preserved, including a piece of an amplifier torn to pieces by none other than guitar god Jimi Hendrix. This store has records and CDs for any music lover, ranging from modern-day bands to albums from way back when. First Thursday events have included an in-store art show by Tess Doyle and music by DJ Tempty.
The Continental Club
The legendary Continental Club opened in 1999. Since then, the club has hosted a who's who of musicians from Nick Lowe, a young John Mayer and the late great surf rock pioneer Dick Dale. The club is a breeding ground for local talent and nurtures the Houston music scene. Reasonable drink prices, available seating and friendly staff make this place a Midtown favorite. The club also has a spacious backyard and Pachinko Hut where the Houston reggae band DEM appeared on a recent First Thursday.
This small and strange venue is like stepping inside a strange dream. Housed in what was a toy store back in the ’50s, the original circus-inspired mural can be seen on the wall, surrounded by Elvis memorabilia and clown-themed art that fits the big top theme. There are Christmas lights year-round, adding a celebratory vibe to any night on the small stage. Luba Dvorak played an evening of honky-tonk for guests during a recent First Thursday.